Perpetual Nabokov

Writer’s Change of Language: Nabokov and Others

In the journal of proceedings of the linguistic anthropology symposium in 2016 at UT, my first writing on Nabokov out there.

He is at the interception of identities, which coincides for the writer with the interception of languages and ways of writing: English as opposed to Russian but also as opposed to American (as opposed to French).

Robot: a Figure of the Future or Nostalgic Object?

I was kindly invited by Sergey Sokolovskiy to participate in the XII Congress of Anthropologists and Ethnologists of Russia which will take place in the city of Izhevsk, 3-6 July, 2017

Была любезно приглашена Сергеем Соколовским участвовать в 12-ом Конгрессе Антропологов и Этнологов России, который состоится в Ижевске 3-6 июля 2017 года. Он пригласил меня подать заявку на секцию, им организованную, которая называется “Технологии и телесность: новые концепции и методы исследования”.

Тема заявлена следующим образом:
“В докладах секции предполагается обсуждение таких междисциплинарных тем как телесность и техника в философско-аналитических и феноменологических подходах, влияние современных технологий на человеческую телесность (ко-эволюция техники и тела), инженерные усилия по созданию гибридных биосоциотехнических систем, киборгизация, развитие способностей и возможностей человека с помощью новых технологий (human enhancement), влияние на тело техносреды с ее протоколами и ограничениями (дисциплинирование тела и т.н. воплощение/embodiment), современные подходы в рамках STS к исследованию взаимодействия человеческих акторов и техники, новые технологии и сенсорная антропология, онлайн-телесность и др.”

Я только что дописала план своего выступления. Не знаю, получится ли у меня съездить в Ижевск нынче летом, но я хочу поддержать этот замечательный проект хотя бы текстом (я давно интересуюсь темой; на встрече Американской Антропологической Ассоциации в 2016 году мой доклад назывался “Археология робототехники: останки Советских роботов”). Я бы говорила приблизительно о следующем:

Робот: фигура будущего или ностальгический объект?

Археология роботического, если такая наука будет существовать, реконструет робота как объект, пронизывающий пространства и времена. Уже сегодня гуманоидные, человекоподобные роботы 60-х годов — ностальгические объекты. Роботы возникли “вчера”, у них есть история. Будут ли роботы с нами завтра? И если да, то в каких формах? Какие функции у них будут? Будут ли они человекоподобными? И что это значит: быть “подобными человеку”?

В работе “Манифест киборга: наука, технология и социалистический феминизм конца двадцатого века” (1984), философ технологии и антрополог Донна Харауэй предложила такое прочтение фигуры киборга, которое послужило развитию дискуссии вокруг вопросов: что такое человеческое и нечеловеческое, живое и мертвое, одушевленное и неодушевленное, и где между данными категориями пролегают неверные границы?

В эсхатологиях антропоцена, эти границы, пористые и проницаемые, мерцают и дышат. Границы нарушаются каждый день. Люди погружены в телефоны, которые создают аффект связанности всего мира и взаимовлияния вещей в нем — взаимовлияния, осуществляющегося при посредстве технологий. Одновременно, новые технологии отчуждают человека от ей подобных и от нее самой, от того, что может быть названо “реальным” опытом присутствия. Люди взаимодействуют с роботами — машинами, инструментами, технологиями — и в этих взаимодействиях, возможно, сами становятся киборгианскими сочленениями.

Роботы существовали с незапамятных времен — если не как сконструированные создания, то как создания воображенные. Они прошли через эпохи, меняя внешность, пол, функции: андрогинные, выраженно феминные, электронные гейши (иногда бестелесные, как Сири), и подчеркнуто маскулинные, подобно трансформерам с планеты Киботрон. Роботы населяют не только реальный мир, но и утопические видения, будь то захватывающие галлюцинации массовой культуры или пророческие мечты изобретателей. Как роботы меняют представления человечества о человеческом? Как человек изменяется в процессе конструирования роботов и со-трудничества с ними?

 

Narcissus Taking a Selfie

I posted on academia.edu my short playful writing on selfies. it is currently under consideration in one new anthropological internet venue; I have not heard from them for a while. I first presented my selfie project at John Hartigan’s class last year as a talk, and here is finally a writing:

Selfie in the Interior: Narcissism and Its Cultural Critique

“Persistency of mirrors is known to everyone as a quality of re-demonstrating a looker, always, to the looker. Narcissism, “destined to oneself” (Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible, 1968, 249, quoted by Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind, University of Chicago Press, 1993), is the plague of the modern times, critics fear. Self-portrait in the time of proliferation and ubiquity of technology emerges on a verge of narcissism and cultural critique of narcissism, as [that] what appears to be a result of the collaborative struggle between two discourses, disproving and supporting each other. The cultural critique of narcissism is a Narcissus itself: it is undetachable from the object at which it looks. Whenever Narcissus turns, it is always Narcissus that he sees. Whenever the conversation about selfies starts, inevitably someone points out or implies that it’s a morally questionable enterprise. (“Self portrait of NN knows it,” Derrida would have said.) Yet… What is there to be painted except for self-portrait? What is there to be taken if not selfie?”

Selfie is an ideal ruin. For tomorrow self is dead.

A Bit Lengthy Abstract for the New Directions in Anthropology (UT Conference) 2017

In Proximity of Ruins: The Generative Potential of the Deteriorating Space and Utopian Visions

In my work, I look at the history of ruins as a notion and in motion. The goal of such examination, the examination of the cultural etymology of “ruins,” is to ask, or rather to pose, two inter-related questions: “what is ruin?” and “what do ruins do?”

Since the shift of the conversation around ruins from the ruin as an object towards the ruin as a process (Stoler, 2008), the writing around ruins, which has been existing for as long as ruins exist, that is to say, from the beginning of humanity,[1] exploded in inquiries of all kinds: post-colonial past and its perseverance within the shifted selves of the same practices, imperial ambitions, “white man’s burden,” and other structures of thought and mindsets that possess a great potential of ruination. I think it might be useful to get back for a moment to the looking at the ruin as the object, albeit the-object-in-flux. For what is object?

Likewise, humanity has long been persistently, nostalgically, and pensively charmed with ruins as the material remnants of the past. The material remnants are important because it is by reconstruction of the past that we forge our identities and create contesting scenarios of the future. In recent decades, socio-cultural anthropology unpacks many different and perhaps conflicting interpretations of ruins, connecting “ruins” to the “adjacent territories”: theories of materiality, affect, infrastructure, power, memory, utopia/dystopia/heterotopia, precarity, history, progress, modernity, museumizing gaze, ruin porn, archeology, practices of belonging and political affiliation, and so forth.

On the ethnographic material that I collected during the summer 2016 travel to Siberia, in particular related to the Bratsk “house of pioneers” lying in ruins, I theorize how space differently produces ruins in connection to its changing political and social formations, and how ruins, in their turn, generate miscellaneous types of cross-species socialities while weirding pre-existing notions / divisions between “human” and “non-human,” “dead matter” and “living organisms,” “separate entity” and “assemblage/hybrid,” “animate” and “inanimate,” “acting” and “acted upon,” “subjected to” and “possessing agency.” In proximity of ruins, private and public, individual and collective, reclusive and social, misanthropic and sociable, melancholic and hopeful, always already abstract and questionable, acquire additional flickering, blinking distinctions, as well as glitching similarities.

I am conducting this project in hopes to achieve a better understanding as to why ruins are the metaphor actively deployed in the recent scholarship, particularly in connection to the imperial formations, and I am doing it full of suspicion that the figure of ruins in fact stands for a grander figure of absence of something.
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[1] In some sense, ruins foreshadowed their own emergence. Consider Susan Sontag’s maxim: “Many buildings, and not only Parthenon, probably look better as ruins.” On Photography.

To the Problems of Visual Anthropology

I published on the academia.edu our project Ryzyka: A Curated Conversation, created in co-authorship with Irina Oktyabrskaya, Valeriy Klamm,  and Craig Campbell. This work came out on the website of Cultural Anthropology. This is the opening entry of the collaborative project between Cultural Anthropology and Visual Anthropology Review, titled “Writing with Light” and meant for publishing photos(+)texts. My contribution as I saw it, was to ask on the ethnographic Siberian material, or rather “to continue to ask,” to use the Derrida’s expression, the question: What is the difference between photo-essays and visual (anthropology) essay?

“In our framing of this photo-essay, we let our conceptual approach revolve around affect rather than historical meaning. We are interested in situating the reader in the midst of a carefully assembled collection. We want to invite her to navigate an assemblage that renders multiple superimposed stories of life, that neither subordinates the rich complexity of the world made visible through photography to a single hermeneutic goal nor abdicates the role of critical description. Historical frames are hinted at, but are ultimately secondary to a visually rich narrative of everyday life that punctures through the social orchestrations of annual festivals and holidays. In addition to its focus on affect, the photo-essay composes a kind of story that refuses any attempts to extract form from content: neither is available for perception, as it were, without the other element.”

“A Tale of a Young Woman”

“Everyday Life, Geoengineering, and the Industrial Spectacle in Soviet Siberia” talk at the AATSEEL meeting 2/4/2017, San Francisco
 
This is the first time I talked publicly in such detail about a story written down and titled by V. Gavriolov “Bratsk-54: A Tale of a Young Woman,” the story of a young female Bratsk dam construction worker.
 
It is my honor to make her lost, nameless, inevitably distorted through writing, through translation, voice sound. She was deemed disposable. She wasn’t.