A Note on the Terrestrial
India Boxall, MUCK founder
On being of the earth, I would like to recall an analogy once described to me in 2014*. I was told that there was a grid, and that whatever position my spine was in, (in that moment on that uncomfortable plastic chair that I was sitting on) could be imagined as a point on that grid. The next instruction was to have faith in the possibility that no-body, no other human, may have had their spine in that exact position before, on that section of the fictional grid.
A grid is a visual means to place the body within the local and the global at once, and if we’re talking about the terrestrial, we could use it as a lens by which to view our terrestrial integrity. Bruno Latour’s recently coagulated notion of the terrestrial, as an axis by which to re-position and thus live by, is a counterpoint to post-modern eruptions of left and right and both parties’ rhetoric on globalisation.
Latour asks for his reader to shift their political semantics towards a realm of the earthly, which is easier said than done. To turn our backs on discourse that praises Western anthropo-mastery and its now irrelevant gallantry toward ‘nature’ would be a feat of unlearning our understanding of our position as human in the more-than-human world.
Donna Haraway requests that our species unlearn hegemonic knowledge claims in order to see and feel ourselves inside the compost of existence, brushing shoulders with mandibles and tendrils, delicate yet hardy, that have their own knowledges of being in and of the earth. Karen Barad uses quantum physics to call upon and expose the fallible and corrupted ideas behind man’s (I have not changed this to include womxn as Barad’s post-materialist and feminist discourse seems to argue that certain men are entirely responsible) acceleration into the empirical. These scholars seek to disturb the disturbed theories that have shaped the years before, during and after industrialisation. These time periods make up the pre-amble to our current climate emergency.
Going back to imagining your spine on a grid, to render yourself in such a way is at once liberating and withholding; a precarity that is vital to avoiding hierarchy. It allows a person to understand themselves as part of a mass, provoking the feeling of our globalised epoch. However, the grid analogy also allows us to see ourselves as both remote and local, representing the importance of micro-practices that subvert hegemonic and hierarchical claims to knowledge. With regards to the terrestrial, when told this analogy, I felt very much from the earth. I felt a connection to the lava and the bees, to the sky and to the sea, (those sisters of water and light), and to myself as a conduit between the land and the actions of my species.
*Bonnie Camplin told this story at an event she held to discuss trance. This was during my second year at Goldsmiths University and I often think about it.
MUCK published its first open call on the theme of the Terrestrial in August 2019. Texts speaking from and with new materialistic and political approaches to this theme were sought and submissions reached to the far and wide in terms of subject and form. This writing carefully excavates the mulch that makes up our history, our present, and our foreseeable futures.
MUCK would like to thank all contributors for allowing it to be a guest to, and a host of, their submissions.
click on the names below to view texts
Image courtesy of Tess Cassidy