EcoMaterialisms Conference Keynote

The inter-UC EcoMaterialisms Collective has announced the keynote for its 2016 graduate conference “EcoMaterialisms: Scales of Matter(ing)” to be held at UC Davis: Zakiyyah Iman Jackson. Here’s a description of her work:

“My book in progress, tentatively titled The Blackness of Space Between Matter and Meaning, argues that key Black Atlantic literary, visual, and philosophical texts generate a critical praxis of humanity, paradigms of relationality, and modes of embodiment that alternately expose, alter, or reject the nexus of ‘race’ and ‘species’ discourse in Western science and philosophy. Reading the existential predicament of modern racial blackness through and against the human-animal distinction in Western philosophy and science reveals not only the mutual imbrication of ‘race’ and ‘species’ in Western thought but also invites a reconsideration of the extent to which exigencies of racialization have preconditioned and prefigured modern discourses governing the nonhuman. Ultimately, The Blackness of Space reveals the pernicious peculiarity of both prevailing foundational conceptions of ‘the human’ rooted in Renaissance and Enlightenment humanism and current ‘multiculturalist’ alternatives. What emerges from this questioning is an emphatically queer sense of being/knowing/feeling human, one that necessarily disrupts the foundations of the current hegemonic mode of the Human.”

(Hopefully) Upcoming Work

I’ve submitted three abstracts in the past week, each for an exciting event and each, should I be accepted, allowing me to work out what might become important ideas for my dissertation.

So far, I’ve been very lucky in terms of the conferences I’ve participated in and the amount of help they’ve provided in developing ideas. The ideas in each of these abstracts will have to be worked out sooner or later but I really prefer to do that work in collaboration.

In addition, I’m confirmed to present an excerpt from my “Uncanny Meat” essay:

The organizers for this event are editing a special issue of Caliban, a French Journal of American Studies, titled “Planète en partage/Sharing the Planet” and so I’m hoping to put the finishing touches on the essay and, finally, publishing it.

Freud’s Cellular Unconscious

This week’s EMC readings include Freud’s Project for a Scientific Psychology (1895) and Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920). This week we begin our shift from looking at configurations of the organism in the works of Natural History to how the organism is configured within various philosophical projects; often with the purpose of onto-epistemological modeling. Along with Freud, we will also be looking at the works of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Deleuze.

Part of my reason for including Freud among these thinkers was his use of “the organism” as a model for understanding the ego’s relation to the external (both as world and as stimuli), as well as the interior of the ego (where the stimuli is a frenetic, unmediated which are nonetheless more “commensurate with the system’s method of working. than the stimuli which stream in from the external world” (28)). In fact, in the opening pages of BPP, he cites the 1873 work of G.T.  Feschner, Einige Ideen zur Schöpfungs und Entwickelungsgeschichte der Organismen (something like Some Ideas on the Creation and Evolution of Organisms).

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Uexküll’s Figure 16: The Snail’s Moment

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From Jakob von Uexküll’s A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans:

“A snail [Helix pomatia] is placed on a rubber ball which, because it is floating on water, can slide freely past beneath the snail. The snail’s shell is held in place by a clamp. The snail is thereby free to crawl and also stays in the same place. If one places a small stick at the foot of the snail, it will crawl up on it. But if one strikes the snail from one to three times a second with it, the snail will turn away. However, if the blows are repeated four or more times a second, the snail begins to crawl on the stick. In the snail’s environment, a stick that moves back and forth four or more times a second must be at rest. We can conclude from this that the perception time of the snail takes place at a speed of between three and four moments a second. This has a result that all processes of motion take place much more quickly in the snail’s environment than they do in our own. Even the snail’s own movements do not seem slower to it than ours do to us” (72).

Plates from Cuvier’s Essay on the Theory of the Earth

I’m currently reading through Georges Cuvier’s 1813 Essay on the Theory of the Earth and I love these plates from Robert Jameson, who also wrote the prefaces to the third and fourth English editions of the text.

Front piece for Cuvier's Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813)

Front piece for Cuvier’s Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813)

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EcoMaterialisms: Bichat and Lamarck


This week’s EMC meeting was on Marie François Xavier Bichat (1771-1802) and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829). It was also my week to present and I had a lot of fun with these texts, building on our conversations from previous classes and trying to draw some connections to last year’s discussions.

Bichat: Physiological Researches upon Life and Death (1800)

Lamarck: Zoological Philosophy: Exposition with Regard to the Natural History of Animals (1809)

Starting Points:     

  • Reiterating a Critique of Foucault
  • Organized and Brute Matter vs. Living and Dead Matter
  • Physical and Vital Forces: Lamarck vs. Buffon and Bichat
  • Living Bodies and their States: First Proposition
  • Living Bodies and their States: Second Proposition
  • Reactive Power vs. Intussusception

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