On Bacteria, Corporeal Representation, Neanderthals, and Martha Graham

Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, ‘On Bacteria, Corporeal Representation, Neanderthals, and Martha Graham’, pp.278-305:
Sheets-Johnstone, M., 2009. The corporeal turn: an interdisciplinary reader. Imprint Academic, Exeter, UK ; Charlottesville, VA.
Tactility in the service of movement, of recognizing something outside one’s own body and moving accordingly, similarly describes the cilia-mediated tentacle movement if a sedentary hydrozoan polyp toward a food source.
At the most fundamental level, organisms recognize particular features in their environment by touching // them, and in touching them, pursue a certain course of action.
To state the same biological truth from the opposite Peircean-colored perspective, we can say that the world is replete with signs that signify for particular organisms depending on their surface sensitivities.
When biologist Jakob von Uexküull spoke of objects in an organism’s Umwelt  having particular functional tones – of an object being perceived as something to eat for example, or something to shun, or something to climb, and so on  – he implicitly acknowledged just such a relationship, what we may term a kinetic semiotics, the tone being created and established through a creature’s possible movement in relation to the object.
The basic dimension of a kinetic semiotics is surface recognition sensitivity.

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The Body as Expression and Speech

‘The Body as Expression and Speech’, pp.174-199, in:
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1962. Phenomenology of perception. Routledge, London; New York.
There is, then a taking-up of others’ thought through speech, a reflection in others, an ability to think according to others which enriches our own thoughts  Here the meaning of words must be finally induced by the words themselves, or more exactly their conceptual meaning must be formed by a kind of deduction from a gestural meaning, which is immanent in speech.
And as, in a foreign country, I begin to understand the meaning of words through their place in a context of action, and by taking part in a communal life – in the same way an as yet imperfectly understood piece of philosophical writing discloses to me at least a certain “style” – either a Spinozist, critical or phenomenological one – which is the first draft of its meaning.
I begin to understand a philosophy by feeling my way into its existential manner, by reproducing the tone and accent of the philosopher.

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The pleasure of the interface

Claudia Springer. 1991. The pleasure of the interface. Screen 32, 303–323.
Computer technologies thus occupy a contradictory discursive position where they represent both escape from the physical body and fulfilment of erotic desire.
The contradictory discourse on cyborgs reveals a new manifestation of the simultaneous revulsion and fascination with the human body that has existed throughout the western cultural tradition. Ambivalence toward the body has traditionally been played out most explicitly in texts labelled pornographic, in which the construction of desire often depends upon an element of aversion
I would like to propose that if we are in a postpornographic era, it is most aptly distinguished by the dispersion of sexual representation across boundaries that previously separated the organic from the technological.

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Ethology: Spinoza and Us

Gilles Deleuze, ‘Ethology: Spinoza and Us’, translated by Robert Hurley, pp. 625-633, in: Crary, J., Kwinter, S. (Eds.), 1992. Incorporations, Zone. Zone, New York, NY.

Everyone knows the first principle of Spinoza: one substance for all the attributes. But we also know the third, fourth or fifth principle: one Nature for all bodies, one Nature for all individuals, a nature that is itself an individual varying in an infinite number of ways.
What is involved is no longer the affirmation of a single substance, but rather the laying out of a common plane of immanence on which all bodies, all minds and all individuals are situated.
The plane of immanence or consistency is a plan, but not in the sense of a mental design, a project, a program; it is a plan in the geometric sense: a section, an intersection, a diagram.
Thus to be in the middle of Spinoza is to be on this model plane, or rather to install oneself on this plane – which implies a mode of living, a way of life.

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Techniques of the body

Mauss, M. 1973. Techniques of the body. Economy and Society 2, 70–88
[This lecture was given at a meeting of the Societe de Psychologie, May 17th, 1934 and published in the Journal de psychologie normal et patholigique, Paris, Annee XXXII, 1935, pp. 271-<)3. Reprinted in Marcel Mauss, Sociologie et Anthropologie (with introduction by Claude Levi-Strauss), 4th edition, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1968. pp. 364-386.]
I deliberately say techniques of the body in the plural because it is possible to produce a theory of the technique of the body in the singular on the basis of a study, an exposition, a description pure and simple of techniques of the body in the plural. By this expression I mean the ways in which from society to society men know how to use their bodies. In any case, it is essential to move from the concrete to the abstract and not the other way round.

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A cultural history of gesture

Keith Thomas, ‘Introduction’, pp.1-14, in:
Bremmer, J.N., Roodenburg, H. (Eds.), 1992. A Cultural history of gesture. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, N.Y.
[Ref Hume]
The human body, in short, is as much a historical document as a charter or a diary or a parish register (though unfortunately one which is a good deal harder to preserve) and it deserves to be studied accordingly.
[The original meaning of the term] ‘Gesture’ was the general carriage of the body. Only later did the term come to be exclusively used in the narrower sense indicated by the Concise Oxford Dictionary.

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The Rani of Sirmur: An Essay in Reading the Archives

Spivak, G.C., 1985. The Rani of Sirmur: An Essay in Reading the Archives. History and Theory 24, 247-272. https://doi.org/10.2307/2505169

One of the major difficulties with consolidating a figure from the British nineteenth century in India as an object of knowledge is that British India is now being painstakingly constructed as a cultural commodity with a dubious function. The deepening of the international division of labor as a result of the new micro-electronic capitalism, the proliferation of worldwide neocolonial aggression, and the possibility of nuclear holocaust encroach upon the constitution of the everyday life of the Anglo-US.

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No Representation without Colonisation?

Neimanis, A., 2015. No Representation without Colonisation? (Or, Nature Represents Itself). Somatechnics 5, 135–153. https://doi.org/10.3366/soma.2015.0158
In Karen Barad’s helpful parsing representationalism holds that matters represented are distinct and independent from their representations (Barad 2007: 46–48).
Any claim of representation to give us unfettered access to the real should therefore be treated as suspect, as no representation would ever be adequate to the entity represented. So, we are caught between a representationalist rock and a hard place of complicit silence. The question I am thus interested in here is this: can we articulate an alternative to representationalism, but one in which the ethical need for representation is not, in Gayatri Spivak’s words, simply ‘disown[ed]with a flourish’ (1988:105)?
Rather than privileging the real thing over a mere representation (adequate or not), post-positivist views can end up elevating the representation over an ultimately inscrutable ‘real.’

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Immaterial Culture

“IV. Immaterial Culture”, pp.35-43, in: Flusser, V., 2015. Into immaterial culture. Metaflux.


My argument, during the last lectures, was that a new layer of consciousness – with new codes, and therefore, with new categories of thought, evaluation, and action – is emerging.


The brain, with its extremely complex structure and it’s intricately intertwined functions, is the model par excellence of a black-box, and serves as a starting point for the cybernetic analyses of complex systems.

The slow, but inexorable, diversion of interest – which progressively abandons problems of the modification of the objective world (of work), towards problems of information (of data processing) – is in essence a diversion from the muscular and digestive systems, towards the nervous system.

And the concept of the cerebral orgasm, also diverts our interest from the reproductive system.

The social fabric, once viewed as a battlefield of interests, is progressively visualised as a neural net.

[…] the utopian vision is connected to a view of the brain, because both are visions where the material and the mental are confused with each other.

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Embodying the monster

Margrit Shildrick, ‘Introduction’, pp.1-8, in:

Shildrick, M., 2002. Embodying the monster: encounters with the vulnerable self, Theory, culture & society. SAGE Publications, London ; Thousand Oaks, Calif.


What are the figures of difference that haunt the western imaginary, and what would it mean to reflect on, rework and valorise them?

On the one hand, I turn to the monster in order to uncover and rethink a relation with the standards of normality that proves to be uncontainable and ultimately unknowable.

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