All _Perspectives

05/31/2024 _Perspective

Please Go Away… We’re Reading

A Practice Approach to a Taken-for-Granted Academic Craft

Fig. 1: Academic evening reading 1_Introduction The Danish verb for reading, læse, also means studying: I study anthropology = jeg læser antropologi. Similar is the Finnish “luen,” as in luen antropologiaa. On the other hand, the Finnish noun for a lecture, luento, is “a situation of reading.” The German noun for a lecture, Vorlesung is literally an “event of reading in front of someone,” a meaning we shall return to. Different languages engage with reading in different ways. Some indicate the intimate relationship between reading and study(ing), between reading and knowledge practices. Nonetheless, reading practices and the modes of reading in academia are rarely thematized within academic discourse. The practice of reading is rarely an object of epistemic exchanges in seminars, at conferences, and among colleagues. It is as if reading were such a matter of course for the professional reader, that it is not worth academic attention, much like going to the bathroom or sleeping. In the following, we present a range of perspectives on this aspect of professional reading. In “Good Readers and Good Writers,” the novelist Vladimir Nabokov claims that the text is not a finished object but is designed to be completed through reading; there is only rereading and rethinking in the process of reading. [1] Such reasoning is not alien to Science and Technology Studies (STS); as a field, STS is interested in scientific knowledge production, focusing crucially on the technical apparatus and social practices involved in the production of science. In their classic, Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts, Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar characterize laboratory practice as text production saturated with description devices. [2] The premise is that these productions are eventually read one way or another. Furthermore, reading as a diverse practice has been mythologized and its multiplicity thereby reduced. [3] For example, although Friedrich Nietzsche documented his cursory ways of reading, [4] this practice was systematically ousted from the history of Nietzsche’s reception. [5] It might be more appropriate to think of an ‘ecology of reading,’ [6] where different ways of reading cohabit. In other words, there might be a specific myth of reading, [7] but not only one mode of reading practice. In this paper, we investigate reading as an academic practice based on auto-ethnographic exchanges among ourselves. We, the authors of this _Perspective, are all academics and therefore experts in academic reading. Some of us are students,…

05/31/2024 _Perspective

“In this space, all the stories are alive.”

In Conversation with Thea Mantwill and Jana Buch about Reading (in) their Literary Exhibition 13 Morgen

Literary reading and writing are not only the domain of authors, literary scholars, creative writing instructors and publishing professionals. It is also—and has been for quite some time—alive and thriving in the context of art. A recent example is the literary exhibition 13 Morgen [13 Mornings], displayed at Kunst im Tunnel (KIT; ‘Art in the tunnel’) in Düsseldorf from March until June 2023. The two artists and authors behind the exhibition are Thea Mantwill and Jana Buch, both based in Düsseldorf. Thea and Jana studied at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and focused on poetics and the art of book design in their studies. Prior to 13 Morgen, they worked with literary texts, the medium of the book, and installations framing their texts in previous projects. In our conversation, Thea and Jana unpack how 13 Morgen plays with space, time, and media of reading. They make clear how reading at the museum can help to explore and reflect on (new) reading practices. Fig. 1: Exhibition view including the entrance, kitchen, staircase, bathroom, and bedroom, © Ivo Faber _Reading at the Museum 13 Morgen invited visitors to read in a public space. For many of them, the museum likely formed an unusual environment for reading. A museum differs from designated reading spaces like libraries or domestic settings where readers can easily find a comfortable position, for example curling up with a book on a couch. Preparing the exhibition, Thea and Jana had asked themselves how they could make their texts approachable and how they could make KIT a place in which visitors would be willing to read. Sonka Hinders (SH): Which challenges did you face bringing literature and reading into a museum?  Jana Buch (JB): Visitors’ expectations and patience. Most people know exhibition texts only as archival materials, explanatory notes on walls, or subtitles in video installations. Patience is a problem because there’s a common misconception about what a text should do for you, and what you have to do for the text, giving it time, attention, focus. A common attitude in the art context is that when you look at a painting, it has to touch you or be beautiful. You have to put more work into reading a text because you were taught, for example at school, that a text demands something from you. You can’t immerse yourself in the text just like that and you have to show some initiative. That’s…

05/31/2024 _Perspective

Dutiful Reader, or…

Dutiful Reader, or, a Part-Playful, Part-Earnest Experimental Autofiction on the Fascinating and Inexhaustible Subject of How Reading is Variously Learned, Conceptualized and Practiced, which Takes Account of Socio-Political Forces and Historical Change and Whose Mode of Narration is Meandering and Discontinuous, Juxtaposing, neither Arbitrarily nor with Adherence to a Predetermined or Obvious Logic, Autobiographical Fragments, Personal Observations and Reflections, as Well as Extensive Citations Drawn from Diverse Genres and Contexts, to Create a Potentially Unendingly Expanding and Reshaping Narrative-Assemblage Designed to Be Evasive of Prediction and to Generate Increasingly Complex Feedback Loops between the Writerly Text and the Reader, Who Will Encounter during the Course of Her/His/Their Wondrous, Experiential and Transformational Adventure, Inter Alia and in No Particular Sequence, a Child Reading Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat Alone in Bed on a Night His Mother Has Gone Out, Twelve Members of a Jury Reading an Obscene Book Pre-trial in a Room at the Old Bailey, Malcolm X Teaching Himself to Read in Prison by Diligently Copying out the Pages of a Dictionary, Anthropologists, Police Officers and Laypeople Reading Human and Nonhuman Bodies Sometimes with Deadly Consequences, the Second Reading of a Bill in the U.K. House of Commons to Tackle Illiteracy by Introducing a Phonetic Teaching Alphabet, Harlem Renaissance Author Nella Larsen Inspecting the Hands of Children Readers in the Lower East Side Library Where She Worked, and Primary School Teachers Reading Evidence of Terrorism in Poor Spelling, and All of Which Concludes with the Startling Revelation of Why the Cat in the Hat wears White Gloves, Dutiful Reader Having Finally Executed His Duty and Reached the End of the Book. by Simon Lee-Price The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss is the first big book Dutiful Reader ever read from cover to cover in a single sitting. Or should he say a single lying, since he reads it curled up in bed on an evening his mother has gone out? Dutiful Reader is not alone. Shortly after the book’s publication in 1957, a reviewer for the New Yorker wrote: “it is really the sort of book children insist on taking to bed with them.” [21] Henry Miller recommended reading on the toilet, and “the more ramshackle the toilet, the more dilapidated it be, the better.” [22] Later in life, Miller condemned lavatorial reading and wrote: “I know of no better place to read a good book…

05/31/2024 _Perspective

Prototypes as Future Artifacts of Today

Towards Prototyping Alternative Futures

1_Introduction: Future Mobility Artifacts Today “Mobility is entering a new age of innovation,” claims McKinsey and forecloses future mobility with innovative vehicles, novel power sources, alternative transportation routines, or even fully redesigned transportation systems. [98] Other visions extend to futuristic hover-cars in the often envisioned glass-and-concrete world of the future, the gas-guzzling and people-maiming V8 engine in the not-so-ideal future of the Mad Max series, or the clean and omnidirectionally moving Audi from I Robot. These entire visions rest on the question of what practices we would want, or even could, connect to artifacts of future mobility: Would my car allow me to drive instead of it driving, presumably, more comfortably and safely? Or would cars be picking me up on demand and transporting me to a local city transport hub? Means of future-making embodied in prototypes are linked to current expectations and future imaginaries. Prototypical artifacts imply a future, yet their promise sits at the line between a possible future and a lived present. In other words, they not only materialize what the present is but also hint at what could come next. Through their inherent unfinished nature, they provide a glimpse into corresponding future scenarios. This hinting toward a future—connecting what is known with what is not known, yet possible—is the role that prototypes take in societies, and that makes investigating them and the past futures to which they belong so interesting. When Dickel describes the prototype as “both [...] an epistemic object that enables learning in situ and a materialized promise of a realizable future,” [99] he sensitizes us to a concept that goes beyond an “idea to be realized.” [100] Instead, it also carries an instructive component, a means to engage with a time to come in less abstract terms. This link to imaginaries is essential for prototypes. They build a bridge between representations of what is and vague promises of what could be. Prototypes invite us to imagine futures and related artifacts by creating a temporal bridge without giving exact instructions on how to get there. It is essential to point out that their manifestation may only occur embedded in prototypical situations, i.e., those constellations (design studio, real laboratory, exhibition, trade fair) in which they can be understood as prototypes. Such prototypical situations are characterized by offering a framing (pattern of interpretation) for understanding these artifacts as artifacts of the future, bridging the gap between…

10/31/2023 _Perspective

Envisioning Vengeance

Rebellious Indigeneity, Gender and Genre in Jayro Bustamante’s La Llorona

Throughout the western hemisphere in recent years, there has been a notable increase in fictional texts (novels, television, movies) by Black, Indigenous, and artists of color—many of whom identify as queer and/or women—that fall within the category of the “speculative,” i.e. fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Some examples include the novels La Mucama de Oricunlé by the Dominican writer Rita Indiana, and Los Hijos de la Diosa Huracán by the Cuban-American writer Daina Chaviano; the Brazilian film As Boas Maneiras, directed by Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas; the U.S. Black Panther films, directed by Ryan Coogler; the Mexican film Selva Trágica, directed by Yulene Olaizola; and many others. [160] All these examples either directly or indirectly address the legacies of colonialism and slavery, drawing upon genre conventions like time travel, magic, and reanimation, and exploring the possibilities of posthuman bodies like cyborgs, human-animal hybrids, and the undead for expressing these historical phenomena and their resonances in the present. Given its broad impact and cultural importance, film as a medium is unique in its ability to critique essentialist notions of race, gender, sexuality, and social identity through these posthuman representations. Classic horror is a cinematic genre particularly concerned with soliciting strong affective responses from its audience through depictions of monstrous non- and post-humans, making it well equipped to transmit emotional charges based on historical traumas. While these traumas have often been ignored by official narratives, such as those expressed in written documentation and political speech, horror cinemas can provide audiences access to them in ways that circumvent dominant representations. In sociohistorical conditions that seek to negate the histories of certain groups, audiovisual productions can thus function as indispensable tools for recuperating stories that have been silenced. Here I will examine the Guatemalan film La Llorona [161] and its contributions to the horror genre, focusing on how its depiction of monstrosity reworks a global genre into a local context in order to connect more effectively with Guatemalan audiences while also achieving a wider viewership. La Llorona, written and directed by Jayro Bustamante, was strategically marketed as a horror film in order to get audiences to the theater, and it was later released through the online horror media platform Shudder. It reinterprets the myth of La Llorona (well known throughout Central and South America as the vengeful, weeping woman crying for the death of her children) as the motherland of Guatemala crying for…