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Rethinking Responsibility: Attunement and a Politics of World-Building

Jarrett Zigon
Associate Professor, University of Amsterdam
Date and Time: 
Monday, February 27, 2017 - 15:30

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)


What is the relation between ontologies, ethics, and political activity?  In this essay I take up this question through a rethinking of responsibility in terms of attunement.  I begin with a brief and critical engagement with Karen Barad’s influential alternative ontology, and consider its shortcomings in taking up a Levinasian conception of responsibility.  In response to this critique I turn to the unique case of Vancouver, Canada and the enactment of what I call a politics of world-building.  I show that anti-drug war agonists in Vancouver are in the process of creating a new world that is primarily characterized as being attuned with itself.  In contrast to the limitations of a metaphysical humanist notion of responsibility and the politics it entails, I argue that a politics of world-building and attunement entail a process of becoming and enact a kind of freedom that could be described as openness.