Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: análisis de la introducción

Imagen: the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef — created by Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring, 2010; fuente img.:

Análisis del capítulo de introducción de Donna Haraway, 2016, Staying with the Trouble. Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Duke University Press, Durham. Traducción al español en proceso (puede verse, por supuesto, la traducción de Helen Torres para Consonni, 2019; aquí copia no comercial de la intro de esta edición: ).

José Pérez de Lama, con la colaboración de Jose Sánchez-Laulhé y Pablo DeSoto


Staying with the trouble. Making Kin in the Chthulucene

Introduction, with comments

[pg. 1]

Section 1: Trouble, staying with the trouble

Trouble is an interesting word. It derives from a thirteenth-century French verb meaning “to stir up,” “to make cloudy,” “to disturb.” (*)

We – all of us on Terra – live in disturbing times, mixed-up times, troubling and turbid times.

The task is to become capable, with each other in all of our bumptious kinds (**), of response.

Mixed-up times are overflowing with both pain and joy [?] – with vastly unjust patterns of pain and joy, with unnecessary killing of ongoingness but also with necessary resurgence [? hmm].

The task is to make kin in lines of inventive connection as a practice of learning to live and die well with each other in a thick present.

Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places.

__ The future question

In urgent times, many of us are tempted to address trouble in terms of making and imagined future safe, of stopping something from happening that looms in the future, of clearing away the present and the past in order to make futures for coming generations. (#)

Staying with the trouble does not require such a relationship to times called future.

In fact, staying with the trouble 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.

__ notas

* Middle English, from Anglo-French trubler, from Vulgar Latin *turbulare, from *turbulus agitated, alteration of Latin turbulentus — more at turbulent. También en español: turbio, turba (gente como en tumulto). __ dice aquí, raíz turbo: rápido movimiento circular. La misma raíz que disturbio, perturbar, contubernio…

Me sugiere estos día como una anti-Ilustración – Enlightenment en inglés; Illumination [?] en francés; un poco el típico pun, o broma-provocación, de Haraway…

También algo de brujas…

** Bulliciosas, tumultuosas… incluso sin necesidad de estirarlo emasiado podría decir carnavalescas… el motley crew de Linebaugh… la multitud de los italianos…

# Esto del futuro y el presente… Ella sin embargo recurre con frecuencia a la sci-fi, y aquí termina con las historias de Camille que se proyectan varias generaciones hacia el futuro… Entiendo lo que creo que dice; por ejemplo, evitar los sacrificios presentes, por ideales y promesas de salvaciones futuras – de las religiones y ciertas ideologías…


[pg. 2]

Section 2: Chthulucene

Chthulucene is a simple word. It is a compound of two Greek roots (khthón and kainos) that together name a kind of timeplace for learning to stay with the trouble of livig and dying in response-ability on a damaged earth.

Kainos means now, a time of beginnings, a time for ongoing, for freshness.

Nothing in kainos must mean conventional pasts, presents or futures.

There is nothing in times of beginning that insists on wiping out what has come before, or, indeed, wiping out what comes after, kainos can be full of inheritances, or remembering, and full of comings, of nurturing what might still be. I hear kainos in the sense of thick, ongoing presence, with hyphae (*) infusing all sorts of temporalities and materialities.

__ notas

* Hyphae: hifas son una red de filamentos cilíndricos que conforman la estructura del cuerpo de los hongos pluricelulares. Están constituidos por una fila de células alargadas y tubulares, envueltas por una pared celular compuesta de quitina. El conjunto de estas hifas se denomina micelio. Podría parecerse a rizoma, pero también forman el cuerpo superior de los hongos…

[pg. 2; prgf. 2]

Section 3: Chthonic ones

//Significanty contributes to the understanding of the Chthulucene.

Chthonic ones are beings of the earth, both ancient and up-to-the-minute. I imagine chthonic ones as replete of tentacles, feelers, digits, cords, whiptails, spider legs, and very unruly hair.

Chthonic ones romp in multicritter humus but have no truck with sky-gazing Homo.

Chthonic ones are monsters in the best sense; they demonstrate and perform the material meaningfulness of earth processes and critters. They also demonstrate and perform consequences.

Chthonic ones are not safe; they have no truck with ideologues; they belong to no one; they writhe and luxuriate (*) in manyfold forms and manyfold names in all the airs, waters, and places on earth.

They make and unmake, they are made and unmade.

They are who are. [!]

No wonder the world’s great monotheisms in both religious and secular guises have tried again and again to exterminate the chthonic ones. [**]

The scandals of times called the Anthropocene and the Capitalocene are the latest and most dangerous of these exterminations forces. (#)

Living-with and dying-with each other potently [##] in the Chthulucene can be a fierce reply to the dictates of both Anthropos and Capital. (&)

__ notas

* Estas palabras que le gustan a DH; writhe puede significar twist pero también algo así como enlazarse; luxuriate significa entre otras cosas proliferar, grow profusely; Manyfold, significa many times, como en twofold; que significa tanto tener dos partes como duplicarse en número o tamaño.

** Makes one think of course of witch hunts, and feminism.

# Here A&C are intriduced in an interesting, suggestive way.

## Potently sounds like an interesting word here. Of course, it makes me think of Spinoza’s potence.

& This here is quite a powerful, prophet-poet-tongue paragraph… somehow expressing who a new us / nosotros might be… The chthonic ones… Hmmm


[pg. 2; prgf. 3]

Section 4: Making kin

[parentesco, también: i am very keen on; original tiene que ver con clan y con relación de sangre; se extiende a relacionado, compatible… afín]

Kin is a wild category that all sorts of people do their best to domesticate. Making kin as oddkin (*) rather than, or at least in addition to, godkin (**) and genealogical and biogenetic family troubles important matters, like
_ to whom one is actually responsible.
_ Who lives and who dies,
_ and how, in this kinship rather than that one?
_ What shape is this kinship,
_ where and whom do its lines connect and disconnect,
_ and so what?

__ notas

* ¿Es neologismo de la autora? – no aparece el Merriam Webster, por ejemplo]

** ¿Hmm? – como hermanos / hijos de Dios o algo así, como en la religión cristiana; aunque en el diccionario parece más bien significar divino o algo así como un dios menor: godling.

What must be cut and what must be tied in multispecies if flourishing on earth, including human and other-than-human beings in kinship, are to have chances? (*)

* Problem here with conjugation: flourishing / are __ or otherwise I am reading the sentence wrongly.

[Vivir y morir, y cómo… La historia del conejo blanco de Stephen en la Viña]

[pg. 2; prgf. 4]

Section 4: SF

An ubiquitous (*) figure in this book is SF (**): science fiction, speculative fabulation, string figures, speculative feminism, science fact, so far. This reiterated list whirls and loops throughout the coming pages, in words and in visual pictures,

braiding me and my readers into beings and patterns at stake (***).

Science fact and speculative fabulation need each other, and both need speculative feminism.

__ notas

* Curious pronunciation, after M-W, as if beginning with a soft Spanish “y”. Hm.

** See in the Stories video, short comment on the use or relevance in hery thinking of science fiction.

*** Clear in English, it is a bit difficult for me to translate into Spanish: en riesgo, en juego, en peligro… comprometido…


[pg. 3; prgf. 1 – a mitad]

Section 5: String figures, 3 senses (#)

I think of SF and string figures in a triple sense of figuring. (*)

[5.1] First, promiscuously plucking out fibers in clotted and dense events and practices, I try to follow the threads where they lead in order to track them and find their tangles and patterns crucial for staying with the trouble in real and particular places and times. (**)

In this sense, SF is a method of tracing, of following a thread in the dark, in a dangerous true tale of adventure, where who lives and who dies and how might come clearer for the cultivating of multispecies justice.

[5.2] Second, the string figure is not the tracking, but rather the actual thing, the pattern and assembly that solicits response [?], the thing that is not oneself but with which one must go on.

[5.3] Third, string figuring is passing on and receiving, making and unmaking, picking up threads and dropping them. SF is practice and process; it is becoming-with each other in surprising relays; it is a figure for ongoingness (***) in the Chthulucene.

__ notas

# Me resulta interesante que todo esto es muy parecido a nuestro uso del término mapear, hacer mapa, etc. que es a la vez forma de mirar y estudiar el mundo, forma en que éste se organiza, y forma de producirlo. Quizás será interesante ver qué diferencias hay, qué aporta la idea de string figure respecto de la de mapa… Algunas se me ocurren rápido: la implicación de los cuerpos es más evidente, la precariedad, el tener que pasarlo y recibirlo permanentemente de unos a otros… La dimensión del devenir-con aparece como más evidente y precaria…

* Figuring aquí me desconcierta un poco… Igual es sólo algo retórico, de string figures a figuring… Igual pretende subrayar el especto material y espacial-temporal de las composiciones… frente a una aproximación más abstracta del tipo D-G…

** This sounds very Latour, indeed, plucking and following the traces… real and particular places and times…

*** Ongoingness, otra palabra difícil y característica del libro. Sobre ongoing dice el M-W: being actually in process; será por tanto lo que está en proceso, lo que está en proceso de devenir, vivo, haciéndose… Lo heraclitiano, podíamos decir en cierto modo… pero no se ahora mismo si tiene algún énfasis especial. En realidad el término figure aquí tampoco lo comprendo demasiado bien… aunque mirando el M-W se ve que tiene múltiples acepciones: forma, apariencia, pattern o patrón, incluso coreografía


[pg. 3; prgf. 2&3; pg. 4; prgf. 1&2]

Section 6: Two typical responses to the Anthropocene

The book and the idea of “staying with the trouble” are especially impatient with two responses that I hear all too frequently [responses] to the horrors of the Anthropocene and the Capitalocene (*).

(*) A&C were already mentioned without explanation in section 3.

[6.1] The first is easy to describe, and i think, dismiss, namely, a comic faith in technofixes (*), whether secular or religious: technology will somehow come to the rescue of its naughty but very clever children, or what amount to the same thing, God will come to the rescue of his disobedient but ever hopeful children.

In the face of such touching silliness about technofixes (or techno-apocalypses [?]), sometimes it is hard to remember that it remains important to embrace situated technical projects and their people. They are not the enemy; they can do many important things for staying with the trouble and for making generative oddkin.

* Tecnosolucionismo que critica el amigo Morozov entre otros


[6.2] The second response, harder to dismiss, is probably even more destructive: namely, a position that the game is over, it’s too late, there’s no sense trying to make anything any better, or at least no sense having any active trust in each other in working and playing for a resurgent world.

Some scientists I know express this kind of bitter cynicism, even as they actually work very hard to make a positive difference for both people and other critters.

Some people who describe themselves as critical cultural theorists or political progressives express these ideas too.

I think the odd coupling of actually working and playing for multispecies flourishing with tenacious energy and skill, while expressing an explicit “game over” attitude than can and does discourage others, including students, is facilitated by various kinds of futurisms. One kind seems to imagine that only if things work do they matter [?] – or, worse, only if what I and my fellow experts do works to fix things does anything matter. More generously, sometimes scientists and others who think, read, study, agitate, and care know too much, and it is too heavy. Or, at least we think we know enough to reach the conclusion that life on [E]arth that include human people in any tolerable way really is over, that the apocalypse really is nigh.

[6.3: Elaboration on the former defeated or too realist attitude; the population issue]

That attitude makes a great deal of sense in the midts of the [E]arth’s sixth great extinction event and in the midst of engulfing wars, extractions [?], and immiserations of billions and other critters for something called “profit” or “power” – or, for that matter, called “God” [?].

A game-over attitude imposes itself in the gale-force winds of feeling, not just knowing, that human numbers are almost certain to reach more than 11 billion people by 2100. The figure represents a 9-billion person increase over 150 years from 1950 to 2100, with vastly unequal consequences for the poor and the rich – not to mention vastly unequal burdens imposed on the earth by the rich compared to the poor – and even worse consequences for non-humans almost everywhere. There are many other examples of dire realities; the Great Accelerations of the post-World War II era gouge their marks in [E]arth’s rocks, waters, airs and critters.

There is a fine line between acknowledging the extent and seriousness of the troubles and succumbing to abstract futurism and its affects of sublime despair and its politics of sublime indifference. (*)

* Interesting, very good — here the use of the term sublime…


[pg. 4; prgf. 3]

Section 7: The Chthulucene as attitude and way of acting

This book argues and tries to perform that, eschewing futurism, staying with the trouble is both more serious and more lively.

Staying with the trouble requires making oddkin; that is, we require each other in unexpected collaborations and combinations, in hot compost piles.

We become-with each other or not at all.

That kind of material semiotics (*) is always situated, someplace and no place, entangled and worldly.

Alone, in our separate kinds of expertise and experience, we know both too much and too little, and so we succumb to despair or ti hope, and neither is a sensible [prudente] attitude. Neither despair nor hope is tuned to the senses, to mindful matter [?], to material semiotics, to mortal earthlings in thick copresence.

Neither hope nor despair knows how to teach us to “play string figures with companion species,” the title of the first chapter of the book.

* Material semiotics. Provisionalmente podemos pensar en maneras de significar y comunicar sin discurso, mediante la forma física, las configuraciones, la química & bioquímica, las prácticas mismas…


Imagen:  What happens when you mix math, coral and crochet? It’s mind-blowing. The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring; fuente img:

Part 2 [begins: pg. 4; prgf. 4]: description of the chapter’s contents

Comment: Here, beside describing each of them it continues advancing various ideas and figures. ____ The introduction for the class, however, could stop here.


Section 2.1: chapter 1, Playing String Figures with Companion Species

Three long chapters open Staying with the Trouble. Each chapter tracks stories and figures for making kin in the Chtulucene in order to cut the bonds of the Anthropocene and the Capitalocene. (*)

Pigeons in all their worldly diversity – from creatures of empire, to working men’s racing birds, to spies in war, to scientific research partners, to collaborators in art activisms on three continents, to urban companions and pests – are the guides in chapter 1.

In their homely histories, …

__ notas

* Wark: Workings of the world untie! There is a win to world!

Section 2.2; chapter 2, Tentacular thinking

[…] pigeons lead into a practice of “tentacular thinking,” the title of the second chapter. (*)

Here I expand the argument that bounded individualism in its many flavors in
__ science
__ politics, and
__ philosophy
has finally become unavailable to think with, truly no longer thinkable, technically or any other way.

Sympoiesis – making with – is a keyword throughout the chapter, as I explore the gifts for needed thinking offered by theorists and storytellers.

My partners in science studies, anthropology, and storytelling – Isabelle Stengers, Bruno Latour, Thom van Dooren, Anna Tsing, Marilyn Strathern, Hannah Arendt, Ursula Le Guin, and others are my companions throughout tentacular thinking.

With their help I introduce the three timescapes of the book: the Anthropocene, the Capitalocene, and the Chthulucene.

Allied with the Pacific day octopus, Medusa, the only mortal Gorgon, figured as the Mistress of the Animals, saves the day and ends the chapter.

__ notas

* Once again one would have to think about similarities an differences between tentacular thinking and rhizomatic thinking. Then, I myself, should think about the differences, the distances, between conventionally so called scientific thinking and writing, and tentacular thinking…


Section 2.3: chapter 3, Symbiogenesis and the Lively Arts of Staying with the Trouble

“Symbiogenesis and the Lively Arts of Staying with the Trouble,” chapter 3, spins out the threads of sympoiesis in
__ ecological evolutionary developmental [later called EcoEvoDev] biology and
__ in art/science activisms committed to four iconic troubled places:
__ coral reef holobiomes,
__ Black Mesa coal country in Navajo and Hopy lands and other fossil fuel extraction zones impacting especially ferociously on indigenous people,
__ complex lemur forest habitats in Madagascar, and
__ North American circumpolar lands and seas subject to new and old colonizations in the grip of rapidly melting ice.

This chapter makes string figures with the threads of reciprocating energies of biologies, arts, and activisms for multispecies resurgence.

Navajo-Churro sheep, orchids, extinct bees, lemurs, jellyfish [?], coral polyps, seals [?], and microbes play leading roles with their artists, biologists, and activists throughout the chapter.

Here and throughout the book, the sustaining creativity of people who care and act animates the action. Not surprisingly, contemporary indigenous people and peoples, in conflict and collaboration with many sorts of partners, make a sensible difference.

Biologists, beginning with the incomparable Lynn Margulis, infuse the thinking and playing in this chapter. (*)

__ notas

* For a tight and thorough reading of the book, it would be interesting to compare the contents of chapters 1 and 3; in particular the theory-ideas; the diverse emphasis; as the case-studies are obviously different. While in chapter 1 the emphasis is in string figures, going on then to the family of pigeon case-studies; in chapter three, the emphasis is rather on biological studies, around the sparking bright character of Lynn Margulis. Again, comparing the theory presented in chapters 2 and 2, the idea of simpoiesis seems to be a commons one. While in ch 2, with Stengers, Latour and others the central theme could be about the no-disciplinary boundaries approach, the situated condition… [?]; in ch 3 it might be the biological Margulian model; and then the arts/science approach to simpoetic production… All this is not very clear to me now.


Section 2.4: chapter 4, Making kin

[pp. 5-6-7]

[“Making kin”, chapter 4, is both a reprise of the timescapes of Anthropocene, Capitalocene, and Chthulucene, and […]

[…] a plea to “Make Kin Not Babies.”

Comment: Now begins a long digression – or not so, about the world-population problem; – that is probably longer than the one which is actually in chapter 4 itself… The issue concerns me too; I really appreciate a discussion about reproductive rights – linking in my opinion to the Marxist idea of social reproduction of labor; in a way that surprised me.

Antiracist, anticolonial, anticapitalist, proqueer feminists of every color and from every people have long been leaders in the movement for sexual and reproductive freedom and rights, with particular to the violence of reproductive and sexual orders for poor and marginalized people. (*)

Feminists have been leaders in arguing that sexual and reproductive freedom means being able to bring children, whether one’s own or those of others, to robust adulthood in health and safety in intact [?] communities.

__ notas

(*) Argument similar to Alicia Puleo’s. Would be interesting to compare in detail. See also Silivia Federici.

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