the strength of complexities
Dรถne Heijkenskjรถld Delibas
content introduction chapter 1, time managment chapter 2, changing positions chapter 3, our manifestos chapter 4, traces in the sand chapter 5, gossip chapter 6, definitely human addendum summary bibliography
the strenght of complexities
Introduction These texts are responses to the readings in the course "Architecture + Gender: Feminist Design Power - Tool" held at the School of Architecture in Stockholm in autumn 2013. Since the combination of philosophy and feminism was new to me, the respons reflects a progressiv understanding of the readings. My earlier studies in Socialantrophology become a backdrop to how I read and reacted to the texts. Although the task was to respond to certain specific text each week, my reading and the respons became more free and disorderly, mixing texts from different weeks. There is not only an ethic linked to resistance but also an estetics of resistance. Some of the texts explores complexities and contradictions through illustrations and artwork. I have tried to do the same in my illustrations.
Dรถne Heijkenskjรถld Delibas
There are no innocent conversations! Donna Haraway explores how feminist and nonfeminist studies can use the concept "positioning" to mediate the standpoint of the subjugated. She draws attention to how objectification of the research subject becomes a tool to instrumentalise the subjugated. What these strategies veils is the fact that what counts as an object is in fact xxx Working with alternative strategies she talks about the importance of positioning oneself as a researcher.Positioning is the key practice, it means lay open for critique, it means being visible and accountable. So what position or which subject do we choice to see and share experience with? As a consequence of how western science bounces against the artificial partition of the world in dichotomies and the claims of objectivity, we must instead find a way of reaching the subjective position through a kind of back and forth movement, a "resonance" where we explore several standpoints and our own not least. In this logic objects becomes boundary projects and in the case of sex/body dichotomy the body becomes this object.In Ecofeminism the world and nature is a an active subject and not only a resource to be mapped and instrumentalized. We must instead use partiallity not universality as our perspective.How do we position ourselves? She brings up the use of metaphore as an instument of investigation of our "visual" standpoint and position. I find the notion of time, as it is used in socialantrophology interesting in this context. It is a essential part of understanding the subjects position and most importantly even admitting that there is an subject, not an object in the center of investigation. All traditional science has an implicit world of time managment that is instrumental in dividing and objectifying experiences. By ignoring the importance of time (say in architecture studies) it can be instrumentalised and used to divide and simplify, following the logic of the assembly line were all parts are separated from the whole, separated from the web and subject to our gaze. When we investigate the "other" we start from the obvious standpoint of class, gender, age etc. It take stime to move into the subjective relations, to determine what position is important for the "other" and to then with this understanding go futher to the understand our own positioning. Moving between these necessary standpoints of closness and distance is a time consuming practice but it is in these process that a more truthful questioning can take place. As socialantrophologists studying far off cultures retells, it is hard to first be the stranger, then immerse oneself into the life of the others, and the finally come to terms with the contradictory position of being both "inside and outside" and start using it. Time managment is one of the most important power tools in our world today, to position ourselves we need to adress this.
In the book "Altering Practices: Feminist Politics and Poetics of Space" Doina Petrescu is looking at were feminist practices were standing at the time. The mapping of the "contemporary feminist project in architecture" both as materialised and particularly located transformations and as a theoretical formation is a task involving different perspectives. The common approach to architecture among the different collaborators are the "altering" of practise, that is accepting "differens" and using it as a positive ground to stand on to induce change. Change involves subverting the norms that are presented or forced upon you and through this process create new meaning and new identities. A key to understanding and altering is in the concept of the local, "dig where you stand", kind of perspective. One example that is mentioned in the book is practices that aims at escaping the traditional dichotomy between "thinking and doing" in the production of theory by highlighting the "embodied" character of practice. Female subjectivity is not a straitjacket to escape from but a way of positioning or situating yourself in a context. A way of not conforming to the traditional "logic/feeling, culture/nature and male/female" scheme. As a student of socialantrophology one of the first things you learn is the concept of "cultural-glasses". As a concept it is easy to comprehend; we all bring our cultural and social heritage with us, whereever we go and whatever we do. Being aware of what your luggage contains of makes it easier to understand your particular outlook/glasses - what you choose to see and how you interpret it. Only with this in mind can you begin to study the life of other cultures and societies. Unlike students of journalism that from the start are told to be "objective", in antropholgy it is never implied that you can take off your "cultural-glasses". When the reseacher after three years of living with and studying that far off indigenous group on Papua New Guinea, stumbles out of the tropical greenary - his/her glasses has propably underwent some modifications. With the ambition to understanding the world from the standpoint of the indigenious, the researcher comes out with an equally strong understanding of his own culture. Many antrophologists write two books, one is the story of the research "objects" and the other is the book about a transformative private process. Because as easy as it is to understand the concept of "cultural-glasses" as hard it is to remember that you are wearing them on a day to day bases in close encounters with the "other". The going back and forth between these different modes of identification is one of the strengths of Socialantrophology. In the end of the 80' s new gender based practices and theories was introduced, queer theory were discussed vividly amongst the students at Stockholm University. One example of this was male antrophologists that studied homosexual relations in traditional societies. Another was female researchers living with women in indigenous groups and sheading new light on the power relations in these groups that previously had been studied for decades from a male perspective. What these practices have in common with the altering practices is the willingness to experience through the particular and the local and to explore the strength of those perspectives.
our manifestos "The time for argument is past! The time for action has come! The working women of London are aroused. The long struggle for political existence is in view." In 1832 new groups in Great Brittain gained the right to vote. Up until then women and men had the same political rights but at this moment the same reform that gave the middle class a new plattform for power, through an explicit formulation in the law text, excluded women and denied them the right to vote. This was the start of an new movement called the Suffragettes.
Although new laws were introduced in the wake of industrialism and women slowly gained new rights and access to schools and factories, the struggle for womens right to vote would not bear fruit until 1918 when women over the age of 30 could vote but it took another 10 years for the King to proclamate the equal rights for women and men over the age of 21 to vote. The result of this long struggle was a cooperation between women from different classes of society, involving the poorest factory workers and farmers as well as the aristocracy and the middle class. It was a struggle containing organisation, demonstration, speeches, jail sentences with forced feeding, violent actions of resistance as well as violence directed toward specific targets, spontanious actions as well as long term strategic planning. When the womens movement of the late 50' s started they already had a long heritage of struggle to fall back on. A Manifesto not only shapes the experiences of the persons writing them but also includes the public it is aiming for in a sort of "avant garde" position. Positioning them and including them in a process that already has a long history. The shaping of the Manifesto goes hand in hand with the shaping of its audience. It is a divergence point when the past, the present and future creates a meaningful whole. The Sufragettes formulated many writings, slogans and manifestos uniting a movement with diverse groups and classes. They developed the skills to react immidiately to oppressive actions with a wide range of various strategies. These could be invitations aimed to selected males that in the future could become supporters or appeals to violent action in the face of torture and imprisonment. The Manifesto above invokes different ideas. One is the reference to the past struggle when there was still hope for a peaceful agremeent amongst the upperclasses. With time that hope died. Adressing the "working" women would here include both the factory workers as well as the middle class. As the movement grew it spread among the middle class. A group that by now was well educated but still were entangled in traditional expectations preventing them from going to any kind of work. The fact that some of the strongest figures of this movement was upperclass as well as women from the working classes is reflected, I think, in this Manifesto that speaks of shared meaning and struggle.
traces in the sand
Who will tell the stories of the Turkish women that lives in Tensta? The women that migrated to this place in the 70s and gave birth to a new generation Swedes. Walking in the streets of this suburb I am looking for the physical traces of their lives and find very few. The story of women in Tensta is an untold one. No traces of their life is visible in the streets. 40 years of habitating the streets, three generations of women waking them, living most of their life in this particular place. They landed here and nothing is moulded, shaped by their desire.What happens to us when our experiences are prevented from blooming out and take shape in the pcysical world. When architecture and urban planning becomes a tool of control and not a possibilty of change? The events that took place here during such a long time are now tales that haunts a few pushed away residents instead of being the a part of a mutually shared experience. All that is done must be redone all over again in the hope the repetition of the story will leave marks on the ground. Compare this to a walk in the city center, like the neighborhood of Ă–stermalm for example. The stone buildings with their decorated facades, the boulevards, the lavish entrances. It is the history of a priviliged class retold for every new generation that comes here to live or just pass by. Needless to say some of the history is rubbing off to people living here, whatever their background. Visible memories are embeded in the architecture. A text written by a woman, or a story retold and then written is a mean to rewrite architecture and our cities. A text is not only a way of communicating, it is physical and can be handed over, archived and redescovered. The act of writing can be a refuge and a way of becoming. Becoming is the seed to positioning. This makes me wonder how all of us handle the nontangible traces of life in a city. If architecture would respond to the untold history of places it would be truely transformative.
We are all, it could be claimed, victims of time/space withdrawal because of the dehuminazing aspects of technology and the way it alters the very construction of subjectivity. But some of us more than others. The nomadic subject is a specially alienated one, displaced in both time and place by forces governed by capitalistic logic. In fact this displacement is many times the result of an actual loss of geographical place and time. If a cultur or a social group can be equalled to a type of "ecology", the disruption of this system is both on a systemic level- as group culture forever changing and on a personal level - as a loss of "subjectivity". I am thinking of immigrants and specially women, housewifes coming from traditional societies as a reference example. The loss of the original group as a supportsystem, as a reference, as a history that now has to be rewritten and the new life were the role of housewife has to be reinvented in a new social context, is a situation of "becoming". The harshness of this "becoming" in the face of being labeled as the "other" is hard to understand unless one is willing to see both to what is lost, on all levels and what is permitted in the eyes of the dominant culture. In the feminist litterature, we read about how the concept of "becoming" both can redefine the phalocentric perspectives on thechnology and nature as immobile and timeless in their character and also as a way of navigating towards a subject. The need to develope the diversity and complexity that is called for in the texts, are not only because diversity is beatiful, but because it is a way of not becoming totalized to economic rules, says Conley. Storytelling is at the heart of the strategy to establish a relation to both time and place. One traditional way of telling the personal story of who you are and establishing your position in society is through gossip. Gossip is an important part of the retelling, reinventing and establishing the important bonds in a community. It is both a way of getting information and a way of participating in the interpretation of that information. But for gossip "to work" in a positive sence it needs a strong community, a sence of "us". Maybe one could claim that one way of understanding if women regard themselves as strong subjects in a new society, is to look at how strong the culture of "gossip" is. This differs from the concept of resingularisation as a way of reaching the subject. But could it be claimed that by allowing gossip to florish, by creating physical places were women can meet and gossip, it could become a way of creating a personal history in the context of a group history? I miss this perspective in the texts at hand. The context in which the "stories" could be told, the context were technology stops working against us and works for us ( on a subject level) is as I understand it depending on the willingness of shifting position and embracing less hostile laguages and positions to our bodies and nature. But I am curious to how these contexts are created ouside the academic world.
Georges Teyssot raises the question of where the bounds between human and machine are set in a future where we increasingly incorporate machine parts into our bodies. So I set the question further, to my oldest son of 14 years. "How many percent mashine/human can one be to still be a human?" My son answer was - "as long as others consider you to be human - you are in fact human and not machine.". My interpretation of his answer is then this: Our knowledge and perception of a person is more important to us than any objective "truth" of biological limitations. There is no reason to try to establish a lowest common denominator of what constitutes "natural" because the border is and will be continually changing. It means that our common acceptance and interpretation will change as well. As long as your peers accepts you, you are in fact human. In the debate of genetically and technologically modified bodies, there is notion of technological inventions as a imperative force that pushes us to take a stand in ethical questions that we are not prepared to answer or not even fit to consider at all. But the fact that we can imagine these science projects in the first plays is to me an indication of our willingness and even eagerness to reconsider the concept of human! The debate is actually older than we care to admit. When we look back we see that the normative landscapes where the idea of humanity grew is in part landscapes of separation and compartmentalisation so that some are more human than others. Like in the racist logic of colonization or in the medialised picture of the poor where poverty seems to have drained people of their emotional life and therefore is not quite like "us", not quite human. So what to what social class would a cyborg belong? Is it a poor third world woman or a white middleclass male? So if appearance and the social agreement (or the skin and what it represents)is at the heart of the matter then what would be really interesting to look at is in what contexts these negotiations take place. The answer to the question above would be less interesting and why and how the quuestion is asked of greater interest. The dichotomy between brain and body (culture/nature) is as well as the dichotomy between human/machine a tale of what we perceive as threats or what we secretly desire. If we could free the body from our brain, we could shamelessly indulge in extreme violence and sex and if we could free the brain from the body and still survive, we could liberate ourselves from binding social agreements that comes from the need to physically survive. I any case - liberate ourselves from the pressure of social life.
addendum Response to "lluminated by dark lamps" by Katla. Not only is there a hierarchy between the sences, today we rank vision high, but there is a kind of "programme" of what sence to use in different contexts. So the norm postulates for example that when you eat a delicious meal it is alrtight to smell it and nowdays it is also popular to really draw it in with your eyes. But its not really meant to be touched with your bare hands (unless you are a toddler). When we meet a new person and shake hands it would be awkward if one would lean forward and take a loud sniff, after all we are not the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. Its nothing strange or new with this, humans have probably always have social codes and rules for managing our sences and behaviours. But do you also feel like the the "programme" have somehow become more instrumentalized? Our sences are an important part of the whole experience industry and will be tamed and exploited and dismissed in new ways! Response to "Conflicts" by Havar. It is intriguing to think about how architecture can be "read" as old and new power relations cemented in a layout. What is also interesting in such a reading is the degree of resilience from people using it. Is it a contested space and if so does that somehow change the space? Some spaces are "wrong" from the outcome - like the wall of Berlin- but becomes these interesting arenas for explorations and sharp comments on society.
It seems that feminist theory share some important positions with socialantrophological theory and has reached these positons through simular experiences. I am thinking about the perspective you have from the outside lookin in, when you feel excluded, different and not part of the "norm". The strategies of antropologists have been to actively chose situations where their cultural background becomes divergent, setting them apart from the rest in the very setting they are researching. For many feminists, I imagine that the use of the "innert" gender conflicts is a tool to investigate and expand on the undestanding not only the own subjugated position but also the others. So it seems that what have been considered a disatvantaged position becomes a vital part of a new way to do "science". The debate about "studying up" in antrophology during the 80' s was a plee for bravery, to dare to ask the unconfortable questions in your own backyard. For a long time research was set up like explorations of the alien, voyages of discovery in the "other". Now it was time to look into power relations at home. This means exploring an even more complex set of partial relations. So what happens when the strong sence of being the other starts shifting, when our positions more becomes the norm and power relations shift to our advantage? How will we handle to study ourselves? What happens when we come in from the cold? There is not only an ethic linked to resistance but also an estetics of resistance. Some of the texts explores this through illustrations and artwork.
bibliography Donna Haraway, "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspectives", in Feminist Studies, pp. 575-599, 1988. Katherine Shonfield, #Premature Gratification and Other Pleasures" in This is What we do: a muf manual, London: Elipsis London, 2001. Leslie Kanes Weisman, #Womens Environmental Rights: A Manifesto" in Jane Rendell, Barbara Penner, Iain Borden, eds, Gender Space Architecture: An Interdisciplinary Introduction, London: Routledge, 2000, pp. 1-5 Doina Petrescu, "Altering Practices" in Altering Practices: Feminist Politics and Poetics of Space, London: Routledge, 2007. Lori Brown, "Introduction" Lori Brown, ed., Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture, London: Ashgate, 2011. Donna Haraway, "Cyborg Manifesto" in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Association Books, 1991, pp. 149Hélène Cixous, "Coming to Writing" in Hélène Cixous, Coming to Writing and Other Essays, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991. Elizabeth Diller, "Bad Press" in Francesca Hughes, ed. The Architect Reconstructing her Practice, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996, pp. 74-95. Georges Teyssot, "The Mutant Body of Architecture" in Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, Flesh: Architectural Probes, New York, Princeton Architectural Press, 1994. Julieanna Preston, "Blazing Interalia: Tropes of a Femnist Spatial Practice," in Lori A. Brown, ed. Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture, Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2011. Brigid McLeer, "Stray Sod: Eight dispositions on feminine space and writing" in Altering Practices: Feminist Politics and Poetics of Space, London: Routledge, 2007. Peg Rawes, "Introduction"; "Touching and Sensing" in Peg Rawes, Irigaray for Architects, London: Routledge, 2007 Helen Stratford, "Unpleasant Matters" in Katie Lloyd Thomas, Material Matters: Architecture and Material Practice, London: Routledge, 2007.