Seminar Care Practices and collectives
But how a new mythology is itself to
arise, which shall be the creation, not of
some individual author, but of a new
race, personifying, as it were, one single
poet — that is a problem whose solution
can be looked for only in the future
destinies of the world, and in the course
of history to come.
Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling,
The Modern Construction of Myth
It is important we locate the issue of care within a political landscape — a landscape we could describe as a crisis, for it is imposed on us. And we could join others in saying that “crisis” is nothing other than a mode of governing. Governing through fear, through a subjective putting into tension, through the determination of constantly destabilised social identities — these are the new forms of governance.
The imperious injunction to adapt to instability seems to be the mode of subjectification fostered by governing institutions, on a countrywide level, with the institutionalisation of precarity or emergency laws that reveal the police State in its full glory. And also on the individual level, in the way life becomes an anxious task of prospecting. In such a framework, the only grounds for community is the shared experience of fear and insecurity.
Yet we also know that the word “crisis” is etymologically linked to the idea of decision-making. Let’s say the “crisis” we are experiencing announces new, unexpected directions, that is, new paths for emancipation. And we are, indeed, a growing number who want just this and who are acting in consequence, be it by occupying city squares, by “flooding” the streets to protest, or by experimenting with new forms of cooperation, or all of these actions at once.
There is no longer any doubt that the very illegitimacy of those who claim to govern us and their institutions radically increases the possibility of cultivating the arts as a means of opposing governance. We can oppose the logic of integration (be it by market institutions — the institution of the salary and the demented production of value that destroys the plurality of our living environments — or by state institutions that construct standardised life-paths and identities) through the fragmentation of new forms of “communality”. We can oppose the management of the population as an administered totality through the construction of singular communities. We can oppose the delegating of our instituted needs by a microphysics of power through attentiveness towards the singularisation of our collective life.
It thus becomes clear that care is located at the borders of politics — borders which care and attentiveness can render porous. We must pay attention to all the processes of individuation that enable us to situate the ways the collective can be established and, by locating them, to cut paths between worlds. In this perspective, care is to be apprehended as the making of differences from which processes of singularisation emerge, averting attempts towards an ontological unification.
If we embrace the hypothesis whereby politics emerges with the process of deserting identities shaped by a police state and which enable the administration of a particular social order, this also means the emergence of new regimes of sensibility and collective enunciation opens up the possibility for alternative forms of community. We no longer want a universal Subject, even if presented as the subject of emancipation: we know the disastrous implications of establishing a political subject that subsumes all other plural forms of subjectivation.
The misery of an already established universalism, leading to a pitiful inattentiveness towards the environments in which we co-exist. Caring and healing are processes that establish difference. Forms of trans-individuality give rise to new modes of experience. In this way, an ecology of care entails experimenting and experiencing relations with others and with the others of others, i.e., weaving relations. We must repopulate the world with the infinite diversity of human relationships. Taking care is about supporting heterogeneous forms of co-individuation.
What we are concerned with is thus neither “the tragic subject of the lack-of-being”, nor self-care inflated by an ideal of health, nor the hyper competent individual, switched on and frenetically active in adapting to the economic world. What we are concerned with are the apparatuses for experimenting relationships between beings, both human and non-human, which construct new worlds or which invent ways of inheriting worlds that came before. It is not “individuals” or “subjects” that are cared for but the relationships we pertain to. In this perspective, there is no subject that precedes the established relationship, no possible neutrality, no “modest witness” of the world’s objectivity, to use Donna Haraway’s terms, but a common engagement in emancipatory processes which are simultaneously the singularisation of our relationships and a collective project to situate these relationships: creating sites.
This will be our guiding intention for this second cycle of discussions on care and collective practices. Creating or maintaining plural collective constitutions and sharing experiences also involves a fragile and risky exercise in de-allocating already standardised identities (those maintained by a certain form of medicine, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, sociology or the legal system). If we are rejecting governmental pastoralism, or the pedagogical claim of a few to dictate to others what the right form of emancipation might be, it is because care produces difference.
Following an introductory session that I will be facilitating along with Thierry Drumm, a pragmatist philosopher and attentive reader of William James, in the company of other guest speakers we will be exploring: neo-shamanic practices; the introduction of Candomblé in France; the establishment of an autonomous social/community care centre in the Greater Paris region; practices of mutual aid groups at the margins of the psychiatric institution; the implementation of self-support groups for persons affected by somatic illnesses; care work among sex workers in a working-class area of Paris; and our relationship to the flora that grows in our urban environment…This will enable us to begin to map the plural practices of care and attentiveness as different forms of emancipation.
These discussions are scheduled on the last Thursday of the month at Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, from 7 pm.
The dates are as follows (the content of each session will be announced in due course): Thursday 27 October, 24 November, 15 December 2016, and Thursday 26 January, 23 February, 30 March, 27 April and 25 May 2017.
All this seminar receives the friendly support of the artist and photographer Xavier Ribas who, very kindly, authorizes Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers to reproduce his images from the series Invisible Structures  (2006).