Month: April 2015

New book – Historical Geographies of Prisons: Unlocking the Usable Carceral Past

An interesting collection to add to my online buying queue.

carceral geography

HGPUUCPKaren Morin and I are delighted to announce that the new edited collection Historical Geographies of Prisons: Unlocking the Usable Carceral Past will shortly be published by Routledge.

Conceived of following Karen’s Distinguished Historical Geography lecture at the 2013 Los Angeles meeting of the Association of American Geographers, the book draws in part on papers presented in the subsequent sessions on carceral historical geographies at the Tampa AAG in 2014.

This is the first book to provide a comprehensive historical-geographical lens to the development and evolution of correctional institutions as a specific subset of carceral geographies. It analyzes and critiques global practices of incarceration, regimes of punishment, and their corresponding spaces of “corrections” from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries. It examines individuals’ experiences within various regulatory regimes and spaces of punishment, and offers an interpretation of spaces of incarceration as cultural-historical artifacts. The book also analyzes the spatial-distributional geographies of incarceration, particularly…

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Philosophy Returns to the Real World in the NY Times

By Crispin Sartwell:

Let’s call this phase after postmodernism post-postmodernism – “popomo” for short. There are many varieties of this recommitment to the world, from thinkers across disciplines, including the speculative realism of figures such as Graham Harman and Jane Bennett; externalism in philosophy of mind, led by Andy Clark andMark Rowlands; the “new materialism” of Rosi Braidotti or Karen Barad; Viki McCabe‘s cognitive psychology; the physicist Lee Smolin‘s defense of the reality of time; and Bruno Latour‘s anthropology.

Odd Article in the Guardian…

By Tom Clark. Awake for a bit in the middle of the night, I couldn’t tell if it was an Onion-style send-up. First, if you click, there is the subject of the article. But there are enough lines in there to make it read like it was written by a quasi-Marxian novelist (and a particularly unsubtle one at that): There’s described a conference where “the delegates, who were there for a conference on the ‘future of work’ (tagline: ‘Prepare to be disrupted’ [yay!]), included Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, Microsoft’s “director of office envisioning”, and the founder of SenseCore, which produces ‘revolutionary human monitoring technology’….” And so on down the page. 

Gordon Hull on Foucault and Heidegger (again)

Here. He quotes this from a 1974 interview (I follow with some notes on Foucault from 1970):

“I would say there has, for several years, been a Heideggerian habit: all philosophy which takes up a history of thought or of a branch of knowledge ought at least to start from ancient Greece and really never go beyond it …  This type of history in the form of a metaphysical crystalization establishes a basis for everything in Plato, [and] taken up here, in France, by Derrida, is distressing to me …. There are at least one or two [more recent – Gordon Hull] centuries that seem to produce a number of phenomena which are tied to our social structures, our economy, our way of thinking with a force at least comparable to that which is produced in the first Greek cities.  It is true that I avoid speaking of Greece because I do not want to fall into the trap of Hellenic archaism, in which we have for a long time enclosed the historians of thought.”

Interestingly those who have read the 1970-1 lectures, as Hull I’m sure has, will note that Foucault too followed the path of Heidegger, Arendt, and perhaps Derrida before him in thinking there was a Greek decision that followed to this day. Where does Foucault fit in with all of this? First, it’s clear in those lectures that he, too, thinks there is an originary moment in the West towards a specific definition of knowledge that afflicts our history no matter its various changes up to the present period. Despite his many differences from Derrida and others, he follows a certain Heideggerian thesis about a closure of the West that circles around a given view of knowledge from which one can’t extricate oneself by simply moving beyond this Western paradigm. For Derrida, this will mean a certain “play” found within the given structures of the West; for Foucault this means thinking history not as codified knowledge, but as a “carnival” (NGH, 161), as a “counter-history” that seeks to disrobe the power formations while not making any claims to objectivity or neutrality for one’s own genealogies of the history of truth.

This brings me to the beginning lectures of Lectures on the Will to Know from 70-1 (for a good summary, see here). Rereading the first lines of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Foucault aims to show that far from “innocent,” Aristotle’s opening dictum that each man by nature desires to know envelops all desire ultimately in a form of knowledge. He writes:

As a result, body and desire are elided; the movement leading to the great serene and incorporeal knowledge of causes [in Aristotle] is in itself already, at the level of sensation, the obscure will to this wisdom, it is already philosophy. Thus philosophy, performing the role of supreme knowledge—knowledge of first principles and causes—also has the role of enveloping all desire to know from the start. Its function is to ensure what is really knowledge coming from sensation, from the body, belonging already, by nature and according to the final cause that directs it, to the realm of contemplation and theory (LWN, 12-3).

We can compare this to Hull:

To them he is saying, more or less: ok, let us read the ancient Greeks – not for whatever they might tell us about sex (where he showed that the fact the Greeks approached sex so differently suggests that our own ways aren’t inevitable), but as philosophers concerned with the polis – and if we don’t presuppose a particular history of philosophy as our leitmotif, we will discover that the Greeks cared much less about logos and much more about ergon than you suppose.  That is, Foucault has a plausible claim that the Heideggerian return to the Greeks repeats unquestioningly one of the main things that it ought to problematize: the coronation of Plato and Aristotle as the archetype philosophers of antiquity, and the path dependence of subsequent philosophy on those thinkers. [One can see that this was something Foucault precisely did, especially as related to Aristotle and desire. Perhaps this is the ultimate philosophical temptation, even for Foucault?]  And in so doing, it completely occludes the question of the philosophical life and of practice more generally.

Jeff Malpas on Heidegger’s Black Notebooks

At academia.edu, via enowning. The first section gives a good summary of the various Heidegger affairs since the post-War period–like a good perennial, it comes back every year, seemingly anew–before giving hermeneutic reasons for separating a thinker and his thought, before finally beginning to broach the topic of the essay: “Situating the Black Notebooks.” Like Peter Trawny, who’s critical monograph is to be published in English this summer, Jeff takes Heidegger’s anti-Semitism to be “cultural” rather than racial, though with some caveats that one can’t delink the two.

Count me on the side of those, like Arendt [I’m thinking of her race-thinking sections of Origins of Totalitarianism] and Foucault [in his “Society Must Be Defended”] who think that such a distinction is implausible. Even Derrida in his last lectures suggests, quoting some of Heidegger from 1935-6 [if memory serves], that Heidegger had a critique of the biopolitical. Which is sort of like saying someone with a Sierra Club bumper sticker driving an SUV is against climate change.

In any case, coming back to Jeff Malpas’s essay, despite some lines that can be polemicized (e.g., his suggestion that in fact Heidegger’s work is often continuous with much of 20th century Jewish thought), he’s right to argue that considerations of historicity, the topographical (in Malpas’s use), and against calculative rationality, are not fascistic even if one is drawing on Heidegger to make those claims. And those who want to make this about all of Continental philosophy weren’t exactly waiting for Heidegger’s Black Notebooks to condemn it anyway. Complicated people can hold two thoughts at the same time: Heidegger was often a truly rancid person, provincial in the extreme (when Malpas writes he was of his time and place–was he ever), anti-Semitic, arrogant, and so on. His writings, though, are often profound and important. It’s why one doesn’t (shouldn’t!) follow Heidegger the person and imitate his life (ah those Heideggerians with their huts in the woods) just to read him.

Is Nature Dead? Event at Bitter’s (MUN) today

Today is a meeting I can’t make, putting together and discussing events led by my colleague Sean McGrath. Here is the blurb:

We are meeting tomorrow at 4 pm in Bitters Pub at Memorial University to talk about the event planned for this September on the West Coast of Newfoundland, and maybe to say a word about the events we are planning in the rest of Canada and beyond. I hope to see many of you there. For those of you who cannot make it, CBC will broadcast live from the pub at 5:20 pm Newfoundland time, with interviews and information about the event, and the big idea behind it, For a New Earth (www.isnaturedead.org).

To tune in, go to cbc.radio.one, St. John’s, at 5.20 pm Newfoundland time (the show is called On the Go): http://www.cbc.ca/liveradio/popup/index.html?networkKey=cbc_radio_one&programKey=st_johns