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Culturing Sustainability Cookbook

Culturing Sustainability Cookbook

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Published by Caffyn Jesse

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Published by: Caffyn Jesse on Jul 10, 2010
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Foucault distinguishes an epistemological level of knowledge–scientific consciousness, knowledge of order of things
–from his effort to restore what has eluded consciousness. Attending to the positive unconscious of knowledge
unearths the subterranean rules that produce what is thinkable. In this attention, we may open spaces of possibility, both
in the mind and in the streets. Work examining “the instances of discourse that articulate what we think, say, and do as
so many historical events” (Foucault, 1984a) can be used to suggest multiple sites of contestation, and create “new
opportunities for both scholarly and political intervention” (Halperin, 1995, p. 42).

Cary Wolfe (2007) comments on the subliminal and actual violence of existing knowledge paradigms. We wield
knowledge as mastery, rather than suffering our shared vulnerabilities and not-knowings with the so-called inhuman
world. The Hegelian dialectic of Master and Slave produces pathologies of agency; knowledge as “mastery” produces a
disavowed dependence on the abject other. What might take the place of this “knot of imaginary servitude that love
must always undo again, or sever” (Lacan, 1977)?

Many indigenous cultures practice some form of “walkabout” through which people find their power and language in
silence, solitude, and dialogue with the other. Artists and teachers, shamans and healers in non-Western cultures may
fast, ingest hallucinogens, sweat and pray, and such practices may help Western-educated activists loosen the grip of
what is thinkable. But rather than undertaking such practices with the aims of simplification and purification, we might
instead aim for acceptance of the messy, mysterious, paradoxical, minute and unknowable processes of infiltration,
instability, slime and duplicity. Jung comments that as soon as we think ourselves purified, we flip over into the most
toxic, fearful and dangerous mode of being that can be imagined (1968). So long as knowledge aims for essence, it
performs a kind of violence on the abject. Shaping spaces of possibility in what and how we know, we might forgo the
tyranny of truth and eschew the obligation to aim for a happy ending. We might learn to live with our incompletions,
sufferings and imperfections.

Caffyn Kelley

Culturing Sustainability● page 171

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