fractal ethnography

occupy – decolonize – detoxify

Parsing “occupation,” roughly, as historical, political, and personal challenges:

1) the violent, liberal version: we occupy this land in OUR name; we secure the borders; we keep expanding the borders; in our name, we sacrifice other peoples, the earth, other forms of life that do not fall under our charter; we occupy those spaces, violently re-shaping them in our image and our idea of freedom; “the occupation” is a space inside of which ‘democracy’ happens (the idea of freedom on our charter), but the space itself is made/secured/expanded through violence.

(Bibliography: ‘liberal,’ as in John Locke, Margaret Canovan, Bill Clinton; critique, thanks to Talal Asad).

2) the people’s version, the earth’s version: Read the rest of this entry »


nonviolence and the 99% at Showdown in Chicago

The Chicago Showdown in America on Monday was invigorating.  There were people of all ages and colors.  There were people organized from the unions, from schools, from organizing groups in the southside and northside.  There were so many families!  There was a drum line.  There were marshals to keep us organized.  There were Robin Hood kayakers.  There were slogans in both English and Spanish. Read the rest of this entry »

“occupation”: Wall St? Afghanistan? America?

Occupations and protests in the news:

1. Barack Obama: “So, yes, I think people are frustrated, and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works. Now, keep in mind I have said before and I will continue to repeat, we have to have a strong, effective financial sector in order for us to grow.”

2. Protests rage in Kabul, marking the ten-year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan.  “Protesters chanted slogans including, ‘No to Occupation,’ and ‘Americans Out,’ while holding pictures of slain war victim.”  Today also begins planned DC protests to occupy Freedom Plaza marking both the anniversary of the war and the beginning of the 2012 austerity budget.

3. The climate movement stands with #occupywallst and plans a November 6 protest to encircle the White House to protest the Keystone XL pipeline, which climate scientists could say would lead to “game over.”

4. The continued impunity of Israeli settlers and the increasing violence in the occupied West Bank.

5. 12,000 prisoners hunger striking in California (40 years after the Attica prison rebellion) over inhumane conditions, importantly which include violent strategies and punishments to prevent political organizing.

6. This provocative message to #occupywallst from JohnPaul Montano, including: “I had hoped that you would acknowledge that, since you are settlers on indigenous land, you need and want our indigenous consent to your building anything on our land – never mind an entire society.”

7. A sign at the NY protests: “I lost my job and found an occupation.”

Read the rest of this entry »

thicker historical accounts: Steve Jobs and #occupywallst

The current convergences on our media feeds are related, if we can think beyond causally.  They are in thick relation, in the sense that their lives and accompanying narratives have unfolded in the same world, refracting through shared spaces, events, and characters.  We can train our attention to notice that the continuity of images on our screen is a montage (the breaks are not  random if accidental, the images relate structurally if not sequentially).  Both in the conditions by which events become possible and in our most fleeting or heartfelt reactions—there’s a lot of critical material.

Yikes, I’ll take a crack at these two (the early passing of Steve Jobs and the growing force of #occupywallst), but it’s a heavy shared empirical task:

1. “We wouldn’t have cellphones if it wasn’t for…” [a whole freaking lot of things]. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Cornell West calls it a ‘democratic awakening’

Provisionally, we’re waiting to see.  We must muster the energy to hold together the plurality that will no longer stand for the system.

The execution of Troy Davis was not just a “death penalty issue.”  There is no such thing as “death penalty issue.”  This was murder.  A systemic authorization of unwarranted cruelty and confinement.  He’s not the first, he won’t be the last; there are other innocent people sitting on death row.  What if they had pardoned him, and he was still sitting in prison?  #toomuchdoubt, would this be a cause for relief?  What about all the young men losing their minds in solitary confinement?  The Pelican Bay prisoners being punished for organizing for basic human rights?

Our imperative is not just moral, it is historical: there is no need for abstract debate on the right or wrong of any ‘issue.’  This is the situation.  This is what is happening, every day.

Read the rest of this entry »

how Obama learned to stop worrying

Uncanny watching Dr. Strangelove in 2011, while we wait for Obama to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline and unleash the doomsday device.  If we made it through the Cold War, we can now end the world at a slower pace, without the psychic interruption of a nuclear attack but flipping stations between floods, wildfires, and real housewives.  Mr. President doesn’t want to go down in history as a mass murderer (wouldn’t that be uncomfortable!)  He’ll maybe regret the necessities he creates, while Dr. Strangelove suppresses his thrill at the eugenic potential and Michele Bachmann celebrates God’s wrath.


mad as hell, sure, but yell MONEY IN POLITICS! BOUGHT CONGRESS!

If you watched Dylan Ratigan’s rant and compared it to Albert Finney’s “mad as hell” scene in the 1976 film Network, don’t forget the rest of the story.  Finney’s populist rage makes him a hit on the network, giving its audience the angry mantra we repeat.  But the climax takes place behind closed doors, when Finney takes on the corporation.  As for his initial rage, the network capitalizes on its entertainment value, recruits more zany radicals, and scraps the news altogether.  Watch the movie for the denouement (it’s great), but notice the “mad as hell” catharsis is swallowed into a much darker picture.  It takes the whole plot structure for us to understand how the everyman’s alienated anger feeds the corporate structure that provokes it.

Read the rest of this entry »

debt crisis & democratic exhaustion

The Debt Hostage Crisis was loud, tiring, annoying.  The storyboard was tragicomic and absurdist.  In the whole farce, what was there for the public to demand, when it was so apparent the scene was not set with the public cast in any role, on or off stage?  If the national economy was held hostage, it was by a federal government that has been hijacked by special interests and apocalypse mongers.  While these thugs wrestle for control, they play out endemic problems of American democracy.

Big Money in Politics [times] Racism [minus] Sustainable Livelihoods…

(1) I am so angry with Obama for rolling over further right, for gaming with the general welfare in the first place, for selling out at such a low price.

(2) Yet I am so angry with the disrespect shown him and the refusal to let him govern, with the war-talk of would-be secessionists, slashing and burning everything in sight, so incited since we dared to hope.  If hope took audacity, they want to show him his place. 

(3) In the same stroke (and with the deal), they have viciously attacked the very infrastructure through which our increasingly multicultural, multiracial populace should have the capacity to make democratic demands as a public.

…[equals] Democratic Exhaustion.  Mainstream narratives don’t make sense of this nonsense.  Available modes of participation don’t redress problems at the their source.  I’m angry, I’m tired, I’m split against myself.  Left and right are split, the center is exploded.  How do we go forward in the everyday?  Where do we take a stand in such a terrain?  Where do we get the energy to hold ground?

syncopation as methodology

Jane Guyer, in her keynote to the African Studies Workshop conference, spoke of the temporal turn in anthropology and urged us to consider the artisanal nature of our methodological and representational confrontations with time, tempo, rhythm, punctuation, interruption, etc etc etc.

Tools we have: journals, detailed timelines, calendars, account books

Time tools of the future-now:

When I blog or tweet, I yield momentary confrontations with what’s on my mind, or what’s crossed my eyes.  My e-paper trail will make for great clues later on, tracking process and discovery.  I do not only reflect and record upon these as ethnographic moments of reckoning, but I indeed contribute to their rhythms and produce their temporalities.  [pragmatics]

I participate in the global e-etc circulation only maybe, because surely this circulation is so micro/macro-cosmically saturated, collapsed, infinite, it yields a flat simulataneity.    But I also create a record, a paper trail (e-etc), I make a beat.  My paper trail will make a sublimely irrelevant iota of anthropological reflections.  The beat I’ll track on this blog (and re-tweet elsewhere) is productive of my world, and my world is the only one I can do work in.  It’s the world we are all trying to be together in. [publics]

As anthropology citizenship, it makes the content overload of the tweetersphere/bloguniverse much more interesting as crafted practices of rhythm, time, and syncopation. [methods]

Toy Story 3: future paper titles

1. Andy’s imprint and Woody’s obligation: Materiality of ownership and labor contract

2. Bullseye: Re-inscribing animality in an alternative hierarchy of subjectivity

3. Buzz in Demo/Spanish mode: Embodied memory, love, and the machine

4. The Potato Heads: Consciousness and visuality; suffering and the integrity of the body

5. Lotso’s Liberal Utopia: Maintaining the fantasy of self-ownership through exclusion

6. Baby Doll: Law establishing violence, the police, and the possibility of revolution

7. Confronting the Dump: Reconciliation in the return of the repressed

8. Playtime with Andy and Bonnie: Toward a materialist ethics of sociality