[2016] Staying with the trouble

  title={Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene},
  author={Haraway, D.J.},
  series={Experimental Futures},
  publisher={Duke University Press}

In openlibrary.

My highlights:

Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places. Staying with the trouble requires learning to be truly present as mortal critters entwined in myriad unfinished configurations of places, times, matters, meanings.

Chthulucene is a timeplace for learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying in response-ability on a damaged earth. Chtonic ones are replete with tentacles, feelers, digits, cords, whiptails, spider legs, and very unruly hair. Monsters in the best sense, not safe. They make and unmake; they are made and unmade. They are who are.

To whom one is actually responsible? Making oddkin. We become-with each other or not at all.

It matters what ideas we use to think other ideas. It matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories.

Cosmopolitics: decisions must take place somehow in the presence of those who will bear their consequences.

The category companion species helps me refuse human exceptionalism without invoking posthumanism.

Like all offspring of colonizing and imperial histories, I–we–have to relearn how to conjugate worlds with partial connections and not universals or particulars.

String figures are thinking as well as making practices, pedagogical practices and cosmological performances. Some Navajo thinkers describe string games as one king of patterning for restoring kózhó, harmony, beauty, order, right relations of the world.

Pidgeons are also “creatures of empire”, animals who went with European colonists and conquerors all over the world, including places where other varieties of their kind were already well established. Pidgeons, people, and apparatus have teamed up to make each other capable of something new in the world of multispecies relationships.

Perhaps it is precisely in the realm of play, outside the dictates of teleology, settled categories, and function, that serious worldliness and recuperation become possible.

Response-ability is about both absence and presence, killing and nurturing, living and dying–and remembering who lives and who dies and how in the string figures of naturalcultural history.

Companion species infect each other all the time. The details matter. The details link actual beings to actual response-abilities.

I want to make a critical and joyful fuss about these matters. I want to stay with the trouble, and the only way I know to do that is in generative joy, terror, and collective thinking.

Nobody lives everywhere; everybody lives somewhere. Nothing is connected to everything; everything is connected to something. A name for an elsewhere and elsewhen that was, still is, and might yet be: the Chthlucene.

The tentacular ones make attachments and detachments; the make cuts and knots; they make a difference; they weave paths and consequences but not determinisms; they are both open and knotted in some ways and not others. The tentacular are also nets and networks, IT critters, in and out of clouds.

Sympoiesis: collectively-producing systems that do not have self-defined spatial or temporal boundaries. Information and control are distributed among components. The systems are evolutionary and have the potential for surprising change.

It matters what thoughts think thoughts. It matters what knowlegdes know knowlegdes. It matters what relations relate relations. It matters what worlds world worlds. It matters what stories tell stories.

These times called the Anthropocene are times of multispecies, including human, urgency: of great mass death and extinction; of onrushing disasters, whose unpredictable specificities are foolishly taken as unknowability itself; of refusing to know and to cultivate the capacity of response-ability; of refusing to be present in and to onrushing catastrophe in time; of unprecedented looking away. How can we think in times of urgencies without the self-indulgent and self-fulfilling myths of apocalypse, when every fiber of our being is interlaced, even complicit, in the webs of processes that must somehow be engaged and repatterned? Think we must.

Urgencies have other temporalities, and times are ours. These are the times we must think; these are the times of urgencies that need stories. Precarity–failure of the lying promises of Modern Progress–characterizes thelives and deaths of all terran critters in these times.

Living in times of extinction, extermination, and partial recuperation. Mourning is intrinsic to cultivating response-ability. Thinking people must learn to grieve-with. Mourning is about dwelling with a loss and so coming to appreciate what it means, how the world has changed, and how we must ourselves change and renew our relationships if we are to move forward from here. Open us into an awareness of our dependence on and relationships with those countless others being driven over the edge of extinction. The foundation of any sustainable and informed response. Without sustained remembrance, we cannot learn to live with ghosts and so cannot think.

No adventurer should leave home without a sack. How those holes in Being generate stories with room for the hunter but which weren’t and aren’t about him? Suggests stories of becoming-with, of reciprocal induction, of companion species whose job in living and dying is not to end the storying, the worlding. It is with a certain feeling of urgency that I seek the nature, subject, words of the other story, the untold one, the life story.

Those who “believe” they have the answers to the present urgencies are terribly dangerous.

Global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. The only scientific thing to do is revolt!

Affirm on-the-ground collectives capable of inventing new practices of imagination, resistance, revolt, repair, and mourning, and of living and dying well. The established disorder is not necessary; another world is not only urgently needed, it is possible, but not if we are ensorcelled in despair, cynicism, or optimism, and the belief/disbelief discourse of Progress.

We are humus, not Homo, not anthropos; we are compost, not posthuman. To renew the biodiverse powers of terra is the sympoietic work and play of the Chthulucene. It is made up of ongoing multispecies stories and practices of becoming-with in times that remain at stake, in precarious times, in which the world is not finished and the sky has not fallen–yet. We are at stake to each other. The biotic and abiotic powers of this earth are the main story.

The doings of situated, actual humans matter. It matters in which ways of living and dying we cast our lot rather than others. It matters also to those many critters across taxa which and whom we have subjected to exterminations, extinctions, genocides, and prospects of futurelessness.

The too-big stories of Capitalism and the Anthropos invite odd apocalyptic panics and even odder disengaged denunciations rather than attentive practices of thought, love, rage and care. They lend themselves too readily to cynicism, defeatism, and self-certain and self-fulfilling predictions, in which technoteocratic geoengineering fixes and wallowing in despair seem to coinfect any possible common imagination. The unfinished Chthulucene must collect up the trash of the Anthropocene, the exterminism of the Capitalocene, and chipping and shredding and layering like a mad gardener, make a much hotter compost pile for still possible pasts, presents, and futures.

The arts of living on a damaged planet demand sympoietic thinking and action.

The task of the Speaker for the Dead is to bring the dead into the present, so as to make more response-able living and dying possible in times yet to come.

Stories for living in the Chthulucene demand a certain suspension of ontologies and epistemologies, holding them lightly, in favor of more venturesome, experimental natural histories.

Spirit helpers favor their kin. Animism cannot be donned like a magic cape by visitors. Making kin in the ongoing Chthlucene be more difficult than that, and even the unwilling heirs of colonizers are poorly qualified to set conditions for recognition of kinship.

Navajo weaving, especially with the wool of Churro sheep, ties people to animals through patterns of care and response-ability in blasted paces of excess death and threatened ongoingness. With me there is beauty (shil hózhó); in me there is beauty (shii’ hózhó); from me beauty radiates (shits’ áá óó hózhó). Weaving is neither secular nor religious; it is sensible. It performs and manifests the meaningful lived connections for sustaining kinship, behavior, relational action–for hózhó–for humans and nonhumans. Situated worlding is ongoing, neither traditional nor modern.

Restoring land, animals, and people to hózhó is an ongoing process that continues to require continuous weaving. Officials within worked within the ecological concept of carrying capacity, the patriarchal colonial concepts of male-headed households, and the modernizers’ concepts of progress. U.S. government scientists in the Department of Agriculture and others in 1934 killed most of the women’s goats. White-settler divisions of the world into nature and culture split Navajo lifeways into colonial apparatuses of ecology and economics, practiced by different sorts of scientific specialists who could not systematically think even with each other, much less with Navajo hearders and weavers. Stocking quotas were imposed, and collective ownership of land was not recognized. Stock quotas and permits recognized only heads of households, who could not be married women, which was a major blow to Diné matrifocal ways of ordering their relations with land, animals, and each other.

Sheep recognize hundreds of faces; they know their people and their land. Weaving is cosmological performance, relational worlding, with human and nonhuman fibers from the Holy People, ordinary human beings, plants, soils, waters, and sheep. The critters are critical to taking care of country, to environmental justice, to robust ecosystems for humans and nonhumans, to hózhó. It matters which beings recognize beings.

Within Navajo cosmology Black Mesa is the mother encircled by the four sacred mountains. The waters are the mother’s blood, and coal is her liver.

The inflection point between the Holocene and the Anthropocene might be the wiping out of most of the refugia from which diverse species assemblages can be reconstituted after major events. Most of the reserves of the earth have been drained, burned, depleted, poisoned, exterminated, and otherwise exhausted. Our job is to make the Anthropocene as short/thin as possible and to cultivate with each other in every way imaginable epochs to come that can replenish refuge.

One way to live and dive well as mortal critters in the Chthulucene is to join forces to reconstitute refuges, to make possible partial and robust biological-cultural-political-technological recuperation and recomposition, which must include mourning the irreversible loses.

The edge of extinction is not just a metaphore; system collapse is not a thriller. Ask any refugee of any species. Make Kin Not Babies! I think babies should be rare, nurtured, and precious; and kin should be abundant, unexpected, enduring, and precious. All earthlings are kin in the deepest sense. Practice better care of kinds-as-assemblages. It matters how kin generate kin.

Cyborgs are kin. Cyborgs are not machines in just any sense, nor are they machine-organism hybrids. They are imploded entities, dense material semiotic “things”. Particular sorts of historically situated machines signaled by the words information and system play their part in cyborg living and dying. Particular sorts of historically situated human beings, becoming-with the practices and artifacts of technoscience, play their part. Characterized by partial connections, the parts do not add up to any whole; but the do add up to worlds of nonoptional, stratified, webbed, and unfinished living and dying, appearing and disappearing. Cyborgs are constitutively full of multiscalar, multitemporal, multimaterial critters of both living and nonliving persuations. Cyborgs matter in terran worlding. Cyborgs are critters in a queer litter, not committed to reproduction of kind and having bumptious relations with futurities.

Instructed by companion species of the myriad terran kingdoms in all their placetimes, we need to reseed our souls and our home worlds in order to flourish–again, or maybe just for the first time–on a vulnerable planet that is not yet murdered. Recuperation is still possible, but only in multispecies alliance, across the killing divisions of nature, culture, and technology and of organism, language, and machine. Planting seeds requires medium, soil, matter, mutter, mother.

How beings render each other capable in actual encounters. The virtue of politeness, a curious practice, find others actively interesting, to ask questions that one’s interlocutors truly find interesting, sense and respond politely. Curiosity always leads its practitioners a bit too far off the path, and that way lie stories. Something interesting is about to happen, but only if one cultivates the virtue of letting those one visits intra-actively shape what occurs. They are not who/what we expected to visit, and we are not who/what were anticipated either. Visiting is a subject- and object-making dance, and the choreographer is a trickster. Visiting might be risky, but definitely not boring.

I want to live in worlds that are not supposed to be.