Lajos Brons, The Hegemony of Psychopathy

Published: September 2017

Any social and political arrangement depends on acceptance. If a substantial part of a people does not accept the authority of its rulers, then those can only remain in power by means of force, and even that use of force needs to be accepted to be effective. Gramsci called this acceptance of the socio-political status quo “hegemony.” Every stable state relies primarily on hegemony as a source of control. Hegemony works through the dissemination of values and beliefs that create acceptance and that serve the interests of the state and/or the ruling elite (the “hegemones”). Hegemony is most efficient if it remains invisible. A key hegemonic belief is the idea that there is no alternative to the current socio-political status quo, that there is no alternative, or that the way things are is “natural. The current hegemony – that is, the set of values and beliefs that bolster the current socio-political status quo – is a hegemony of psychopathy: it promotes “cultural psychopathy” and destroys empathy and compassion, thus threatening everything that makes us human. The hegemony of psychopathy is responsible for massive human suffering. It must be fought and replaced with a counter-hegemonic set of values and beliefs that promote compassion and care. Fighting hegemony requires fighting the “pillars” that support it. Most important among these are the mass media and culture industry, and mainstream economics. The former is responsible for a continuous stream of hegemonic propaganda; the latter – among others – for providing a pseudo-scientific justification for the false belief that there is no alternative. This essay closes off with some considerations on tactics and strategy in the struggle against the hegemony of psychopathy, but does not – and cannot – offer any concrete advice.

For more information, visit The Hegemony of Psychopathy at punctum books.

Maia Dolphin-Krute, Visceral: Essays on Illness Not as Metaphor

Published: October 2017

Memoirs about being sick are popular and everywhere and only ever contribute to pop narratives of illness as a single event or heroic struggle or journey. Visceral: Essays on Illness as Metaphor is not that. Visceral, to the extent that it is a memoir, is a record not of illness but of the research project being sick became. While rooted firmly in critical disability and queer practices, the use of personal narratives opens these approaches up to new ways of writing the body—ultimately a body that is at once theoretical and unavoidably physical. A body where everything is visceral, so theory must be too. From the gothic networks of healthcare bureaucracy and hospital philanthropy to the proliferation of wellness media, off-label usage of drugs, and running off to live a life with, these essays move fluidly through theoretical and physical anger, curiosity and surprise. Arguing for disability rights that attend to the theoretical as much as the physical, this is Illness Not As Metaphor, Being Sick and Time, and The Body in Actual Pain as one. A sick body of text that is—and is not—in direct correspondence to an actual sick body, Visceral is an unrelenting examination of chronic illness that turns towards the theoretical only to find itself in the realms of the biological and autobiographical: because how much theory can a body take?

For more information, visit Visceral at punctum books.

Ryan Dewey, Hack the Experience: Tools for Artists from Cognitive Science

Published: September 2018

The core argument of this book is that art is a form of cognitive engineering and that the physical environment (or objects in the physical environment) can be shaped to maximize emotional and sensory experience. Many types of art will benefit from this handbook (because cognition is pervasive in our experience of art), but it is particularly relevant to immersive experiential works such as installations, participatory/interactive environments, performance art, curatorial practice, architecture and landscape architecture, complex durational works, and works requiring new models of documentation. These types of work benefit from the empirical findings of cognitive science because intentionally leveraging basic human cognition in artworks can give participants new ways of seeing the world that are cognitively relevant. This leveraging process provides a new layer in the construction of conceptually grounded works. Hack the Experience is a dense bouillon-cube of techniques that you can adapt and apply to your personal practice, and it’s a book that will walk you step-by-step through skill sets from ethnography, cognitive science, and multi-modal metaphors. This is a book for artists, but it is also for curators, art school faculty, landscape architects, gallerists, archivists, post-disciplinary multi-hyphenates, museum program staff, and anyone who wants to know about the ways art and cognitive science come together to engage an audience.

For more information, visit Hack the Experience at punctum books.

Prudence Gibson and Baylee Brits, eds., Covert Plants: Vegetal Consciousness and Agency in an Anthropocentric World

Published: September 2018

Covert Plants contributes to newly emerging discourses on the implications of vegetal life for the arts and culture. This stretches to changes in our perception of ‘nature’ and to the adapting roles of botany, evolutionary ecology, and environmental aesthetics in the humanities. Its editors and contributors seek various expressions of vegetal life rather than the mere representation of such, and they proceed from the conviction that a rigorous approach to thinking with and through vegetal life must be interdisciplinary. At a time when urgent calls for restorative care and reparative action have been sounded for the environment, this essay volume presents a range of academic and creative perspectives, from evolutionary biology to literary theory, philosophy to poetry, which respond to the perplexing problems and paradoxes of vegetal thinking. Representations of vegetal life often include plant analogies and plant imagery. These representations have at times obscured the diversity of plant behavior and experience. Covert Plants probes the implications of vegetal life for thought and how new plant science is changing our perception of the vegetal — around us and in us. How can we think, speak, and write about plant life without falling into human-nature dyads, or without tumbling into reductive theoretical notions about the always complex relations between cognition and action, identity and value, subject and object? A full view of this shifting perspective requires a ‘stereoscopic’ lens through which to view plants, but also simultaneously to alter our human-centered viewpoint. Plants are no longer the passive object of contemplation, but are increasingly resembling ‘subjects,’ ‘stakeholders,’ or ‘actors.’ As such, the plant now makes unprecedented demands upon the nature of contemplation itself. Moreover, the aesthetic, political, and legal implications of new knowledge regarding plants’ ability to communicate, sense, and learn require intensive, cross-disciplinary investigation. By doing this, we can intervene into current attitudes to climate change and sustainability, and hopefully revise, for the better, human philosophies, ethics, and aesthetics that touch upon plant life.

For more information, visit Covert Plants at punctum books.

Maia Dolphin-Krute, Opioids: Addiction, Narrative, Freedom

Published: October 2018

An epidemic is a feeling set within time as much as it is a matter of statistics and epidemiology: it is the feeling of many of us desperately in the same place at the same time. Opioid epidemic thus names a present historic and historical moment centered on the substance of opioids as much as it names the urgency of all of us who are currently in proximity to these substances. What is the relationship between these historic and historical moments, the present moment, the history of pharmacological capitalism and a set of repeated neurological activities and human loss and desire that has fueled the exponential rise in the rates of opioid use and abuse between 2000-2018? Opioids: Addiction, Narrative, Freedom is an auto-ethnography written from deep within—biologically within—this opioid epidemic. Tracing opioids around and through the bodies, governmental, and medical structures they are moving and being moved through, Opioids is an examination of what it means to live within an environment saturated with a substance of deep economic, political, neuroscientific, and pharmacological implications. From exploring media coverage of the epidemic and emerging medical narratives of addiction to detailing the legal inscription of differences between “pain patients” and people addicted to drugs, Opioids consistently asks: what is it like to live within an epidemic? What forms of freedom become possible when continually modulated by our physical experiences the material proximities of an epidemic?

For more information, visit Opioids: Addiction, Narrative, Freedom at punctum books.

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