Notes 9th – 12th Feb 2021

A few interesting bits and pieces from this week:

Ritual as intimacy with objects

I enjoyed this twitter thread from Sunny Moraine which captured a lot of how I think about ritual as a contemplative practice on a personal level, but also gave me some things to think about related to my project. More concretely, I like the idea that it’s the intentionality by which we perform ritual actions that gives them their power, and helps us arrive at a more intimate relationship with the objects they’re directed towards. As an example, after reading this, I realised that I have a specific blanket and cushion which I pretty much only use for meditation, and a quite deliberate ritual of fetching and placing them every morning (or at least every morning I remember to meditate). The cushion and blanket themselves are nothing special – I bought them in IKEA just before Christmas on a whim, but they’ve since taken on significance through this ritual use. I’ve only just started reading La Parte Maldita but there seems to be something at least vaguely Bataille-ish in here, in that ritual actions aren’t instrumentally necessary, so in some sense they’re an ‘excess’ or ‘waste’ of energy, but one which leads us to a more intimate and more deliberate (soberano?) connection with their objects. Jaron dicía que es como “Interdependencia radical para con el mundo de las personas y las cosas” which is interesting – our next seminar reading is on radical interdependence, so something to pay attention to there. The other thing that occurs to me here, is that while there’s potentially something interesting to explore here substantively about the role of ritual in our relationships with objects, there’s maybe also an interesting methodological angle too. Thinking about intimate entanglements with non-human objects puts me in mind of ANT and the way it treats non-human actors alongside and at the same level of human ones. Perhaps these sorts of rituals could be used to develop a sort of ‘Spiritual ANT’, or a way of investigating the relationships between human and non-human actors at the scale of intimate, personal entanglements rather than in larger social processes and networks.

Síndrome de diogenes digital

I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me earlier, but, during the second day of our spring school, someone used the phrase “Síndrome de diogenes” and I realised that this is exactly the real-world metaphor I’ve been looking for for the over-accumulation which afflicts our digital lives. Usefully, it’s also been the comparison that others have reached for when researching similar topics, so a quick google scholar search has led me to some useful related work in HCI.

Archives

So this is probably one of my least-developed areas of investigation, but it’s something I seem to keep returning to: I’m very interested in the idea that what’s left out or discarded from an archive defines its subject and its value as much as what is archived. There’s a lovely passage in the introduction to Rubbish Theory about ‘Benji the Binman’ and his archive of discarded documents, that points out that this was an archive whos value specifically came from their status as discards – drafts of political and legal texts have value to be leaked to the press, while the finished, published documents do not. However, the documents in the archive wouldn’t have their value were it not for the existence of the finished documents which exist outside it (and as such were discards themselves from the point of view of Benji the Binman). as such they form as sort of ‘negative space’ of the archive, the ground against which its figure is made visible. To me, this kinda recalls the entropic moral of Borges’ Library of Babel that, in the limit as information becomes more abundant, it becomes less useful, and that perhaps there’s something interesting in here about the role of discards in making meaning of what’s left over.

Anyway, this is all very vague, but it made me think that it might be worth dipping into a little bit of Archival theory to get an introduction to the field, so I was very happy when I encountered this twitter thread of resources for exactly that.