RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014
||Co-production of knowledge with non-humans (1): More-than-Human Bodily Entanglements: Boundaries, Interfaces, Knowers
History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group
Participatory Geographies Research Group
Owain Jones (Bath Spa University)
Emma Roe (University of Southampton)
Michelle Bastian (University of Edinburgh)
Michael Buser (University of the West of England)
Emma Roe (University of Southampton)
||Wednesday 27 August 2014, Session 1
||Electrical Engineering Building, Room 403a
This series of sessions will explore how the co-production of knowledge within (and between) communities is being expanded beyond narrowly human notions of community to take into account the ‘voices’, needs and agencies of non-humans. We seek to explore how co-production has been done (historical examples), is being done, and can be done (imagined futures), with panoplies of non-humans which range through animals, plants, technologies and materials within space-time in both topological and topographical formations. We feel that expanding the processes of knowledge creation through co-production is a necessary step in efforts to address the toxic nature/culture divide and in developing materialist techno-ecologicalisation of politics and ethics (Haraway, Latour, Bennett, Barad etc.). We need deeper engagements with the ecological (taken in its broadest sense), materialised processes which conjure communities into being, sustain them, set them together, apart, in conflict, and bring them down; and in how they might be reformed into more just configurations. We seek contributions which: report upon work that has sought to co-produce knowledge with non-humans; speculate (plan) conceptually and methodologically on how co-productions with non-humans of differing stripe might be done; stage dialogues between specialists in co-production and those specialising in the more-than-human (broadly conceived).
Co-production of knowledge with non-humans (2): (Not) Seeing, Hearing, Showing Non-Humans
Co-production of knowledge with non-humans (3): Co-producing place with non-humans
Co-production of knowledge with non-humans (4): Who Knows?: relocating participatory knowledges across human/non-human divides
Session Introduction: Co-production of knowledge with non-humans
This short introduction to the one-day session will briefly situate the study of knowledge co-production and the study of non-humans. It will then look across these two fields for new forms of enquiry and empirical investigation that could be developed by building upon their existing traditions and approaches. Questions will be raised that will begin to frame the series’ broader questions about the various modes of investigating the panoply of more-than-human contexts, and how these might contribute to the development of existing scholarship around the coproduction of knowledge.
A growing body of work has situated love as central to ‘doing-science’ (Silverman, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012). Emotional relationships between individual researchers and nonhuman research subjects have been cited as a means of opening research-paradigms to the ‘cosmopolitical risk’ of being transformed by these nonhuman actors (Stengers, 2010, 2011), providing the foundation for understanding how complex, co-shaped ethical relations could emerge in laboratory contexts (Haraway, 2008). These approaches foreground how somatic relationships emerging between the actors involved in research, challenge instrumental approaches to knowledge-production and expose tensions within the formal ethical frameworks that legitimise these approaches (Greenhough and Roe, 2011). This paper complicates valorizations of ‘love’ through examining the historical consolidation of beagles as the standard dog for use in laboratory research, due to traits displayed by the breed (such as ‘friendliness’) that make them amenable to forming relations with researchers. This study illustrates the vulnerability of ‘love’ to instrumentalization, foregrounding how anthropocentrism could persist in such perspectives. By situating emotion as something that has always been integral to research, however, the paper also enriches the epistemologically disruptive dimension of these accounts of ‘love’, illustrating their importance in legitimising the role of critical-ethical perspectives within animal research debates and opening space for less anthropocentric forms of co-produced knowledge to be crafted.
Working with vines: skill and practical knowing of indeterminacy
While recent years have seen a slow but steady growth in research on human-plant encounters (e.g. Hitchings 2006, 2003, Hitchings and Jones 2004), social scientists are still struggling to ‘get all agrarian and dirty-handed’ (Whatmore 2003) in their work on plants. In this paper I draw on my experiences as an apprentice vine worker to explore the role of plant materialities and temporalities in knowing agricultural work. I problematise the idea of agricultural work as an execution of abstract plans on the canvas of passive nature, and I uncover the everyday uncertainties and indeterminacies of vineyard labour. Working with Ingold’s concept of taskscapes (2000) and Pickering’s concept of temporal emergence of socio-technical phenomena (1995, 2005) I argue that we need to appreciate the deep co-dependence of agricultural materialities and agricultural workers. In my analysis vineyards emerge as spaces of intra-activity (Barad 2007) in which bodies of vines and skilled bodies of workers are ‘substance[s] in [their] intra-active becoming’ (828). I show that the skills of vineyard work can only be acquired through sensitive, imaginative, and responsive interactions with the material characteristics of the field of practice. I also argue that this sensitive, embodied, and temporal knowledge of vines and vineyards impacts on the way workers deal with uncertainty. Uncertainty is recognised as an inherent element of working with vines, clashing with the idea of fully controlled agro-food production, and pointing to the importance of the practical knowing of indeterminacy (Hinchliffe 2001) in skilled agri-food work.
Her through the Google Glass: wages for house- and face-book
At the peripheries of uneven global geographies it is now emerging that the subaltern who manufactures crucial cyborg prostheses 'can tweet'; yet notable, equally, that few supermodern subalterns choose to be "cyborg, emancipated or not" (Izharuddin, 2014). Meanwhile, the unevenness of subjective power geography appears to be selectively collapsed into the shrunken space-time of supermodernity, in which nobody really meets. For instance, within Western configurations of technopolitics, by-now familiar mechanisms of gendered and raced erasure of socially reproductive labour are attaining a new austerity-flavoured apogee (see Losse 2012 on the extractive user-exploitation of Facebook's Boy Kings), with the scant "resistance" proffered by the campaign demanding "wages for Facebook" enacting a grotesque détournement of ongoing revolutionary materialisms associated with the 1970s (dalla Costa and Federici). The 126-minute advert for Google Glass that was Spike Jonze's Oscar-nominated Her (2014), could well come to mark the moment we were all (north, south, east and west) supposed to fall in love with our auto-surveillance paraphernalia. Those social-reproductive functions which the disembodied operating system 'Samantha' cannot perform directly, 'she' can surrogate to a female volunteer (in the case of sexual intimacy) and a waged person of colour (in the case of the slice of pizza). The key to Samantha and the disciplinary production of a collective dream in 'Google Glass', however, is speed: in an infinitesimal fraction of a second, 'she' has read an entire book. As monadic yet cyborg (OS-partnered or social-media platformed) workers in supermodernity, human bodies thus grow to crave the enveloping 'glass' or ear-bud-based psychic shell onto which they can project--in a solipsistic moment of suspended animation--potentially value-additive images of their boredom, loneliness and fear. In fantasizing both core and periphery subjects in this way, capitalism imagines itself in a 'wonderland' (Clark, Foster & York 2009) wherein production/social-reproduction, life/work boundaries are definitively dissolved and a 'second nature' or Kurzweilian 'singularity' has foreclosed the catastrophic imperative for capitalism to "imagine itself [instead] as infinite" (Graeber 2009). However, I argue that those to whom it still falls to feed, clothe, fuck, tweet at, and emotionally nourish the more-than-human creators of surplus-value in real time, by fusing both wages-for-housework and wages-for-facebook demands, still possess an overwhelmingly promising power to abolish the present state of things.
Space, connectivity and the co-production of knowledge on the allotment
This paper seeks to extend understandings of practices where knowledge emerges through subtle and indistinct encounters between humans and more-than-humans on the allotment plot. Allotment growing brings food production into its most proximal focus through multiply engagements. This paper will immerse in these engagements to show how allotment practices changes both the human and more-than-human, allowing for the developing of food knowledge. This work brings the material nature of embodied food practices centre-stage as a conduit for understanding how food knowledge develops. Investigating growing and consuming food through empirical allotment practices enables research into the entangled moments of such human more-than-human engagements. Key to conceptualising these moments is the sensing of the materialities and spaces being shared and the bodily processes by which this occurs. Drawing from the conceptual frameworks of Grosz's bodily Becomings, Whatmore's 2006 Relational Materialism and Hayes-Conroys' 2008, 2010 Visceral Geographies, this paper will investigate how knowledge of growing emerges through the processual nature of embodied food engagements. It will explore how the body, as a sensory organ, provides an interface between interior and exterior matter, becoming a mode for breaking down the barriers between human more-than-human.