Well, hello there! It’s been a while. And the blogging has been thin on this here patch of the interweb. Not that I haven’t had things to say or write. Not that I haven’t been reading aplenty. The work does take its toll though. I shifted back to 5 days a week (hopefully a temporary arrangement as I’m eager to get back down to 4). I recently got promoted. I’ve been doing a whole lot more technical backstopping for my colleagues and have taken on a few bigger-than-usual projects. I’ve also had the chance to do some interesting fieldwork and have travelled far more than I feel comfortable even describing.
The reading has been good though. Since I last reported on something I’d read (Muriel Combes on Simondon’s philosophy of the transindividual), I’ve made my way through a few books: Erin Manning’s Always more than one, Morton’s Hyperobjects, David Colling’s Stolen future, broken present, Eduardo Cohen’s How Forests Think, and, most recently, Stengers’ Thinking with Whitehead. Each of these books, some more than others of course and in very different ways, have pushed and pulled, which is to say complicated and shifted, my thinking, inflected my habits of thought, the concepts I have at my disposal, the ideas I can use to think ideas with, my sensibilities and my affective and perceptual attunement to the world around me. They have helped me not to lose sight of, which is to say also to nurture, that glimmer of hope – the one that lurks on the far side of despair – in these times of violence and destruction.
This accounts for one part of how I’ve sought to use that little sliver of time outside the erratic and demanding rhythms dictated by my status as globe-trotting consultant in the international development sector, a so-called immaterial labourer, plugged in to the knowledge economy… riding, of course, on the back of a very material global infrastructure, an infrastructure that makes it possible for me to do what I do, for better or worse… and which is part and parcel of the injustices and crises that make me rage…
The reading does percolate, one way or the other, into my work life, albeit in only the thinnest of trickles. But it does, nonetheless. And I take advantage of the few opportunities I find to share my perspectives with my work colleagues, with those I interact with in client organisations, to cast the net more widely while doing field work, to present a paper that asks that we resist the recent redefinition of ‘impact’ (a key word in the development industry) that has no time, space or money for – let alone the interest in – unintended consequences, and to take on more work that focuses on vulnerability and resilience, in the hope that this offers some scope for problematising, for asking the right, difficult, technical – if not cosmopolitical – questions… But I remain mostly cynical, though I somehow find it within me to be sincere. Perhaps it helps that my field is evaluation, and so the space to ask – and seek answers to – questions is not completely eroded.
The reality, I believe, is that much of the ‘good work’ that I do through my job lies in the informal conversations I have with the people alongside whom I work. The sharing of frustrations, the exchange of ideas and perspectives, the critique of the status quo, the delicate balance between intensely sharing apocalyptic visions of our common future (or lack thereof) and the necessity – perhaps beyond what is rational – to find within and with others an energy that can keep us thinking beyond the tired institutional routines that deliver us our jobs. In this sense, it’s in the shadows that the magic lies, hidden from the light of official discourse and the performances and rituals that accompany it.
Perhaps one of the reasons I’ve been blogging less of late is that a great deal of my remaining energy has been invested in a set of relations that are explicitly established independently from, or at least in opposition to, the cloying, permeating, grip of capitalist logics. I’m talking about the house where I live, the people I live with and the collective we sometimes think and say we are trying to create together, whose ontological status remains obscure. Our rented flat, in the north of Delhi, a space we all (variously) want to serve as a place of residence, a place of work, a safe – or even a healing – space, a creative space, a transformative and political space and an open, communal space, has witnessed a fascinating, gruelling year (perhaps not surprising given all the expectations we have placed on it).
Since the start of the year we have been through more trials, tests of our ability to hold ourselves and each other together, than anything I have known for a while. We have been forced to engage with a variety of questions that pushed our boundaries: questions about care, questions about feminist practice and the line between the personal and the collective, questions about maintaining the house as a liveable space, about our needs and our limits (which we only discover once we come up against them), about mental health (grappling with depression and more), about the way we perceive and construct each other, about negativity and resentment and its destructive effect on our relationships, about power and friendship and the very simple question of how to live together. So a good deal of what I have written has been addressed to my fellow housemates, and quite some time has gone into trying to have the conversations that we felt were required to deal with the problems and the questions that this becoming-collective has entailed. At some point, I will try to pull some of the insights from this experience together, perhaps once all of us who have been through it have vetted it.
Besides that, I’ve kept myself involved very peripherally in a few of my friends’ projects, out and about in Delhi and beyond (more about the son I hope). We live in terrifying times and the greatest terror of all, I think is the paralysis, the psychological damage, that what we are all living through inflicts. When all is said and done, I look to those struggling relentlessly against injustice on all fronts, in the forests, in the fields, in the slums, in homes, in factories, in occupied territories, in schools, on the internet. I look to these people with awe and admiration for putting their necks on the line and I look to them with the hope that they will be capable of hesitating just enough to let themselves be perplexed when the situations they confront challenge their habitual ways of thinking and perceiving, that they will allow themselves to be provoked into creativity, into feeling the bubbling multiplicity of becomings that lurk beneath the surface of the hard world of political organisation, militarisation and police repression, petty or profound factionalism and the party-line.
When blind rage and hatred seem like the only way out, it is the kernel of love – not for some God, a distant future or any transcendent Truth that might unify us – but for our fellow creatures, for the ecology of selves with whom we share this planet and all that sustains them that must be protected and nurtured at all costs. We have so much to learn about what it means to put all this into practice and it is only by putting it into practice that we stand a chance of learning anything about it… and of avoiding the danger of turning in endless theoretical circles.
Reblogged this on synthetic_zero and commented:
from our correspondent in India, always good to hear from folks how it goes with them and their efforts of resistance.
Yep. Indeed. Tragic. They are hiding the truth and creating incredible amounts of spin, posturing as saviours of the tribals, militantly trying to absorb them into the Hindu fold with one hand while undermining their culture and expropriating them from the land, forests, etc. on which they depend with the other. The media spin is fantastic and the way the current government plays with communal tensions is terrifying. Masters of deception, playing different tunes to all consistencies and making remarkable use of all the latent conflicts and fascistic, nationalist, patriarchal and consumer desires that bubble in this vast country.
sounds like our Republican party here in the US, oh well we do what we can, peace,dirk