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L’ISOLA SENZA SERPENTI

In 2011, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli took a picture of Anafi from space and asked his followers on Tweeter in Italian: “which Greek island is without snakes?” His followers rushed to confirm it was Anafi. While the most accredited, and perhaps most seductive, explanation of the name Anafi derives from the Apollo’s episode in the Argonautica, and in particular from the word ἀνέφηνεν (“made appear”), it has been argued that the name Anafi may actually come from the word anafidhi, “without snakes.” Anafi has indeed no snakes. (Piergiorgio Pepe’s notes based on various sources.)

 

OLD RULES FOR NEW TALES

We must, however, be acutely aware of the dangers of using old rules to tell new tales. This is compatible with a larger refusal to pretend that science is either only discovery, which erects a fetish of objectivity, or only invention, which rests on crass idealism. We both learn about and create nature and ourselves. We must also see the biosocial sciences from the point of view of the process of resolving the contradiction between, or the gap between, human reality and human possibility in history. The purpose of the sciences of function is to produce both understanding of meaning and predictive means of control. They show both the given and the possible in a dialectic between the past and the future. Often, the future is given by the possibility of a past. Sciences also act as legitimating meta-languages that produce homologies between social and symbolic systems. That is acutely true for the sciences of the body and the body politic. In a strict sense, science is our myth. That claim does not in any way vitiate the discipline scientific practitioners impose on each other to study the world. We can both know that our bodies, other animals, fossils, and what have you are proper objects for scientific investigation, and remember how historically determined is our part in the construction of the object. It is not an accident of nature that our social and evolutionary knowledge of animals, hominids, and ourselves has been developed in functionalist and capitalist economic terms. Feminists must not expect even arguments that answer dear sexist bias within the sciences to produce adequate final theories of production and reproduction as well. Such theories still elude us, because we are now engaged in a political-scientific struggle to formulate the rules through which we will articulate them. (…) The future is the issue.

All readings are also mis-readings, re-readings, partial readings, imposed readings, and imagined readings of a text that is originally and finally never simply there. Just as the world is originally fallen apart, the text is always already enmeshed in contending practices and hopes. From our very specific, non-innocent positions in the local v. global and personal v. political terrain of contemporary mappings of women’s consciousness, each of these readings is a pedagogic practice, working through the naming of the power-charged differences, specificities, and affinities that structure the potent, world-changing artefacts called ‘women’s experience’. In difference is the irretrievable loss of the illusion of the one. (Donna J. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women – The Reinvention of Nature, Routledge, London, 1991, p. 42 and 124.)

 

A MARTIAN SENDS A POSTCARD HOME

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings and some are treasured for their
they cause the eyes to
or the body to shriek without
I have never seen one fly, but sometimes they perch on the
Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on the ground: then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.
Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the properties of making colours darker. Model T is a room with the lock inside –
a key is turned to free the world
for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.
But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience. In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps, that snores when you pick it up.
If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep
with sounds. And yet, they wake it up deliberately, by tickling with a finger. Only the young are allowed to suffer openly. Adults go to a punishment room with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises alone. No one is exempt
and everyone’s pain has a different smell. At night, when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs
and read about themselves –
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

A poem by Craig Raine (1979).

 

FORGETTING IN ORDER TO REMEMBER

The Muse of History, Clio, is one of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory, another word which reminds us of remembering, but also of the possibilities of glossing over, and forgetting). Clio’s name in derivation alludes to celebrating and making famous as well as simply recounting (telling). She is often depicted with a scroll and books, suggesting that the telling is written to be read (and thus can be written in different ways), and with a trumpet, which not only suggests oral presentation, but the use of music to elicit emotions and memories. In addition, she wears a laurel wreath, suggesting not just honouring the worthy and giving them well- deserved fame, but also indicating, we might suggest, that smells and tastes (and indeed textures) can elicit memories and bring the glossed over and forgotten back to consciousness. So the Muse of History herself reminds us of all the senses –sight, sound, touch, taste, smel – as ways of remembering.

She, and her mother Mnemosyne (Memory), also remind us of the river-goddess and spiritual power (daemon) Lethe, Forgetting. While forgetting could be the enforced policy of a repressive regime, it might also be practised or imposed as a way of trying to heal deep wounds, or in order to construct a new identity (Connerton 2009), so it can be recognised that forgetting is not always to be viewed negatively. Anthropologists have studied ‘structural amnesia’, a form of telescoping genealogies (or royal lineages) in oral accounts, to enable them to be remembered without being extraordinarily long and detailed –a paradoxical kind of forgetting in order to remember. (Margaret E Kenna, extract from a draft text being prepared for phenomenon 2.)

 

March 2017