| || |
Camino Portuguese Interior, August 28-Sept 12, 2017
Camino Frances, May 24-June 27 2015
Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, Nepal, May-June 2013
Camino Ingles, June 2012
Preparation for the CPI
What is a pilgrimage and how is it different from a long distance hike? What resources help us? How do we prepare? There is so much obsessive planning: what goes in the backpack, where to stay, how many kms to walk a day. And why we go at all.
Since I have written about the Dhammayietra, a Cambodian Buddhist peace walk, and worked with refugees, I want to think more critically about 21st century 'pilgrimages,' long distance walking, the politics of volitional movement. One might juxtapose Camino walkers with Europe's refugee/migrant "surge" in 2015 & 2016, and the tumultuous southern border politics of the US.
Cognizant of this privilege - that I have the cash, passport, and time -- I hope to walk differently next year, to listen and celebrate the chthonic Madonna in Southern France. This is my last European walk. I am so grateful for these days outside, the angels who aided, and company that coalesced.
In May, I plan to start the Via Podiensis in Le-Puy-en-Velay, visiting ancient woman at Rocamadour, then to the beautiful Black Madonna at Monserrat near Barcelona, moving from Mary-to-Mary. I'm hoping to understand those tales of the Marys at Saintes Marie de la Mer to Mary Magdalane at Sainte Baume. Not all by foot this time, and a deeper delve into pre-12th century Southern France. It's all a surprise, this particular walk; learning more each day, the way opening up before us.
I want to interrogate the ecumene: is it large enough, who is in it? Which bodies, what persons, contribute to a peaceable, sustainable earth? When we talk about the “Spirit” do we also include ethereal bodies – hungry ghosts, boramey, apparitions of Mary – as social beings? Sociologist Gordon Avery has noted that, ‘the ghost is not simply dead or a missing person, but a social figure.’ After many years working in peacemaking, I began to ask questions about the stories that didn’t make it into our narratives, stories from the refugee camp where I worked, or on the streets of Oakland about Kwan Anh or Mary appearing on the water when boats stalled, or were lost in transit
In Oakland, while staff at Cambodian New Generation, I worked with Khmer boys on probation who’d joined the Crips because the Bloods’ colors were “too KR.” When I said I was going to Cambodia, one asked excitedly for “magic hair.” He opened a little satchel and I peered at a tangled wad of black hair. He spritzed it, “so that it will grow more.” There might be some on the wat grounds in Phnom Penh, he suggested. We don’t often hear about magic hair, or amulets that protect border crossings, apparitions of Mary (consider Egypt, where she keeps appearing) or Kwan Yin who appeared to Vietnamese boat people when their engines stall or pirates trail them. What do we do with Jesus appearing to a Buddhist prisoner of the Khmer Rouge with advice that saves him? Family stories like these disappear from the “refugee narrative” upon arrival in the United States, and they are not (often) in our theological texts either.
In these “conditions of fragility,’ we cannot separate humans from the ecosystems we have so deeply affected. We must account for other bodies: bodies of what we might call existents, entities, actants, quasi-objects. Some are gendered, but in multiple ways – asexual, dimorphic, hermaphrodite - some are not; some are invisible, spectral, some appallingly visual, others are inorganic. Some entities occupy other bodies; some are aggregates of other entities. I am interested in whether, or how, these bodies do what we humans call knowing and acting, but in different ways.
How, methodologically, do I, or anyone involved in these interactions, relay these tales? There is a rich discussion in academic circles about encounters with and affirmation of the “extra-ordinary” (Goulet) and “super-natural” (Kripal), popular mysticism (Orsi, Hollywood). As a white American academic with religious proclivities and feminist activist, do I refer to my own encounter(s) as an inclination to “go native,” appropriating a Cambodian worldview? Or does one keep a skeptical distance? As a North American Christian lesbian in the secular age (Taylor 2007), I’ve for many years dismissed our “porous” bodies’ interaction with the spirits, trees, and dreams as peripheral to the real revolutionary work of materialist theory and political theology. I argue here ghosts, preta, and other nonhumans are inhabitants of our worlds, social actors often denied a voice in the stories we tell about war, survival, and post conflict. I consider the decolonial challenge to western modernity and propose that the ontological turn allows us a radically different way to experience the world, one in which simultaneous other worlds coexist with the quotidian world we occupy.
Ecumene as conflicted
Violent upheaval develops particular “conflict imaginaries.” Alan Feldman notes in Formations of Violence in Northern Ireland that violence informs person, time and space: communities know the corners that the banshee haunt and can recite an annual calendar of violence. There is a “spiritual insecurity” in conflict imaginaries that reflect zones of spectral disruption. These zones of spectral disruption are geographies where relations among humans, non-humans (spirits, ghosts, statues, animals), and landscapes are disrupted. Invisible realms interpenetrate earthly space and entities move between them. The boundary between living and dead perforates; dead cross back and forth, the living are half-dead. The living cannot conduct rituals that maintain cosmic order. Both humans and spirits of the land are displaced, betrayed, violated, traumatized.
Langford in writing about Lao refugees struggling with American hospital protocols, asks, “How do we make sense of… ghostly figures …without “anthropologizing” or “psychologizing” them, that is, without reducing them to examples of cultural belief or psychic symbols of trauma?” Heonik Kwon's Ghosts of War in Vietnam, for, example, are not metaphorical ghosts. Here's one story: a poor survivor of My Lai passes his dead family on his way to his rice paddy. His ghostly wife squats on a stone near the remains of their burned house with her three children behind her. When she greets him scornfully, he knows he must rebury their remains in a more honorable grave. His efforts will be aided by the spirits. So, he takes up a small sum he has saved and goes to negotiate with a neighbor for a loan. At that moment, a wealthy businesswoman, a relative of his wife, arrives from a distant city. She relays how the spirit family had appeared in her dream asking for help and offers to share the cost of reburial.
In a “post-conflict” imaginaire, then, one would assume that the recovery of restorative rituals, and a mapping of spirit-human interaction would help to determine a program for the intrapsychic task of recovery, particularly by attending to dreams. Since the conflicts occur in multiple realms among assemblages of human and nonhuman, peacemaking must be approached with a wider and more creative arch of analysis. We need to take seriously the case of spirits, gods, and ghosts as social actors in conflict zones, particularly in communities that are marginal and powerless. The communities who participate in spectral interactions are usually projected as aboriginal, or poor and superstitious, fundamentalist or Pentecostal or variously irrational. They are historically an irresistible target for economic integration, educational assistance and civilizational uplift.
The field of conflict studies and various peacebuilding organizations developed since World War II. I will use in my analysis Mennonite peacemaker John Paul Lederach’s concept of conflict transformation, which envisons and responds to the ebb and flow of social conflict as life-giving opportunities for creating constructive change processes that reduce violence increase justice in direct interaction and social structures, and respond to real-life problems in human relationships.
Lederach now plays a key role in the academic field of religion and peacebuilding which emerged in the late 1990s and has clustered around what Israeli scholar Atalia Omer has characterized as the “exotic, good, and theatrical.” Mark Juergensmeyer is a proponent of “strong religion,” an argument for the unique nature of contemporary religious political violence and the role of “cosmic war.” In other words, in the minds of those engaged in religious conflict, these current wars are conducted simultaneously on earth and in heaven. Juergensmeyer argues that the Abrahamic apocalyptic wars have justified extremist militancy and martyrdom. While Jurgensmeyer refers to religious violence as spectacular, driven by holy dates and places, but he doesn’t address the phantasms it produces. This is not uncommon. Peg Levine, in Love and Dread in Cambodia. Weddings, Births and Ritual Harm under the Khmer Rouge argues that Cambodia trauma literature and “genocide literature” rarely refer to spirits, unfinished rituals and the attendant “cosmological angst.”
Studies of religious violence consider cosmology, politics of identity, and symbolic violence, while studies of religious peacemaking are more often descriptive (case-based), theological, or ethical.  Juergensmeyer and others writing on religious violence argue how the convergence of apocalyptic texts, strong leaders, and a notion of cosmic war make these conflicts particularly compelling for radicalization and difficult for secular states to address. While one might argue that Empires hide behind the mystification of religion, communities caught in the midst of these conflicts, or surviving their aftermath also rely on various forces and entities in their cosmos to offer them invisible aid. These are primarily Global North Christian scholars with increasing inclusion of Jewish and Muslim colleagues focusing on interfaith dialogue, just peacemaking, theological sources of peace, faith-based diplomacy, forgiveness and reconciliation, and transitional and strategic justice. 
I have worked with resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees in the United States and a “processing center” in the Philippines since the late 1970s and then studied post conflict reconstruction after Cambodia’s 1992 Peace Accords. From 2005 to 2010, I was a US faculty for an intensive, applied conflict transformation MA program in Phnom Penh. The Applied Conflict Transformation Studies program draws practitioners from peacebuilding programs throughout the region (Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka, India, Cambodia, Philippines). These peacebuilding programs are often faith-based INGOs such as World Vision, Mennonites, Quakers, Caritas and Catholic Relief Services with local ngos that are Buddhist or Muslim.
Lederach in The Moral Imagination acknowledges the messy, inspired, and indeterminate ways conflicts often are resolved. But peacebuilding NGOs are driven by donors who have pressed to show measurable results, not an easy task in the field. Because of this, ngo staff aren’t often encouraged to reflect “soft” problems of the conflict -- the cultural, psychological and religious dimensions of the social problems they are called upon to address. What would it mean for peace practitioners, not only clergy and religious adepts, to consider a multivaried ecumene?
Ecumene as an empire of exclusion
The ecumene is not just a space but a concept taken up by theologians, geographers and anthropologists. As a space, it maps out the realms we consider “inhabited,” as a concept it distinguishes between realm of the known and unknown – in this sense it foregrounds de Sousa Santos’ notion of Abyssal thinking that I will refer to later. Biblical writers refer to the Greek word Oikouménē fifteen times in the New Testament as a code for the first century Roman empire. Joseph and Mary return to Bethlehem due to an imperial decree that “all the world” (oikoumene) be subject to census (Luke 2:1). Oikouménē literally means "the inhabited land." Greeks used this word to refer to their known and inhabited world beyond which were barbarian lands. When Rome colonized the Hellenized world, Oikoikmene referred to 'the entire Roman world;' and then 'the whole inhabited world." The church has taken another path, referring to the Oikoimene, the whole inhabited earth as God’s creation, recognizing “every human pursuit as subject to the healing ministry of Christ’s Spirit.” (WCC) Thus, the ecumenical world is the church united in its difference.  The gospel writers had a more subversive intent for this reference (that it refers to the Roman Empire and its ungodly inhabitants) that is closer to my intent here.
In the Holy Roman and Byzantine Empires, maps of political territories were a visual hermeneutics with Jerusalem at the center and Christ overlooking the world, attended by angels. These early maps meant to show what cartographers knew of the known world; the terra incognita was left at the margins of the map. The famous Nuremberg Chronicle or “Book of Chronicles” appears in 1493 at the triumph of Spain’s Reconquesta with its sights on the New World. In this illustrated ecumene is nostalgic. Its biblical world history shows three continents populated by Noah’s sons, Shem in Asia, Ham in Africa and Japeth in Europe. Shunted to the periphery, the excluded races: one-footed Sciopods, reverse-footed Antipods, bearded women, and one-eyed monsters.
This map hides its backstory. Dussel claims that as Europe advanced against the Islamic world to the east and “discovered” the Americas to the west, Europe was able to reposition itself at the very center of the world. Dussel asserts that by posing against an “other,” Europe could colonize “an alterity [otherness] that gave back its image of itself.”10 And so, in 1507, a decade after the Nuremberg Chronicles, Waldseemuller’s World Map has redrawn the known world. One of the most important maps in the history of European cartography, this map reveals a new continent, separated from Asia and a new ocean: the Pacific. Though not visually present, Incas, Mayans, and other New World “savages” without souls replace the Sciopods at the margins.
Beyond the Abyss
From of this "American crucible." (Quijano and Wallerstein) emerge modern conceptions of ethnicity, race, gender, nation, labor, and economic development. This “coloniality of power” is also epistemic, a pensiemente unico in which no alternative ways of thinking are possible. Indeed, scientific Eurocentrism offers a specific rationality and perspective of knowledge that subsumes other conceptual formations. Boaventura de Sousa Santos calls this Abyssal thinking. He offers an apt spatial metaphor for the way North-centric, Western-centric hegemony of knowledge that separates the modern universal episteme from its “primitive” particular Other. “Abyssal thinking” identifies the valid, true, rational, normal on one side. On the other side of this line – the periphery of the ecumene, so to speak -- reality is incomprehensible.  De Sousa argues that economic and social justice is founded on cognitive justice: a post-Abyssal thinking offersan “ecology of knowledge” to widen the territory of the knowable. An ecology of knowledge would
Current challenges to this divide have proliferated across the academy. Subaltern historian Dipesh Chakrabarty in Provincializing Europe speaks to the problematics of applying Enlightenment concepts of secular modernity to colonized worlds. Chakrabarty argues in part for a history that takes into account how gods and spirits are experienced by the subjects of subaltern Indian history, but he himself, even as a subaltern historian, cannot “invoke the supernatural in explaining/describing and event” (106). For example, the 1855 Santal rebellion against the British was instigated, they claimed, by their deity, Thakur. As Chakrabarty notes , historians insisted that this version of the rebellion must be “anthropologized (that is, converted into someone’s belief or made into an object of anthropological analysis)… to ascribe to it any real agency in historical events will be to go against the rules of evidence that gives historical discourse procedures for settling disputes about the past .” New scholars push past Chakrabarty to argue for new historical narratives that include what they call the ‘Unbelieved. Such new historical scholarship, would, pace Sousa Santos, include both sides of the Abyss into the historical record. Taking up this same case, they show how historian’s “dogmatic secularism” obscures history it proposes to describe. 
Take the words of the human revolutionary Sido: “Thakur recruited me, and my brothers helped me.” We repeatedly see variations of “Sido's brothers helped him, and he claimed ‘Thakur’ recruited him.” We never see, “Recruited by Thakur, Sido claimed that ‘his brothers’ helped him.” We believe those parts of our sources that resonate with our prejudices; we discount those parts of our sources that we can smartly identify as literary tropes, or psychological projections, or the fulfillment of social needs. In Epistemology of the South, de Sousa Santos argues that the anti-imperial south is a non-geographical south, composed of many epistemological souths which share an experience of knowledge born in struggle. These “epistemologies of the south” are counter-knowledges and struggles of post-Abyssal thinking.
Anthropology’s "ontological turn" is a response in the 1980s to postmodern turn to culture as representation, emerging from the postmodern trend initiated by Writing Culture. Rather than acknowledging ‘one world, many worldviews’, an ontological approach recognizes multiples worlds. Ontological anthropologists do not explain difference by way of ‘representation’, ‘symbolism’ or ‘belief.” They argue that difference is due to existence and participation in alternative realities.
Viveiros de Castro’s “perspectival multinaturalism” is a key example of this “ontological turn.”  Drawing from his work on Amerindian cosmologies, he juxtaposes Western mononaturalism and Amerinisan multinaturalism. Western worldview posits that humans are animals and share the same bodies (mono-nature) as non humans. But humans are distinguished by their consciousness (their culture), so that humans begin as nature but then transcend it. From the raw to the cooked. On the other hand, the Amerindian notion is derived from a myth of an original state of nondifferentiation between humans and animals. Vivieros de Castro asserts that for Amerindian cosmology, “the original common condition of both humans and animals is not animality but, rather, humanity.”  At some point, animals lose qualities retained by humans. Jaguar, spirits, tamir all have souls that humans share, they share the same culture. But they have different bodies – nature. They are multi-natural, but culturally similar. For Viveiros de Castro, the Amerindian idea of perspectivism presupposes no transcendent point of view. “[E]very point in the universe, every being, every tree, every animal, every planet is a subject, and that’s the meaning of the perspectivity idea that the human is the default state of the universe. More importantly, perspectivism is an aid in the “ permanent decolonization of thought.” It’s a concept, not an appropriation of Amerindian. It is important because every place is a privileged place. It “supposes a constant epistemology and various ontologies, the same representations and other objects, a single meaning and multiple referents.” 
Ecumene reassembled and relating
Deleuze also refers to a radical relationality that he terms in French, agencement, translated as assemblage. This concept clusters every ‘thing’, such as a statue, God, or a landmine, but also utterances, happenings or events, and all these are composites or assemblages of affective relations, rather than the traditionally held isolated substance.
This in part is what Latour is doing when he “reassembles” the social. In his controversial critique of the fundamental basis of sociology, he defines the social as “not as a special domain, a specific realm, or a particular sort of thing, but only as a very peculiar movement of re-association and reassembling.” For Latour, the social is a basis for associations. It does not exist a priori to that exchange and is not limited to humans. Reassembling is thus not an “add and stir” but a radical reconfiguring of agency, access, and being. Not enough to ask who belongs to a “reassembled ecumene” since Latour’s ANT theory is already provocative on this subject. Ecumene reassembled also addresses conflicting overlap of concepts – and hierarchy of being. But how does this assemblage affect the ways we interact, the channels of information – communication – we deem relevant. Not only, does the subaltern speak, but do glaciers listen?
Dream worlds and metaphysical bodies
Dreams offer an epistemological access of encounter for overlapping ontologies, where humans and spirit languages can be understood. Western psychological language refers to a dimension “within” the person, while in other cultures are attributed to an exterior realm. Dreams are considered borderlands of the visible/invisible, dead/living, awake/sleep in which figures come ”from outside.” As "porous selves" these dreamers consider their bodies available for such visitations. Integrated into the cosmos, the person with a detachable soul travels out of the body and spirits can travel into the dream.
Cecconi notes how Peruvian peasants during conflict between Sendero Luminoso and the Peruvian army increasingly relied on multiple sources of information, including non rational epistemologies (prayer, dreams, omens, consulting mediums) for information about those who disappeared or died. Cambodians referred to dreams instructing when to flee, where to go, what will happen next. In Cecconi’s ethnography, she refers to political nightmares in which Peruvian community members received many premonition dreams and were visited by their dead. The case I offer is based on a particular kind of appearance: epiphany dreams. Epiphaneia means "manifestation." Epiphany dreams consist of the appearance to the dreamer of an authoritative personage who may be divine or represent a god, and this figure conveys instructions or information. Statue or relic recovery dreams are part of a corpus of epiphany dreams in both Christian and Buddhist legends.
The ecumenes we have travelled have been the production of Eurocentric modernity that has obscured other knowledges, peoples and realities from our “whole inhabited earth.” If we as action scholars consider these critiques, and include the multiple ontologies and wider range of actors of communities in conflict, how does our methodology change? How does this influence conflict transformation and defining the “problem” and our interaction with those involved in the conflict process (pre, mid, post)?
And yet, and yet, there are multiple cautionaries to this approach. As an action scholar who is a progressive Christian and takes these worldviews as a form of the real, how we analyze also malicious actants, or expressions of evil? What “powers and principalities” are at work that are hostile to the ecumene’s continuity. How do we as Christian humans understand and respond? As we reassemble the Oikoimene to let more inhabitants in, which ones, and to whom must they declare allegiance?
 Avery Gordon, Ghostly matters: haunting and the sociological imagination. (Mpls, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2008)
 Langford, Jean. 2005. Spirits of Dissent: Southeast Asian Memories and Disciplines of Death, In Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (25) (2005): 43 See also Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000): 105
 Langford, Jean. 2005. Spirits of Dissent: Southeast Asian Memories and Disciplines of Death, In Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (25) (2005): 43 See also Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000): 105
 Povinelli, Elizabeth A. "Geontologies of the Otherwise." Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website, January 13, 2014. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/465-geontologies-of-the-otherwise
 Jean-Guy Goulet and Granville Miller, Eds. Extraordinary Anthropology: Transformations in the Field, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007)
 Adam Ashforth refers to“spiritual insecurity”in Witchcraft, Violence and Democracy in South Africa (Chicago IL: University of Chicago, 2005).
 John Paul Lederach, The Little Book of Conflict Transformation. (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2003). He distinguishes it from conflict resolution which is based on a negative assessment of conflicts which must be ended, inferring that they can actually be resolved in short-term interventions. He also critiques conflict management, which while understanding conflicts entrenched processes, assumes that communities can be controlled and that the purpose of this management is to take care of the conflict, not root problems.
 Atalia Omer, "Religious Peacebuilding: The Exotic, the Good, and the Theatrical" in Oxford Handbook of Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding. eds Atalia Omer; R. Scott Appleby, David Little (Cary: Oxford University Press, 2015).
 Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God : The Global Rise of Religious Violence (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003)
 Peg Levine, Love and Dread in Cambodia. Weddings, Births and Ritual Harm under the Khmer Rouge, (Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2010).
 Raymond Hemlick and Rodney Peterson. Eds. Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Religion, Public Policy, & Conflict Transformation (Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2002); In the United States, the key religion and peacemaking graduate programs include University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Eastern Mennonite University’s Peace Studies program, Fuller School of Theology, and Emory University’s Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding.
New initiatives include the Alliance for Peacebuilding’s partnership with CDA Collaborative Learning and Search for Common Ground to convene leading global experts to develop better measure the effectiveness of inter- and intra-religious action for peacebuilding.
 Her overview included primarily key works by American scholars from US universities, including Scott Appleby, The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence, and Reconciliation (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999); Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Nonviolence and Peace Building in Islam: Theory and Practice (Gainsville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2003); Marc Gopin, Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future of World Religion, Violence, and Peacebuilding (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Douglas Johnston, Ed. Faith-based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003: and Daniel Philpott, Ed. The Politics of Past Evil: Religion, Reconciliation; The Dilemmas of Transitional Justice, (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006); David Smock Ed. Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding (Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace, 2002); Glenn Stassen, Just Peacemaking: The New Paradigm for the Ethics of Peace and War (Pilgrim Press, 2008); Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Abingdon Press, 1996), David R. Smock, Religious Contributions to Peacemaking: When Religion Brings Peace, Not War, PeaceWorks, no. 55, ed. David R. Smock (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2006).
 There are several ways that ecumenical peacebuilding has developed in Southeast Asia. There is the CCA School for Peace, now in Cambodia, and the Philippine-founded People’s Forum on Peace for Life, of which I have been a long-term member. Peace and development “regimes” develop differently in each country of conflict, which includes an amalgam of government entities, military, academic programs, institutes, multilateral funders, a range of civil society organizations which include religious organizations, and international NGOs. I am most familiar with these in the Philippines through the CPP-NPA and post-conflict Cambodia.
 John Paul Lederach, The Moral Imagination (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
 In modern usage, the word embraces the unity of God’s whole creation and recognizes every human pursuit as subject to the healing ministry of Christ’s Spirit
Karin Friedrich, review of Chronicle of the World: The Complete and Annotated Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493, by Hartmann Schedel, The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 82, No. 3 (Jul., 2004): 749-750
 First Maps of the New World. Columbia or America: 500 years of Controversy. Cornel University University https://olinuris.library.cornell.edu/columbia-or-america/maps
 Anibal Quijano and Immanuel Wallerstein , “Americanity as a concept. Or The Americas in the Modern World-System,” International Journal of Social Sciences, no. 134 (Nov. 1992): 549-552
 Boaventura de Sousa Santos Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide. (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2014):120. See also Law and Globalization from Below: Towards a Cosmopolitan Legality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
 De Sousa Santos’ project is ultimately a way to develop a human rights language more liberatory for struggles of the south. In order to retrieve epistemologies of the South, he suggests three concepts, movements, or steps: critique, recognition, and dialogue
 Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000): 105
 Clossey, L., Jackson, K., Marriott, B., Redden, A., and Vélez, K. (2016), The Unbelieved
and Historians, Part I: A Challenge, History Compass, 14, 594–602. doi: 10.1111/hic3.12360
 James Clifford, Introduction. in J. Clifford and G.E. Marcus (eds.) Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986): 13.
 Martin Paleček and Mark Risjord, “Relativism and the ontological turn within anthropology, “Philosophy of the Social Sciences 43, No 1 (2012): 3 – 23; S. Venkatesen, ed. “Ontology is just another word for culture: Motion tabled at the 2008 meeting of the group for debates in anthropological theory,” University of Manchester. Critique of Anthropology 30 No. 2 (2010): 152 – 200.
 Eduardo Batalha Viveiros de Castro, “Exchanging Perspectives: The Transformation of Objects into Subjects in Amerindian Ontologies,” Common Knowledge, 10, Issue 3, (Fall 2004):463-484.
 Viveiros de Castro, “Exchanging Perspectives,” 465.
 Peter Skafish, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, “The Metaphysics of Extra-Moderns: On the Decolonization of Thought—A Conversation with Eduardo Viveiros de Castro,” Common Knowledge 22 Issue 3 (September 2016): 410.
 Eduardo Batalha Viveiros de Castro, “Perspectival anthropology and the method of controlled equivocation,” Tipitií: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 2 No 1 (2004): 6.
 Mark Bonta and John Protevi, Deleuze and Geophilosophy: A Guide and Glossary
(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004).
 Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor Network Theory (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Quick thoughts on the World Social Forum since it will be in Montreal this August: Another world is needed. (What happened to "possible"? ) Conway's review of the WsF and the Edges of Global Justice is particularly useful, and she offers a good overview of a feminist response to pensiamente uno, a radical critique of the dominant epistemologies of the West. This feels crucial, urgent, since it is the way we structure revolutionary presents and futures. If our world is on its way to permanent disfigurement, and according to Bifo, semiocapitalism is blitzing our psyches ( just two of the "wages of sin"), what are our cognitive options?
One alternative: de Sousa Santos offers Epistemologies of the South, a dense decolonial brew. This argument is about the coloniality of power - the power to decide what should be studied, civilized, patented, harvested, and litigated. I've posted a good review of this work below, and includes de Landa, Dussel, Escobar, and others. All men, from a Latin American philosophical frame.
But where are we after we scale abyssal thinking? Yes to a "postcolonial or postimperial conception of rights, and they are: the right to knowledge; the right to bring historical capitalism to trial in a world tribunal; the right to a solidarity-oriented transformation of the right to property; the right to grant rights to entities incapable of bearing duties, namely nature and future generations..." (Barreto, below, p 26). But are rights redeemable? Are there other ways to know "justice"? Doesn't Boaventura de Sousa Santos still wake up in the "West"?
On a radical reconfiguring of the ways we even position critique, we could add from the same region, the "ontological turn." Consider Viveiros de Castro’s concept of multinaturalism. (Notes for further exploration: his Métaphysiques Cannibales (PUF, 2009) offers an important critique of Descola’s ontological typologism. Latour's “Perspectivism: type or bomb?” sketches the public debate between Viveiros de Castro and Descola.)
We're still in the middle of a massive shift from positivism, scientism, one-world-ism, but how does a paradigm dissolve to reset the next one? If this is post- post-modern, post-structuralist, what are we pre ? We seem to be in the midst of parallel paradigms, or a mix of them interacting, like "scattered hegemonies." I pick up Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions - here's a short cut. It's like Mr Toad's wild ride (a mix of Wind in the Willows and the ride at Disneyland.) The Dalai Lama challenges brain scientists to rethink the neurological route if it doesn't lead to reincarnation. Imagine the moment when little Krishna (who has been eating mud) opens his mouth and his mother Yashoda sees the whole universe whirling inside him. Too much ontological shock for his dear human mother, so the boy-god neuralyzes her, a la Men-in-Black.
I keep asking the same questions: do all these new post-Western re-"orient"-tations shift the ways we act and be in the world? Frame our problems? Who is included in the solutions? What happens to the way we live if our justice is hyper-dimensional and space/time is heterogeneous, if it circles in on itself? Searching for ways to new modes of thinking.
Yes, I know, these are scattered notes to self, not explanations for you. (How did we get from de Landa to Descola, from de Sousa Santos to the Dalai Lama, to Bifo?)
1 Other citizens
I met Sophal at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom Penh. We picked up our Angkor beers, and ambled through the scattered chairs to bar stools set at the long mahogany ledge by an open window overlooking the Tonle Sap river. It was almost sunset, and we sat for a moment in silence, observing the flow of river vendors and new refugees arriving in the wake of flooded ricelands.
We spoke of this: Cambodia's relentless poverty, the deluge of foreign aid, its possibilities, and we reminisced on old times in Oakland as the moon rose over the rippling water. He was Undersecretary in one of the Government ministries, and he talked about the heavy political burdens of his party, the temptations of a $50/month salary, his upcoming trip to Singapore, his family in Oakland. I plied him with questions about government corruption and exile. This was, after all, the purpose of my work--a focus on Cambodian Americans who have returned to work in the government and NGO in Phnom Penh.
Sophal and I had worked in Oakland together at a Cambodian-based organization, meeting with probation officers and chasing after errant boys of Oakland's killing streets. Oaktown Crips, they called their gang because blues were their colors, and Bloods were red. "Bloods, man, they the color of the Khmer Rouge." We were now in the land of the Rouge. "Imagine the Crips boys here?" I laughed, half serious. He didn't even turn at the question. "Those boys would not survive," he said. Our talk meandered after this through the exquisite promise and pain that trans-locations inflict. "I call my daughter each week,"he said. (I concealed my shock--at $5 per minute.) " I remind her to do her homework. She asked me if she could cut her hair. O.K., I said, but talk to your mother. Sometimes I am so lonely," he said, "that I play the karaoke and sing aloud--500 miles, songs like that." I nodded,500 miles was a popular song in Phnom Penh this fall. "I feel too American," he said, and then forgot himself. "Maybe I will run for office in Battambang in the next election." He is a big man in the Kingdom, with his cellular phone, Nisson Sentra, gucci gifts from friendly investors. In Oakland, we were small fry.
Sophal's precipitous ascent followed the rise of FUNCINPEC, the royalist party that he'd organized in California. When it won enough seats in the 1993 UNTAC-monitored election, it agreed to share power with the Communist party of Hun Sen. Sophal had been studying political science was at community college and looking for a better job to pay his many debts when the election promised him a future in Cambodia.
I was thinking all this as Sophal pointed out the promises that FUNCINPEC's Khmer French and Khmer Americans brought with them to government. Was I momentarily distracted by the one-eyed headlights of mototaxis in the pool of dark below us? I cannot remember, only that Sophal was saying, "-- and Lerb is dead." I looked up, startled, and ashamed to be startled, that once again, the living and dead of the U.S. Cambodian community ebbed away from me, ever the outsider. Lerb, dead.
He was my favorite bad boy; suspended from high school for an endless series of offenses, in juvenile detention for a year with extended probation afterwards. He was tall and very dark, strutting on the hottest of days in his black Raider's jacket and Crips colors. His junior league of "gangstas" would drop in during school hours when gang tensions were too high. He was charismatic, but he didn't know how to hold it, too vulnerable, too rageful. Lerb had survived the worst of his “gansta’s” tragedies: nine boys in a Chevette out of control on the freeway. Its toll--three dead (one decapitated), three unharmed (one flung from the car by the spirit of his dead father) and Lerb in a coma for weeks in the San Juaquin General Hospital.
Several times a week, I would pick up Lai Lanh, Lerb's mother in the most devastated of West Oakland projects for the hour drive to the hospital near Stockton. She would enter the hospital room briskly and coax him to life with Mormon prayers, tossing rice secretly over his listless shoulder. His recovery was excruciating and tedious. I do believe her tenacous, ferocious love drew him back into ordinary time with vague cognitive failures, but willing to live. When the worst was over, I lost touch with them as my own life gathered momentum.
Two weeks before his first accident, he stood at our office door and announced triumphantly that his mother's lost tribe of ten brothers and sisters were alive. She'd immediately sent money through a courier and received in return a videotape of a family gathered to pay their respects to the sister, the lucky one who made it to America. Sophal and Lerb are two signs of "luck," two survivors who tricked the fates once, then twice. But for Lerb, one time too many.
When I returned to Oakland from Phnom Penh, I asked casually about Lerb from other Cambodian-American friends. Don't you know, they said, vaguely accusing, the family left Oakland a year ago. Lerb was fishing with his brother. He stood up in the boat, fell over, and drowned.
2 Theologizing after the last draft
A poet stops by a bare oak in the winter, “every limb sprouting” with starlings. She tries to count, and then estimate,
but the leaves of this wet black tree at the heart of
river through limbs, back onto limbs,
scatter, blow away, scatter, recollect--
undoing again and again the tree without it ever ceasing to be
Foliage of the tree of the world's waiting.
Of having waited a long time and
to wait. Of trailing and screaming.
Of engulfed readjustments. Of blackness redisappearing
downdrafts of snow. Of indifference. Of indifferent
Jorie Graham from "The Dream of the Unified Field"
If there is a passion for a unified field, it is a tree whose leaves have a single sum: full and then empty. It has an apparent logic, this tree of the unified leaves, and the interlocutor is satisfied when its logic is unraveled and the problem has come to completion. Jorie Graham looks up and sees a tree of black starlings, always full and yet uncountable, static and heaving. One cannot apply logic to a koan, that is the koan's cunning. Of course there is a satisfaction in completion, but it ends to begin again. Completion's split second acts are summed up in motion; that itself is a koan. The tree is there and yet always in motion, waiting and arriving, reassembling, dissembling, reminding the poet and ourselves that living is never so unified, logical, clean. The birds of the world's waiting refuse to sit quietly while they're numbered and labeled. This is the koan of a tree and its poet. This is the way of territory and populations.
The arrival of this project is a task of logic and completion, but it has been a theological process for me because of its koan-like motion. It has been in these last four years a question that had no answer, hardly a question at all sometimes, and sometimes many questions darting in and out on the limbs of logic. It sputtered and repeated itself, the same words over and over. For months, I became inarticulate, unable to make the question speak. Only when I returned to the matter at hand, to the tree's interaction with its chattering leaves, did I find the matter waiting; "speak me," it said. The matter was a people who kept moving and how in their circling they trespassed fields of logic. How their reasonings about this were versatile and contradictory. How the tree held them and didn't, how though they sometimes moved in unison, it could not be predicted. How my own questions informed their reasoning; how reason in motion is a mystery.
In my earlier work I was interested with the subject position of Cambodians as refugees, whose political subjectivity change numerous times as they moved across borders from Kampuchea to Thailand and into the UNHCR refugee camps, then to Western nations as third world refugees. How did they collude in the manufacturing of their own identity? In Oakland, the majority of Cambodian refugees are part of the underclass community mediating the institutional cultures of welfare state. This is a particular form of cultural belonging, a cultural citizenship, in that the state creates its of cultural formations.
My first arrival in Phnom Penh had such elements: an encounter with ghosts in our hotel room, magic hair that gave me trouble. I fell prey to the magic of tragic Khmerness. My second visit to Phnom Penh was a great disappointment. Returning and local Cambodians interpreted human rights with a baffling tautology. Nothing seemed cultural about its logic. It took me a long time to realize that this surface resemblance was the koan and that magic was a lure for the prize of Khmerness which most of us in various stages of "return" were seeking.
I join the American "us" of Cambodian refugees returning, though the "us" of survivors is, I believe, incommensurable. That I can join the "return" at all is up for contestation, being neither refugee nor Cambodian nor Asian American. The mesmerizing power of return is mine nonetheless. Raised in Manila by progressive Protestant missionaries until my "return" to the US for college in the first months of Martial Law, my first conundrum was becoming American not as an exile but in situ. Multiculturalism found me a quandary. As one who had lived in the Philippines for as many years as hyphenated Americans had lived in the US, would I not be entitled to the category of American-Filipino if one existed? That it did not exist left me homogenous; that I was lesbian and Christian caused more confusions. On the whole, I became wary of identity categories. The return to the Philippines thirteen years later was a second discouragement. I arrived as an American "expat" on staff at the large Refugee Processing Center in an ESL program whose teachers were Filipino. This in itself offered up the bewilderment of cultural/national alliances and hierarchies (Vietnamese over Lao and Cambodian, Filipinos over SEA refugees, US over all, but sabotaged by Filipinos, Philippine military over UN). In the fifteen years surrounding that event my attention to refugees, exiles, and immigrants constantly rehearsed the crisis of arrival, integration, and the myths of national belonging.
The overlap of politics and culture and its conjunction with category mistakes has informed my theology, sense of self, and anthropology. It produces the questions I finally ask about multiple citizenships and national identities. It informs my skepticism of a hierarchical framework of ethics that places disobedient local "moralities" under the supervision of a principled "ethic." (Whose morality, which ethic?) It requires a perspective in which the observer, the subject and structure interact -- the poet, the birds and the tree, so to speak.
In the tree's trembling leaves, categories arrive and are forgotten. Someone sees the hand of God. Someone claims that this is the way of starlings. Someone calculates the rate of chaos. Someone forms a poem.
Dreams: So, do you see or have a dream? When you "see" a dream, it comes to you. If it comes to you, it is not yours alone. It has volition and its own territory. Since Freud, we "have" dreams; we own them, or as the dream doctor might correct, the latent Repressed has us. In this globalized world, even those who "see" dreams also "have" them. Most of the world carries on in an imbricated modernity. There is not a single modernity, but multiple modernities as many scholars now tell us. Charles Taylor distinguishes between a modern buffered self, and a porous self that hosts "dreams that come from outside". I am interested in the latter and epiphany dreams, where a deity or significant figure appears to the sleeper to offer guidance or demand a divine task.
Research The larger study considers interventions through apparition, dreams, statues, or amulets in four displaced communities. It is not intended to be a comprehensive ethnography. Rather, I consider that since the conflicts in religious lifeworlds occupy multiple realms, peacemaking must be approached with a wider and more creative arch of analysis.
In Cambodia, my project is called “Rescuing the ‘gods’: Dream knowledge and overlapping ontologies”. I study four cases where spirits appear in dreams to ask humans to rescue their Buddhist, Hindu and Catholic statues from a river, cave, and rice field.
Dream epiphanies led to the recovery of two Roman Catholic statues from the Mekong River in Cambodia. The first is of St. Francis who appeared in a dream and was then, as a statue, rescued by a Khmer man during the Khmer Rouge years. Most Khmer are hostile towards Vietnamese settlers; Roman Catholic Vietnamese are a particularly isolated community in Cambodia. Does this rescue a link the two differing faith ethnic communities as the Vietnamese Catholics suggest? Current relationships between Vietnamese Catholic and Khmer Buddhist communities at Wat Champa are strained. This is evident in different interpretations of the guardian statue that we continue to investigate. With the help of Vicith Keo, I interviewed Khmer leaders in the Wat Champa community adjoining the Vietnamese village and will continue in 2014.
Almost thirty years after the Khmer Rouge era, a statue of Mary was fished out of the Mekong River at Areykasat, a Vietnamese fishing town across the converging rivers from Phnom Penh. This statue, Our Lady of Lourdes, was found during Khmer New Year in 2008.
Four years later during the 2012 ASEAN meeting in Phnom Penh, a another statue of Mary was recovered, this time with the infant Jesus. In this case, a Buddhist Vietnamese fisherman in Areykasat was instructed in a dream to fish out a statue. Both statues are greatly venerated and draw weekly busloads of pilgrims from Vietnam.
In 2013, I interviewed key Catholic priests associated with both Wat Champa and Areykasat, attended the large celebration Mass of the first Mary on Cambodian New Year, April 16, returning several times after this.
My preliminary research project shifted dramatically to include two dream recoveries of Khmer statues. My colleague in this research is Mr. Samnang Seng, a well known peace activist in Cambodia who has designed and directed interfaith projects.
The two Khmer incidents of dream-inspired rescues occurred within a month of each other, the first on Cambodian New Year in Stung Treng, close to the Lao border. Stung Treng was originally part of two Lao kingdoms before the French ceded it to Cambodia. A 14 year-old poor settler dreamed that two monks guided him to a nearby cave to rescue statues. He found seventy-one small Buddhas high on a ledge in the cave’s interior. Though he had strict orders from his dream visitors to “take the statues to the royal palace,” the statues languish in the Stung Treng Provincial museum.
Fourteen days later on tngai sel, Buddhist new moon day, a rice farmer was told in a dream to “take them out”. He went to his rice field in Banteay Meanchay, the far west of Cambodia and discovered two 12th century Bayon-era Hanuman statues with their pedestals. The dreamer and his wife were escorted to Phnom Penh by Venerable Monyreth, a high-ranking monk to deliver the statues to the Deputy Prime Minister. Since then, the family has been deeply embedded in the Hanuman myth, particularly Mr. Lim’s son and sister-in-law, who have themselves become conduits for transmitting Hanuman’s wishes to the Cambodian people.
Mr. Seng and I visited Stung Treng and Banteay Meanchay several times since the initial meetings in May and July. Mr. Seng has returned to both sites to meet with family and government officials. In November, we met with other key figures in the Hanuman story in Phnom Penh and Banteay Meanchay. The stories continue to unfold. We are consulting with Dr. Greene whose knowledge of Khmer cosmology, its relationship to kinship and the body exceeds my own. As a scholar of Cambodia in residence, she writes, “I can assert with confidence that Dr. Poethig is pushing the boundaries of a breakthrough field of theory that is already troubling the status quo in the study of “religion” across disciplines.”
These five incidents of statue-rescue share several attributes. They occurred through dreams on auspicious days. The dreamer was not a religious specialist but a poor member of a marginal community. The dream recovery affected the dreamer, their family and community, affixing them to the mythic narrative of a statue rescue. That these statues are Catholic, Buddhist and Hindu, and the dreamers Khmer and Vietnamese offers an intriguing oneiric ecumene (cf Hannerz 1989) of cosmological détente. This oneiric ecumene recognizes that humans and spirits are both necessary for rescue of the statue. But it also contributes to a cosmopolitics of constructive trespass in which gods themselves violate cosmological allegiances, and humans are instructed to cross social and political divides. One wonders, what do the gods really want?
Sochea, at the mouth of the cave. I have been in the cave myself with his story and this summer, we need to retrieve these treasures and set them out.
http://readinglists.ucl.ac.uk/lists/78388AD4-DD65-17CD-8BA0-3EEE7C6EACFE.htmlNotes from the story of the Boy who finds the Buddhas
This is a story of discovery, a story seeking the child, the dreamer. We are at Hotel Anise in Phnom Penh talking about statues, and Samnang offers me an adventure I can’t resist – go up to Stung Treng to find the boy. He puts this together. He gets us the tickets, meets me at the bus station early the next morning. I was just down from Siem Reap that weekend, so I wear the dress I brought to Phnom Penh.
The bus takes ten hours. Stung Treng is in the wild northeast, the edge of the world, at the covergence of rivers, as the Mekong swings down from Laos. Next day, we bargain for a ferry across the confluence of rivers to the far side, On that side, find a group of guys hanging out by the port, waiting to take riders. Motodops are motorcycle taxis. Samnang bargains again. We hoist up on the backs of two and buzz off. All we have is a name and a place, no address, no number, no other information. But Samnang is calm and confident.
We travel the red-dust highway, a new national construction project that will spin a trail of concrete across northern Cambodia. In the meantime, red dust plumes with every passing motorcyle and gravel flings up at us. One in a while, we come to a construction team pouring concrete. For the hour both sides of the highway reveal acres of clearcut land, only stumps, sad grass. It is a devastation.
After a hot, dusty hour, pit-marked by gravel, we moto into the town. It's a new frontier town, popped up along the hiway with housing that uses all that fresh wood. New roads, new settlers who have moved north. We go to a family the motodops know. They don’t have any idea about the family.
We try the neighbor, No.
We stop a driver, who does know the family – over there through the path.
Down over the cropping, onto a hard clay path through the fields.
Along the way, fields have been razed by settlers. The stumps smolder.
Here is a new generation of colonization.
We find them, then, in their own home on settled land. Sochea comes with his father and brother, and uncle. After some urging by his mother, he tells his story. He's shy, quiet, guileless. His mother, not so much.
Sochea wakes when it is still dark, his mother is already cooking rice. He asks for his sling shot and heads out. His mother thinks he is checking the traps he leaves for birds and small animals. But he doesn't return until 11am, and then he shows her a small statue of the Buddha. Stricken with fear, she says, she beats him - where did he get it, did he steal it? There is nothing like this for miles. There is not even a wat in their village, and anyway, it's too far to walk there. No, he says, he found it from his dream. So he tells her.
After New Year's night (April 16), they sleep, all 7 of them, together, and he dreams that two monks wake him, tell him to follow them, and lead him to a cave in Peacock mountain. It's easy to find now that all the trees are cut. (Before, says a neighbor, two naga - snakes - protected the cave and people were afraid to go. Also because the forest, prei, is a wild place full of neak ta prei, forest guardians.) He follows them into the cave, scrambling the stones. They turn and tell him to take the statues to the Royal Palace. Then they show him a small space in the rock and he crawls through into a high small white-stone chamber. They point up, on the right. They disappear. He wakes up, asks for his cham peam, his sling shot, and walks out in the dark along the rutted moto path before the dawn arrives, retracing his dream to the cave.
Maybe there is a slight bird song as he walks. Maybe he feels light weaken the thick dark, maybe he's walking the dream, we don't know. But we do know that when he reaches the mouth of the cave, it is full of light (like day, he says) all the way to the chamber. And once in the chamber, light pours down from one indentation high above. He climbs the calcium carbonite encrusted wall that hides a small loft and yes, it is littered with small buddhas - some on a chearng pean, a ritual portal, some in two jars, some on the floor.
We know he was gone for five hours. We wonder what he did there.
This is my public record of the pain of writing about immaterial things that matter. It's rife with uncertainty. How do statues cajole humans to rescue them? What's the exchange?
What is the social world within which these two interact?
Latour has "reassembled" the social. In his controversial critique of the fundamental basis of sociology, he defines the social as “not as a special domain, a specific realm, or a particular sort of thing, but only as a very peculiar movement of re-association and reassembling” (2005, 7). For Latour, the social is a basis for associations. It does not exist a priori to that exchange and is not limited to humans. Latour's "critical sociology" has three traits:
Bjørnar Olsen, proponent of ‘nonanthropocentric’ archaeology takes Latour, among others, as a reference point In Defense of things. Archaeology and the ontology of objects. Objects and humans operate not as separate entities but assemblages. I find this theorizing on the part of archeaologists helpful on new ways of tracing the life of strange objects, tracking entities to heterogenous worlds that are hidden, not (yet) visible. If entities are actants, I track statues seeking to be found from the water, mud and mountains, who use intermediate realms for a human-entity détente.
Latour offers five sources of uncertainty, controversies about the social realm that I will reconstruct later. In sum:
First Source of Uncertainty: Groups: If we reassemble the social so that group formation are constructed by actors reports, then groups confirm to a "performative definition” (Latour 2005, 34).
Second Source of Uncertainty: Actions: “Action is not done under the full control of consciousness; action should rather be felt as a node, a knot, and a conglomerate of many surprising sets of agencies that have to be slowly disentangled” (Latour 2005, 43).
Third Source of Uncertainty: Objects: They have agency too, so we diversify the types of actors in any social event.
Fourth Source of Uncertainty: Nature of facts: Matters of fact vs. matters of concern.
Fifth Source of Uncertainty: How to study the science of the social if we aren't clear what we mean by empirical. Such that writing is a risky account, and there are already so many uncertainties. But the purpose of this risky account is, in Latour’s words to “extend the exploration of the social connections a little bit further” (Latour 2005, 128).
Latour, B. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Olsen, Bjørnar 2010, In Defense of things. Archaeology and the ontology of objects. Lanham: Altamira Press.
SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) — The Navy conducted its first military exercise near its new base on the southern island of Jeju on Wednesday to improve readiness to intercept suspicious vessels and submarine infiltration by North Korea....After 23 years of preparations and having spent more than 1 trillion won (US$810 million), the Navy opened the seaport base last week on the southern coast of Jeju.
At first glance, Jeju Island is not remarkable as an island. But when in 2013, our network, Peace for Life held the People's Forum on Jeju, assembled at GangJeong village, I was transfixed by the counter-assemblages of the construction of the naval base and resistance.
Jeju Island is South Korea's tourist island and also named an island of peace after a disastrous massacre of 10 percent of its population -- 30,000 women, children, and elderly people were shot down and villages were burned -- after a revolt in 1948. The assault was conducted by a rightist regime with the compliance of occupying US military. If the Jeju tourist trade requires some amnesia of this catastrophe, it also needs blinker for a return to its militarization.
This January, 2016 the South Korean government opened their new deep water naval base at the southernmost part, displacing the sleepy Gangjeong Village. The Joon Gang Daily calls this new base, “the spearhead of the country’s defense line." The base already hosts US Aegis missile destroyers, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines. The government had lost two other sites due to citizen resistance and they were not going to be deflected again. If you look on a map, you can understand the strategic location.
If you read this Catholic comic, you get the story.
In Vibrant Matter, Bennett argues along with others that we need a political economy of things, that "thing power" offers a new ethical imperative. We need to discard the subject-object relationship of humans to nonhuman others.. If we understand assemblage as a mix of human-object actants, and that smaller parts make up the larger, we move away from a human-object binary to a more enmeshed system of action. We are constituted by multiplicities – colonies of life forms make up our biome, our bone, ideas lodged in gray mushy matter, nerve trackings. The smallest things have dangerous power: memes, pixelated surveillance maps, the fine flour of eucharist host, the sonorous bell of awakening.
Why does this matter in the case of Jeju Island? Because this is a trans-figuration, a dis-figurement in discourse and practice in a hypermilitarized zone. Note that above that the base opens with an "exercise," a praxis of dis-figuring.
If there is an assemblage of dis-figuration, this is it. Samsung's massive machines dredge the sea, destroying coral reefs and blast the Geurombi a kilometer-long porous volcanic shelf at the lip of the sea, displacing the human population for its naval operation. That Geurombi, the sacred rock shore, pourous and soft, destroyed. Everyone who referred to this were sad and wistful, as if about a passing friend. And deeper down, Bronze age artifacts unearthed.
There is an assemblage of story-telling. One might wonder whether the Jeju sacreds retrieved by the Gen X, Y & Z activists who have gathered to resist are contemporary bricolage of goddess, earth-tales, seawall, hegemon and loss. Those nature gods looked crippled and sad. One guide ushers us through a wooded area to a volcanic crop of rocks overlooking a bilious green stagnant pool. This is a sacred pool, they say. You wonder what they mean by that. Sacred should make a show for itself. It hasn’t rained, it’s lower than it’s ever been, and it used to be fresh. Some of us climb around on the rocks for a while. Then he takes us a few minutes the other way to a 1,000 year old tree. People come here to pray, he says. But that old tree doesn't have the face of devotion. She wears a saggy string of stained faded white and pink prayer flags, dusty candles stubs sunk in the busom of the tree. A few parts of the trunk plastered with cement. It sinks into the hard earth like crusty old elephant. Humph. Hard to feel the power of this place. I think: if there is a goddess power acting on this place, she's been denuded.
But Yeoungdeun the goddess has more storm in her than she first conveys. The navy didn't count on the wind. Wild typhoons whip this point each year. One left $35 in damages, ripping out the casings sunken into the seafloor to create a port for the submarines. They have to be rebuilt. Rock is blasted, coral shattered, red crab scuttled. So the transformation of coral bed to concrete slab offers just new forms of organic and inorganic- nuclear fuel, steel, casings, uranium - are also matters of meaning.
The convergence at GangJeong village brought together an assemblage of resistances – of people, police, priests, hosts, kayaks, water, coral, tree, rock, concrete, sea water, wind all acting against the construction of the base, and Samsung, US and Korean construction workers pushing against each other. Seven years. Four year without help, last three with activists, last two with Catholics. Skeletons of the massacre amidst tangerine orchards, a steady line of Chinese tourist buses passing a steady cluster of international, ecumenical, environmentalist, anti-militarist activists, Peace for Life among them.
So many went protests, arrests, incarcerations.
And also rituals of resistance. Each day: 7am 100 bows of gray-garbed monks and then at 11am, Fr. Moon's vigil Mass - wine, host and dancing at the construction site. If there was an collectivity of spiritual forces, it was palpable those mornings.
What next? Here, read Save Jeju Now.
Declaration and Requests
The Committee of Justice & Peace Archdiocese of SEOUL / The Committee of Justice & Peace Archdiocese of DAEGU / The Committee of Justice & Peace Archdiocese of GWANGJU / The Committee of Justice & Peace Diocese of ANDONG / Justice & Peace Committee of BUSAN Diocese / The Committee of Justice & Peace Diocese CHEONGJU / The Committee of Justice & Peace Diocese of CHUNCHEON / The Committee of Justice & Peace Diocese of DAEJEON / The Committee of Justice & Peace Diocese of INCHEON / The Committee of Justice & Peace Diocese of JEJU / The Committee of Justice & Peace Diocese JEONJU / The Committee of Justice & Peace Diocese of MASAN / The Committee of Justice & Peace Diocese SUWON / The Committee of Justice & Peace Diocese of WONJU / The Solidarity of priest Diocese of UIJEONGBU / Association of Major Superiors of Women Religious in Korea / Korean Conference of Major Superiors of Men’s Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostilic Life
I wrote this after an evaluation trip to Khmer Rouge "reintegration areas" in western Cambodia. I consider the idea of witness and narrative.
For more than a decade, I'd been a tutor in Minneapolis, staff at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center, worked with at-risk Cambodian boys and girls in projects of West Oakland, or a researcher in the bright new offices of hyphenated Cambodians—American, French, Australian, Swiss, who had returned to Phnom Penh to participate in its transition to democracy.
For them, I was an ambivalent figure, a compatriot of sorts, witness to their discursive feat defending hybrid citizenship as a necessary aspect of new Khmer nationalism. (Within the Cambodian domain of peacemaking, local Cambodians treated foreigners with more equanimity than former refugees who had to negotiate twice for authenticity—with both homeland and naturalized countries.)
It might have been our close call with ex-Rogue soldiers that inspired Kennaro to talk.
He was translator for interviews with former Khmer Rouge soldiers and their experience in new “integration zones” since the massive KR defection in 1998. We'd bounced along deeply rutted roads from Battambang to the infamous Sampot, the Khmer Rouge stronghold in far western Cambodia.
Sampot was desolate, wide swathes of parched plots devastated by rampant logging, and cut off from the world. When we got to the ramshackle town, it took some time to rustle up the "focus group" of toughened Khmer men and women to talk about their plans for integrating into a contentious Khmer "democracy". I cast a glance at the dingy cots and decided we would drive back to Battambang that night. Kennaro agreed. But he knew better than me what came in the dark.
Slowy, painfully, the van heaved over potholes along the former KR highway. It was as black as the belly of a whale.
The headlight five men wildly waving. Then I saw the rifles, then in one sickened moment, I realized what it meant. Kennaro had already gripped the driver’s shoulder, speaking urgently in Khmer. The driver pumped down on the old car. It tumbled foward. They called out, garbled drunk and angry. But they didn't shoot. And they waved us past.
We sat in a blank silence. Then Kennaro began to talk. He was a Khmer Rouge soldier, he'd chosen to survive. At the end, when the Vietnamese arrived, he fled with two buddies to the Thai border. It was a moonless rainy night. "We walked on to a muddy minefield," Kennaro's voice dangled in the dark. Tripping over mangled bodies, they realized too late. There was one explosion. The two waited, called out, waited. Then, inching forward, one step, next. Kennaro heard a second blast. His second friend, weak with shock, cried that his legs were gone. "I crawled across the border." He landed in the hands of casually cruel Thai border police who conscripted him as their servant.
There were a thousand thousand stories. In the Philippine camp, we'd collected them from families enroute to America. Each story its own horror.
But this story was a painful particular gift, this testamony in the dark. I remember this story as I stared at the headlight tunnel before us. Maybe Kennaro told it because of the afternoon among Khmer Rouge, maybe the near escape from a KR bandit’s “jackpot”– a foreign woman with no body guard in a car on a dark passage in the poorest and least patrolled part of Cambodia.
What we escape and how we retell it. What it means to witness.
Lederach offers a way to think of "the past that lies before us" through a set of embedded circles to explore the cycles of violent conflict. Lederach offers us this: a group's ability to survive is woven through the chosen narratives. Which stories we embed our in lived histories and inside remembered histories, can determine the path we walk through the conflict minefield and thereafter. Sometimes a group, an individual, chooses a witness to hear that story, and to help them "re-story," re-frame the story, to imagine a different future.
This is a reflection on those who tell the story. But not those who are chosen to receive it.
Sisterhood after Terrorism
My return to the Philippines on a Fulbright in 2003 reoriented my placement as a witness. Bush had declared the Philippines a “second front” of the war on terror. I was investigating how an ecumenical women’s group theologically framed the relationship between the Philippines main two insurgencies — Muslim and Communist— and the US war on terror.
I wanted to know about "sisterhood after terrorism."
Here, I was subject to my own interviews, a Taglish-speaking “Manila girl,” my first seventeen years raised there (see Manila Days, blog memoir) with "fraternal workers" on church and social justice. I was also white, an American, aligned with one or more divides of the left. Here, my parents, my credentials, and who had “spoken for me” barred or opened access.
While in Cambodia interviewing Cambodian Americans, I was an authoritative citizen. In the Philippines, I was, as I sometimes ruefully put it, “target practice.” I was standing in for the enemy.
What do we mean by Chiasm?
As an organ of sight:
1. The optic chiasm or optic chiasma is an X-shaped space just in front of the pituitary gland where optic nerve fibers pass through to the brain. Fibers from the nasal half of the left eye and the temporal half of the right eye form the right optic tract; and the fibers from the nasal half of the right eye and the temporal half of the left form the left optic tract.
As a literary device:
2. A chiasm (or chiasmus if you rather) is a writing style that uses a unique repetition pattern for clarification and/or emphasis: Two parallel clauses, in which the order of elements in the second clause inverts the order of the first.
3. As Merleau-Ponty's notion of the body as flesh, the intertwining of touch and vision, in The Intertwining—The Chiasm (find Here) crossing over of both objective and subjective experience. You must read and read again to understand what M-P is trying to do in his posthumous The Visible and the Invisible, a dense phenomenology of sensibility. Given my interest in the invisible, I first wanted to understand Merleau-Ponty's characterization of this "intertwining" in phenomenology. But I was lost in the chiasm, and turned to feminists to help me out.
So, what is feminist phenomenology? (Think Butler, Marion Young, Grosz, Irigaray) Merleau-Ponty counters Descarte's split body/ consciousness with an affirmation of the interconnectedness of body-mind. If this sounds so corporeal, is there a feminist cautionary? Elizabeth Grosz notes that feminists find in Merleau-Ponty first an ally and then a disappointment in his avoidance of sexual difference and specificity. Only Irigaray takes on the Chiasm, his last work on The Visible and the Invisible which turns to the flesh and its reversability. Cecilia Sjöholm's reading-of-Irigaray-reading-Merleau-Ponty on the "chiasm" is a way to think through human perception, which is, after all, M-P's project. 1
For M-P, we are sensible to the world through touch and vision, an interactive process of reversals. The most familiar example of M-P is the hand that touches its other hand. One hand as subject touches; the other as object experiences the touch. Though both are part of the same body, they do not merge. They are mutually constituted. And so it is with the look, he argues. The look "envelops, palpates, espouses visible things: So sight has the same ambiguous nature as touch, and it is from its own 'objective' side that the objectivity of the visible world is generated.” These reversals constitute the flesh which Sjöholm describes as "an excess produced in the intertwining, introducing otherness in relation to the corporeal subject's selfsameness." One sees and is seen but cannot see how this occurs. One cannot see oneself seeing, is only be aware of this though the way things become visible; they in some manner look back at me. This is a kind of narcissism of the flesh, says M-P,
Once again, the flesh we are speaking of is not matter. It is the coiling over of the visible upon the seeing body, of the tangible upon the touching body, which is attested in particular when the body sees itself, touches itself seeing and touching the things, such that, simultaneously as tangible it descends among them, as touching it dominates them all and draws this relationship and even this double relationship from itself, by dehiscence or fission of its own mass. (Merleau-Ponty 1968, 146)
French feminist Irigaray's argument, even when charted by Sjoholm, is difficult to track. But ultimately she argues that M-P's self-sustaining body represses the presence of bodies it chooses not to see. It creates the invisible. Irigaray challenges the notion that subject and object can hold reversible positions. Sjöholm reminds us, "the subject engulfs or envelops, receives or rejects, caresses or eats the object, but never replaces it."
Irigaray argues that Merleau-Ponty's metaphors, though sexual, do not refer to a sexualized ontology. Thus the sexualized relationship hides sex and since the male (through the vision, the gaze) is dominant, the female (through the tactile). Thus M-P's flesh has implicitly endowed with attributes of the female, and M-P does not claim any debt to maternity. (Grosz 1994) Merleau-Ponty's concern about the invisibility of the flesh sends him into increasing regressions that end in the womb. Sjohom argues what we suspect already: this regressive chiasm is linked to the exclusion of the female body, which cannot foreclose sexual difference. "What Merleau-Ponty's chiasm lacks is a distinct, symbolic division between self and other. 2 Irigaray problematizes the alterity that one makes visible.
1. Cecilia Sjöholm "Crossing Lovers: Luce Irigaray's Elemental Passions” Hypatia 15.3 (2000) 92-112
Evans, F., & Lawlor, L, Eds, Chiasms. Merleau-Ponty's notion of flesh. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2000
Grosz, Elizabeth, “Lived Bodies: Phenomenology and the Flesh" in Volatile Bodies. Towards a Corporeal Feminism, Indiana University Press, 1994
Merleau-Ponty, M The Visible and the Invisible, Basic Writings, ed. Thomas Baldwin, Routledge, 2004.
Olkowski, Dorothea, and Gail Weiss, Eds. Feminist Interpretations of Merleau-Ponty, Penn State Press, 2010
Garcia Marquez's story of the shipwrecked sailor is supposed to be journalism, but it reads like a preface to a terrible magic. (Garcia Marquez 1986)
Luis Alejandro Velasco was the "shipwrecked sailor" Garcia Marquez interviewed for El Espectador of Bogota. He survived a ten day ordeal at sea without food or water before landing at Categena. Their naval vessel was so overladen with contraband, it shifted badly in a swell, sending him and seven mates overboard. He landed on a raft with no provisions, while the other men drowned. Luis Rengifo, one mate barely close enough to catch hold, was caught in a wave. His specter appeared to Luis as he drifted on the raft.
The hallucinatory details of Velasco's story require a fuller telling than I can offer here. It includes his encounter with prescient sea gulls, the ghost of his mate, and towards the 10th day, his best friend Jaime Majarrés converses with him through the night. Do these visitations haunt the young sailor as testifies against corruption despite pressure from the military? This solitary tale is not unlike Gabriel Marquez' novels that depict magical appearances, heroes tormented by guilt, and a corrupt magical state.
According to Gabriele Marquez, his stories are not examples of magical realism. Consider them "fantastically accurate." Rushdie cautions us not to forget about magic in the service of truth (2014). The point Gabriel Marquez also makes in his Nobel Prize speech, "The Solitude of Latin America," is more about the blurry line between magic and truth. The distinction is a matter of perspective: what is the difference between a hallucination and a spectral visit? What are the politics of either? It is the West's insistence on maintaining this divide that drives Savransky to call ‘solitary’ the "entities whose epistemological and ontological status" remains ambivalent." (2012, 352)
Some time ago, on Facebook I posted this lovely quote from Savransky
Unlike the more familiar ‘politics of knowledge’ which, in its emphasis on epistemology and representation, ends up implicitly picturing knowledge-practices as more or less unjust representations of a common, fixed, stable, yet inaccessible, nature, thinking an ontopolitics of knowledge attempts to make present the extent to which the historical controversies between Western and non-Western knowledge-practices constitute a veritable politics of reality.
"Politics of knowledge" refers to the way our knowledge claims are justified. Feminist, post-colonial and post structuralist critiques of the 1990's challenged a neutral Archemidean point outside reality, a God's eye view of the world. Feminist philosopher Sarah Harding (1991:109) indicates that conventional epistemological questions must be tethered to their historical situatedness, so we must ask
If knowledge is historically situated, then our representations are also. By representation we mean a production of meaning through language. (Hall 1997) A radical reformulation of the "disinterested knowledge" requires the inclusion of what Foucault has called "subjugated knowledges," other ways of knowing, and the 'epistemic disobedience' towards those who, in the West, claim universal knowledge.
This has worked to open a space for non-human entities (spirits, ghosts, gods) speaking in the realm of knowledge. I've noted in the introduction to Invisible Aid, Dipesh Chakrabarty has argued for a space for gods spirits in the depiction of subaltern Indian history. But, as Savransky notes, the argument in post colonial theory is based primarily on representation. The problem of posing the existence of ghosts and gods is that there is no space in Western epistemologies, so the representational argument may not be adequate for different religious and cultural modes of being. Savransky thus takes these figures (mythological, ghostly, superhuman) to be postcolonial “solitary entities,” whose “solitude” is a result of their absence from Western epistemologies.
This shift from representation turns us to ontology, what anthropologists have called the "ontological turn." There is thus a collapse of symbolism, not separate from the object but "concepts and things are one and these same." (Henare, Holbraad, and Wastell 2007, 13 cited in Paleck and Risjord 2012) In this extended mind hypothesis considers a wider ambit for the the mind - beyond the brain and by extension to objects and bodily actions. Paleck and Risjord refer to using the abacus as the same as calculating in one's head.
Thus, they argue, objects create relationships, power and persons. We are to assess not what we think the objects are doing, but what they do.
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel, Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, Translated by Randolph Hogan, Knopf, 1986
Hall, Stuart. Representation, meaning, and language. In S. Hall (Ed.), Representation. Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, pp. 15–30. Thousand Oaks: Sage. 1997
Harding, Sandra Whose Science/ Whose Knowledge? Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1991
____________, “Standpoint Theories: Productively Controversial”, Hypatia 24(4) 2009: 192-200.
Henare, Amiria, Martin Holbraad and Sari Wastell (eds). Thinking Through Things: Theorising Artefacts Ethnographically. London: Routledge, 2007
Palecek, Martin and Mark Risjord, Relativism and the Ontological Turn within Anthropology, Philosophy of the Social Sciences 2013 43: 3 originally published online 17 October 2012 DOI: 10.1177/0048393112463335
Martin Savransky (2012) Worlds in the making: social sciences and the ontopolitics of knowledge, Postcolonial Studies, 15:3, 351-368, DOI: 10.1080/13688790.2012.753572
Rushdie, Salman, Magic in the Service of Truth, Sunday Book Review, New York Times, April 21, 2014
Kathryn (Kerry) Poethig
I teach Global Studies in California, study feminism, religion and peacemaking in SEAsia, I've taken on this Invisible Aid project and decided to blog it as I go. This work sits in the intersection of political, metaphysical and personal imaginal worlds.