May 15, 2013 1 Comment
April 15, 2013 2 Comments
Melissa Haeffner reviews Fields and Streams, Rebecca Lave’s book on stream restoration and the politics of science in the US. The book is in the UGA Press series “Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation” (http://www.ugapress.org/index.php/books/fields_and_streams).
Those of you interested in water can also check out papers by Karen Bakker, Katharine Meehan, Farhana Sultana, and Trevor Birkenholtz, in a forthcoming special issue in Society and Space: http://www.envplan.com/contents.cgi?journal=D&volume=forthcoming (papers are behind the paywall).
March 22, 2013 2 Comments
Two reviewers from UBC Geography, Corin de Freitas and Alex Pysklywec, tackle Sara Ahmed’s book on the work that “diversity” does in higher education; find their review here. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life was published last year by Duke University Press.
February 27, 2013 2 Comments
Phil Hubbard, author of Cities and Sexualities, reviews Roman Adrian Cybriwsky’s 2011 book, Roppongi Crossing: The Demise of a Tokyo Nightclub District and the Reshaping of a Global City. Roppongi Crossing is part of the Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation series at University of Georgia Press.
February 7, 2013 1 Comment
The book was released very recently from the University of Georgia Press, as a part of its Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation series. The editors of Beyond Walls and Borders are Jenna Loyd, Matt Michelson, and Andrew Burridge. See Dominique’s review here.
December 17, 2012 3 Comments
Kathryn Yusoff, Lancaster University
Sometimes, there are reminders that being an academic is not such a bad choice after all. One of those reminders came in the request for nominations for books of the decade, and the other in the reading of such books. I did not know who Elizabeth Grosz was when I picked up The Nick of Time, and I had no idea of the world of feminist theory. I was drawn to the book because of its focus on time, and perhaps because of the quietness of time in much geographic literature or the tendency to spatialize it. Having had several disciplinary outings in history, art and Antarctica, time and its ordering was always the question (you can’t really study photography and film and not be attentive with time and its particular properties). It was only on arrival in geography that I realised that the obsession with time could be stilled by a disciplinary obsession with space. What The Nick of Time does is to unleash temporalities as a question of matter, of evolution and of intellectual histories. While the work of Walter Benjamin and others have presciently given us modernity in the ‘dynamite of a tenth of a second’, the focus of time was frequently on its ordering (or disordering), its arrests and returns, as memory, as afterimage, and ultimately, as death. What Grosz was doing was entirely different. She too was reading time through its fractures, though not as a melancholic moment of the ghostly in-between, but as a dislocation that provoked matter and life to reinvent itself, to overcome the limits and confines of its inheritance, to evolve. That is, how the forces of those temporal moments of dislocation both shatter and gift what becomes of life through this untimely spacing of dislocation and difference.
The Nick of Time is a four-part timepiece. The first part, “Darwin and Evolution” is a close reading of Darwin’s understanding of matter, of its forces, life, and changeability, examined through biological difference and the evolution of sex and race. The second part pits Nietzsche and Darwin against each other, their blind spots read against the other, extending and elaborating on a thought that was beyond both of them. As Darwin’s materiality is configured with the evolution of matter, its succession and sexual selection, Nietzsche provides the motivating forces that underpin such material and immaterial transformations argued through his concepts of the untimely and the return. The third part is played by Bergson, who brings the qualities of the virtual and the concept of duration to the fore, which Grosz uses to rethink two directions of matter, through the intellect and intuition. Completing the quartet of philosophers, Grosz ends the book with her thoughts on the future, its place in feminist thought, and its political and creative potential to be otherwise than it is. While the book may be read as “reading” of Darwin, Nietzsche and Bergson, this would mistake the proposition of a new ontology of life that Grosz subtly argues throughout the book. What this new ontology of politics and temporality enacts is various crossings between that which at first seems to be antagonistic (like Darwin and Nietzsche), arguing that it is the very antagonism of these forces of sexual selection, materiality and immateriality, actuality and the virtual that actually propel life and its evolution, rather than containing it through these inconsistencies and limitations. Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power is the speculative companion to The Nick of Time, answering and extending some of the questions around politics, feminism, understandings of nature and futures that are immanent within the readings of Darwin, Nietzsche and Bergson. There are some really fantastic essays in this collection, including: “The Time of Violence”, “Deleuze, Bergson and the Virtual”, “The Thing”, The Time of Thought” (which is essential for anyone interested in the relation between theory and practice in what might be politics) and “(Inhuman) Forces: Power, Pleasure and Desire”. Together, these essays provide some of the most coherent thinking around, time, matter, the virtual, indeterminacy, ontology, nature and politics.
Not only does Grosz’s understanding of temporality give rise to hopeful adventures, it gets at some of what constitutes the engine of life, its variation and elaboration. Opening matter to the question of time, with internal and external determinates that rift across those openings, generates a space for politics that can overcome its present coordinates and be untimely in its thought to what politics is and becomes. What Grosz does is argue that it is this very ‘lack of fit’ between life and the world that generates life’s ‘biological and conceptual inventiveness’ (2005, page 40). This is a denaturalising of life and its special claims. Rather, it is the engine of difference that provokes life to overcome the indeterminacies and incongruences of an entities being out of place. Difference is not something to be negotiated or recognised as such, but the very potential of life to transform itself, to speculate in conceptual and material ways on a future that is yet to be. I can’t think of a more optimistic way to engage with the future and feminist politics.
The future is given as being open to a powerful provocation; that we take seriously the force of the “new” for politics and for life, and its evolutionary basis in dislocation. Most simply, Grosz puts it like this:
The divergent line that runs from Darwin through Nietzsche to Bergson (and beyond, to Deleuze and Irigaray)… reveals that time is not only the regulative force of life as we know it (as Darwin claimed); it is the very motor of the universe as a whole (as Bergson implied), as well as the principle of life to come, life that overcomes itself (as Nietzsche affirmed). Time is in principle outside, before, beyond matter, a precondition of matter’s emergence, and the force that, surprisingly, without predictability, rends life form its more unstable interactions. Times imposes on matter the task of extending itself… Life protracts the temporal delay latent in physical processes into a productive freedom, an indeterminacy, into the creation of the new, into invention itself (Grosz 2004, pages 245-246).
And, if you were wondering what happens to politics, Grosz has this to say:
The resources for overcoming forms of domination, coercion, oppression, that is, for producing a new set of social and political relations and new values in culture, comes only from the excessive productions of the past, the virtual force that lies still immanent in but undeveloped by the present, the dislocations between past and present that make room for unpredicted futures (Grosz 2004, pages 252-253).
If the politics of indeterminacy offer both risk and opportunity, The Nick of Time and its cuts through life and matter offer a better gamble with times’ dissociation than any I have found. And, most importantly, Grosz establishes indeterminacy as the place of politics. If the ‘becoming-art of politics’ means anything at all, it needs to answer the question the Grosz poses; “how can we generate and welcome a future that we may not recognize?” (2005, page 2). In speculating and experimenting with the new, we might yet, find a politics we can live by. Some writing achieves the difficult task of a passionate impartiality, or the extension of the passions without losing anything of its energy, but goes beyond its partiality. Grosz’s writing brings joy, because it renews a sense of possibilities and potentialities, it makes life seem more extraordinary than we often acknowledge (as does much feminist theory). This is also the joy of the sciences in their most speculative moments. It reminds us, that we need poetry and discovery and open-ended things to experiment with. And, that we need wild concepts and rigorous thought that is not afraid to “leap” into the fractures of time and matter and partake of its provocations.
Grosz E, 2004 The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution and the Untimely (Duke University Press, Durham)
Grosz E, 2005 Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power (Duke University Press, Durham)
Also see the current issue of Society and Space for a forum on Elizabeth Grosz’s Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth. Requires subscription. There are contributions by Kathryn Yusoff, Nigel Clark, Arun Saldanha, Catherine Nash, and a response by Grosz. The forum began at the AAG and is available on the Open Site as an audio recording.