Material Relations: A Multidisciplinary Perspective on Materiality and Subjectivity
The Material Relations team is conducting a three year exploration of what it means to use love as a theoretical framework for thinking about our relationships to matter and materials. To begin with, we are looking into the history of people loving objects including what happens when the objects love them back. This brings us up against the boundaries separating objects from subjects, and into conversation with each other across theoretical boundaries separating those of us who want to preserve the traditional grammar of subjects and objects, and those who want to deconstruct it for political, ethical or aesthetic reasons.
We are aware that much of the language we have inherited from the recent history of the academy for dealing with objects is based in an ontology of power and violence. Therefore, our exploration involves the challenge not just of formulating a new theory, but also of developing a praxis in which we remain conscious of how the language we use to talk about our research conditions its outcome. How would a hermeneutics of love change our relationship not just to the physical environment but to the academic world at large?
In tandem with our archival research we are launching a material relations blog in which we will chronicle our progress through this landscape of differences and affinities, searching for ways to communicate our thinking together about love – while working in Siberia – to the wider academic world.
- Petroleum performances – petroleum histories, technologies, culture and rhetoric
- Science and technology studies, technocultural studies
- Global warming politics, local/global intervals and articulations
- Native American and Indigenous studies
- Human – nonhuman relations
- Ontological politics and translation
- Ecological art, culture and rhetoric; ecological critique and philosophy
- Chinese ecological art and thought, jianghu studies
- Theatre and performance research methods
- Popular graphic culture, comics, manga, graphic novels, posters, and anime.
At the School of Advanced Studies, duskin drum is a founding professor and researcher in the Material Relations research group. He is an interdisciplinary scholar, artist, performer, and woodsman. In 2017, he completed a doctorate in Performance Studies with designated emphases in Native American Studies, and Science and Technology Studies at University of California, Davis. In 2005, he earned a Bachelors of Arts studying interdisciplinary theatre and performance at Evergreen State College . For 15 years, duskin has been making art and performance in Asia, Europe and the Americas.
The Material Relations research group is an interdisciplinary collaboration devising a new theory of love for studying ecologically substantiating human-nonhuman relations including technological relations. duskin is particular interested in nonhumans loving humans, or where people understand and feel themselves to be loved by non-human entities or materials. How does accepting speculation of universal sentience and vitality of nonhumans change the study of material relations?
From his dissertation study of petroleum performances and professional art career, Duskin brings a broad theoretical engagement with material relations at the intersections of indigenous studies, social cultural anthropology, science and technology studies, and ecological art production.
Duskin is considering practices of love in substantive more-than-human human relationships such as petroleum, salmon, and server farms. He also wants to critique how love figures scientific research and language. He is deeply interested ethical and deontic regulations enacted by material entanglements with substantiating nonhuman and more-than-human arrangements.
Duskin’s interests in both the petroleum complex and indigenous legal systems emerge from analyzing and speculating about human-nonhuman ecological relations.
Duskin researches using methods from art practices, cultural anthropology, science and technology studies, ecological criticism, and indigenous studies. Duskin has been developing an innovative performance method. He devises participatory performances that submerge the participants in the crucial questions of his research.
He is also interested in comparative studies of knowledge production by contributing methods like creative practice-as-research, innovations from theatre and performance, and indigenous knowledge practices.
Duskin is also interested in anime, manga and other graphic storytelling.
TEACHING INTERESTS AND APPROACHES
Duskin's educational background is interdisciplinary, seminar-style and project-driven learning. Even in large lecture classes, he break students into small groups for discussion and activities. He combines reading, writing and experiential learning using techniques from digital media, theatre, performance, and participatory art. Somatic exercises, improvisations, meditation, collaborative writing exercises and performances expose students to and activate different modes of attention and learning.
In his electives, Duskin supports students making final projects in mediums other than the textual essay or report. He encourages students to produce all kinds of media or performance projects instead of traditional essays, and teaches them to develop critical skills appropriate to each medium. In these kinds of practices-as-research projects students keep a reflective production journal that is submitted along with their project, and write a short critical essay reflecting on their creative processes and outcomes of their project. Self-reflection is practical and theoretical. Reflection about personal work becomes a means by which critical ideas, frameworks and interpretations can move from creative practice into other skills and work/study situations.
- Religious studies
- Conceptual history
- Discursive practices
- Material culture
- Digital humanities
- Early modern Europe
- Eastern Europe and Russia
Evgeny Grishin is a historian of Europe and Russia in the period of early modernity with particular interests in language, religion, and materiality. He received his Bachelor’s degree in History and Law from Viatka State University of Humanities in Kirov and his Master’s degree in Russian History from the European University at St. Petersburg. In 2017 Evgeny earned his PhD degree with honors in History from the University of Kansas. He has been awarded scholarships from the Fulbright Foundation, Gerda Henkel Stiftung, German Historical Institute, among others.
Evgeny’s current research concerns the role of language in the identification and consequent persecution of religious dissent, specifically of Russian religious groups known collectively as the “Schism” (Raskol), or the Old Belief (staroverie). The study treats language not as merely a means of communication, but rather as a complex social practice (link 1, link 2). At the same time, Evgeny views religion as an important part of human experience not reducible to ideology or institutions. He takes part in several international projects (link 1, link 2) directed towards the study of religious discourses and ideas in Early Modern Russia. However, Evgeny’s research interests go beyond language and into the realm of material culture. He is specifically interested in the ways multiple identities are being constructed and manifested through material objects. The adoration of the tangible iconic images in various Christian cultures serve as an example of this phenomenon. More generally, Evgeny would like to explore the process of formation and manifestation of national, regional, cultural, religious, and other kinds of group identities in their connection to the tangible world. Yet, on an even larger scale, he is interested in moving historical research beyond textual enquiry towards an interdisciplinary investigation of the material, visual, and geographic dimensions of human existence. Tools provided by the relatively new field of Digital Humanities open immense opportunities for such an ambitious project.
- History of ideas
- Political theory
- Outsider intellectuals
- Integral theory
In the late 1990s John Tangney worked as an education officer with the James Joyce Cultural Centre in Dublin, helping to develop an education program for high school students and university undergraduates. This work inspired him to go to Trinity College, Dublin, to study literature following which, in 2001/2002, he spent some time teaching English in Japan. He did his doctoral work in the English Department at Duke University between 2003 and 2009. The dissertation was called The End of the Age of Miracles: Substance and Accident in the English Renaissance and it dealt with the transvaluation of medieval values in early modernity, focussing particularly on writers from the 1590s and early 1600s including Shakespeare, Nashe, Spenser, and the Jacobean dramatists. After graduation John worked at NTU, Singapore, from 2009 to 2015, teaching courses on Shakespeare, Renaissance Literature, Classical Literature and the History of Literary Theory. While there he was a co-organiser of an international conference on ‘The Contemporary’ in 2011 and served as Graduate Studies Coordinator. In 2015, he returned to Ireland where he spent time doing a coding bootcamp, and was involved in the launch of a new cultural magazine based around rare and unusual books, called The Time Traveller. At SAS he is a member of the Material Relations research group, and teaches the core module on Interpretation, as well as the electives 'Memories, Dreams, Confessions': Writing the Inner Life and 'An Imperial Affliction': Depression in Literature.
John is interested in the History of Ideas, especially the afterlives of premodern ideas in modern culture. Kant observed in his first critique that the history of philosophy could be divided between Platonists and Epicureans. John has adapted this idea in essays on Yeats and Iris Murdoch, and on the films of Alex Proyas, trying to see how incommensurable worldviews are reconciled in the artistic imagination. This theme also informs his philosophical essay on Into Eternity, Michael Madsen's documentary about nuclear waste, which is forthcoming in Religion and the Arts. This work is connected to questions about the limits of liberalism as a paradigm within which to understand the different value systems that have to do business with each other in today’s world. John has discovered resources for thinking about this problem outside academe, in the integral theory of a 20th century Platonist like Jean Gebser and he is interested in whether it’s possible to bring him into dialogue with the philosophies of matter and language that circumscribe the academic world. John is now researching the noon topos in literature and philosophy. Noon is a moment of materialist despair that can give way to an encounter with alterity that may be feminine, divine or alien. It links to questions of sexual difference, the soul and even artificial intelligence, helping him think about how the Epicurean founders of cybernetics have drawn on the resources of the Platonic tradition in their conceptualisation of thermodynamic processes and of autopoetic systems.
- Cultural history
- Medieval civilization
- History of emotions;
- Humor and humor studies;
- History & Event
- Material culture
- History of mentalities
- Anglo-Norman studies
- Franciscan studies
Peter Jones is a cultural historian, specializing in the religious, political, and intellectual life of medieval Europe (c.500–1500). Originally from the United Kingdom, where he gained both a BA and an MA from the University of Bristol, Peter received his PhD in History from New York University in 2014. From 2014–16 he was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Jackman Humanities Institute, University of Toronto, and from 2016–17 he worked as a visiting scholar at the Pembroke Center, Brown University. He has published a range of articles on medieval cultural history in academic journals and edited volumes, and has recently completed a book manuscript exploring the role of humor in the political and religious revolutions of the twelfth century.
Peter’s research focuses on a range of tensions at the heart of the renaissance and reform movements that transformed Western Europe in the period c.1100–1300. His book, Laughter & Power in Medieval England, exposes the unique role of humor in resisting the new regimes of government that dominated English society in the era of Henry II (c.1154-89). While laughter became an essential tool for circumventing new codes of law and bureaucracy, at this moment satirical humor also came to be essential for negotiating hierarchies in a political world unhinged from traditional values of blood and military prowess. Elsewhere, Peter has explored the radical political project of the early Franciscans, particularly the role of charisma, humiliation, and self-annihilation in the circle surrounding Saint Francis of Assisi. He is also interested in the history of medieval rebellion, particularly the Roman Revolution of 1143. Peter’s next project, The Stuff of Miracles, addresses the dynamic role of materiality in the making of medieval Christian experience. This book will confront a central paradox in medieval theology: while monks and intellectuals frequently preached the primary devotional importance of non-material faculties, such as reason and mystical experience, the laity’s main point of contact with Christian revelation remained their interactions with physical objects, such as Eucharistic wafers and holy relics. Exploring the intersections of these discourses in the scholastic revolution of the thirteenth century, this book project will seek to expose how later medieval thinkers came to articulate a new theology of holy objectification, a kind of sublime self-alienation through engagement with the material world.
- Environmental humanities
- Cultural study of law
- New materialisms
- Greek and medieval thought
- Eurasian indigenous politics
- 19th-century comparative literature
- Psychoanalysis and attachment theory
Zachary Reyna is a political theorist working in the environmental humanities and cultural study of law. He received his PhD in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University (USA), where his dissertation offered an ecological reading of the natural law tradition that rethought the concept of political obligation for contemporary environmentalist politics. He he taught political theory and environmental thought at Johns Hopkins and Towson University, and is the assistant editor of the journal “Political Theory”. He is now professor in political theory at SAS.
Zachary’s research focuses on how social and political obligations create attachments, produce bonds, and engender belonging to shared environments and ecosystems that extend beyond the human world (link 1, link 2, link 3). He sees his work primarily as a response to questions about the place of embodiment, the hard sciences, and nature in the humanities and the role of the humanities scholar in the twenty-first century academy (link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4, link 5). His doctoral dissertation explored the concept of political obligation (link 1, link 2) in environmental political thought through the lens of the natural law tradition (link 1, link 2, link 3). Drawing on a diverse range of thinkers from Sophocles, Aquinas, Rousseau, and Sacher-Masoch to Lou Andreas-Salomé, Zachary argued that political obligation is not simply a “moral duty” restricted to rational human citizens, but an ecological practice binding human-nonhuman interaction—the “connective tissue” of the sublunary biosphere, as Aquinas puts it.
Currently he is working on two projects. The first explores the political-philosophical implications of the conservationist practice of “rewilding”. Here Zachary argues that rewilding projects should be seen as sites where new forms of political obligation are emerging. The second project considers how the rise and fall of the nineteenth-century folktale, and its structure of belief-unbelief-denial, can illuminate the contemporary phenomenon of climate-change denial.