Tag Archives: anthropology

The metamorphosis of reality. I talk with anthropologist Stuart McLean on AEWCH 148!

13 Apr

LISTEN HERE VIA SOUNDCLOUD OR ON Apple PodcastsSpotifyBreaker Anchor

HI! Do you find this podcast meaningful? Support it! This podcast is only possible because listeners like you support it. Do contribute to my mission by supporting Against Everyone With Conner Habib on Patreon Thank you so, so much.

The book we talk about most on this episode, Fictionalizing Anthropology, is currently out of stock at my favorite indie book distributor, Bookshop.org, but you can get it relatively quickly from Amazon by clicking here. Buy Stuart’s other amazing books and the books mentioned on and related to this episode via my booklist for AEWCH 148 via bookshop.org. Bookshop.org sources from independent bookstores in the US, not a big corporate shipping warehouse where the workers are treated like machines. Plus when you click through here to order, the show gets a small affiliate kickback!

Friends,

The other day, world-renowned physicist Michio Kaku tweeted “For 2,000 years, philosophers and scientists have searched for a paradigm, a theme, an equation to describe the entire universe. This week, The God Equation goes on sale, describing the greatest quest in the history of science. Have we finally found the theory of everything?”

I think even posing this sort of question reveals – if I’m going to be nice about it – a profound misguidedness.

Everything?

When we talk about reality, we are, of course talking about the world of objects, of planets, of material and motion. Maybe of time, of the microscopic and macroscopic. But we know that isn’t everything. What about the theory of everything that includes myth, stories, fiction, thoughts, feelings, the imagined world, the spiritual intensities of our lives, narratives, characters these – are all part of the picture of realityI suppose you could say, even though Michio didn’t put a space between “every” and “thing” that he Is truly just referring to “things” – the measurable and quantifiable. But that also takes a lot for granted, including the myths of quantity and measure.

Will such a theory tell us about hungry grass – cursed spots in Ireland where to trod on them means to be struck with eternal and deep hunger? Will it tell us about spirits? About the huldulfolk and elves who wander out of snowstorms and into vision in Iceland? Will it tell us about centaurs and how they would be imagined in the first place?

Even if you hold that these are just stories, will it tell us about stories? And will it tell you about why you consider some things to be “stories” and other things as “real?” What gets included in “everything” what gets excluded?

I talk about all this and more with anthropologist and writer Stuart McLean, author, of Fictionalizing Anthropology: Encounters and Fabulations at the Edges of the Human as well as The Event and Its Terrors: Ireland, Famine, and Modernity . We talk about the need to ask fundamental questions about creativity – the creativity of the world itself, of the cosmos – and how symbiosis and metamorphosis become key principles in that. We discuss how, when we start asking questions of what’s real and what’s not real, and how we’d know the difference between the two, anyway, strange things start to happen. And we talk about anthropology’s role and opportunity in all of that.I am still reeling from this conversation – we jump right in and don’t let up for the whole episode.

ON THIS EPISODE

  • The importance of combination and metamorphosis
  • The role of aberrant movement and emergence in creation
  • Can anything be “new?”
  • How we create the world by continuously adding to it
  • Magic as seizing the formative force of the cosmos
  • The two way street of cultural conflict and why seeing how the colonizer changes through their own oppression is vital
  • Do words evoke presences or are they powerful on their own
  • How narratives of national trauma assist the nation state
  • How do we walk away from scientistic ways completely
  • How to think about extinction if we don’t accept that death is the end
  • The time I saw a skeleton walking down the street

SHOW NOTES

• For more on Stuart, here’s his website. Here’s his essay, “Stories and Cosmogonies: Imagining Creativity Beyond “Nature” and “Culture” which we discuss on the show. Here’s his University of Minnesota faculty page. Here’s his short essay on the “bog people” discovered in Ireland and Scotland.

• For a view of combination and metamorphosis from a biological perspective, check out the amazing book Chimeras and Consciousness: Evolution of the Sensory Self co-edited by my mentor Lynn Margulis, whose last recorded conversation appears on AEWCH 91.

• For more on the Donald Williamson discovery/scandal, read the amazing book, The Mystery of Metamorphosis: A Scientific Detective Story by Frank Ryan.

• Here are some of Anarqáq’s drawings for Knud Rasmussen:

• I talk with Thomas Waters about witchcraft and ethics and academia on AEWCH 98.

Cold Iron: Aspects of the Occupational Lore of Irish Fishermen by Bairbre Ní Fhloinn is such an incredible book. It’s a little hard to get in the states from book distributors, so I’ve included here a link to the publisher’s page.

• Stories of “hungry grass” have been collected by Irish Folklore Commission, here’s one of them.• Here’s an article on the road that was rerouted to accommodate a fairy bush in Ireland.

• I talk about the de-spiritualized nature of the un-mystery school of academia with • Here’s more on the performance artist Stuart mentions on the episode and in his writing, Kwok Mang Ho, or “The Frog King.”

• I think the song “Someone Has To Die” by the Maritime, with its jangling Friends-theme-song vibe captures the stuff Stuart was saying about extinction creating possibility quite well.

• I talk about how genuine in-community love can be a tool of hating the other on the first episode of the year, AEWCH 136.

• Stuart’s great question: “How to align an experimental understanding of knowledge production and an experimental writing practice with a no less experimental ontology of world making? What kind of anthropology would that be? What kind of world would that be?

Until next time, friends, create!
CH

Conner Habib & David Graeber talk supernatural politics on Against Everyone With Conner Habib 99!

11 Feb

LISTEN HERE OR ON iTunesSpotifyOvercastSoundcloud

This podcast is only possible because listeners like you support it. Do contribute to my mission by supporting Against Everyone With Conner Habib
on Patreon!  Thank you so, so much.
AEWCH99TitleCardFriends,

Few people embody the intersections of this show’s interests quite as much as anthropologist, activist, and writer David Graeber. His field work, writing, and activism represent the best of what AEWCH does: turn an eye to spiritual concerns while taking direct and creative political action. David is a professor at the London School of Economics and the author of an almost overwhelming number of books, including, Fragments Of An Anarchist Anthropology, Debt: The First 5000 Years, On Kings (with Marshall Sahlins), and most recently, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory.

So of course, I’m so happy to have him on the show to discuss, among other things, the supernatural currents that run through and underpin the political realm.
SHOW NOTES
• There’s so much more available from David – introductions to other books, anthologies, he’s edited, and a whole shelf of other books he’s written – so the best way to get a good overview of that is to go to his website. Also, I use some of David’s ideas to discuss the horror film Ready Or Not on the Horror Vanguard podcast, and I think it’s not a bad intro to David’s work.
• Of course, you should check out Marshall Sahlins’s work, and David references his debate with Gananath Obeyesekere.
BM• Grant Morrison’s Bat-Mite appearances are in the amazing Batman arc, The Black Glove which is collected as a graphic novel.
• David’s quote on debt: “Debt is the perversion of a promise, a promise that has been perverted through mathematics and violence. I’m not saying mathematics is bad, but the combination of mathematics and violence is extremely bad. A debt is a promise to give a certain sum of money, in a certain amount of time, under certain conditions. It is a contract that is ultimately enforceable through the threat of force. The problem is that through a genuinely perverse historical alchemy, we’ve come to see such acts of violence as the very essence of morality.”
• One of David’s best known essays is excellently entitled “ON THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF GIANT PUPPETS: broken windows, imaginary jars of urine, and the cosmological role of the police in American culture” and you can read it here.
• “There is a long folk history of this figure, the Badass. He is usually male, and while sometimes earning the quizzical tolerance of women, is almost universally admired by men for two basic virtues: he is Bad, and he is Big. Bad meaning not morally evil, necessarily, more like able to work mischief on a large scale. What is important here is the amplifying of scale, the multiplication of effect.” – Thomas Pynchon, from “Is It O.K. To Be A Luddite?”
Karl Groos was the philosopher and psychologist who David refers to in relation to play, self awareness, and child development, and is the author of The Play Of Man. David explores game and play more deeply in his excellent book, The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy.
• Apparently I misattributed the definition of magic to Dion Fortune! But it’s a common mistake.
• I talk a lot about leaning into subjective ways of speaking, and why it’s important, on AEWCH 93 with Sarah Maria Griffin, and on Rune Soup with Gordon White.
• David is currently at work on a book with David Wengrow, author of What Makes Civilization?: The Ancient Near East and the Future of the West among other books.
• The organization I was Vice President of for two years, The Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, is still going, and I’m so proud of my work with them.
• You must have seen The Witch if you’re a fan of this show, right? Right?
• There was a tension (to put it euphemistically) between anarchist Bob Black and Murray Bookchin. You can check it out here.
• I talk about Wilhelm Reich on AEWCH 59 with Reich scholar James Strick.
Was Lenin a nudist? Well, yeah, probably!
• I haven’t yet read David’s “Radical alterity is just another way of saying “reality”: a reply to Eduardo Viveiros de Castro” but I’m going to as soon as I’m done with the show notes.
Heres The Same Old Song by Russell Means. Means’s essay is not actually an essay, for, as he states at the outset, “The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of ‘legitimate’ thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken.” 
VDJ• I was hugely influenced by Vine Deloria Jr.’s work, and his attack (seriously, that’s more the word for it than “critique”) on anthropologists remains salient. (And since I love him, here’s a photo of him.)
• Here’s more info on Malidoma Somé, and you can also check out his great book, Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman.
• I talk all about the problems with reducing the witchcraft to political economy, as well as the figure of the dewitcher on AEWCH 98 with Thomas Waters.
• I still like Giordano Bruno, in spite of the, um, persecution we carry out here. And I think he was just talking about the creation of elementals, which I discuss on AEWCH 67 with Daniel Joseph.
• David brings up his interest in Whitheadian concepts of time and space, which are explored, I think, most deeply in Whitehead’s The Concept Of Nature.
Conor McCabe has a great concept of capitalism as an “invasion of the money system” which we talk about on AEWCH 76. (That remains one of my favorite episodes, btw!)

Until next time, friends!
CH

High stakes and giant invisible snakes: Rebel anthropologist and paranormal professor David Shorter on Against Everyone with Conner Habib

9 Feb

PODCAST VERSION: iTunesStitcherSoundcloud

PLEASE SUPPORT THE SHOW via PATREON

Hello friends!
Here’s episode 20 where I go deeeeeeeep into the woods and tall grass and the reaches of space with Dr. David Shorter. David is the the author of We Will Dance Our Truth: Yaqui History in Yoeme Performances, a healer, and a professor at UCLA, where he teaches courses like “Aliens, Psychics, and Ghosts,” “Meditation for College Students” and more. David is awesome, and we don’t hold back in this conversation, and I’m so happy with it.  This is the first episode in February – and one of three in a row that will be looking at reality claims, objectivity, and postmodernism. All in plain language, hopefully, even if there’s a little inside baseball here and there.

Show notes with further reading here.

*IN THIS EP

  • Spirituality as capitalist consumption
  • How to avoid appropriation but not blind yourself to other cultures
  • Allies and their blind spots
  • Why “I’m not religious but I’m spiritual” doesn’t describe anything
  • Why social justice narratives can become scientistic materialism
  • How do we accept the truth value of different spiritual pathways even though we can’t have access to them?
  • You should be working in the language of the community you’re working in
  • Why do philosophers and activists privilege language so much?
  • We experience the world in content, not language
  • When a snake is a place
  • Why you shouldn’t trust talking butterflies and coyotes, but squirrels that run away from you are cool
  • There are different scientific methods, and some are better than others
  • Why plants don’t come from seeds
  • The scientific method turns the world into objects, and capitalism likes objects
  • Objectification is not dehumanization
  • The spread of English objectifies the mental world (or “objectivate” it)
  • I get mildly cranky about Chapo Traphouse for a sec
  • Why is the Left obsessed with denigrating spirituality and worshipping science with very little power critique
  • How our medical concepts create new diseases
  • Dear indigenous people: “Sorry for everything we’ve ever done to you, now save us.”
  • So-called “alternative” medicine is often just allopathic medicine in disguise
  • How responsible are you for your pain
  • ESTHER HICKS, I AM ENVISIONING YOU ON MY SHOW
  • Health and healing is a language
  • How my Syrian grandmother survived cancer without knowing about it

Here’s David’s website, which has a link to all his articles, his book, and more. Lots of stuff, good stuff, there.

*NOTE: I’m ditching the time signatures, because only a few people use them and they take me literally 2X the episode length to make. So I could be at it four 4 hours just to make those fuckers. If you miss them and are willing to step up and make them for me, let me know!

YDD