I’m front-paging this comment without further commentary as it so beautifully encapsulates so many issues. I’m particularly taken by Joy’s comments about the privative language we use to talk about objects. Can we imagine a language beyond privation? In terms of my own meditations on ontology and sexuation, isn’t the privative orientation of this language something that finds its orientation on the masculine side of graph, where the objet a is conceived as a residue or remainder that evades and undermines mastery? Instead, could this excess not be seen as a strange attraction with a strange stranger that is in excess of all mastery?
I am copying here, with some emendations, a longish comment I also left over at Ecology Without Nature on Timothy’s “Queer Objects” post:
So, I am sitting in my study on a beautiful sunny morning in Saint Louis and editing the sound-files from the “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects in the Early Modern and Medieval Periods” conference that was hosted at George Washington University’s Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute this past weekend [organized by Jeffrey Cohen and Jonathan Gil Harris], and at which conference Jane Bennett gave a keynote talk on “the powers of the hoard: notes toward a material agency,” and she mentioned a few things that relate to this discussion here and also over at Ecology Without Nature. First, it should be noted that Bennett described herself as a “humble word-worker” who seeks, not to “capture” things in her descriptions of the sensuous (yet resistant) emanations of things (which are always “otherwise” to representation), but rather to “tune” her own sense perceptions toward the “frequencies” of things, which Bennett believes are “vibrating” and even “calling.” This will also entail making new words, NOT to nail things down, but to render the self “more susceptible” to the “non-linguistic communicability” between vibrant materials. [Does this not sound an awful lot like the “feminine”/queer (non)-relational ethics you sketches out here and that Timothy gestures toward in The Ecological Thought?]
Now, more in relation to our discussions about “withdrawing,” Bennett also pointed out some of the obstacles to her “tuning” project–for example, that in most philosophical discourses on “thing-power,” many of the descriptors are “privative”:
1. the “complex intractibility” of living organisms [Stephen Jay Gould]
2. “incalculability” & “withdrawing from representation” but still “calling on us” [Heidegger with further, important elaborations within OOO circles]
3. “non-identity” and “non-coincidence” [Adorno]
She summed up the caution of the intractable incalculable non-identical withdrawing-ness of objects with this quote from Deleuze [from “Difference and Repetition”]:
“Here, as elsewhere, becoming conscious counts for little.”
But why stop there, Bennett asked? Why not ignore Zarathustra’s dwarf sitting on our shoulders and wanting to pour lead in our ears, and hazard some speculative terms for the “expressive or calling capacity of bodies”? She then turned to Foucault’s “History of Sexuality” and his project to name a strange, new “power” that he “vaguely discerned around him”:
“a productive power that did not operate by repressing or by refusal, blockage, and invalidation” [Bennett talking about Foucault].
So Bennett wants to extend Foucault’s method and keep her “eye” trained on the “productive power” of things and their “expressivity.” Yes, Bennett agrees, actants are, to a certain extent, intractable and incalculable [and always “withdrawing” ALTHOUGH Eileen would like to step into this parenthetical aside and ask if maybe we need a term, like Timothy’s crossed-out animism, that would be “withdrawing” with a line also drawn through it?], but can we thicken our descriptions of them a bit more, nevertheless?
Of course, I think that is what Harman, Timothy, you, and many others are mightily engaged in at present, but I guess I am still wanting to put pressure on the idea & geo-temporal spatiality of the *movement* [and it is a movement] of withdrawing. I want to hold it in place and also draw a line through it. I want to also see if we can turn it inside-out [or reverse its direction or give it curvature] and say that the reason there is a “certain something” [residue, excresence, reserve, secret interior, essence, potenitality/future, open-ended becoming] to every object [including persons] that is never capturable in words, ideographs, morphologies, images, systems of description, “our” philosophy, etc., then maybe that is also an *extensible* something that is always, not withdrawn, but just always just ahead of us, or in a “somewhere else” that is not interior, but always radically exterior, while also always being “here” which is the place we’re all “in” all the time. Like sub-atomic particles that are always wrapped up together while being far apart.
Being more attuned to our radical implicate enfoldment while also taking [ethical] account of our different “calls” across and within this fold–always “inside” and “outside” simultaneously?
Obviously, maintaining a site of ultimate unknowability/impenetrability/recalcitrance allows for the safeguarding of the “open” as well as the “private,” allowing each thing “its own thing,” which might be a form of radical love to “let things be” while never really letting them be [alone]. But this safeguarding of the secret interior, or essence, when inflected in certain directions, also leads to ideas of the kinds of “precious” differences that, in my mind, lead directly to violence and war.
Well, those are my thoughts on this brilliant, beautiful day.