Day 2 at The Nonhuman Turn.

Richard Grusin: Why Nonhuman? Why Now?

The CFP for this conference elicited lively comments and concerns on Facebook walls (Ken Wark’s and Alex Galloway’s): expression of “turn fatigue” (:-) [ai: my first proposal was about just that], and a concern that this would ipso facto be a conference of speculative realism or OOO.The CFP reactivated debates from third New York OOO symposium.

But Grusin had in mind a slower kind of turn, manifested in a longer period of time, going back to Haraway’s “Cyborg manifesto” and Latour’s “Science in Action.” The humanities make wide and slow turns, like freighters passing port of Milwaukee than like a twitter feed or viral video.

How to respond? Grusin rejected equation of this turn and OOO or SR. Grusin coined the NH Turn to make sense of a wide range of approaches: nonhuman as affectivities, bodies, plants, animals, materialities, geophysical systems, etc., rooted in Darwin and James, intensified in Deleuze & Guattari et al et al. Concern with objects can be traced to Thoreau, Melville, Whitman. Resistance to new (OOO et al) thinkers relates to subdued or liberal political commitments. If society is complex assemblage of human and nonhuman actors, then political question becomes one of changing relations with both Hs and NHs.

Blogosphere as key medium for OOO, SR, et al: immediate reactions to research, demystifying and transparent (ideally), open for collaboration among diverse readers, etc.; reading groups, rapid publications, cross-blog dialogues, etc. Grusin not as enthusiastic as “Speculative Turn” editors are, but role of social media should be thought about in 21st century academe.

Intensification of time, speeding up, multiplication and quickening. Academia takes place online. Intensification of affective tones of academic debate: inflated investment in present moment or very near future. This shouldn’t obscure the fact that the Nonhuman Turn has been underway for quite some time. [ai comment: head nodding furiously...]

Grusin’s own nonhuman turn: began with Derridean trace, text has no special ontological status; Foucault’s genealogies of disciplines & techniques, discourses of medicine, science, et al.; Latour’s Science in Action, agency of nonhuman actors, science studies (Latour, Haraway, Stengers, Pickering), actor-network model; plus earlier media theorists (Benjamin, McLuhan); mid-1990s affect theory turn (Sedgwick/Frank on Silvan Tomkins, Massumi), affect is always object-oriented Tomkins), affect as intensity (Massumi); feminist new materialism.

Longer genealogy: of “Turn

Why a turn? (linguistic, cultural, affective, posthuman, et al.) (This conference gets mistakenly/confusedly called The Posthuman Turn, but this is wrong.) It’s an embodied turn in our attention toward nonhumans – technical, media, animal, plant, own bodies, resources, etc.

This embodied materiality has been part of the term since the 15th century: an action noun involved in nonhuman movement (rotation, clock or world turn), change of direction or course (turn of a river or a rider), change in general (moments of transition), affective/ethical actions (bad, evil turns), occasions (Whiteheadian movement of action, behavior that fosters or counters collectivity, taking one’s turn, speaking out of turn, agency or action not wheels rotating around individuals).

A turn also functions as a means of mediation, translation. Hope this conference marks a catalytical turn of fortune.

Let the wild rumpus begin.





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