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A Pace of Our Own? Becoming Through Speeds and Slows – Investigating Living Through Temporal Ontologies of The University (In Feminist Encounters, Fall Issue 2017)

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This article is concerned with new feminist materialism's transformatory ethical potential with regards to the (fast) neoliberal university. It is also shaped and inspired by Karen Barad's question: 'How can I be responsible for that
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    1  Associate professor at University of Aarhus  , DENMARK 2 Post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Philosophy, Warsaw University  , POLAND * Corresponding Author:  malou@edu.au.dk  Feminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics, 1(1), 06 ISSN: 2542-4920  A Pace of Our Own? Becoming Through Speeds and Slows – Investigating Living  Through Temporal Ontologies of The University Malou Juelskjær 1 *, Monika Rogowska-Stangret 2 Published:  October 30, 2017  ABSTRACT  This article is concerned with new feminist materialism’s transformatory ethical potential with regards to the (fast) neoliberal university. It is also shaped and inspired by Karen Barad’s question: ’How can I be responsible for that which I love?’ (Barad 2016). The text thus investigates possibilities of thinking through new materialist theorising and concepts for examining conditions of the im/possibilities of living live-able academic lives in current political climates. As a response to those conditions a cry for slowing down has surfaced and manifestos for slow scholarship, reading, pedagogy, professors have emerged. The fast-slow dualism seems to be of pivotal importance in the ongoing criticism of neoliberal universities. The authors share concerns expressed by ‘slow professors’, but at the same time they argue that slow movement in the academia reestablish a problematic dualistic approach. In the text criticism of binary conceptualisations is offered by arriving at ethical considerations (instead of tactical). The article is inspired by Donna Haraway’s plea to ‘stay with the trouble’ (2016) to uncover the complex temporalities of the present and – possibly – its subversive potential. Furthermore, while staying in this troublesome moment, the authors investigate temporal ontologies through the works of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (2007 [1980]), Henri Lefebvre (2004) and Barad (2012) – as well as the temporalities implied in the ‘slow science movement’. Finally, the  video art by Bill Viola is considered as a way of accessing problematics of shifting between ‘fast’ and ‘slow’. Keywords:  slow science, ethics, new feminist materialisms, slow motion, university, neoliberalism INTRODUCTION  This article is part of an ongoing series of conversations between the two authors – face-to-face in Warsaw, in Copenhagen and on Skype. In these conversations, we explore different possibilities for thinking through new materialist theorising and concepts, simultaneously examining the conditions of becoming/being/living/researching/teaching within academia, as well as the practices of academics, be it teaching and learning, researching, doing theory, practising thinking, discussing, engaging with theory, ideas, students, fellow researchers, selves, friends, family members, technologies, environments 1 . Engaging with the new materialist conceptual framework, we wanted to approach the question of the im/possibilities of living live-able, learn-able, teach-able, and response-able academic lives in the current political climates. As stated by Rick Dolphijn and Iris van der Tuin, (2012), new materialisms are, among other things, ‘pushing dualisms to an extreme’ (Bergson [1986] 2004: 236). Dualisms such as body-mind, nature-culture, human-animal, organic-inorganic, theory-practice, are revisited to grasp the movement of differentiation, entanglements, and relationality. New materialist scholarship engages with capturing the beyond of dualisms and/or with tracing the conditions of im/possibilities of dualisms (new materialism is, of course, not alone in this). With relation to 1  Our collaboration was made possible through the COST action ‘New Materialism. Networking European Scholarship on ‘How matter comes to matter’’. We presented a paper on the subject matter of this article, at the 7 th  Annual Conference on the New Materialisms. Performing Situated Knowledges: Space, Time, Vulnerability, in Warsaw, 21 – 23 September 2016. Monika Rogowska-Stangret’s contribution is funded by the grant from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Poland in the frames of the “National Programme for the Development of the Humanities” (2016-2019).   Juelskjær and Rogowska-Stangret / A Pace of Our Own? Becoming Through Speeds and Slows 2 © 2017 by Author/s living the academic life – taking into account the associated movements, sensations, and temporalities – we pose the question: Is there anything left of oppositional approach: in theory, in analysis, and in practice?  Along these lines, we investigate a dualism that has been haunting university life for some time: the duality of ‘speeding up’ and ‘slowing down’, of so-called ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ science. We want to address the temporal ontologies that drive and haunt university life and some of their possible effects. The tempo, the rhythms 2 , shape academic bodies and lives by shaping and orchestrating the processes we engage in, be it teaching and/or researching, and the ‘products’ that we as academics deliver 3 . We find this prism of fast-slow intriguing and important. Firstly, because the fast-slow dualism seems to be of pivotal importance in the ongoing criticism of neoliberal universities and in the process of searching for remedies. Secondly, we find the dualistic approach to fast-slow problematic, and theoretically and analytically underdeveloped. Finally, when thinking about movement, binary oppositions such as fast-slow seem to contradict the very nature of the imperceptibility of movement (as observed by Deleuze and Guattari 2007 [1980]: 280). Furthermore, we aim to arrive at some ethical considerations (  instead   of tactical). We do not want to give advice, and we do not have solutions to offer, because at this point we want to direct our attention to this moment we are in and let it be or let us be in this moment. The analyses we offer are designed and performed as a way of ‘staying  with the trouble’, which ‘requires learning to be truly present, not as a vanishing pivot between awful or edenic pasts and apocalyptic or salvific futures, but as mortal critters entwined in myriad unfinished configurations of places, times, matters, meanings’ (Haraway 2016: 1). This learning, we claim, is not about choosing adequate tactics or strategies, but about forming what might be a ‘sensible attitude’ (Haraway 2016: 4), which, as we propose, is linked to a rethinking of the ethical potentials embedded in discussions regarding fast and slow. The turn to ethics is linked to our effort to move and transform the very foundation for debates regarding the conditions of working in academia in the 21 st  century by reconsidering a binary approach to fast and slow and introducing a new setting for thinking about speed, pace, and tempo in contemporary universities.  Throughout this article, we often mention ontological aspects of our inquiries, moreover, we closely link the ethical with the ontological. It is important to underline here that the turn to ethical thinking, rather than strategic or tactical, is from our perspective related to an ontological task – to create a ‘sensible attitude’ and ‘stay with the trouble’ (ibid.), as we need to consider the world in which this particular approach might be possible. We need to imagine the world in which the question of fastness and slowness might be reformulated. It is only through thinking ontologically, through reimagining the world, that we may also change the framework of the fast-slow debate in academia and offer a novel, ethical perspective. As Elizabeth Grosz underlines: ‘all our actions presuppose a world,  worlds, in which those actions are both viable and capable of signification and effectivity’ (Grosz 2005: 128). As such, ethical actions that we develop in this paper need a world in which they matter.  We do not position ourselves as critics of the slow science movement; however, we are hesitant when noticing how slow universities and slow professors are merely presented as a response to fast science, and thus as intrinsically reactionary. By investigating the rules of the fast-slow dualism, we wish to reorient our attention to see the pitfalls and limitations on both sides of this binary and, simultaneously, by staying with the trouble, we seek to imagine things otherwise – beyond fast and slow conceived as oppositional stances. Disassembling oppositional thinking is a way of exploring in this article to pursue a pace of our own. It is also worth stressing that we mobilise an affirmative reading of the slow science movement. We are by no means dismissive of such approaches, but want to think-with it, engage-with it based on what we consider our academic response-ability. We are well aware that, in the following deliberations, we do not cover every aspect of the slow science movement. As pointed out by Ewa Domańska in her opening keynote lecture, Slow Science and  Emergent Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences  4  , the slow science movement emerged as a way to do justice to the quality and reliability of research and take responsibility for disseminating and understanding its outcomes and implications. Moreover, Domańska links slow academ ic initiatives with their critical potential, illustrating this with the example of an ‘informal research centre’ established in Warsaw in 2009: The Wolny Uniwersytet Warszawy (the Free/Slow University of Warsaw), guided by its slogan: “wolny, bo powolny” (freedom through slowness) (Domańska 2016). We do not address the inequalities between Western and Eastern Europe, Global South and 2  Throughout the article, we use words such as ‘rhythm’, ‘pace’, and ‘tempo’ interchangeably, although we are aware of the fact that each of them may point to a slightly different meaning. ‘Pace’ and ‘tempo’ are related to the question of velocity,  whereas ‘rhythm’ refers to a certain regularity and repetition. According to Lefebvre and Régulier, however, it cannot be any repetition, but ‘strong times and weak times, which return in accordance with a rule or law (…) recurring in a recognisable  way (…) must appear in a movement’ (2004: 78). 3  The fact that different paces and rhythms that shape and organize our working environment also form bodies, individuals, products of their work, etc. is far from a novel insight. The work of Michel Foucault (e.g. 1995 [1975]) on disciplinary society and Gilles Deleuze (e.g. 1996) on control society are just two examples of this trend. 4  The keynote was given at the “7th Annual Conference on the New Materialisms. Performing Situated Knowledges: Space,  Time, Vulnerability” in Warsaw on 21 September 2016.  Feminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics, 1(1), 06 © 2017 by Author/s 3 North, nor economic and class imbalances that matter especially with relation to academic positions (tenured or temporary) that reappear in the debates surrounding the slow science movement; not that we think them irrelevant in this context, but our priorities in this article lie elsewhere. Paying attention to the difficulties attached to the dualistic thinking about the academy is a way to shed new light on discussions about the pace of living an academic life in the current part of the 21 st  century.  TEMPORAL ONTOLOGIES OF THE UNIVERSITY  As a response to ‘the (fast) neoliberal university’ – that is, the demand for an increasing working pace, a never-ending series of reforms and changes, and the submission of all domains of university activity to principles of accounting and justification (Brown 2011: 113) – a cry to ‘slow down’ has surfaced, and manifestos for slow scholarship, slow reading, slow pedagogy, slow professors, have emerged (Berg and Seeber 2016, Mountz et al. 2015, Bird Rose 2013, Stengers 2011, The Slow Science Manifesto 2010, Alleva 2006).  The call to ‘slow down’ is a cry from (within) an academia that has picked up speed due to, possibly, forces of neoliberalisation and marketisation, as well as ongoing globalised reform practices. University reforms reconfigure time (Brøgger 2015) and reforms as travelling standards shape university practices of ‘implementing’ reforms and of leaving behind a past, fixing a future-to-come of ‘deliverance’ (Guyer 2007 in Brøgger and Staunæs 2016: 233):    Time is played staccato by these [reform] standards. Duration is shortened and intensified. Time passes quickly. Time is running and one can run out of time. You can lose time. Time goes by. Time is not coming. Time passes. Time is a scarce resource, so it needs to be taken care of and used in timely fashion.  Time needs to be planned, calculated, ordered, and disciplined. Time is and needs to be economized.  Time is consumed. Time is under pressure. Time is running out of breath. (Brøgger and Staunæs 2016: 232-233)    Academia lives through an ‘ontology of calculation’ (Brøgger and Staunæs 2016: 233, thinking with Guyver 2007 5  ); a specific sort of present as futuring, conditioned by planning and calculating time. Brøgger and Staunæs report, based on interviews with academics, how reform processes cause nauseating affects as temporal ontologies collide through the bodies of the academics. In affective terms, losing time, wasting time, managing time, stealing time, time shortages, having no time – all come with fears, a sense of loss, unlive-able life in the world of ‘emergency as rule’ (Thrift 2000 in Gill 2009), which transforms scholars’ lives into a state of constant alert, readiness to work, and availability – alertness becomes routine. Nausea is only one example of how bodies react when overwhelmed by excessive stimuli. Other authors (e.g. Gill 2009) report different kinds of health problems, including chronic fatigue syndrome, burnout, exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety, and stress. It is possible to interpret this wide range of ailments using different theoretical approaches. On the one hand, as pointed out by Rosi Braidotti, we might understand such bodily reactions as how our bodies choose to convey a simple message to us: this is too much, ‘one has reached the threshold of sustainability’ (Braidotti 2006: 158–159). On the other hand, however, ‘the individual is not only forming the neoliberal system ideologically, but they are also attuning to it organically’ (Rogowska-Stangret 2017: 14). This can be exemplified using the work of Elizabeth A. Wilson on how, in cases of bulimia, ‘the gag reflex itself may be attenuated’ (Wilson 2004: 79) to the point where it disappears entirely. Both approaches attest to the fact that bodies do not only oppose neoliberal academia, but also collaborate with it and conform with the growing demands of academic life. After all, people do generally sleep less than previously (Crary 2013).  As noted by Sharon Traweek, even research results, as they are reported and published, contribute to what we may consider a compression of time, or an annulment of time. The results presented by the particle physicists in the United States and Japan studied by Traweek are tidied up to be ‘free of ephemeral time’ (1988: 157), even though: “In the course of a career a physicist learns the insignificance of the past, the fear of having too little time in the present, and anxiety about obsolescence in the face of a too rapidly advancing future” (Traweek 1988: 17).  All the hard work that went into enabling ‘results’ (grant applications, experiments, data production and analysis, developing and dismissing theories, consulting with colleagues, engaging with other researchers’ results, and so forth) is made invisible, ‘at the end of the day or project, the product of the physicists’ activity is freed from any marks of this work’ (Schrader 2012: 119). These mechanisms do not apply solely to physicists, but resonate with, and might be also used to investigate, products of the work of researchers in other academic disciplines. This adds a layer of possible temporal dis-orientation in the lives of researchers, as the sense of the labour of the process may somewhat linger on as they move on to the next task, and the next, and the next. 5  In her article “Prophecy and the near future: Thoughts on macroeconomic, evangelical, and punctuated time”, Jane I. Guyver does not analyse academia, but reads diffractively through temporal perspectives within US macroeconomics and evangelical understandings of time; hence the point about calculation.   Juelskjær and Rogowska-Stangret / A Pace of Our Own? Becoming Through Speeds and Slows 4 © 2017 by Author/s One might say that the ‘ontology of calculation’ (Brøgger and Staunæs 2016: 233, thinking with Guyver 2007) colonises our futures, ‘emergency as rule’ (Thrift 2000 in Gill 2009) nullifies our presents, and our fixation on development, improvement, and reform obliterates our pasts. We do indeed have no time! The slow science movement is a response to these, and a number of other conditions of being of   the university. When examining slow science, and the answers, solutions, remedies, and suggestions that it offers, however, we have found it to have certain limitations, and we therefore offer a respectful diffractive reading of the slow science movement. STAYING WITH THE SLOW OF THE SLOW SCIENCE MOVEMENT Many authors, such as Isabelle Stengers, Deborah Bird Rose, and the Great Lakes Feminist Geography Collective, to name just a few, recognise the problematic nature of fast science. While searching for solutions and tracing the contours of a revolution, they formulate a demand that academics be allowed to perform both slow and fast science, to change registers: ‘I decided to divide my work into fast work and slow work. The two are not wholly separable, but the major difference, in my mind, is that fast work is strategic and slow work is dialogic’ (Bird Rose 2013: 9); ‘Don’t get us wrong – we do say yes to the accelerated science of the early 21 st  century. We say yes to the constant flow of peer-review journal publications and their impact; we say yes to science blogs and media & PR necessities; we say yes to increasing specialization and diversification in all disciplines. […] However, we maintain that this cannot be all’ (The Slow Science Manifesto 2010); ‘I am […] aware that no university today is free to escape the rules that make fast, competitive, science a matter of life and death. That is why I wish […] to emphasize the difference between, on the one hand, adhering to a rule and, on the other, recognizing its power while looking for the opportunities to experiment outside its bounds, creating interstices where another science could discover its own demands’ (Stengers 2011: 12-13).  Thus, academics are encouraged to be ‘smart’ – to move within the bounds of the given possibilities, to manoeuvre past obstacles in order to accommodate the demands of both paces – fast and slow. We recognise these strategies as an effort to try to start from our current position, to adequately recognise the existing situation and, on this basis, search for possible ways of making a difference, for the sake of academic quality and out of a sense of responsibility for future generations and the world as such. The aforementioned authors often recognise a need for radical revolution and seek to establish conditions that enable actions, which might stimulate revolutionary potentials. This can be seen in Stenger’s plea for slow science: ‘Another science is possible!’ or in the aims articulated by members of the Great Lakes Feminist Geography Collective: ‘slow scholarship cannot just be about making individual lives better, but must also be about re-making the university’ (Mountz et al. 2015: 1238), ‘We argue for a fundamental restructuring of the university’ (p. 1248), and ‘the time is ripe for radical change’ (p. 1249). Nevertheless, doing both fast and slow science can also reaffirm the existing situation, maintaining it and collaborating with it; indeed, it means inscribing the slow with the demands and tempo of the fast or – better put  – finding a slow disguise for the fast. We want to direct our attention to ‘staying with the trouble’ rather than finding a quick and easy solution, because any apparent solution, however caring and attentive its intentions, may be all too easily consumed by fast approach. As expressed by Michel Foucault: ‘every strategy of confrontation dreams of becoming a relationship of power’ (1983: 225-226).  This movement of covering up the ‘fast approach’ under a ‘slow disguise’ can be exemplified by good advice carefully considered, lived, and passed on by authors with the intention of helping other scholars manage their time and tackle the shift from fast to slow and vice versa. In For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal University   (Mountz et al. 2015), academics are advised to: discuss and support the slow movement, include the invisible in evaluation processes (e.g. time spent on caring for others), organise collectively and create a community of slow scholars, emphasise care (‘Do not shy away from talking about life, and how intertwined life and work are’ (p. 1251)), write fewer emails 6 , stay offline (e.g. refuse to respond to emails at all hours), take time to think and to write (differently), say no when necessary, agree when there is an opportunity to bring about change and introduce slow strategies, become minimalist (i.e. ‘good enough is the new perfect’ (p. 1253)). Similarly, in Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy  , Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber advise fellow scholars to, among other things: get offline, do less, organise ‘regular sessions of timeless time’, do 6  See more advice on this particular issue here: http://emailcharter.org/.   Feminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics, 1(1), 06 © 2017 by Author/s 5 nothing, ‘change the way we talk about time all the time’, ‘remember the values of density, complexity, and ideas  which resist fast consumption’, ‘make time for (…) ‘Unintentional Knowledge: what we find when we’re not looking’’, ‘take the time to read things that we do not ‘have to’ read’, ‘follow our hearts’, ‘keep calm and write on’,  vent from time to time to avoid whining, and ‘risk candour’.  These pieces of advice might have been helpful at some stage (to draw attention to the accelerating academy and recognise its ‘hidden injuries’ (Gill 2009), thereby addressing what is excluded from the ‘official’ story about life in the academy) and they still might help us in managing our time in the fast academy, coping with the demand to speed up while being also critical of it. Most of the advice is written to help stimulate, introduce, and lay the foundations for a new academia; more responsible for futurity, more collaborative, healthier, more thoughtful, more caring, and with higher academic quality. This attempt to find niches where one is able to make a difference should be appreciated.  The questions that keep haunting us when dwelling on these matters are, however, numerous. In this article,  we will limit our attention to focus on the claim – expressed in the aforementioned literature – that it is possible to do both-and . We want to consider bodies and rhythms, their im/possibilities and their ir/regularities, and the idea that it is (non-)humanly possible to shift between slow and fast at an ever-changing pace.  We ask: how is it possible to do both fast and slow science, and how quickly can we switch between these registers? What does it mean to change from fast to slow and vice versa? What does this change/ transformation look like? This is also linked to the question of conditions enabling changes: how can we introduce modifications,  variations, or shifts at the organisational, political, institutional, or psychological level without repeating what is given or falling in pitfalls of the conditions we oppose? RHYTHMANALYSIS OF THE FAST-SLOW ACADEMIC LIFE Looking at university life (as a whole), it seems like it is not a question of a single transition between fast and slow. As multiple rhythms exist at any given time, there is an expectation of a human ability to rapidly ‘switch’ between and among rhythms; to be polyrhythmic, or even to harmoniously combine disharmonies,   to be a kind of ‘transition box’ that changes ‘arrhythmia’ into ‘eurhythmia’ (Lefebvre 2004). So, let’s stay with this idea of rhythms for a moment, to see what sort of explanatory/analytical power it may give to the tempo and fast-slow question. Lefebvre writes that ‘energy’ is movement – it is that which enables interaction of time and space. Time, space, and energy are specifically formed through a rhythm – and through the relationships, differences, and specificities of co-existing rhythms – rhythms flowing through bodies and affecting them. Rhythms have spatial, material, bodily, and affective qualities. In developing rhythmanalysis, Henri Lefebvre works with subcategories such as ‘polyrhythmia’, ‘eurhythmia’, and ‘arrhythmia’. This is relevant because it conceptualises the specificities of how rhythms may flow through, ‘hit’, and modulate the body. Arrhythmia is the term for the state of following conflicting rhythms. It means the dissonance between or among two or more rhythms. It is a sort of pathological state, where the multiplicity of rhythms produces ‘fatal desynchronisation’: a divergence in time, in space, and therefore in the use of energies (Lefebvre 2004: 68). Chronic fatigue syndrome, burnout, exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety, and the like, as mentioned earlier, are examples of what Lefebvre terms arrhythmia. Furthermore, if trying to follow his and Régulier’s somewhat sketchy steps towards an alternative to psychoanalysis (rhythmanalysis as ‘therapy’, see Lefebvre, Régulier 2004), one can imagine how they might approach these conditions (exhaustion, insomnia, etc.) by addressing the multiplicities of rhythms and how they interfere and collapse. One could also think with this idea in terms of an ‘individual’ or ‘dividual’ matter, or one could think of it as an organisational or collective matter of sensing, addressing, and questioning disturbance patterns and affective qualities and specificities. This would then, in our imagination, be a specific space of staying with the troubles; that is, ‘rhythmtherapy’ as a space of being   and unravelling, not ‘ solving  ’.  We are done by/parts of multiple rhythms at any given time. Some of the rhythms, our involvement is more ‘direct’; others less so. For example, to be near the bodies of other people who either struggle with transitions or perhaps are (momentarily) stuck at one pace (speed-speed-speed) affects ‘you’ even though it is not (in a humanist sense) ‘you’/your body. Your body and your nervous system does not end and begin at the borders of your own flesh (everybody is ‘more than one and less than many’ (Strathern 1991: 35 cited in Swanson et al 2015: 150 7  )).  When you see the suffering of others, it hits your sensory registers. When listening to a voice that is tense with speed/stress, the sound waves of distress flow through ‘your own’ system. There are constant, multiple rhythms and movements that everybody is part of becoming with and  of at any given time and place.  There is a conceptual play between movement and ‘to be moved’; ‘to be moved’ in the sense to be affected, pushed, pulled beyond any control by the specific beats and rhythms. Being moved may be both energising and 7  Strathern (1991), though, writes “One is Too Few but Two are Too Many” (p. 36), so probably Swanson et.al are the ones to be credited with the phrase.
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