Friday, June 24, 2011

Cruising in the Ruins: CALL FOR SESSIONS -- 2nd Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group

Figure 1. David Fried, Way of Words, No. 1 : “Lose your mind so you have something to find.”

by EILEEN JOY

32. Listen carefully. Every collaborator who enters into our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world into our own. Neither party will ever be the same.

38. Explore the other edge. Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can't find the leading edge because it's trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.

--Bruce Mau, "Incomplete Manifesto for Growth"

Myra Seaman and I are excited to share with everyone -- and with great thanks to Kathleen Kelly, Marina Leslie, Arthur Bahr, Julie Orlemanski, Erika Boeckler, Robert Stanton, Alexis Kellner Becker, and Diana Henderson -- that Northeastern University, M.I.T., and Boston College will be joining hands with BABEL to co-host the 2nd Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group in Boston, Massachusetts from 20-23 September 2012: "cruising in the ruins: the question of disciplinarity in the post/medieval university." The conference, as with our first meeting in Austin, Texas last November, is partly inspired by Bill Readings' book The University in Ruins, and his proposal there that, instead of abandoning or exchanging older disciplines for "a simply amorphous disciplinary space in the humanities," we should permanently "keep open the question of what it means to group knowledges in certain ways, and what it has meant that they have been so grouped in the past."

The university and the disciplines traversing it (and the disciplines traversed by the university as super-structure) are phenomena with medieval roots and uncertain futures. Medieval university studies were ostensibly contained by the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy), but the meanings of, and divisions between, these subjects were under constant interrogation and revision, even as older, newer, and alternate designations (dialectic, philosophy, theology, natural science, forensic, polemic, etc.) continually remade, and eventually unmade, the traditional taxonomies. “cruising in the ruins” seeks to engage both the architectonics and mobility of knowledge; the cleavages between ways of knowing; the impurities of cross-contamination between disciplines and fields and temporalities; the threat/promise of post/humanism and the post/humanities; the shape(s) of disciplinary crisis today; the aesthetics of scholarship; discipline & pleasure (and pain); the secession or amputation or orphaning of the humanities; how to foment disciplinary glamour; DIY medievalist agitprop; the personifications of knowledge; intra-university affects; the reservoirs of metaphors in other people’s jargon; what the “uni-” in “university” and “universe” might mean; what the “after” in “after inter-disciplinarity” might portend; what misfit heterotopias might be possible in a new multiversity; what the “cruising” in “cruising in the ruins” might invite.

You can read the full CALL FOR SESSIONS below and also bookmark it HERE, and please, join us in Boston!

2nd Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group

cruising in the ruins: the question of disciplinarity in the post/medieval university

20-23 September 2012

Boston, Massachusetts

[co-organized by the BABEL Working Group, Boston College, Northeastern University, M.I.T., postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, and punctum books]

We all know what severe pressures the University is under today—economic, social, and cultural—pressures that have led to a certain amount of disciplinary hand-wringing and jockeying in relation to the practical “use-value” (or valuable non-practicality) of some disciplines and fields versus others. Some have argued that disciplinary security is best assured when disciplines merge with each other and form new, cross-disciplinary alliances. And while faculty both distance themselves from and ally with each other over these matters, university administrators and state legislatures are de-funding departments and programs, weakening general education curricula, and undermining faculty governance of the University’s mission and programs of study. In his book The University in Ruins, Bill Readings argued “the University’s ruins offer us an institution in which the incomplete and interminable nature of the pedagogic relation can remind us that ‘thinking together’ is a dissensual process; it belongs to dialogism rather than dialogue.” And what might be needed now is

not a generalized interdisciplinary space but a certain rhythm of disciplinary attachment and detachment, which is designed so as not to let the question of disciplinarity disappear, sink into routine. Rather, disciplinary structures would be forced to answer to the name of Thought, to imagine what kinds of thinking they make possible, and what kinds of thinking they exclude. (Readings, The University in Ruins, p.176)

So, let’s not be interdisciplinary for a moment, nor necessarily anti-disciplinary. Let’s re-sound our disciplinary wells, while also, inevitably, bumping into each other and occasionally hooking up, like Democritus’s atoms. Holding on to our disciplinary objects and methods and ways of knowing, while also keeping them open to futurity and the surprise of the stranger, let’s cruise each other. Let’s swerve, without steering, through the movement-filled “void” that is the university, cyberspace, society, the world. Atoms, monads, particles, singularities, seeds, souls, kernels, cells, events, appearances — gathering in molecules, crowds, assemblages, drifts, swarms, parliaments, strikes, clouds, hives, cascades, collisions, waves, one-night stands, spontaneous acts of metempsychosis, a fine spray of perfume through the atomizer, hanging in the night air. ATOM is from the Greek “atomos,” meaning “uncuttable” — don’t cut our budgets, don’t try to reduce us any further, to liquidate and consolidate what we do. We’re what’s irreducible in the university — so many modes and methods of being and acting, of chemical reaction, of natality, of swerve. As Lucretius tells us, the detritus of destroyed objects is the atomic dust that gives rise to all things. In 2010 we convened “after the end” of the post-catastrophe of everything. In 2012 we’re meeting in the post-post-catastrophe dust, to reassert the atomic weight of our respective fields, disciplines, and methods and, of course, to give rise to new things.

We are often tempted to demonstrate what the humanities can do for the sciences, and what the sciences can do for the humanities, but the 2012 Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group, “cruising in the ruins,” proposes that the question NOT be, “How can the sciences be more humanistic?” or, “How can the humanities be improved through science” (the “merger” or “inter-” approach). Rather, how can we reconstitute our atomized projects in new ways as we collectively rethink the stamp, the style, the value of distinct disciplinary approaches to common concerns and questions, while also cruising each other's “bodies” of knowledge?

We seek medievalists, humanists of all stripes, scientists, social scientists, and artists to experiment with performing their respective methods in proximity to one another. This is a speculative practice because, despite being uncuttable or irreducible, we’re falling through space and time, falling into one another, and always in the process of swerving. What we do next is uncharted. So let’s not reduce disciplinary difference to one yawning crack between the humanities and the sciences. The divisions of disciplinary knowledge are legion and manifold, capillaried and filigreed. The idea is to have a conference in which disciplinary and field differences are sharpened as we converge on shared objects, subjects, terms, genres, tools, materials, concerns, methods, and approaches:

archive, body/embodiment, crux, gene, map, matter/hyle, memory, mind/mentality, museum, narrative, relic, trope, record, life, bios/zoê, surface/plane, autopoesis, geometry, encyclopedia, gender, trial, principle, disease, parasite, immanence, physics/physis, adaptation, speed, study, laboratory, element, animal, angel, posthuman, experiment, species, reproduction, genius, ledger, laboratory, classification, tool, semblance, earth/ground, recess, affect, demon, ontogeny, machine, deconstruction, ipseity, fold, frame, collective/assemblage, trans-, virus/viral, architecture, vein, geometry, depth, creature/creaturely, camera, set, ecology, dwarf, outside, exemplarity, network, cyborg, proof, book, time, immunity, web, surplus, logic, force, mesh, neighbor, environment, planet, contingency, psyche, liminal, digital, mineral, haeccity, architecture, ghost, word, page, pocket, artifice/artificial, humanism, dream, sovereignty, calculus, program, animate/inanimate, monster, residual/remainder, complexity, code, case study, plant, waste, anomaly, queer, being, speculum/mirror, form, intelligence, star, thing, self-organizing, space, dualism, history, abstract, image, person/homunculus, media, metaphysics, dynamism, tradition/history, organic/inorganic, vitalism, computer, prosthesis, wild/wilderness, perspective, velocity, avatar, chart, virtual, liquid, theorem, random, splicing, techne/technology, sex, chaos, etcetera.

The university and the disciplines traversing it (and the disciplines traversed by the university as super-structure) are phenomena with medieval roots and uncertain futures. Medieval university studies were ostensibly contained by the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy), but the meanings of, and divisions between, these subjects were under constant interrogation and revision, even as older, newer, and alternate designations (dialectic, philosophy, theology, natural science, forensic, polemic, etc.) continually remade, and eventually unmade, the traditional taxonomies. “cruising in the ruins” seeks to engage both the architectonics and mobility of knowledge; the cleavages between ways of knowing; the impurities of cross-contamination between disciplines and fields and temporalities; the threat/promise of post/humanism and the post/humanities; the shape(s) of disciplinary crisis today; the aesthetics of scholarship; discipline & pleasure (and pain); the secession or amputation or orphaning of the humanities; how to foment disciplinary glamour; what the Situationists can tell us about pedagogy; DIY medievalist agitprop; the personifications of knowledge; intra-university affects; town and gown; the reservoirs of metaphors in other people’s jargon; what the “uni-” in “university” and “universe” might mean; what the “after” in “after inter-disciplinarity” might portend; what misfit heterotopias might be possible in a new multiversity; what the “cruising” in “cruising in the ruins” might invite.

Think about sessions as working groups, as demonstrations, speculations, drag shows, hypotheses, clinical trials, love letters, conservatories, plea bargains, theorems, performances, séances, salons, discographies, bills of sale, slams, manifestos, postcards, recording sessions, lab reports, embassies, mash-ups, and other experiments that aspire to make strange or re-estrange the chosen object of study via close-reading or any other techne currently practiced or yet-to-be-imagined: distance studies, the new materialism, materialist history, a demography of things, speculative realism, object-oriented ontology, deconstruction, networkologies, genome mapping, hermeneutics, discontinuist histories, hypothesis, post-historicism, carnal phenomenology, vibrant materialism, guerilla metaphysics, morphology, Latourian sociology, anachronism, case study, queer touching, taxonomies, machine reading, dark ecology, eliminative nihilism, erotohistoriography, the fine arts, philology, science-technology studies, rhetorical readings, codicology, thin and thick description, flat ontology, new scholasticism, ludology, etc. — and let’s not forget the nominalists. And when in doubt, consult Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.

Please send us e-proposals for sessions by 15 December 2011* to Kathleen Kelly and Eileen Joy at: babel.conference@gmail.com. Our goal is to offer a variety of presentation and performance formats—anything but the standard panel with 20-minute papers, please. Sessions of 4-5 papers at no more than 10 minutes apiece would be ideal, but we’re open to any number of configurations that can be imagined. In your proposal, provide a title, name(s) and contact information of organizer(s), and a 250-500-word description of the session's aims, objectives, and format.

*After December 15th, we'll advertise the finalized sessions, to which anyone can submit individual proposals, and we'll also accept random individual paper/performance/other proposals which, if approved, we will then assemble into additional sessions.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

looks great, heartening to see people genuinely asking questions and willing to experiment with more than exchanging some vocabulary/author-ities, good luck.
-dmf
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JloNgtNyu1o&feature=relmfu

LF said...

Woot!

Anonymous said...

http://books.google.com/books?id=pi9-s3d6czIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=thinking+in+the+ruins+wittgenstein+and+santayana+on+contingency&hl=en&ei=8XMGTuahEunWiAKs2KgL&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false