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Critical Design Fictions CSPL 225
"Design fiction involves the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change. Through practices of estrangement and defamiliarization, and through the use of carefully chosen design methods, this course experiments with the creation of provocative scenarios and imaginative artifacts that can help us envision different ways of inhabiting the world. The choices made by designers are ultimately choices about the kind of world in which we want to live--expressions of our dreams, fantasies, desires, and fears. As an integrated mode of thought and action, design is intrinsically social and deeply political. In conversation with science fiction, queer and feminist theories, indigenous discourses, drag and other performative interventions, this course explores speculative and critical approaches to design as catalysts for imagining alternate presents and possible futures. We examine a number of environmental and social issues related to climate change, incarceration, gender and reproductive rights, surveillance, emerging technologies, and labor."



"Readings include: Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby, SPECULATIVE EVERYTHING: DESIGN, FICTION, AND SOCIAL DREAMING and Patrick Parrender (ed.) LEARNING FROM OTHER WORLDS: ESTRANGEMENT, COGNITION, AND THE POLITICS OF SCIENCE FICTION AND UTOPIA, along with selections from Carrie Lambert-Beatty, Julian Bleeker, Paul Preciado, Bruce Sterling, Darko Suvin, Samuel Delany, Elizabeth Grosz, José Esteban Muñoz, Ursula LeGuin, and Octavia Butler, among others.

Examination and Assignments:
Participation and collaboration, short assignments in conversation with readings, midterm and final projects. Students will design and prototype a series of objects, scenarios, and characters as devices to explore alternate presents and possible futures."

[see also:
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/channels
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/speculative-design-1519962911
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/misc-design-1519956499
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/sensory-ethnography
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/ethnographic-design-films
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/design-methods-1519961030

http://www.wesleyan.edu/academics/faculty/baadams/profile.html
http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2017/10/23/taylor-07-teaches-design-thinking-workshop-at-wesleyan/
http://wesleyanargus.com/2018/02/02/fellow-barbara-adams-talks-design-ideas-minor/
http://www.wesleyan.edu/ideas/faculty.html
http://www.wesleyan.edu/ideas/index.html
http://www.gidest.org/barbara-adams/
https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/design-as-future-making-9780857858399/
https://nssr.academia.edu/BarbaraAdams ]
barbaraadams  design  designfiction  2018  classes  anthonydunne  fionaraby  patrickparrender  carrielambert-beatty  paulpreciado  brucesterling  darkosuvin  samueldelany  elizabethgrosz  joséestebanmuñoz  ursulaleguin  octaviabutler  speculativefiction  speculativedesign  scifi  sciencefiction  utopia  julianbleecker  dunne&raby  wesleyan 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Critic and poet Fred Moten is profiled by Jesse McCarthy | Harvard Magazine
"IN 2013, a manifesto entitled The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study began making the rounds among the growing pool of nervous graduate students, harried adjuncts, un-tenured professors, and postdocs whirling through the nation’s faculty lounges. The Undercommons was published by the small anarchist press Autonomedia and made freely available for download; in practice, however, it circulated by word of mouth, copies of the PDF forwarded like samizdat literature for those in the know. On the surface, the text is an analysis of alienated academic labor at the contemporary American university. But it’s also more radical than that: it is a manual for free thinking, a defiant call to dissent within educational institutions that betray their liberal credos, filling their coffers even as they prepare students, armed with liberal arts degrees and “critical thinking” skills, to helm a social and economic order in which, “to work…is to be asked, more and more, to do without thinking, to feel without emotion, to move without friction, to adapt without question, to translate without pause, to desire without purpose, to connect without interruption.”

For those with little or no knowledge of black studies, the text’s deployment of terms like “fugitivity” and “undercommons” may seem baffling. To those in the circle, however, this lexicon of continental philosophy, remixed with a poetic and prophetic fire resembling Amiri Baraka’s, bears the signature of one of the most brilliant practitioners of black studies working today: the scholar and poet Fred Moten ’84."



"This past fall, Moten took up a new position in the department of performance studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, arriving from Los Angeles and a teaching appointment at the University of California at Riverside. In early September, his office was still a bare room with a single high window looking out over Broadway. He hadn’t had a chance to unpack his library, but already a small stack of books on jazz theory, performance, and quantum mechanics rested in a pile near his desk. It soon became clear, however, that he is the kind of thinker who keeps all his favorite books in his head, anyway. His Paul Laurence Dunbar is always at his fingertips, and he weaves passages from Karl Marx, Immanuel Kant, or Hortense Spillers into his conversation with equal facility.

In someone else this learnedness could come off as intimidating, but in Moten it’s just the opposite. Something about his composure, his relaxed attentiveness, the way he shakes his head with knowing laughter as he pauses over the direction he’s about to take with a question, instantly erases any stuffiness: one can imagine the exact same conversation taking place on the sidelines of a cookout. And then there’s his voice: warm, low, and propelled by a mellow cadence that breaks complex clauses into neat segments, their hushed, conspiratorial air approaching aphorism. At one point, Moten asked about my dissertation, which I confessed, sheepishly, was kind of a mess. His eyes lit up. He leaned back with a wide grin, his hands spreading out in front of him. “You know what a mess is?” He said. “In Arkansas, a mess is a unit of measure. Like of vegetables. Where my people come from folks might say: ‘You want a bushel?’ And you’ll say, ‘Nah, I want a mess.’ You know, like that great James Brown line: ‘Nobody can tell me how to use my mess.’ It’s a good thing to have. A mess is enough for a meal.”"



"One difficulty for outside readers encountering Moten’s work is that he tends to engage more with the avant-garde than with pop. It’s easy to see why the art world has embraced him: his taste gravitates toward the free-jazz end of the spectrum so strongly it’s as if he were on a mission, striving to experience all of creation at once—to play (as the title of a favorite Cecil Taylor album puts it) All the Notes. This spring, Moten is teaching a graduate course based on the works of choreographer Ralph Lemon and artist Glenn Ligon. In recent years he has collaborated with the artist Wu Tsang on installation and video art pieces, where they do things like practice the (slightly nostalgic) art of leaving voicemail messages for each other every day for two weeks without ever connecting, just riffing off snippets from each other’s notes. In another video short directed by Tsang, Moten—wearing a caftan and looking Sun Ra-ish—is filmed in “drag-frame” slow motion dancing to an a cappella rendition of the jazz standard “Girl Talk.”

By way of explanation, Moten recalls his old neighborhood. “I grew up around people who were weird. No one’s blackness was compromised by their weirdness, and by the same token,” he adds, “nobody’s weirdness was compromised by their blackness.” The current buzz (and sometimes backlash) over the cultural ascendancy of so-called black nerds, or “blerds,” allegedly incarnated by celebrities like Donald Glover, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Issa Rae, leaves him somewhat annoyed. “In my mind I have this image of Sonny Boy Williamson wearing one of those harlequin suits he liked to wear. These dudes were strange, and I always felt that’s just essential to black culture. George Clinton is weird. Anybody that we care about, that we still pay attention to, they were weird.”

Weirdness for Moten can refer to cultural practices, but it also describes the willful idiosyncracy of his own work, which draws freely from tributaries of all kinds. In Black and Blur, the first book of his new three-volume collection, consent not to be a single being (published by Duke University Press), one finds essays on the Congolese painter Tshibumba Kanda-Matulu and C.L.R. James, François Girard’s Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, a comparison between Trinidadian calypso and Charles Mingus records composed in response to the Little Rock Nine, David Hammon’s art installation Concerto in Black and Blue, Wittgenstein and the science fiction of Samuel Delany, a deconstruction of Theodor Adorno’s writings on music and a reconstruction of Saidiya Hartman’s arguments on violence. Sometimes the collision can happen within a single sentence: “Emily Dickinson and Harriet Jacobs, in their upper rooms, are beautiful,” he writes. “They renovate sequestration.”

Taken together, Moten’s writings feel like a Charlie Parker solo, or a Basquiat painting, in their gleeful yet deadly serious attempt to capture the profusion of ideas in flight. For him this fugitive quality is the point. We are not supposed to be satisfied with clear understanding, but instead motivated to continue improvising and imagining a utopian destination where a black cosmopolitanism—one created from below, rather than imposed from above—brings folks together.

For Moten, this flight of ideas begins in the flight of bodies: in the experience of slavery and the Middle Passage, which plays a crucial role in his thinking. “Who is more cosmopolitan than Equiano?” he asks rhetorically, citing the Igbo sailor and merchant who purchased his own freedom, joined the abolitionist movement in England, and published his famous autobiography in 1789. “People think cosmopolitanism is about having a business-class seat. The hold of the ship, among other things, produces a kind of cosmopolitanism, and it’s not just about contact with Europeans and transatlantic travel. When you put Fulani and Igbo together and they have to learn how to speak to each other, that’s also a language lab. The historical production of blackness is cosmopolitanism.”

What can one learn from the expression of people who refuse to be commodities, but also once were commodities? What does history look like, or the present, or the future, from the point of view of those who refuse the norms produced by systems of violence: who consent not to be a single being? These key concerns course through the entirety of Moten’s dazzling new trilogy, which assembles all his theoretical writings since In the Break. At a time of surging reactionary politics, ill feeling, and bad community, few thinkers seem so unburdened and unbeholden, so confident in their reading of the historical moment. Indeed, when faced with the inevitable question of the state of U.S. politics, Moten remains unfazed. “The thing I can’t stand is the Trump exceptionalism. Remember when Goldwater was embarrassing. And Reagan. And Bush. Trump is nothing new. This is what empire on the decline looks like. When each emperor is worse than the last.”

* * *

A THESIS that has often been attractive to black intellectuals (held dear, for example, by both W.E.B. Du Bois and Ralph Ellison) was that the United States without black people is too terrifying to contemplate; that all the evidence, on balance, suggests that blackness has actually been the single most humanizing—one could even say, slyly, the only “civilizing”—force in America. Moten takes strong exception. “The work of black culture was never to civilize America—it’s about the ongoing production of the alternative. At this point it’s about the preservation of the earth. To the extent that black culture has a historic mission, and I believe that it does—its mission is to uncivilize, to de-civilize, this country. Yes, this brutal structure was built on our backs; but if that was the case, it was so that when we stood up it would crumble.”

Despite these freighted words, Moten isn’t the brooding type. He’s pleased to be back in New York City, where he’ll be able to walk, instead of drive, his kids to school. He’s hopeful about new opportunities for travel, and excited to engage with local artists and poets. His wife, cultural studies scholar Laura Harris, is working on a study of the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, who is currently being “re-discovered” by American artists and critics. “I circulate babylon and translate for the new times,” opens another poem in The Feel Trio, … [more]
fredmoten  2017  2013  highereducation  highered  work  labor  anarchism  race  slavery  blackstudies  dissent  radicalism  via:javierarbona  resistance  blackness  bodies  aesthetics  amiribaraka  dukeellington  adrianpiper  billieholiday  nathanielmackey  poetry  scholarship  academia  rebellion  subversion  karlmarx  marxism  hortensespillers  kant  paullaurencedunbar  attentiveness  messes  messiness  johnashbery  ralphellison  webdubois  everyday  writing  undercommons  margins  liminality  betweenness  alternative  preservation  uncivilization  decivilization  consent  empire  imperialism  body  objects  cosmopolitanism  charlieparker  basquiat  weirdness  donaldglover  neildegrassetyson  issarae  georgeclinton  tshibumbakanda-matulu  charlesmingus  samueldelany  saidiyahartman  clrjames  françoisgirard  davidhammon  héliooiticica  lauraharris  charlesolson  susanhowe  criticism  art  stefanoharney  jacquesderrida  jean-michelbasquiat  theodoradorno 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Africa Has Always Been Sci-Fi | Literary Hub
"As Afrofuturism has begun to migrate back to the motherland in earnest, the same relative dearth continues to plague theorists and writers. Even Mark Bould, whose introduction to Paradoxa’s issue on African science fiction offers a comprehensive if nebulous syllabus, implies that it is nascent: “If African sf has not arrived, it is certainly approaching fast.” The appearance of a deluge—a trend, a fad—is in effect a trickle. Is this just what happens when you cross blackness with futurity? As Dery asks of African Americans, “Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures?” Or is this lack specific to African literature, where energies might seem to be better directed toward, say, political critique of corruption, poverty, disease, and unemployment?

Nnedi Okorafor, born in the United States to Nigerian immigrants, both bridges this breach and fills it. She appears on lists of black sci-fi on either side of the Atlantic. And while she says that she has “issues with [the label] Afrofuturism,” she is one of the most prolific black writers of speculative fiction out there, and has set several of her fantasy and science fiction novels on the continent. Okorafor, in other words, is Afropolitan and African American: she insists that her “flavor of sci-fi is evenly Naijamerican (note: ‘Naija’ is slang for Nigeria or Nigerian).” Yet in an essay on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website, Okorafor herself bemoans the scant canon:
Here’s my list of “African SF.” It’s really short … How do I define African SF? I don’t. I know it when I see it … The main fact is that this list DOES exist. Africans ARE writing their own science fiction, contrary to what some may think. But the fact is that Africans need to also write more of it.

When building a canon, the question of inclusion becomes paramount. If the African v. African American debate seems unduly academic or divisive, just imagine when the question of race comes in: what does it mean, as Okorafor notes, that the first major African science fiction film, District 9, was directed by a white South African? In another essay, “Is Africa Ready for Science Fiction?,” Okorafor cites two experts—a Nollywood director and a scholar of African fiction—who both essentially say no. Though she is more optimistic on the question, Okorafor explains: “In Africa, science fiction is still perceived as not being real literature. It is not serious writing.… African audiences don’t feel that science fiction is really concerned with what’s real, what’s present. It’s not tangible.”

But to take the intangible, the unreal, the absent and make of them a world is precisely the mandate of science fiction. In his remarkable ur-Afrofuturist film Space is the Place (1974), Sun Ra, adorned in Egyptian regalia, travels to Oakland, CA to recruit black folk to colonize the planet Saturn. Like some kind of intergalactic Marcus Garvey, he wants to “set up a colony for black people … bring them here through transmolecularization … or teleport the whole planet here … through music.” He tells dissipated hipsters at the local youth center: “I’m not real. I’m just like you. You don’t exist in this society. If you did, your people wouldn’t be seeking equal rights. You’re not real. If you were, you’d have some status among the nations of the world. So we’re both myths. I do not come to you as a reality. I come to you as the myth. Because that’s what black people are, myths.” Afrofuturism’s insight is to elide the African diaspora with outer space as loci of blackness, roiling vats of inky, rich, infinite potential. The etymology of utopia, after all, is ou + topos, or not + place. Introducing himself to a wino, Sun Ra cryptically declaims: “I am everything and nothing.”"
nnediokorafor  afrofuturism  scifi  sciencefiction  africa  2016  afropolitan  dieantwoord  southafrica  sunra  samueldelany  lagos  markdery  nigeria  district9  speculativefiction 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Junot Diaz & Hilton Als Talk Masculinity, Science Fiction, And Writing As An Act Of Defiance | Literary Hub
"JD: I’m not jumping to some conclusion about some abstract culture. You and I come from backgrounds where people were echo chambers for a lot of the cultural, racial sort of defaults. People would say wild things explicitly, and I thought it would be such a lame thing if my characters weren’t half as frank as my uncles.

HA: Like one of the tías grabbing one of the characters’ balls by way of introduction.

JD: I’ve gotten emails about that from dudes I know, who say, “Dude, my aunts grab my balls, too.”

HA: It takes a village.

JD: It takes five genders to raise this particularly malevolent form of masculinity that we tend to produce so efficiently. You could take two people, who look identical in skin color, and my mom can distinguish them at the molecular level, and say, “That motherfucker’s lighter.” All the vocabulary we’ve lost in America to talk about race is omnipresent in the Caribbean. We’ve lost so many words to talk about race, we don’t even have a conversation about it, we have lost it. Yet, in the Caribbean, there are more than twelve words that I can come up with to describe people’s skin color, at least in the neighborhood where I grew up in. In some ways I think that is useful, because it helps when it comes time to approach the question of privilege. People don’t claim amnesia. Some can think my uncles are super-backwards because they didn’t go to Ivy League schools, but they don’t cop to any of that ridiculous liberal amnesia. The sort of thing that translates into statements like, “Oh, it’s not race, it’s class.” I think you can’t have class without race. It’s called colonialism. Some people come right off the bat and say, a guy is ignorant. My uncles would never make those claims, but rather say it’s about black people. But I find that level of frankness, even if it’s considered regressive and messed up, a better starting point than the constant illusion of the sort of liberal moment that we have."



"JD: I think for most straight men, the problem is not that we don’t have women worthy of us, the problem is that we have women ten times more worthy than us. But coming back to your question, in general, whenever I read about people of color as artists I think it is so overly simplified. We tend to be reduced to the cultural element. Like somebody will trot out a Spanish word to describe our thing . . . How many reviews have I got where a non-Spanish-speaking person will put out a Spanish word to attempt to describe what I do? It’s like watching people who can’t dance salsa trying to do it. Or we’ll be reduced to simplistic visions that say that in these works of art, this artist is talking about this crucial moment, or about the problem of race. They’ll use these terms that mean nothing, because they don’t want to approach what exactly a person is getting at in their work. If white artists were discussed along racial terms as often as people of color, we would be a better country. I never see a white dancer discussing how their whiteness impacts their dance. The first question out of an interviewer’s mind when they talk to a white artist is never if they have experienced racism. But as an artist, I must say it’s incredible the amount of times these questions come up, and when they ask me, I’m always ready to ask back, “Have you been racist lately?” Now, one of the best things about art, as anyone who’s studied a Victorian text knows, is that the future comes faster than we imagine, and there is a future coming up, of young artists and young critics and young scholars, who are thinking in ways that make the current conversations about our art look incredibly reductive."



"HA: You touch upon this idea of what’s coming up and we’ve had several conversations about time travel. You’ve said that one of the reasons why you loved science fiction by people like Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany is because they were talking about time travel, and that literally you have gone from a slave culture to talking to hundreds of people at the Strand Bookstore. How does that happen? Being one or two generations away from the characters in your books, who are living below subsistence level, how does that affect you as Junot?

JD: And how do you narrate it? I always think of that question. I’ll sit at the Christmas table next to my grandmother, who basically grew up in a proto-medieval—comes from an almost slavery background in the Dominican Republic, working as a tenant farmer, in a terrifying kind of subsistence. I’m squinting at her with one eye, and then I’m squinting at my little brother, who’s U.S.-born, a Marine combat veteran, who sounds like someone turned the TV to the Fox channel and broke the dial. And I’m thinking, how do we create a self that takes both of those people in?

HA: You’ve catapulted yourself, through artistry, into another realm, so how do you physically and emotionally take it?

JD: It’s really helpful to assemble selves not always deploying realism. Realism cannot account for my little brother and my grandmother, but Octavia Butler’s science fiction can. Samuel Delany’s generic experiments can explain them. I read his book and that range is present, not only present, but what is unbearable about trying to hold the two together in one place. So it helps not to have realism as the only paradigm to really understand yourself.

HA: Is the story “Monstro” a move towards a surrealism that explains things better?

JD: I wouldn’t say it’s an advance. It’s more a trying to see what would it look like if I was more explicit about not using realism. With Oscar Wao I obscured how little the genre of realism is deployed in the novel. I sort of hid it. Someone can read Oscar Wao and be convinced it’s a realistic novel, with a couple eruptions. Now I wanted to see if it’s possible to get similar effects without obscuring the pedigree. I felt like Oscar Wao was like an octoroon cousin of yours, who doesn’t pass for white, but won’t deny it when people treat him real well. I wanted to take the drag off, and see what happens."



"JD: I always did fiction and I always wanted to write. When you’re young, if you’re aware of your parents’ infidelities, your cosmology starts with this concept that your parents are real big liars. My cosmology begins with this constant deception. So of course I wanted to write about deceivers, people who were wearing masks, and for this purpose fiction felt more useful. As a kid I was that literal, thinking I lived in fiction, so let me write it. It started there, and it seems it’s going to end there. I was always terrible with essays, whether they are confessional or critical, because in that form the whole thing can’t be a lie. My idea for an essay would be to write about a book that’s never been written, or to draw a completely ridiculous conclusion, and then when somebody checks the footnotes . . . I think in fiction, I can lie on multiple levels, which is always what my family felt like. I felt at home.

HA: That essay sounds Borgesian. But looking at your first collection, were there stories that were just a sort of working out before you got Drown?

JD: Certainly, I had so many absurd stories. I still hadn’t mapped out what it meant to be living in central New Jersey. We were one of the first Dominican families in the area and we grew up around a predominantly African-American community, with some poor whites, most of them Irish immigrants. I couldn’t figure out how to scale a family that existed in this really dense Dominican world at home. I had siblings who were black, who didn’t look like me, who weren’t, like, Terrorism Act bait. They looked African-American and I couldn’t figure out a way to scale it. I was reading so many New York writers describing the Latino experience in a really urban setting that my first stories sounded like I was living in NYC, which is a very different world.

HA: Who were you reading?

JD: People like Edward Rivera, who wrote Family Installments, probably one of the greatest memoirs. If you want to know how I wrote my first book, read that, because I just completely copied that book. I also read some of the most classic folks, such as Nicholasa Mohr—even though she was writing about Paterson, it still had a much more urban edge—or Piri Thomas. In my first thirty or forty pieces of writing, a character was always robbing a bodega. It was so stupid. I was an embarrassment to myself. I started out writing film scripts, and before, you know, I jumped to fiction, but even then, I wanted to do a kind of film scripts. So my first few years I was doing scripts, and those were even worse than anything anyone can imagine."



"
HA: One of the things that beats beautifully in Drown and all your work goes back to this idea that if you’re an artist, the hardest thing to survive is the people you come from. And the people that you come from are the stories that you tell. Often. Can you tell us a little bit about your family reaction?

JD: That is a really honest question and recognition. Most of my friends had to protect their parents and the rest of us from their ambitions. A childhood like mine meant that you could not openly air your ambitions to people because it would have been an enormous threat. When I think about it, I guess my family’s situation was always a heartbreaker, regardless how my career turned out. The family dynamic internalized all the craziness of growing up as an immigrant. Immigration is difficult as it is, but the worst way to take it on the chin is to turn it against each other.

HA: Right.

JD: It’s weird, my immediate family gets together almost never, and when we get together, it’s always like a heartbreaker. There’s all this kind of awful stuff: who’s not talking to whom, how some brothers live in California, as far away from the family as possible. And I’ll be honest, I think my family barely … [more]
junotdíaz  hiltonals  2016  sciencefiction  scifi  race  racism  sexuality  masculinity  gender  octaviabudlet  samueldelany  edwardrivera  nicholasamohr  pirithomas  families  immigration  gabrielgarcíamárquez  dominicanrepublic  power  oscarwao  narrativevoice  shuyaohno 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Anthropologists in Outer Space - SAPIENS
"Today we not only look at the stars, we send spacecraft to investigate outer space and plan for human habitation on other worlds. The United States and the Soviet Union first sent animals up in rockets in the 1940s, and in 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel to space. By 1969, humans had walked on the moon. Soon after, anthropologists were discussing the problem of how to study emerging cultures of space—a place few people had even been to. In the 1970s, anthropologist and futurist Magoroh Maruyama organized a series of discussions on outer space at the annual American Anthropological Association meetings and the International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. These meetings led to the publication of the 1975 book “Cultures Beyond the Earth: The Role of Anthropology in Outer Space.”

In the 1980s, anthropologist Ben Finney turned his eye to space. He combined his experience in the U.S. Navy and the aerospace industry with his anthropological research on how Polynesian people could have crossed the Pacific Ocean. In 1994 anthropologist Roland A. Foulkes drew from this earlier work by Maruyama, Finney, and other anthropologists in his essay “Why Space? An Anthropologist’s Response.” Foulkes even talked about possible names for the field of anthropology that studies space, suggesting astroanthropology, exoanthropology, aerospace-anthropology, or extraterrestrial anthropology.

The call for anthropologists to study outer space was revived in 2009 when anthropologists David Valentine, Valerie Olson, and Debbora Battaglia published a commentary in Anthropology News called “Encountering the Future: Anthropology and Outer Space.” Since “being earthbound is not a limitation” for humans, they argued, it shouldn’t be for anthropologists either.

Over the last decade, anthropologists studying space have written about dozens of topics, including the debate over Pluto’s status as a planet (Lisa Messeri, University of Virginia); how we respond to the threat of an asteroid hitting Earth (Valerie Olson, University of California, Irvine); the diaries kept by cosmonauts while they lived in space (Debbora Battaglia, Mount Holyoke College); new companies and communities in the private space-exploration industry (David Valentine, University of Minnesota); the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Kathryn Denning, York University); and the science of studying extraterrestrial life (Stefan Helmreich, MIT).

There is even an archaeology of outer space. At Flinders University in Australia, archaeologist Alice Gorman studies the debris we leave in space, from old satellites orbiting the earth to spacecraft, robots, and even shadows on the moon. In her TED talk Gorman explains how the stuff we think of as useless “space junk” actually has value as part of our cultural heritage.

It takes imagination to think like this. Gorman uses her expertise in archaeology and anthropology to imagine how a piece of technology from our recent history could be an important artifact in the future. Work like this inspires me to wonder what human culture might look like in the future—in one hundred, one thousand, or even ten thousand years. This kind of future-aware anthropology draws from both science and science fiction. And in turn, science-fiction authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Phillip K. Dick, and Frank Herbert are all doing speculative anthropology when they use their knowledge of life here on Earth to write fictional works about people, cultures, and landscapes elsewhere and otherwise—on other worlds and in possible futures.

Science fiction has also been an inspiration for space scientists and astronauts. Dr. Mae Jemison, the first woman of color in space, was inspired as a child when she saw Nichelle Nichols playing Lieutenant Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise in the original “Star Trek” television series. Science fiction also serves as a way of thinking about some of the anthropological problems of both Earth and outer space. What sort of worlds do we imagine might be out there around other stars? What kinds of life, culture, cities, spacecraft, philosophies, and religions might extraterrestrial civilizations have? I also like the idea of turning this extraterrestrial gaze back toward ourselves to ask, What would Earth look like to us if we were looking at it from another world?"



"Anthropologists have often studied what appear at first to be great differences between human communities living across this planet. There are long-standing and ongoing debates in anthropology about differences and similarities, universals and particulars—about how much we can really know or understand about other people’s lives, beliefs, views, and worlds. Anthropology of space can be another way of thinking about these questions. What might we see if we change the scale of the anthropological perspective, imagine ourselves from elsewhere, and look at Earth as a whole from space? For all our apparent differences, perhaps visitors from another world would look down at this small blue planet we live on and think that we’re all quite similar after all."
michaeloman-reagan  space  anthropology  history  future  2016  culture  carlsagan  scifi  sciencefiction  speculativeanthropology  archaeoastronomy  archaeology  astroanthropology  exoanthropology  aerospace-anthropology  extraterrestrialanthropology  magorohmaruyama  benfinney  polynesia  davidvalentine  valerieolson  debborabattaglia  outerspace  lisamesseri  astronauts  cosmonauts  kathryndenning  stefanhelmreich  alicegorman  spacecraft  maejemison  ursulaleguin  octaviabutler  samueldelany  phillipkdick  frankherbert 
february 2016 by robertogreco
SF: Science Fiction, Speculative Fabulation, String Figures, So Far - Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology
"The British social anthropologist Marilyn Strathern, who wrote The Gender of the Gift based on her ethnographic work in highland Papua New Guinea (Mt. Hagen), taught me that “It matters what ideas we use to think other ideas (with)” (Reproducing the Future 10). Marilyn embodies for me the practice of feminist speculative fabulation in the scholarly mode. It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories. Marilyn wrote about accepting the risk of relentless contingency; she thinks about anthropology as the knowledge practice that studies relations with relations, that puts relations at risk with other relations, from unexpected other worlds. In 1933 Alfred North Whitehead, the American mathematician and process philosopher who infuses my sense of worlding, wrote The Adventures of Ideas. SF is precisely full of such adventures. Isabelle Stengers, a chemist, scholar of Whitehead, and a seriously quirky Belgian feminist philosopher, gives me “speculative thinking” in spades. Isabelle insists we cannot denounce the world in the name of an ideal world. In the spirit of feminist communitarian anarchism and the idiom of Whitehead’s philosophy, she maintains that decisions must take place somehow in the presence of those who will bear their consequences.[2] In this same virtual sibling set, Marleen Barr morphed Heinlein’s speculative fiction into feminist fabulation for me. In relay and return, SF morphs in my writing and research into speculative fabulation and string figures. Relays, cat’s cradle, passing patterns back and forth, giving and receiving, patterning, holding the unasked-for pattern in one’s hands, response-ability, Octavia Butler’s Patternmaster series. My debts mount. Again and again, SF has given me the ideas, the stories, and the shapes with which I think ideas, shapes, and stories in feminist theory and science studies. There is no way I can name all of my debts to SF’s critters and worlds, human and not, and so I will record only a few and hope for a credit extension for years yet to come. I will enter these debts in a short ledger of my teaching and publishing. I start with Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, a typescript of my curriculum vitae that was part of a file for consideration for promotion in the History of Science Department at Johns Hopkins in 1979-80, and a bottle of chalky white out. I had written an essay review of Woman on the Edge of Time for the activist publication, Women, a Journal of Liberation and duly recorded this little publication on the CV. “The past is the contested zone”—the past that is our thick, not-yet-fixed, present, wherewhen what is yet-to-come is now at stake—is the meme that drew me into Piercy’s story, and I was proud of the review. A senior colleague in History of Science, a supporter of my promotion, came to me with a too-friendly smile and that betraying bottle of white-out, asking me to blot out this publication from the scholarly record, “for my own good.”[3] He also wanted me to expunge “Signs of Dominance,” a long, research-dense essay about the semiotics and sociograms developed in mid-20th-century primate field studies of monkeys and apes.[4] To my shame to this day, I obeyed; to my relief to this day, no one was fooled. Piercy’s temporalities and my growing sense of the SF-structure of primate field work made me write two essays for the brave, new, hyper-footnoted, University of Chicago feminist theory publication, Signs, and to title the essays in recognition of Piercy’s priority and patterned relay to me.[5] I could not forget—or disavow—Piercy’s research for Woman on the Edge of Time, which led her to psychiatrist José Delgado’s Rockland State Hospital experiments with remote-controlled telemetric implants, and my finding in my own archival research Delgado’s National Institutes of Mental Health-funded work applied to gibbon studies in the ape colony on Hall’s Island. The colonial and imperial roots & routes of SF are relentlessly real and inescapably fabulated. Later, living (non-optionally, in really real SF histories) with and as cyborgs, Piercy and I played cat’s cradle again, this time with my “Cyborg Manifesto” and then her He, She, and It. Cyborgs were never just about the interdigitations of humans and information machines; cyborgs were from the get-go the materialization of imploded (not hybridized) human beings-information machines-multispecies organisms. Cyborgs were always simultaneously relentlessly real and inescapably fabulated. Like all good SF, they redid what counts as—what is—real. The obligatory multispecies story-telling script was written in 1960 United States space research, when Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline coined the word “cyborg” in an article about their implanted rats and the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space."
speculativefiction  scifi  sciencefiction  donnaharaway  toread  speculativefabrication  isabellestrengers  alfrednorthwhitehead  knowledge  ideas  philosophy  anarchism  marilynstrathern  octaviabutler  manfredclynes  nathankline  cyborgs  joannaruss  samueldelany  evahayward  katieking  gregorybateson  historyofconsciousness  hiscon  herscam  jamestiptree  suzettehadenelgin  linguists  linguistics  johnvarley  fredjameson  suzymckeecharnass  ursulaleguin  worlding  cat'scradle  anthropology  ethnography  gwynethjones  heidegger  kant  multispecies  sheritepper  laurenoyaolamina  helenmerrick  margaretgrebowicz  dogs  animals  marleenbarr  marilynhacker  sarahlefanu  pamelasargent  viviansobchack  margaretatwood  vondamcintyre  ericrabkin  laurachernaik  sherrylvint  joshualebare  istvancsicsery-ronay  shulamithfirestone  judithmerril  franbartkowsky  2013 
october 2015 by robertogreco

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