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Spider web anthropologies: ecologies, infrastructures, entanglements

AutorCorsín Jiménez, Alberto
Palabras clavetraps
Fecha de publicación2017
EditorDuke University Press
CitaciónIndigenous Cosmopolitics: Dialogues for the Reconstitution of Worlds
ResumenEcologies, infrastructures, entanglements. Anthropology and STS have recently found some unsuspected common groundings in the relational, emergent and self-organizational affordances of these three conceptual systems. Vibrant yet fragile, interactive and responsive whilst simultaneously resilient and solicitous, the earthy and muddled and tenacious engagements afforded by ‘ecologies’, ‘infrastructures’ and ‘entanglements’ have brought new sources of analytical vitality and valence to social theory. These are languages of description that conjure worlds of material and biotic interdependencies, human and non-human agencies weaving themselves into and around filaments of energy, matter, history and decay. Worlds that hold on; worlds that creep up. Spider worlds and spider webs calling for spider web anthropologies. In this chapter I want to introduce the figure of the spider web as a heuristic to helps us think our current predicament of expulsion, ruin and precarity. The spider web, I want to suggest, offers an apposite metaphor for a world that holds itself in precarious balance, that tenses itself with violence and catastrophe but also grace and beauty, and that calls out and silhouettes promissory worlds of entanglements. However, what draws me to the metaphoric seduction of the spider web, I must add, is one specific trait: its semblance and vocation as a trap. Spider webs are traps. It is their materiality as traps, their condition as material and epistemic interfaces between worlds, that helps us ‘capture’ new openings for the work of imagination and description today. I am interested in the work that traps can do for description, in the trap as a method for description. The spider web offers a beautiful example of how this method works: the spider web entangles the worlds of prey and predator and in so doing outlines and crystallizes the infrastructure of their ecologies. The spider-web-trap is an ecology, but it is also an entanglement, and it is also an infrastructure. I shall return to each one of these registers in some more detail shortly. The method of description that the spider-web-trap sets in motion is a specific type of ‘recursive’ operation: think of the spider’s spinning of the web, eating part of it daily to recuperate some of the energy expended in spinning. The operation of recursion works therefore as a source environment for future descriptions and an environmental palette itself. We may think of it as a technique of ‘double environmentalisation’: weaving worlds into existence at the same time as it re-captures existing worlds. Describing worlds and worldling descriptions. Worlds that hold on, worlds that creep up.
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