Thinkables

MODULE THREE 26-27 April 2017

KTH School of Architecture

There is a great deal that constrains thinking, making the encounter with what I call a ‘thinkable’ extremely rare. The thinkable is that which erupts out of the unthinkable. What do we engage in, what do we do when we encounter a thought? We are habituated to the assumption that we invent or ‘have’ thoughts that belong to us, that we can secure them with a signature, which then allows us the right to claim them as our intellectual property. The thinkable operates in quite another way. A thinkable, and this will no doubt sound counter-intuitive, is independent of either a given thinker or a fixed object of thought, instead it circulates between both in the midst of an event, a taking place that takes more or less time. It is less the thought that I have, than the thought that strikes me, coming from elsewhere, emerging in the midst of an encounter.

Isabelle Stengers argues that we are suffering a disaster of thought, and it is this that has contributed to the exhaustion of our environment-worlds today. Bad habits, in thought and in practice, are hard to shake. In the news media and across Web 2.0 feeds, plugged-in readers bear witness to the plague of ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’; readers become prey to misinformation. As Bruno Latour has pointed out, if fundamental extremists are deconstructing facts according to a well-exercised logic of social constructivism, in effect redeploying the arguments of critical thinkers, what are we to do? (2004: 227). How do we disentangle an assertive matter of fact from an ideological miasma in order to gather around our cares and concerns? Can we fight critique with yet more critique? If so, how might we better hone our critical concept-tools? The job of criticism has been to challenge the myth of a stable ground, but this thought becomes a weapon that can be handled toward the most dangerous ends.

This third module will be dedicated to the capacities of critical thinking and the role of the concept-tool in its relation to pressing problems.

TASKS: Heteroglossia and Concept-Tools

These tasks offer you the opportunity to create a lexicon of key concepts that are relevant to your research. The concept of a heteroglossia is appropriated from Donna Haraway’s famous Cyborg manifesto (1991). Haraway’s aim is to challenge the production of universal totalizing theories and the habits of binary thinking. She explains, “This is a dream not of a common language, but of a powerful infidel heteroglossia” (Haraway 1991: 181). Much like a lexicon or glossary, a heteroglossary is a place where key terms can be collected while creating a space in which contradictory or even conflicting projects and diverse positions can be supported. A heteroglossary allows “different” (hetero) definitions of concepts to jostle alongside one another, which can challenge the stability of a status quo in practice and theory.

The concept-tool as a construct is taken from the work of Isabelle Stengers, Donna Haraway, Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault. Concepts are things for thinking with, they offer aids and prompts to thought, they can be applied and circulated and adapted for use like tools. The concept emerges amidst contingent circumstances, which is not to say it is randomly formulated, or based on some kind of free for all. While contingent in their emergence, concept-tools are also sited, pertaining to specific geographies and histories and material entanglements. The concept-tool plays a pedagogical role: Learning from the concept as it presents itself offers a means of attending to a problem, attentive to the specific moments of its construction, learning how to deal with the milieu in which you find and lose yourself again. Concepts are tools that we share with others and which we are prepared to generously pass on, otherwise concepts easily get stuck in a rut, turning into unreflective dogma.

TASK 01: Create a ‘Heteroglossary’ with around 10 entries for the ‘concept-tools that have been relevant to your research. Note in each case the source of the concept-tool, or its history, or how you have constructed it from several sources.

TASK 02: Offer a reflection on an essay/article/chapter you have shared with Philosophies participants. Your shared essay/article/chapter should be one that has ‘shocked you to thought’ or aroused you from your dogmatic slumbers, a reading that has somehow re-orientated how you think about and engage in a world.

TASK 03: Read and offer a brief reflection on at least one essay that has been shared by a participant in Philosophies.

Guest Lecturer: Prof. Sverker Sörlin, History of Science, Technology, Environment, KTH

Guest lecturer: Dr Isabelle Doucet, School of Architecture, Manchester

Activist Tools for Situated Architectures

Isabelle Doucet is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester. Her research focuses on the relationship between (urban) politics, aesthetics, and social responsibility in architecture, which she examines through both historical and contemporary cases. She is the author of The Practice Turn in Architecture: Brussels after 1968 (Ashgate, 2015), and co-editor, with Nel Janssens, of Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production in Architecture and Urbanism (Springer, 2011). Her current research centers on counter-cultural architectures in 1970s Belgium. Isabelle is currently also a researcher for the Mellon Multidisciplinary Research Project called “Architecture and/for the Environment”, coordinated by the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

Guest Lecturer: Dr Alessandro Armando, Architecture and Urban Design, Turin Polytechnic University

Five problems on the politics of design practice

Alessandro Armando, architect, is Assistant Professor at the Department of Architectural and Design (DAD) of the Politecnico di Torino since 2011, where he teaches Architectural Design and Design theory. He is a member of the Board of the Doctoral programme DASP (“Architecture. History and Project”) at the same Politecnico. He received his doctorate in architecture and building design in 2005 and since the same year he has been conducting research on Design issues. He is also part of the research team of the Joint Research Lab Polito-SCUT at the South China University of Technology (SCUT) in Guangzhou. Recently he has been visiting scholar at the Collège des Humanités at EPFL-Lausanne (February-June 2017). His current research activity focuses mainly on the political and bureaucratic effects of architectural design on the urban processes, and he has published articles and essays investigating the connection between design and politics. He is founder and member of the editorial board of “Ardeth” (Architectural Design Theory) magazine, and he is currently the editor of “Rivista di Estetica”, 2, 2019 (The Sciences of Future, deadline on April 30, 2018). From 2005 to 2014 he worked as a project consultant for the Urban Center Metropolitano (UCM) in Turin, dealing with the accompaniment of public processes and projects in the cities of the Turin Metropolitan area. He took part to international and national conferences and lectures about urban policies and design processes (Genoa, Rome, Milan, Siracusa, Salerno, Venice, Skopje, Zagreb, Lisbon, Kanazawa, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beirut). In his professional practice as an architect, he is a partner of the DAR Architettura office, with M. Di Robilant and G. Durbiano. His “Urban house with big window” in Cambridge MA (with M. di Robilant) has been published by «Architectural Record», «The Architects Newspaper», «Domus» and «Dezeen». Among his publications: Teoria del progetto architettonico (2017); Rome: Carocci (with G. Durbiano); Watersheds. A Narrative of urban recycle (2015), Guangzhou: Sandu Publishing (with M. Bonino and F. Frassoldati); La soglia dell’arte: Peter Eisenman, Robert Smithson e il problema dell’autore dopo le nuove avanguardie (2009) Torino: SEB 27.

Panel Discussion between Isabelle Doucet, Alessandro Armando, and Hélène Frichot on architectural theory and practice in relation to recent editions of the journals Architectural theory Review (ATR) and Ardeth: A Magazine on the Power of the Project http://www.ardeth.eu/about/ The special edition of ATR 22:1 Resist, Reclaim, Speculate: Situated Perspectives on Architecture and the City, edited by Isabelle Doucet and Hélène Frichot, will also be launched.

Readings

Recommendations from your peers (essays that ‘shocked you to thought’)

Ahmed, Sara. “Feminist Kill Joys” in The Promise of Happiness, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010, 50-87.

Alexievich, Svetlana. “A human being is greater than war” in The unwomanly face of war,electronic book, Penguin Random House LLC, New York, 2017, xiii-xliii/335​ (Erica Henriksson)

Braudel, Fernand. “History and the Social Sciences: The Long Durée” [1958], in On History, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980 26-54. (Lenastina Andersson).

Carpo, Mario. The Alphabet and the Algorithm, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2011. See Part 3 The Fall. (Annie-Locke Scherer)

Corner, James. The agency of mapping: speculation, critique and invention, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 2011, 89-101). (Suha Hasan).

Eno, Brian. A Year with Swollen Appendices, London: Faber & Faber, 1996, 315-316. (Erik Sandelin)

May, John. “Everything Is Already an Image” in Log 40, Spring/Summer 2017: 9-26. (Vasily Sitnikov)

Sousa Santos, Boaventura de, ‘Is there a non-Occidental West’ in Epistemologies of the South, London: Routledge, 2014. (Behzad Khosravi)

Therborn, Göran. “Disparities or Inequalities: The Killing Fields of Inequality” in International Journal of Health Services, Vol. 42, No. 4, 2012: 579–589. (Sara Hyltén-Cavallius)

Tracy, David. “Interpretation, Conversation, Argument” in Plurality and Ambiguity: Hermeneutics, Religion, Hope, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987, 1-27. (Masha Hupalo)

Yaneva, A. & Heaphy, L. 2012, “Urban controversies and the making of the social” in Architectural Research Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 1, 29-36. (Andreea Blaga)

Readings Relevant to Our Guest Lecturers

Doucet, Isabelle. The Practice Turn in Architecture: Brussels after 1968. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2015. Excerpt.

Tresch, John. “Technological World Pictures: Cosmic Things and Cosmograms” in Isis, 98 (1), 2007, 84-94.

Yaneva, Albena. Five Ways to Make Architecture Political, London: Bloomsbury, 2017. Excerpts-Ch. 5 and Ch. 7.

Background Readings

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix. “What is a Concept?” in What is Philosophy? New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, 15-34.

Foucault, Michel and Deleuze, Gilles. ‘Intellectuals and Power.’ In Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1977, 205-217.

Grosz, Elizabeth (2017) The Incorporeal: Ontology, Ethics, and the Limits of Materialism, New York: Columbia University Press.

Haraway, Donna. ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.’ Feminist Studies, vol. 14, no. 3 (Autumn, 1988): 575-599.

Haraway, Donna. “The Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminisms in the Late Twentieth Century” in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Association Books, 1991, 149-182.

Hauptman, Deborah and Neidich, Warren eds. Cognitive Architecture. From Biopolitics to Noopolitics. Architecture & Mind in the Age of Communication and Information. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2010.

Massumi, Brian. “On Critique” in Inflexions 4 – Transversal Fields of Experience (December 2010). http://www.inflexions.org/n4_Brian-Massumi-on-Critique.pdf

Stengers, Isabelle. ‘Introductory Notes on an Ecology of Practices.’ Cultural Studies Review, vol. 11 no. 1 (2005a): 183-196.