Friday, December 24, 2010

Animals get high in order to relieve boredom.

As most of you know, I remain fundamentally suspicious of philosophical anthropologies. That is to say, I have trouble believing there is a single trait shared by all beings we want to call human, that does not exist for any of those plenitude of beings we don't want to call human. Most attempts to create a clear dividing line between human animals and other animals tend to fall into one of two categories. The first is to claim some trait and say only humans have it, when other animals clearly have it, like claiming only humans have self-consciousness. The second way is to claim some action that exists only for some humans as if it defines humanity, like saying that other animals may have language, but only humans have poetry. There is a third way, of course, claiming that the inability to define the human is the special definition of the human. But as Adorno put it in Negative Dialectics, "That we cannot tell what man is does not establish a peculiarly majestic anthropology; it vetoes any anthropology." Lastly, the inability to establish a proper philosophical anthropology should come as no surprise to any of us. Evolutionary patterns tend to repeat themselves, and it seems unlikely that in all of the rest of beings subject to evolution, that we would be special and unique. Humanism always reeks of transcendentalism.

Anyway, I end up collecting information on all the stuff various other animals do that we usually only think of humans doing. Mostly other people give me this, but I always appreciate it. Well, it makes perfect sense, but it seems that some animals consume hallucinogenic fungi in order to relieve boredom (also, animals get bored, take that Heidegger). What I link to mostly talks about reindeer, but other animals do so as well.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Post of Links

I am clearly lowering the blog production for the holidays. However, many people seem to be double-downing on blogging during the holidays. Here are some of the important things you might have missed (and always, let me know what I missed).

Here is the full program for the Animal, Vegetable, Mineral Conference.

Here is some advice for PhD students from one. I think it is fairly sound, and replicates much of a post I have been meaning to write (which was to be entitled, stuff I wish I had known).

Benoit Dillet has a review of Esposito Communitas (and to some degree Bios), here. (h/t Peter with some other links to check out).

Vegan Skeptic takes on some of the arguments that veganism is somehow worse for the environment than flesh eating (h/t

Richard Seymor manages to capture much of my feelings on the Assange Allegations.

Levi has had a string of interesting posts: The Domestication of Humans, with some follow-up here, a post on Uexkull (with a follow-up from Tim), and a guest post up on OOMarxism.

Adrian has a list of the books up of the decade in ecocultural theory. Remember, new blog address, reset the readers as appropriate.

It seems that, according to Google, Critical Animal is 13% Basic, 47% Intermediate, and 39% Advanced. (h/t AnPac).

Here is the Avett Brothers, performing "I and Love and You". You'll like it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What GPS should I get?

I am thinking about getting a gps, but I am not sure which one I should get. Any suggestions?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Post of Links

Here it is, another post of links.

We actually have audio from the Claremont conference of Stengers' keynote and Haraway's response. Thanks to whomever did this.

Tim Morton has added more of his short (I assume twitter length) job advice posts. Read them if you hope to be getting an interview.

I am embarrassed that this slipped through earlier roundups, but here are all of Stuart Elden's chapter updates for The Birth of Territory. Have I told you all how much I am looking forward to this book?

James McWilliams has a wonderful article in The Atlantic's food section on his problems with localvorism. I hope he doesn't give up on mapping out the honest and real environmental impacts of how we eat, though. We need that information, regardless.

Interested in the changing dynamics of what type of animal flesh we are consuming? Of course you are.

A commentator named Jake gave me a wonderful link in regards to my Philip K. Dick and Wikileaks post, the link is to an interesting article on reading wikileaks as a literary production.

These Lovecraft playing cards look totally awesome. Anyone looking to give me a holiday gift, here is a big ol' hint.

Another William Gibson interview. Because this is his world, we merely live in it.

The really big thing I am leaving off is the really large recent dust up between the OOOs and the relationists. There were a ton of posts at a ton of blogs, and I lost track. Some of it was new and awesome, some of it repeated things we had seen a million times. However, in all that was both awesome and boring, there is this really wonderful paragraph from Adrian (remember, he has a new blog address, update accordingly). Namely:
For Whitehead this is still centrally a metaphysical exercise, an attempt to describe the universe. But when we turn to other process-relational thinkers — and here I will insist on a genealogy that Graham Harman may not like, the same “beatnik conspiracy” (as he has called it) that runs from (in my rendition) Heraclitus and Chuang Tzu and Nagarjuna to Bergson and James and Deleuze and Latour — it becomes clear that the central task of philosophy, for these thinkers, has always been not the task of accurately describing the world, but, rather, the task of better living for living. They are existential, intended as aids to a way of life that enriches the universe instead of impoverishing it. They start with the fact that we are always already involved in things, caught up in processes, wound up in matters of concern, facing decisions, navigating currents, moving with and in worlds, and they aim to help us with that. it. Their philosophies are accounts of living,

Now, I'm not sure about this being something specific to process-relational, but for me it wonderfully sums up what it means to do philosophy, or for me to do philosophy. It is a beautiful explanation of why I am drawn to some thinkers more than others (though my genealogy may be different).

If I missed anything, let me know. This week's music comes from the debut album of the band The Like. And even though their name sounds like something tailor made for the facebook generation, their sound is total mod pop from the 60s.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wikileaks and Philip K. Dick

I don't have much to say about wikileaks, actually. Here are some thoughts, that are not definite and generally jumbled.

One of the common objections to wikileaks is that the approach is random. The documents leaked seem scattered, unconnected, leaked without any sort of thought as to why or for what reason. Maybe, but that all seems a better description of our current national security culture, one which is obsessed with creating more and more things top secret. Often without rhyme or reason. I think we can agree that such an attitude is dangerous and problematic.
This also reminds me of the novel by Philip K. Dick, The Simulacra. The Simulacra tells the story of a totalitarian society ruled and centralized around a secret. As is described in the novel:
Any failure would have betrayed to the Bes [the underclass] the secret, the Geheimnis, which distinguished the elite, the establishment of the United States of Europe and America; their possession of one or more secrets made them into Geheimnisträger, bearers of the secret, rather than Befehlsträger, mere carry-outers of instruction. (p. 34)

One of the reasons that national security culture of making everything top secret is so problematic is that divides our society, those who get to know the secrets, and those who don't. Those who do get to be the ones who set our policy, get listened to, have opinions that manage to shape and influence our foreign policy. Those who don't know the secrets, don't get to do that. We can't even be listened to, because we those who know the secrets know we don't, and therefore know we cannot know enough to be listened to. This splits foreign policy off from democracy, off from reasoned debate and input of the demos. The obvious example here would be the Iraq war, which was authorized based on all the secrets that Congress knew, all the secrets we didn't know and therefore we could not be listened on (though in fine Philip K. Dick fashion, those secrets turned out to be false, as well. And there was a secret within the secret, the secret that there was no secret). I am not sure yet entirely how I feel on wikileaks. I am not sure if I yet believe it is the right way to go about pushing back on these issues, but I certainly understand it and am sympathetic.

On Forced Genital Mutilation

This post will inevitably lead to a spike in creepy search terms for my blog.

First up, the really, really good news. It seems there has been substantial progress made on combating female genital mutilation in the region of Afar. This is amazing news, particularly because combating fgm has become one of those seemingly intractable problems. Also particularly amazing because the type of fgm primarily practiced in Afar is infibulation, or Pharaonic circumcision, which is a particularly gruesome and extreme form of fgm. As Monkey of Feminist Philosophers describes, "which involves removing the clitoris, the labia minora, and then scraping the labia majora to create raw surfaces, which are then sewn together, leaving just a tiny hole for urination and menstruating." I think we can all agree that this is an important step forward, that both needs to be celebrated and supported.

Originally this was all I had to say on the issue, and had saved this for my next Post of Links, but another post on this post has caused me to want to take this discussion in some other directions, now. I want to move forward somewhat tentatively at this point, because I have had the tendency to offend even I did not mean to when I have talked about this in the past. Extending the post from Feminist Philosophers, was this post over at APPS. I want to expound on some things
Men, think for yourselves: could you sleep at night in peace if you knew that in some corners of the world men were being systematically castrated at a very young age? (Btw, male circumcision is also genital mutilation, but that's a different story.)

I don't want to say that there is anything we do that is worse than infibulation. I am pretty sure we don't, but I also think that sort of comparison are often fairly counter-productive. Besides what is simply called circumcision, there are whole litany of weird and often horrific things we do to genitals, even male ones (and not to mention ones of ambiguous determination). It has been nearly a decade since I did research on this topic, and I have lost all the research I did. I cannot speak in the particulars I would like, but there are many cases of men who are expected to scar their genitals and release blood in coming of age ceremonies (a sort of weird mimicry of menstruation). There are also places where there are even more extreme mutilation of male genitals (again, usually occurring during coming of age ceremonies), with at least a few places practicing partial castration. None of this is to claim that the rates are anywhere near the same of FGM (to be honest, I have no clue), or to take away the importance of fighting against FGM.

However, there is one other thing I need to note on:
FGM of any form, but in particular the most radical forms, entails that a woman will never be able to fully enjoy the right that every single animal has to their sexuality.

There are two ways to read this sentence, but I will go with the one that means: I agree, I believe that every single animal has the right to fully enjoy their sexuality. I think this is sometimes not addressed by animal advocates directly (maybe because we are uncomfortable doing so, or because we will seem like a laughing stock, or both): but one of the many harms we commit against animals in our care, be it pets, lab animals, or farm animals (both factory farm and family farm) is the removal over decisions of their sexuality. Frequently this is done through very invasive means, and often this is done through genetic manipulation. One of the frequent examples given are that modern turkeys have been breed in such a way they can no longer naturally reproduce, they are forever denied the ability to express their sexuality.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jonathan Safran Foer vs. Bourdain part III: Descartes laughs last

This post was meant to be written at least a couple of months ago. However, I got busy. And once my blogging routine gets sufficiently messed up, it takes me a bit of work to get back on track. This post is only loosely connected to the debate between JSF and Bourdain, mostly it follows up on the previous posts in this series (see here and here).

Descartes somewhat famously declared that animals were machines. Nowadays, people either spend their time rolling their eyes at that pronouncement, or contending that he meant something a little less fanciful by his arguments. At the same time that philosophically and culturally there seems to be little success in Descartes' arguments about animals as machines, there has increasingly been a movement toward treating animals exactly as if they were machines. If you look at this brief article about a debate between a Cornell food science professor and a member of the HSUS (h/t Not only does it continue to highlight the absurd anti-rationalism of speciesists, but it also shows the way that a certain logic of animal as machine has continued to today. And it shouldn't come as a surprise to see a Cornell food science prof be so absurd.* Regenstein (the food science prof) argued that:

“His [Balk’s] argument is very well put together, but violated rational thinking, as the Humane Society is a vegetarian organization committed to eliminating animal agriculture,” Regenstein said.

He added that he believed the HSUS only references studies that support its own agenda.

In other words, rather than actually refuting the studies made by Balk, he argues implicit bias and automatically assumes anyone working toward eliminating animal agriculture violates rational thinking. Talk about putting the cart in front of the horse (or the slaughterhouse in front of the cow). However, the real problem emerges with this exchange:

“Each hen laying eggs for Cornell is given less space than a single piece of paper to live for her entire life,” Balk said. “These birds are crammed so tightly in small wire cages that they cannot even spread their wings.”

To this, Regenstein responded that Balk was appealing to anthropomorphic expectations.

“Birds don’t think like us; birds don’t function like us. They react to different things. If there is a thunderstorm, egg production decreases. If you wear red and walk around the hens, egg production decreases. When you put hens in cages, production increases,” Regenstein said.

Now, maybe you are thinking we aren't all that different from chickens anyway, after all if you change the thickness of which you are reviewing an application on, it seems to change how you feel about the application. Or any other weird insight into the ways humans process the world around us (or conversly, any of the weird ways that the world around us process us. We are all benommen [captive] to the world, Heidegger has this wrong. But there is something even more profound that I want to point out.

Regenstein believes that the best way to point out that chickens are different from humans is to go immediately to the questions of production, rather than ethics. That is, the best way to handle this question to shift the focus from ethical questions of the boundary line between humans and other animals, and the ways we should treat each other, to questions about how to think of the animal as a series of inputs that can be manipulated to change outputs. In other words, animal science has doubled down on Cartesianism, they are firmly committed to the idea of animals as machines. Anyone who has spent time reading the trade magazines and academic journals of animal sciences and animal businesses knows this truth. If you want to skip that step, may I refer you to Jim Mason's and Peter Singer's book, Animal Factories. Animals are transformed from living, individual creatures into black boxes whose importance is as a converting machine. How do we convert feed into eggs, into milk, into flesh? (The feed question is also important. One of the historical shifts of America into a factory farming system from a more classical European system of farming animals came from a need to extract value from the overproduction of corn by converting that corn into animal flesh for selling and shipping). Here is another quotation (taken from Animal Factories):

Forget the pig is an animal. Treat him just like a machine in a factory. Schedule treatments like you would lubrication. Breeding season like the first step in an assembly line. And marketing like the delivery of finished goods. - J. Byrnes, "Raising Pigs by the Calendar at Maplewood Farm," Hog Farm Management, September 1976, p. 30.

In this sense, even a mild proposal of switching to cage free eggs is treated as the height of irrationality, because it opposes the pure economic rationality of production that dominates animal sciences. Even the most mild of criticisms of the ways that animals are treated are responded to with extreme denunciations. This is because while Descartes' view that animals are machines has become an absurdity to most of us, it is also the practical reality with the way humans treat the vast majority of animals under our 'care'.

* Weird note about Cornell and their food science. My fiance use to be a student at Cornell, and I spent a lot of time on their campus. It just so happens that one of the best vegan burritos I have ever had were made in the cafe in the lobby of the Mann Library, their agriculture and food library. Well, that means and I would go and eat these awesome vegan burritos, and then go work in the library. When I was bored or blocked, I would walk around and look at the journals, the books, etc. This is actually what shifted my dissertation from a purely theoretical and history of philosophy dissertation into one that gets into the practical genealogy of our relationship to the animals we raise, kill, and consume. It also led to a goldmine of archival work. Cornell agriculture and animal/food sciences is crazy. They have this cow they have created a hole in her body so that you can look inside the living cow and see inside it. They are all into hardcore all the factory farming and genetically engineering of animals. They also, as animal sciences in this country generally, have a long-ago strong connection to the American eugenics movement. The stuff you learn because of awesome vegan burritos. Never pass up the opportunity to eat awesome vegan burritos.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Post of Links

Last time I linked to Dr. J's job advice, JJ Cohen has some interview advice. It is worth reading, and it also links to this worthwhile post with advice about skype interviews.

Speaking of those non-anthropocentric medievalists, Nicola Masciandaro has a post up on the unknowing animals. To give you a hint of what is at stake, here is how it ends, "The weird, taskless task that animal theory may inherit from the Cloud-author is to see the human into being what Heidegger thought animals are." Why aren't you already reading it?

Speaking of cool, interesting things on animals, Reza Negarestani has a rare and great post on rats and becoming-animal.

Maybe you have interesting things to share? Well, the deadline for the next issue of Speculations is coming up.

Graham Harman live-blogged the Claremont conference on Whitehead. Remarkably interesting, and very useful service. There are lots of things to add There are all sorts of gems in there I want to address at some point. Let's jump to one, though. Paul Reid-Bowen was interested into Stengers' interest in neo-pagan witchcraft. In recommending a few things for him to read, I came across this article, which I read a while back. It is a beautiful, insightful, stunning article. I highly suggest it. I think she manages to sum up my feelings about critiques and being critical. Both necessary and excessive.

Love this slogan.

The new republican Governor of Wisconsin wants to make opening up and running factory farms all the easier.

As always, I am sure I missed things, let me know what they are.

This post's music comes from my happy discovery that there is a new Jay Munly album out, entitled Petr & the Wulf. For those that don't know Jay Munly, he is one of the great voices of Southern Gothic music. Here is a review of a much earlier album that I think covers Jay Munly very well:
His is a singular presence, even amongst the odd-looking bastards that make up the Auto Club: his hollow eyes, intense expression and funeral director's taste in couture convince you that he's the real deal long before his tales of weird gothic strangeness can. Sure, much of the Southern Gothic attitude is an act, but it's an act into which he pours his whole soul; it's an act, but it's an act the way that Elvis' sex appeal was an "act".

I give you the song, Petr.

Friday, December 3, 2010

CFP: The Revolution of Time and the Time of Revolution

The Philosophy, Interpretation, and Culture Student Alliance at Binghamton University (S.U.N.Y.) Presents:

The Revolution of Time and the Time of Revolution
A conference

The 25th – 26th of March, 2011

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Peter Gratton, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
University of San Diego, CA

What sense of time is produced through radical politics? Is the understanding of time as future part of a radical imagination? If the commitment to radical social change involves looking forward into the future, will that leave us with a sense of futurity that depends on the linearity of yesterday, today, and tomorrow?
To interrogate the emergence of radical creations and socialities, we welcome submissions that theorize time as it relates broadly to politics, cultural conflicts, alternative imaginaries, and resistant practices. Time has historically been thought and inhabited through a variety of frameworks and styles of being. At times the present repeats or seems to repeat the past. There are actions that seem to take place outside of time, to be infinite or instantaneous. Theories of emergence view time as folding in on itself. Indigenous cosmologies and Buddhist philosophers put forward the possibility of no-time or of circular and cyclical time.
The radical question of time is one around which the work of many scholars has revolved: Derrida on the to-come [a-venir] of democracy, Negri’s work on kairos, Agamben on kairology, Santos on the expansive notion of the present, Deleuze and Guattari on becoming. This heterological list is far from exhaustive, while hinting at the depth of the theme that our conference cultivates. A central political concern, time invokes our most careful attention and the PIC conference provides the setting for this endeavor. We must find the time for time.
At its core, this conference seeks to explore the relationship between time and revolution. Time here may mean not just simple clock and calendar time but rather a way of seeing time as part of a material thread that can go this way and that, weaving together the fabric of political projects producing the world otherwise. Ultimately, the question of time fosters a critical engagement with potentiality, potency, and power; as well as with the virtual and the actual, of the to be and the always already.
We seek papers, projects, and performances that add to the knowledge of time and revolution, but also ones that clear the way for new thinking, new alliances, new beings.

Some possible topics might include:

• Radical notions of futurity, historicity, or the expansive present.

• Conceptions on the right moment of action.

• The political reality of time as stasis or cyclical.

• The colonial creation of universal time, and decolonial cosmologies of time.

• Work on thinkers of time and revolution.

• Work on potentiality, the virtual, and the actual.

• Capital and labor time.

In keeping with the interdisciplinary emphasis of Binghamton University's Program in Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture, we seek work that flourishes in the conjunction of multiple frames of epistemological inquiry, from fields including, but not limited to: postcolonial studies, decolonial studies, queer and gender studies, ethnic studies, media and visual culture studies, urban studies, science and technology studies, critical theory, critical animal studies, continental philosophy, and historiography.
Workers/writers/thinkers of all different disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and non-disciplinary stripes welcome, whether academically affiliated or not. Submissions may be textual, performative, visual.
Abstracts of 500 words maximum due by Feburary 1, 2011. In a separate paragraph state your name, address, telephone number, email and organizational or institutional affiliation, if any.

Email proposals to: with a cc: to

Or by surface mail to: Cecile Lawrence, 14 Alpine Drive, Apalachin, NY 13732
Emailed submissions strongly preferred.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Post of Links

So many links, so little time.

Tim Morton is live-streaming the UCLA OOO conference. It is already in full swing, but maybe you can see some of it before it ends.

I missed a lot of Thanksgiving links, but let me cover an important one. Magnus Fiskesjö's pamphlet, The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon, the Death of Teddy's Bear, and the Sovereign Exception of Guantánamo (.pdf. Also, the longest title for the shortest book) is one of my favorite little tracts. Jason Read integrates this book with a critique of Thanksgiving and our current political situation. Magnus Fiskesjö recently commented on this blog to share that he has a new article out updating much of his analysis in his pamphlet. Fiskesjö, Magnus "The reluctant sovereign: New adventures of the US presidential Thanksgiving turkey." Anthropology Today (October 2010), Volume 26, Issue 5, pages 13–17. Sorry, no link. But if you have some problem accessing this article, let me know and I will help you out. He also points out, "Note, though, that a major aspect I tried to debate there has been obliterated: the Disneyland tour of the post-pardoning turkey. It will now go to the old home of George Washington(back yard?)! See: "George's house, not Mickey's, for pardoned turkey"".

Dr. J has a some useful notes up on the other side of the job market. Definitely worth a read if you are planning on going on the job market, and are curious how the people interviewing you look at the process.

HJM of the always awesome Prodigies + Monsters has an essay out that you can all read. It is entitled, “Medical Histories, Queer Futures: Imaging and Imagining ‘Abnormal’ Corporealities” (.pdf), and I swear to you all it is awesome. Here is the abstract:
This paper explores the political and epistemic work done by ostensibly denotative and reproducible imaging technologies in the process of establishing a scientific concept of sexual dimorphism. Beginning with an account of the prehistory of medical gender assignation in cases of intersexuality, it examines medical photographs of queer corporealities in order to ask after the political and epistemological work done by these images as well as the politics of biomedicine traceable in the orchestration of these images. Building upon Foucault's writing on hermaphroditism and Thomas Laqueur's work on the decline of a 'one-sex' (1990) system of sex intelligibility, it pairs these insights with Deleuze and Guattari's theorization of the function of faciality in the service of subjective biunivocalization (1987) in order to examine the function of the black bar or blurred face in medical photography. I argue that this trope of medical photodocumentation works to both secure the authority of the medical practitioner as modest witness (Haraway 1997) as well as place the queer body imaged in an ontological caesura while proper – that is, male or female – subjecthood is adjudicated upon. This tropology of desubjectivation is often coupled, in the medical photography of queer corporealities, with what Linda Williams has called the 'principle of maximum visibility,' visually indexed by perspectival multplication. While Williams theorizes this principle in the context of an analysis of pornography, this paper maps a certain consanguinity between medical photography and pornography insofar as both seek to image certain heretofore ineluctable 'truths' of sex.

The Sex, Gender, Species conference I will be at now has information on all of the speakers and the schedule for the conference. Check it out.

Over at Anarchists Without Content, we have a recording of Michael Hardt giving a talk entitled "Empire: A Retrospective". He also has a summary of Christian Marazzi's talk, "Financial Entropy: Struggle Within and Against Empire".

I have not been posting about the struggles in the UK like I should be. Not because they aren't important, or even important to me. I just don't have much to add. However, Nina Power has a great post up entitled Against Generations which examines the current struggle and the desire to compare and contrast it with previous struggles. Peter has some interesting follow-ups on this post over at his place.

David Cassuto has a map up that shows where the factory farms are located in the US, with a link to where it comes from with even more maps. This actually reminds me of Noelie Vialles important and under-read book, Animal to Edible. There is a lot of thought and work that goes into where to put factory farms and abattoirs so that slaughtering of other animals remains largely unregulated and, more important, forgettable.

Following up on that note, the Food Empowerment Project has a short essay on the expansion and exportation of the factory farm to the rest of the world. Not a surprise, but important to read.

I have two pieces of music to share today. The first comes from the 21st Century Monads about the lack of women in philosophy. You can read an interview about the song and find the link to listen to it here. But to my knowledge, there isn't a youtube video of this song (yet?). So, in that spirit I want to give the bizarre pairing with Dire Straits' "Les Boys".