Both Situated and Surprised

There are certain phrases that I carry with me; seashells on the shore, fossils in the mountains. One of them is a line from Donna Haraway's "Situated Knowledges":
We have to learn to be responsible for what we learn how to see.
I was reminded of that line -- lightning-like -- while skimming through the first few pages of Jane Bennet's Vibrant Matter. Describing her chance encounter with a series of things, Bennet writes,
In this assemblage, objects appeared as things, that is, as vivid entities not entirely reducible to the contexts in which (human) subjects set them, never entirely exhausted by their semiotics. In my encounter with the gutter on Cold Spring Lane, I glimpsed a culture of things irreducible to the culture of objects. I achieved, for a moment, what Thoreau had made his life's goal: to be able, as Thomas Dumm puts it, "to be surprised by what we see."
So to bring them together, something both situated and surprised. To accept that the world exists in excess of what we know about it.

(And that might be a way of talking about the divine.)

Comments

Anonymous said…
You know how helpful I've found Bennett for thinking through (some) rather worldy things; I'm keen indeed to see what comes of using her work to think or talk about the numinous. Not least because her vitalism is shot through, at moments, with almost theological overtones--I've always liked the deliberate liturgical echo in that passage from Agency of Assemblages: "So, my profession of faith (with a nod to the Nicene Creed): I believe in one Nature, vibrant and overflowing, material and energetic, maker of all that is, seen and unseen...."

(güle güle okur)
Timur Hammond said…
Eyvah! I was reading Nursi last night and was again struck by how invested he is in the world. It's the world itself that testifies to the divine -- so it'll be interesting to continue going back and forth between Bennett, Nursi, and whoever else I encounter.

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