Tag Archive: cultural ecology


I’m reorganizing the piece I wrote for the School of Advanced Research workshop on science, nature, and religion so that part of it will fit into the introduction of the book we are producing (which I’m co-writing with the workshop organizer and chair, Catherine Tucker) and the rest will make up the book’s concluding chapter. The original piece had a coherence to it that will be lost somewhat, so I thought I would share the first couple of sections of it here.

(Graham Harman’s recent comments about the slowness of traditional scholarly publishing versus the rapidity and accessibility of open-access publishing, which reiterate the argument that got me to set up this blog in the first place, has encouraged me to want to share at least something of this SAR event that happened a year and a half ago, and that won’t culminate with a publication for several months still.)

The remainder of this piece, including the “cosmopolitical” argument I alluded to in this post at the time, will remain in the book’s conclusion. You’ll have to wait for the book to read the finished version of that. It will be a very good collection, and I hope SAR Press doesn’t make it too inaccessible for the general public.

Here are a couple of excerpts… View full article »

Two of the world’s best known Iranian artists, Marjane Satrapi, author of the graphic novel Persepolis and director of the Oscar-winning animated feature based on it, and leading filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, have been presenting apparent “proof” at the European Parliament that Mousavi actually won the elections. This comes in the form of an internal memo allegedly written by Iran’s Interior Minister documenting the actual results.

The Independent’s Robert Fisk raises some questions about the letter’s authenticity, but acknowledges that “it divides the final vote between Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi in such a way that it would have forced a second run-off vote – scarcely something Mousavi’s camp would have wanted,” which helps lend it veracity. Unfortunately, he continues, “The letter may well join the thousands of documents, real and forged, that have shaped Iran’s recent history, the most memorable of which were the Irish passports upon which Messers Robert McFarlane and Oliver North travelled to Iran on behalf of the US government in 1986 to offer missiles for hostages.”

This is one of those situations where it’s not clear whom to believe, because the economy of trustworthiness is nebulous and a little impenetrable. It reminds me of Jodi Dean‘s account of conspiracy cultures in the US, Aliens in America, in which the public-sphere ideal has been so eroded that we are left with an ineradicable “undecidability” about fundamental definitions of reality. My operating hunch, or leap of faith, here is that intellectuals and especially artists who have demonstrated accountability to a complex view of the world (that’s the key) can help weave our way through political confusion. This is a kind of ‘cultural ecology’ argument where communicative/cultural complexity — in the form of pluralism, dialogism, openness to the many-sidedness of perception, and recognition of the ultimate unknowability/undecidability/uncontainability/inassimilability of things (that’s the Lacanian/Derridean/Buddhist piece) counts for something. My leap of faith, then, without knowing much about internal Iranian politics or culture, would be to follow artists like Makhmalbaf, Kiarostami, and others, and of course to mistrust systems that rely on police rule to crush resistance. Which makes me wonder: If an analogous situation erupted in the US or Canada, who would be the artists, writers, filmmakers, I would trust?

More interesting Iran stuff can be found at iran101.blogspot.com and in Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi‘s perceptive analyses, such as this one and this (once you get through the latter’s somewhat over-the-top Israelophobia; aren’t Netanyahu/Lieberman and Khamenei/Ahmadinejad mirror images of a sort?).