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The philosopher Ernst Bloch declared that ‘all given existence and being itself has utopian margins which surround actuality with real and objective possibility’. This talk takes up the idea of the utopian margins, along with its distinctive temporality, and explores some of what haunts the utopian archive as it is known today. Focussing on items held by the Hawthorn Archive, the talk invites consideration of the utopian margins where running away, marronage, vagrancy, rebellion, soldier desertion and other often illegible forms of escape, resistance, and alternative ways of life predominate.
Avery F. Gordon is professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and visiting professor at Birkbeck, University of London. She is the author of The Hawthorn Archive: Letters from the Utopian Margins (2018), The Workhouse: The Breitenau Room (2015, with Ines Schaber), Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (1997/2008), and Keeping Good Time: Reflections on Knowledge, Power and People (2004), among other books and articles. Her work focuses on radical thought and practice, and she writes about captivity, enslavement, war and other forms of dispossession and how to eliminate them. She serves on the editorial committee of the journal Race & Class and is the co-host of No Alibis, a weekly public affairs radio program on KCSB FM Santa Barbara. She was for many years the Keeper of the Hawthorn Archive.
The lecture is part of the current ICI Lecture Series ERRANS, environ/s. There is hardly a discipline, field, or discourse within the natural and social sciences nor the humanities that hasn’t long been touched and transformed by the notions of milieu, environment, or Umwelt. The recent revival and proliferation of ecological discourses can be understood, at least in part, as a response to the increasingly complete immersion in technologically in-formed environments.
The transdisciplinary impact of these new concepts has not yet been captured, nor is it clear that it can be captured, but while the life sciences play a prominent role in them (having adopted, in the 19th century, concepts from physics and transgressed into the social sciences, for example, as racist discourses and social Darwinism), they don’t operate as the leading science in this transformation. Instead, this process appears to be a multidirectional, non-hierarchizable, and errant movement, itself constituting a complex ecology of knowledge.
ERRANS environ/s contemplates aspects of this frequently divergent, potentially errant, and certainly ongoing transformation of not only the sciences or cultures of knowledge, but also cultural and artistic production at large. It will investigate the ways in which an attention to environments can have the effect of dissolving boundaries or making them permeable, questioning clear-cut distinctions, undermining naive ontologies, decentring the subject, folding nature and culture, and producing complex political ecologies attuned to far-reaching entanglements.
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