. . . . . . . Supervalent Thought


SENSING PRECARITY (Allison, Stewart, Garcia, Berlant, McLean, Biehl)

This panel–Sensing Precarity–was staged at the American Anthropological Association, 25 November 2011. The panel featured 12 minute papers by Angela Garcia, Katie Stewart, S. Lochlann Jain, Anne Allison, and Lauren Berlant, with equally long discussion pieces by Stuart J. McLean and João Biehl.  Numerous people commented after the panel that it *felt* like a book, which we are too busy to make.  But I have also been thinking that these kinds of conference panel are such strange ephemeral things:  language in the air, and then what? Hasty thumbs ups, frowns, aggressions and affections; but little time for audience contact; and only a few post-evental emails.  We went and had a multi-hour discussion after the panel. Why not post work-in-progress for people not at that discussion or for the people who were there but could not have enjoyed a collective discussion in public?  So we’re trying an experiment.  Hope the material is useful to you.

Here is the abstract.

How is precarity being sensed and lived in the prolific worldings of historical presents now? We live in times percolating with the sense of precarity. But as fragilities, strains, risks that compromise or defy sustainability, precariousness is nothing new—a condition of life that threatens it with death. Is the economic, political, intimate crisis of global social infrastructure producing a specific precarity today? How is the sense itself of crisis or flatness magnetizing or corroding attachments, attunements, atmospheres, affects? What would it mean to describe the affective components of precarious life in ways that would admit the variation in its frequencies and the non-obviousness of its manifestation into the archive of the collective moment? How does one’s analysis of this conjuncture organize urgency toward forms of reaction that also compose something, challenging the very concept of agency itself?

Angela could not give us her great paper because it’s about to be published.  Here is a summary:  Drawing on an archive of prison letters written by a three generations of female kin, Angela Garcia’s paper explored the relationship between dislocation, narrativity and relationality. In the context of enforced separation,  the paper considered writing and archiving as a reparative practice that enables new affective and material relations.  A larger work based on this paper, tentatively titled “The Blue Years,” is forthcoming.  And S.L. Jain is being dilatory getting a paper to me, so I’m going ahead without it…But nag Jain, if you like.

Please don’t reproduce any of the work without citation.  Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.supervalentthought.com.


2 Comments so far
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dang i have mad appreciation for stewart’s piece and how it weaves together place/regionality and attachment and precarity as shifting and related threads. i like the thinking evident here on the commons–your comment about moving toward “to common” as a verb and also mclean’s mention. as i have been translating a lot of these threads into dance and movement ensemble work, it feels apt to have the beginnings of a connection articulated between dance/movement/proximity of moving bodies, choreographed and yet somehow accidental, and also questions of the general dis/un/ease of this era.
anyhow, thanks much for posting.
– eliot.

Comment by eliot fiend

[…] seems to resonate more with how I feel or experience this relation.  And the various affects of precarity were palpable within the small auditorium of the […]

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