When Rosi Braidotti visited Syracuse University a couple of weeks ago, her presence during her lecture and morning workshop stirred up and drenched those in attendance. Like hanging out on the beach during a summer thunderstorm, the events were beautiful, elemental, and felt slightly dangerous in their chaotic spin. Braidotti speaks in blocs of becoming that sprawl rhizomatically. At dinner after her lecture she was asked how she approaches the task of such a lecture and she replied quite concretely. She writes out a paper, she noted, but then memorizes various small “blocs”, each of which can unfold into another “bloc” in variously nonlinear ways. The movements between the blocs are what seemed, to me, the rhizomatic becoming of her speaking. But within these blocs of becoming, Rosi noted, she takes conscientious lines of escape—detours that are inspired by the bodily presence of the audience itself. A number of heads nodding in reference to a certain book will galvanize more comments, while blank stares will push her on to another reference, a different example.
Here is intellectual production subordinated to the dazzle of performance and the intimacy of pedagogy. Braidotti’s lectures feel like a rollercoaster, a lightning storm, sledding down a high and crowded hill because instead of a linear argument she has building blocks that she tosses up and out and adjusts according to the audience’s material affective signals that they are with her (or not).
I could have wished that the more intimate morning workshop on her book, The Posthuman had practiced a different style. We were twenty around the table, faculty and graduate students, each with a copy of her book and our notepads and pens poised to register the profundity that can come from inquiry at close proximity. But Rosi appears to have only one public style of address (dinner conversation and tête-à-têtes are quite different encounters). It was engulfing and thrilling (again) but also slightly sad to me. I wanted her to let her performance guard down and become feminist with us in discursive solidarity. She is, I must say, a scholar vehemently committed to politics as ordinary and on the ground and to solidarity at all levels of personal engagement. It was only a tempo of quiet exchange that I missed, at least in her public (paid) obligations. Perhaps that tempo is the uncommodified for her, the site of zoë transversal to captured bios.
Lynne Huffer (Mad for Foucault, Are Lips a Grave?) visited Syracuse University just last weekend. Her lecture on “Strange Eros” was oozing with intelligent and sensitive analysis, respectfully bringing the audience into the ambit of her thinking by gently referring to and contextualizing her extant work, and then challenging us by her calm press into new areas of thought, new vocabularies and the juxtaposition (or juxtapolitics) of Foucault’s work on Eros with Anne Carson’s 2010 eulogy to her dead brother, Nox. Far from a rollercoaster or lightning storm, attending Huffer’s lecture was like getting pulled into a Kurosawa film with its stunning attention to framing, light, wind, and sound. It was affectively captivating. It was elegant and beautiful. Huffer ran her own technological feats, which kept her body static behind the technology station of the lecture hall, but during Q&A she sidled around and opened her mindbodywords to the audience. Braidotti responded to questions with more set pieces, I think, but Huffer gave us the gift of watching a beautiful mind think spontaneously, with all the risk and vulnerability that entails.
Both thinkers attend to form in the presentation of thought, and both forms flow.