After temporarily getting lost, my book review of Isabelle Stengers’ “In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism” is finally out in Cultural Geographies. It can be accessed here (if you don’t have access, email me). It is one of those books that helps me think about the problem of how to affect change from the particular position that you inevitably occupy. The English version of the book is available at open access publisher Open Humanities press and can be read or downloaded here.
The Theory, Culture & Society special issue on GeoSocial Formations is finally out! Please email me, if you don’t have access and would like to read it.
Image: Susanna Castleden ‘Bermuda Sunset, Rottnest Sunrise’ (2014)
Today, I received the official letter that I am now Honorary Fellow in the Department of Sociology. Big thank you to Gurminder K. Bhambra and Claire Blencowe who organised this via the Warwick Social Theory Centre. I will be there for three years, working on my book and related activities, such as the BA/Leverhulme workshop. From today, I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as the email@example.com address.
Mutable Matter will be hosting its first workshop this year, generously supported by a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant and Warwick Social Theory Centre. The workshop, entitled ‘Cosmos & Crisis: interdisciplinary conversations’ will be taking place in late Summer/early autumn. More details coming soon!
I first posted on Mutable Matter on 24 September 2007. Since then, the blog has moved from its original purpose to build a dialogue with Open University students and other interested publics about methods to explore “invisible risk” to a more general focus on matter and materiality. My writing has hopefully improved over the last 324 posts, too!
I am extremely grateful for all the experiences and connections that writing Mutable Matter has enabled and continues to enable, and I would like to use the blog’s 10th anniversary to say thank you to all the readers and subscribers. I am currently working on a free book publication which will feature a selection of essays from the book, and also some contributions from readers. There will also be a little celebration this summer, probably around the time of the RGS-IBG 2017 (end of August/beginning of September). If there is anything that you would like to see, happen or contribute, please get in touch!
Image: “Abyss” by Alpha Coders
While working on my section for the forthcoming Routledge International Handbook of Interdisciplinary Methods, I stumbled upon an old essay on researching with Michel Serres and Mikhail Bakhtin. It is one of three essays that I wrote in 2005/2006 for the social theory module of my MSc in Human Geography Research Methods at the Open University. I had stopped being a Fashion student in 2003 and had worked on my own for two years to develop a theoretical project. At the same time, I was negotiating the future of my art practice and how it might sit within an academic framework as a “method”. The MSc, and especially this module, gave me the opportunity to explore a lot of different theories and experiment with my writing. There are quite a few essays and working papers that I have never published, but am thinking of re-editing for teaching use. When I ran the Theory Surgery at the British Library café, the Serres/Bakhtin essay often came in handy as an example, and I was planning on publishing it, however I gradually became unsure about it, because I felt I had moved on in theoretical and stylistic terms. Looking at it now, I think it already shows some of my current themes, although I would probably turn to different philosophers now for the same questions due to the growing influence of feminist/queer/postcolonial critique on my work. Despite this shortcoming, I feel that it still offers some useful prompts, which is why I have decided to upload it after 12 years on my hard drive. Here, then, is some vintage Mutable Matter – even including adorable references to Open University ‘audio-cassettes’!
Less a juncture to control than an adventure to be had –
Working with Michel Serres and Mikhail Bakhtin (pdf)
What is it like to work with the ideas of Michel Serres and Mikhail Bakhtin as a researcher, especially as an early career researcher? How might their ideas and experiments affect you at various stages of your research, from asking questions to writing for particular audiences? In this essay, I focus on themes in their work that resonate with my own project, which considers the relation between the human and nonhuman in method, and also incorporates sensory methods. The themes of communication, invention and responsibility are discussed through Serres’ and Bakhtin’s non-linear philosophies, represented through the gods Hermes and Janus respectively. After some more project focused discussions, I end on a set of general observations on the relationship between theory and method or ‘practice’.
I am currently working on my book on ‘Cosmic Materialism’, supported by Warwick Social Theory Centre. The book looks at the role of science and the parallel re-evaluation of alternative cosmologies/ontologies in the anti-colonial and anti-totalitarian movements of the interwar period. The artist statement in this exhibition (h/t Gesa Helms) is very exemplary of how the cosmic was envisioned as a provocation to contemporary politics:
“For him [Otto Freundlich], abstraction expressed a radical renewal that went far beyond art. For instance, the curved patches of color in his paintings reflect the concept of space in Einsteinian physics, with which he was familiar from an early age. Still, overcoming representationalism also had a social dimension for him. As he saw it, every form of material perception was permeated with possessiveness and thus outdated: “The object as the antithesis to the individual will disappear, and with it the state of one person being an object for another.” He always viewed the harmony of the colors in his paintings in the context of the greater whole. The notion of communism for which he fought sought to abolish all boundaries “between world and cosmos, between one person and another, between mine and yours, between all the things that we see”.”
Needless to say, this book (and this exhibition) isn’t sadly just about the past.