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Prospects and Speculations

There's a theme on this here DaWGblog and it has something to do with the future - with the prospective and the speculative. Perhaps as veteran grad students we are hyperconcerned with our features and this anxiety seeps out through our ideas. In any event, I've discussed this a bit with Lauren (and Paula) and we propose that the DaWGs meet regularly, to update, workshop, and motivate. I'm thinking every other week (bi-weekly?) and of the times Lauren suggested, Wednesday afternoons are best for me. I know we are all at different stages in the process, but everybody has something they can bring to the table. The point is to get regimented and moving. I know I need this desperately. So what do you say? And is there anybody else we can bring into the fold? Becky - of course, you are far far away, but it would be pretty easy to keep you in the loop by e-proxy and materials can be sent back and forth for workshopping.

Also, this discussion of the word and idea of speculation really interests me. Esp. in terms of seeing sort of forking into the two paths of knowing and guessing, and the increasing collusion of specualtion with capital. As it becomes less empirical and more, what, contemplative, imaginative, uncertain? speculation seems to be about seeing in MINDspace, VIRTUAL space, which is something I'm currently thinking about in terms of the development of psychoanalysis etc. But still about seeing, just seeing the future - like prognostication (which has your 'gnostic' in it Lauren) or clairvoyance, which, pardon my French, seems to indicate 'clear seeing' or something like it. (And why does any sensate connection to the future have to be visual? It's the hegemony of the visual for sure ... though Proust could smell his way back). Also this connection with capitalist "VENTURES," I think both 'speculation' and certainly 'prospecting' are Gold Rush terms ... land where your hoping something is in it. And I'm still thinking of SURVEYING and cartography, owning land with your imperial eyes, etc.

Sorry to have been so delinquent with the blog


I'm interested in this idea of a resistant person embodying the manners and language of his/her oppressor and thereby harboring a tension which has enormous political power. However, I wonder, is tension not the same as revolution because it manifests individually (is its individual or bodily basis the main facet of tension's subtlety)? If, following Benjamin, we imagine individual innervation-- the mimicking of machines of reproduction-- becoming collective, would it be possible to conceive of it generating enough social and economic force to change structural inequalities? How does "tension" in a post-colonial context compare to "innervation" in a European or American context?

In response to "steal[ing] other people's ideas" as "multidirectional discourse": Yes! Perhaps, by blog, we will practice a revolutionary form of mimicry.

On Speculation:
If “speculation� is the site where economics and vision meet, it seems to be a deeply appropriate term to think through the notion of revolution. A few months ago, I read Neil Lazarus’s *Resistance in Postcolonial Fiction* which starts off with a respectful indictment of resistance leaders in what he terms the failure of postcolonial (African) nations to really come to their own. They were too optimistic, he says, in assuming that the moment of independence was going to spontaneously turn into an economic revolution. In this way, if we agree with Lazarus, we find that many independence movements are, in fact, assailable with being either too speculative (taking too much for granted without doing the actual work that would allow changes in national economics) or not effectively so (they did not foresee that continuing colonial economic patterns without the colonizer could not lead to any true emancipation—it’s not just that the structure resembles that of imperialism, and is therefore problematic, but that the colonizing country continues to control resources).

On Play:
Benjamin’s notion of play, thank you Lauren, seems to me to also be tied to this question of economic freedom. This idea of play (different from, but perhaps related to, Derrida’s notion of play as perpetually deferred meaning), as mimicry of structures with a difference, resonates in the attempts of figures like Fanon who represent revolution as a stage with two protagonists—in effect, it is the same game for both sides. Mimicry itself has been talked about a great deal (as has the idea of repetition) by postcolonial theorists like Homi K. Bhabha who find potential in the idea of imitation with some slight differences. For Bhabha, the imperial project to train Indians in English, for instance, leads directly to the undercutting of imperial power itself, since British manners and language come to be embodied in Indians. That different body seems to reflect a great deal of tension, and it is this tension that is ultimately the downfall of the British colonial force.
Personally, I’m not so sure. I’m with Lazarus on this—tension is not the same as revolution. (One could also convincingly argue that none of the usual figures of successful independence movements have actually gone through revolutions.) Much has been made, in current poco theory, of the subversive nature of mimicry, of repetition, of resistance-as-interstice. I’m not saying, necessarily, that these more subtle moves are not worthy of thought, but I am saying that there needs to be a decidedly anti-Foucauldian refocusing of energy on the perpetuation and continuing of power on large scales. My subject: ideology.

On Becky:
I would love to read your dissertation chapter also, and I think that the blog might be a good forum. Of course, I would be happy to follow up with you personally, but I think that the blog might be a way to have a conversation about your chapter(s), to open up a multidirectional discourse. Also, a way for me to steal other people’s ideas and pretend it’s my own: as in “Jessie’s idea sounds great!� “I second Lauren’s suggestion� etc.

Wednesdays would be a good time for me to meet if we meet on/near campus and are done by 2:15 (I tutor at Wilson 2:30-5:30). Would biweekly Wednesday noon-2:00, or so, work for all you locals? At the Purple Onion, Library (like in one of those group study rooms), or other?

I think talking more about how to make our group work helpful to all is a must. In my experience, the drawback of groups/meetings is they can generate 'extra', if not superfluous, work and wear people down. I think it's important to remember our purpose: to move forward on our dissertations. What are your thoughts on how best to facilitate this? Would it help to figure our giving to and receiving from others by time? For example, every 2 weeks, each of expect 1 hour of prep-time given to our project by each person in the group, and, in turn, we give 1 hour of prep-time to each person, too? Then, when we meet, each person gets ½ hour of discussion, or, in Becky’s case, ½ hour of emailing and/or blogging a response? I don’t mean to sound crazy or to make DAWG into a factory by this, but maybe thinking in terms of time would help us gauge the quantity of material to produce and share with each other, which could help us all manage our projects better (something I really need!) and maximize the ‘helpfulness’ of DAWG.

That said, I really like the blog for how it encourages us to improvise and have fun, and I hope that all we do will be in this spirit (Spirit of DAWG). In other words, you can, and should, pet this DAWG while s/he’s working.

Becky, I definitely want to read and respond to the draft of your chapter. So, send away, whenever you’re ready to. I like the idea of responding to it on the blog and welcome you responding to anything I ask you to read by blog too, so exchanges with you will be open to the group. I think follow-up questions and discussions could occur by blog or, if preferred, in private by email (for example, if you want to say, “F*** off, b****!,� “What’s your f***ing problem?,� or “What kind of f***ing suggestion is that?,� to me.)

I’m open to DAWG bringing in a couple others, though I think if we want to exchange work regularly, making the group too big could make that difficult.

Moving on from logistics to content...

I’ve been working on better understanding Benjamin’s “Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility� (as the essay is now being translated and appears, in its second—which is longer than the most well-known—version, in Selected Writings, vol. 3, 1935-1938) so I can more intelligently use Benjamin’s theory to analyze Poe’s ideas on photography and narratives on daguerreotypes of Poe. Anyway, I just read Benjamin’s “Doctrine of Similarity� (a precursor to “On the Mimetic Faculty�) and Miriam Hansen’s “Room-for-Play: Benjamin’s Gamble with Cinema� (in October, 109, Summer 2004), which add much to our discussion of Speculation. Some notes on this: Benjamin connects “the ancients’� reading of the stars, and reading of the future from their reading of the stars, to the record of “non-sensuous similarity� in language and writing. Reading itself, then, can be seen as an act of divination, or clairvoyance. “Similarity� occurs by mimicry, or repetition, which Benjamin discusses as play (children play by mimicking not just adults but also animals and objects—e.g., a windmill). The synonymity of “playing� and “predicting the future� is most obvious, but does not only occur, in gambling. Finally, there’s the all-importance of the idea of the future to “Revolution� (I’m thinking of Maddy’s project, here). To Benjamin, as Hansen argues, the revolutionary potential of play is crucial. The radical Left must counter the fascist, imperialist aestheticization of politics that maintains existing property relations with the politicization of art by ‘playing’ with technologies of reproduction. According to Hansen, as Benjamin uses it, the concept of “innervation� (I’m thinking of Chris’s project, here) “broadly refers to a nondestructive, mimetic incorporation of the world,� and “Benjamin wagers that the only chance for a collective, nondestructive, playful innervation of technology rests with the new mimetic technologies of film and photography—notwithstanding their ongoing uses to the contrary.� This potential depends on audience, or reception, as well as on artists, or conditions of production (I’m thinking of Becky’s question about our methodologies): “Benjamin understood that cinema as a play-form of technology crucially entailed the interaction between films and audience in the public theater space, the aesthetic mobilization of affective and cognitive processes that both depend upon and shape the viewer’s memory, imagination, and mimetic capacity� (Hansen). One of my challenges is to connect Benjamin’s theory of technologies of reproduction to the racialization of subjects (which makes me think of Jessie’s project, too).

I think a panel (or the specter of one) on “Modernist Speculation� and/or “Modernist Futures� would be great! Would all of our project be better represented if we changed the title from “Modernist� to “Modern�?

Hmmm, I smell a potential conference panel here: "Modernist Speculation," "The Modernist Future"???

I would love to be involved as much as possible in future DAWG meetings, though of course I realize it's not quite the same over email as it is in person. I have a draft which I think should be ready to send out next week or the week after. I could send it out to all of you via email and then those who have a chance to look at it could respond to me directly. And then when I receive work from you I can just reply to the individual writer. Another option is using the blog as a place to post responses and comments. Yet another idea would be posting initial comments on the blog, and then you could continue the discussion in person and I could follow up via email.

Any thoughts/preferences about this?

I miss you guys!