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Heroic Habitus Sustainable Habitat Redux

Heroic Habitus Sustainable Habitat Redux

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Published by Govinda Dickman

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Published by: Govinda Dickman on Mar 30, 2011
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Heroic Habitus vs. Sustainable Cyborg
or
Specularity and Heroism: The role of role-models in James Camerons
Avatar 
G
ovinda Dickman, Feb 2011  University of West England---Once upon a time, the word
creativity 
was used only to denote one of the divinecharacteristics of one being single being: The Creator, aka
G
od. At that time, the notionthat humans (His
creatures
) might be creative was both morally and grammaticallyabsurd, and to attempt to use the word in most of its now current nuances would haveresulted in either confusion or anger, depending upon the listener. The term
Avatar 
 has been subjected to a very similar semantic shift  it is a Sanskrit word, originally usedto denote the manifestation upon earth of a
G
od.
The Avatar par excellence is the infinite, revealing itself to finite human perception interms it can comprehend.
This observation is the crux of my review of the film
Avatar 
(20thCentury Fox, 2009),and is in fact the basis for a
radically intercorporeal and ecological mode of cultural criticism
,
 
which has no name  as yet  but which has become my standard method foranalysing cultural production in general. This is a broadly ecocritical way of looking thattries to bring into focus the
material ramifications
of the manner in which language andrepresentation affects the way that bodies relate to each other in time, space and being.My intention is to make obvious the interlinked systems, the vast network of human andnon-human entities, which constitute the matrix of every medium and are, essentially,
 
the medium in which all media are suspended,
and then to ask why this rather self-evident observation is systematically suppressed by nearly every mode of cultural utterance
.This focus upon the causal and proximal connections, which are made and broken byevery utterance, every medium, every message, is my attempt at a radically ecologicalrevision of cultural studies, and of the manner in which culture is traditionallyconceived within this field. The etymological root of the word ecology is the
G
reek word
 

(
oikos
) means home. To those who work in the field of cultural studies, and whohave read Raymond Williams essay on the etymological root of the word culture,perhaps it will not seem so radical if I say that an ecological approach is the logicalextension of the revolutionary move away from the study of high culture toward amore democratic focus upon the ontologically plural Everyday, whose radicalmultiplicity is the basis of pretty much all contemporary cultural studies. The attemptto value the broad spectrum of lived experience of people other than the cultural eliteof any given society, actually leads inevitably to a critical re-evaluation of theanthropocentrism of the term
culture
itself. Even once it has been stripped of theclassism, racism and sexism inherent in the term
high culture
, the term
culture
impliesand cannot avoid the nuance of what is valued, and so remains vulnerable tofacilitating new forms of ideological victimisation, new ways of delineating boundariesbetween what is crop and what is weed, what is preserved and what is destroyed, whatis hidden and what is shown, what is normal and what is abject, what is Us and what isThem.I believe, as an object of study, culture must be contextualized, grounded in anawareness of 
where
this growing, where this preserving and destroying actually occurs.What follows is my attempt to move towards a kind of 
ecological 
mode of culturalstudies, one that situates culture firmly in the bodies it encompasses, and the actuallyexisting world in which it inheres.
 
 Im going to try to demonstrate and explain this method in the form of a criticalresponse to the notion that James Camerons epic ecofiction in any way presents aviable role-model for environmentally friendly human practice  what Karol &
G
ale(2005) term a sustainable habitus. Ive chosen this film as the focus for thisexperimental critical gaze for a number of reasons. The first is that one of the moreimportant meanings of the rather poetic and enigmatic italicised statement, with whichI begin this essay, is very well exemplified by this ubiquity: Avatar is an
immensely 
 popular film, one which all of my undergraduate and secondary school students willhave heard about, and which most will have seen.The second reason is that it would be insane to pass up the opportunity: The ironieswhich accrete around this film, the bizarre tension between its ostensible message andits elided medium, the simple fact that it is called Avatar and that the avatar to whichthe title refers is at once (and in so many ways!) both digital icon and physical entity Ican think of no mass produced and mass marketed product of popular western culture,which so crisply exemplifies the
schizophrenia
that I wish to bring into view, or which soclearly mirrors the main themes of my critical method, which are:1.
 
The manner in which the ephemeral nature of the
spectral 
and
specular 
thingswe encounter in cyberspace, and the insubstantiality of cyberspace itself, has astrong tendency to elide the
speculum
in which they appear. By which I mean,the material and technological substructure, in which the
spectre
consists, isalways rendered invisible by the presence of the spectre itself. What is lost orcircumscribed - what subjectivity is alienated from in the moment of itsencounter with the avatar - is the invisible matrix of sentient bodies and actuallyexisting things that brought them together:
the ecology that sustains them
. Theessence of my argument is that the aforementioned schizophrenia is analogousto (and caused by) a lack of ecological awareness, and it is an inherent potential

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