Stengers and Haraway on Indigenous Cosmopolitics

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a Sawyer Seminar Lecture at UC Davis featuring Isabelle Stengers and, responding to Stengers, Donna Haraway.  Although they’ve been influencing one another’s works for years, this was one of only a handful of public appearances they have made together.  Adam Robbert of the world renound Knowledge Ecology posted recordings of the lecture HERE, and for a good overview of the topics covered, check out his notes HERE

Following the other lectures in this Sawyer Seminar series, the topic of the lecture was the problem of indigenous cosmopolitics.  I say problem because they were note proposing answers or uncontested definitions, but were opening a series of questions.  How do cosmopolitical proposals for  a global or universal collective of humans and nonhumans relate to indigenous lifeways, for which politics is embedded in local places?  Is “indigenous cosmopolitics” an oxymoron?  If it exists, how?  And so what?

Stengers focused on indigenous cosmopolitics by way of an encounter with “the challenge of animism,” which she connected with the challenges of magic, sorcery, and witchcraft, citing Starhawk on withcraft (feel the smoke of witches burning) and citing David Abram’s sense of an “ecology of magic.”  The main point for Stengers is simply this: ideas are actual participants in the craft of cosmopolitics.  They are, as Haraway put it, “cosmopolitical critters,” actors in the risky “speculative fabulation” (sf) that defines the craft of cosmopolitics.  

Our challenge is to learn the craft of building lures, the craft of animating and being animated by abstractions.  Indigenous cosmopolitics enrolls narrative and memory in practices of reclaiming (not to restore, but to reformat and reactive) the metamorphic power of ideas, bringing them into an open space of participation where humans and nonhumans can (just maybe) co-constitute a world where, as Zapatistas put it, “many worlds will fit,” including the worlds that we call “ideas.”

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