Friday, 7 December 2012

Departitioning AUFS and OOO [UPDATE]

I’ve finally added AUFS to my list of Favourite Blogs. Why should such a minor event warrant comment? Well, bizarrely, this decision has been rather a long time in the making. On the one hand, I have been reading and lurking around AUFS for three or four years, typically checking in several times a day to follow the latest posts and comments (so much so that it has been pinned to my browser toolbar for more than a year). It is, therefore, fair to say that I find it interesting, stimulating and intellectually challenging. There is also an academic rationale for this. My educational biography is grounded partly in theology. While my undergraduate studies straddled Religious Studies and Philosophy, I subsequently went on to a Masters in Feminist Theology and then a PhD on a topic that combined religious studies, philosophy and theology in a somewhat volatile cocktail. Moreover, I undertook my doctorate at an institution that was, at the time, almost entirely oriented towards Biblical Studies and Theology, and where I was the only postgrad with any interest in religious studies (never mind feminist paganism and contemporary Goddess religions, which were the focus of my doctoral research). So, I have a relationship with theology, albeit one that I have trouble labelling, and my interest in AUFs is relatively straightforward in this regard.

On the other hand, though, a few years ago I also began to immerse myself in Speculative Realism and Object Oriented Ontology. I found that I liked a lot of Graham Harman and Levi Bryant’s materials and then I progressed to the works of Morton, Latour, DeLanda, Bogost, Bennett and many others. It was also at this time that I started blogging. Now, to be honest, this blog has never become quite what I intended; it seems that children/family, online laziness and an ‘interesting’ teaching workload have intervened rather too often to prevent this. But, despite this, in my own mind at least, the site has retained some affinities and sympathies with SR and OOO, despite its drifting towards climate, ecological and crisis of civilization related content more recently. What is the relevance of this with regard to AUFS? Well, in one respect, I have kept many of my interests off blog, and one of those bracketed guilty pleasures was AUFS (‘lets not complicate the Favourite Blogs list with a theological outlier’, I thought). However, another more substantial issue has been the amount of online heat that OOO has generated. I have watched with morbid fascination, and a wide range of other emotions too, the various attacks, barbed comments, discursive conflagrations, flamewars and other supercharged online interactions that have arisen around OOO in recent years.  For much of my time my sympathies have been with the OOO crowd, but I’ve also witnessed reactions and responses from them that have seemed odd, overblown or ‘dickish’ too. In all of these circumstances one could psychologize and theorize the behaviour. The recent discussions about the ‘psychopathology of blogging’, the ‘victimology of groups’, the ‘masochistic joys of the internet’ are representative of some of these explanatory possibilities. Moreover, one can deploy one’s personal experiences with the various parties to some effect too (e.g. I’ve had very happy interactions with Graham, Ian, Levi and Tim, online and in person), while recognising that other people will have had different encounters with them. Trivially, people are pretty multi-faceted and can rub against each other in whole range of ways; and I’m generally convinced that online media do indeed amplify, exacerbate and distort these interactions in various awkward ways. None of this really gets us anywhere useful, though, and I’m starting to ramble a little here.

To be blunt, the point I arrived at during the last week is one where I have simply stopped giving a damn about some of these divisions and spats. When I read Graham Harman’s recent post on Laruelle I had a very similar response to the one initially mentioned by Anthony Paul Smith in his reply to said post, namely: “tiredness”. I had a view about what had sparked the initial post, I was pretty confident of the likely reaction to the post, and, my sympathies were on the AUFs/APS side this time, just as they have been elsewhere on other occasions. But the main point with this is that I was tired of it. Some disagreements matter to me, but these ones no longer do. I may lament that Levi and Anthony are frequently talking at cross purposes (or unproductively), especially as an outsider who can see the parallels in their writings on ecology. But it is probably for third parties to draw out those commonalities, rather than unreasonably expecting them to sort it out. In most ways that are important to me, I believe the OOO and AUFS crowds are composed of decent people; there are personality quirks, historical disagreements and theoretical differences aplenty that have them bashing heads, and they may continue doing so for years to come, but I’m tired of it. Any partitioning of AUFs at this backwater of the blogosphere, then, is over, and it can now sit shoulder-to-shoulder with Climate Progress, Larval Subjects, and the F-Word, just as it does it in the rather less well managed and convoluted contours of my mind.

[UPDATE: *#!! I take a fence down and O M G]

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Paul, good to know that someone else feels the same way I do about this. I've been watching with the same mixture of emotions for awhile now, and have gotten to the point where I've decided simply not to let it bother me anymore. I've got complicated sympathies for both sides, and that's the way it is. Good post.