2 September 2009

Ghassan Hage

I encourage everyone to track down a copy of anthropologist and social theorist, Ghassan Hage's essay/lecture 'The Real, The Potential & The Political', it really is brilliant. I found it in Knowledge + Dialogue + Exchange: Remapping cultural globalisms from the south, edited by Nicholas Tsoutas and published by Artspace in 2005. If this is unavailable to you, Hage has published widely, including Against paranoid nationalism: Searching for hope in a shrinking society and White nation: Fantasies of white supremacy in a multicultural society.

Hage speaks about concepts of utopia, reality, actuality, potentiality, joy, being 'rested', dreams, self-criticism, moving forward, and the need for a base from which to 'propel'. He does so in a language which is straight-forward and clear. He does not take the moral high ground, but nor does he attempt to make that which he is advocating clear to those who aren't open (to challenging their own thoughts) enough to understand it. Not only is 'The Real, The Potential & The Political' about 'dream[ing] of new possibilities and think[ing] utopically against the grain', it is - in itself, as a text, as what was a lecture - all those things.

Below are some excerpts to think upon:

'... people produce utopic moments in their everyday life to help them live.'

'... we live in an era of hyper-realism. A culture in which we are constantly being bombarded by the need to be realistic. And it is often very conservative forces which speak in the name of reality. We are often bombarded with "Stop dreaming...Wake up!...Can't you see things as they are?!...You are going off to cuckoo land!", people tell me sometimes. And, it is true that I do, and I want to keep doing it, that's the point.'

'Reality contains what is actual but also what is potential.'

'[Utopia] is then a thought, a practice which squeezes out of reality some of its potentialities.'

'... utopia is simply the mind imagining joyful moments, joyful potentialities. Utopia digs into reality, sees joyful potentialities and externalises them. This is the power of utopia. It transforms a potential into an imaginary actual.'

'... once we take this potential and imagine it, we give it an actuality, even if this actuality is at the level of thought or at the level of the image, it becomes physical and that is very crucial in utopian thought - this idea of bringing something potential into actual. Something joyful, potentially, into something joyful, materially, even if it is conceptually material.'

'To sense potentiality in life you have to feel ... rested, you have to feel rested from rest... it is a slogan, "THE RIGHT TO FEEL RESTED". You know, rested is not the same as feeling relaxed and comfortable. To feel rested is precisely to feel happy not to be relaxed and comfortable... the point is that when I am rested, I work on myself. When I am rested ... I am capable of engaging in self-criticism... relaxed and comfortable is precisely people who want to retreat from self-criticism. Who say, "...Don't try and challenge my thoughts. Don't try and work on myself...I don't want any of these dreams". Rested means, "I have the time and the energy to better myself, to move on in life", and to be rested ... gives you a pace in life.'

'Pace is a rested movement, and this restedness is what allows me to see the potentialities of life. It is when I am rested that I can smell, that I can capture possibilities.'

'I am hopeful, notice, even if things are hopeless, I am hopeful, even if it is hopeless. That is my self is capable of embracing possibilities, despite the negativity around me.'

'... the hopeful body is an anchored body ... this notion of self as constantly travelling on a route detaches a person from anything in their background to which they feel affect towards... one of the senses of the inability to feel the utopic moment comes from this sense that we have no longer strong attachments ... people argue that the cosmopolitan self ... should detach itself completely ... But if you do, what is it that you care about in life? ... What I am trying to get at is a notion of a secure base... Kind of like "... I want to shoot, I want to move in life. But I want to move with the sense of security that I've got a base." And so base is not something imprisoning. Base is something propelling.'

'It is the quality of our base which creates the quality of our movement. And it is the quality of our movement which determines the quality of our perception of reality. And it is the quality of our perception of reality which determines the quality of our capacity to capture potentialities in life. And dream of new possibilities and think utopically against the grain.'

Thank you, Ghassan Hage.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! RRN is #3 in the Google search for Ghassan Hage! BTW, he is a lecturer at Melbourne Uni. If you are ever keen to hear him, I have accommodation! :)

03 September, 2009 07:29  

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