Call for participants— Spaces of Attunement: Life, Matter & the Dance of Encounters

Venue: Glamorgan Building, Cardiff University, UK
Date: March 30th & March 31st, 2015

Organisers: Julian Brigstocke (Cardiff University) & Tehseen Noorani (Johns Hopkins University)

Plenary speakers: Ben Anderson (Reader in Human Geography, Durham University); Deborah Dixon (Professor of Geography, Glasgow University); Kevin Hetherington (Dean of Social Sciences, The Open University); Mara Miele (Reader in Human Geography, Cardiff University); Kim Tallbear (Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas).

As the alarming consequences of the dominance of anthropocentric forms of thinking and politics on environmental, social and mental ecologies (Guattari, 1986) become ever more apparent, there has been a surge of interest in inventing new ways of collaborating with, listening to, and granting authority to new kinds of voices, including more-than-human life and forms of material agency. In this symposium, we invite participants to explore practices, politics, histories and futures of attunements to voices, temporalities, and material processes that exceed the human subject. In doing so, we ask participants to consider the ways in which matter and more-than-human life can make demands for human ethical and political response (Jackson, 2012).

Practices of attunement are associated with various traditions of thought including: phenomenological ideas of dwelling and worlding (Heidegger, 1923); post-phenomenological and neo-vitalist theories of encounters, affect, and hybridity (Bennett, 2009; Haraway, 2008; Anderson, 2014; Ash & Simpson, 2014); sensory methodologies (Evans & Miele, 2012; Spinney, 2015); spiritual practices (Oosterbaan, 2008); feminist materialisms (Braidotti, 2002); speculative modes of theory and politics (Whitehead, 1967; Stengers, 2011); and indigenous traditions of responsibility to the natural world, which have arguably been marginalized in recent debates (Tallbear, 2015).

Attunements strive to attain greater familiarity or intimacy with more-than-human worlds. In doing so, they experiment with creating more sustainable and egalitarian social forms. However, when attunement starts to invoke normative ideals of being ‘in harmony’, those who appear ‘out of tune’ (strangers, outsiders) can be registered as dangerous and threatening (Ahmed, 2013). Nevertheless, attunements can also affirm difference and be receptive to non-human ‘qualities, rhythms, forces, relations and movements’ (Stewart, 2011). Post-human attunements generate monstrous aesthetic forms (Dixon, Hawkins & Straughan, 2012) and require inventive practices of listening (Hetherington, 2013).  When objects, forces and spirits that exceed the spaces and times of human experience press themselves upon us with increasing force, attunements can be strange, uncanny and uncertain. They bring us into contact with lost futures and haunted presents (Fisher, 2014).  In fact, attuning to non-human or post-human worlds may require actively distancing our enquiries from the intimacy of the organic body and its lived experiences and affects (Colebrook, 2014).

This symposium invites participants to explore ‘attunement to the world in all its particularity, strangeness, enchantment and horror’ (Anderson et al., 2012). In doing so, we aim to contribute to recent efforts to recalibrate notions of authority, voice, and objectivity in ways that work towards more egalitarian, sustainable worlds.

Topics that will animate the discussion may include:

  • Practices of attunement that aim to facilitate deeper collaborations between humans, more-than-human life, and material agency;
  • Materialisms (old and new);
  • Intersections or tensions between new materialisms and indigenous standpoints;
  • Attunements, spirituality and ritual.
  • The role of attunements in (re)distributing power and authority;
  • Attunements and aesthetics;
  • How attunements affect the quality of experience and encounters;
  • Narrative and non-narrative forms for expressing experiences and practices of attunement;
  • Material/semiotic figures of attunement (stranger, diplomat, monster, guide, alchemist…);
  • Biopolitics, the anthropocene, and the inorganic.

Apply to attend / present a paper.
Researchers from across the arts, humanities and social sciences are warmly welcome. If you wish to attend, or to give a 20-minute paper, please complete the form at: before 1800, February 13th, 2015.
Proposals for alternative presentation formats, artworks, performances, films, sound art etc. are encouraged. We will do everything we can to help with this in terms of technology, time, and potentially some extra financial resources. Please get in touch.

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