‘COSMOS AS COMMONS: An Activation of Cosmic Diplomacy’, Debora Battaglia {Melanie}

e-flux article

(…) Here, I stress the critical point of cosmic
diplomacy, on one level, for adding into the mix of
voices and doings of spirits and humans, some of
nature’s own; on another, for asking what the
poetics of “shamanism in action” might be
offering science in action, in the service of a
cosmopolitical consciousness (as Stengers
conceives of this), and vice versa. This “dance” of
translatability opens to recognizing for the myth
it is any possible “escape from perspective”
which, as Goetz Hoeppe takes up the point from
his theoretical ethnography of astronomical
practice, has historically “been conceived as a
pathway to objectivity” by scientists.12 Further, it
appreciates that “observing and theorizing are
perspectival not just in a geometrical-optical
sense, but more generally so in terms of the
diverse properties of the instruments, models,
and theories which scientists use and the aims
they use them for
” [emphasis mine] – a point of
Giere’s which Hoeppe echoes in his study of
astronomers, who work in effect collaboratively
from widely separated field sites.13 The point
bears extending to the aims of shamans,
ethnographers, and the objects of their study. By
placing reflexivity at the armature of
accountability for what Hoeppe terms the “tacit
cosmologies” of experienced scientists who
routinely subject their data sets to diverse
“evidential contexts” and to their own
professional histories as a kind of “sanity check,”
we find ourselves positioned to examine
moments when specialist knowledge and aims in
different locations warm to each other by the
invitation of not-quite or not-yet perceivable, but
(as themselves only) inherently trustworthy,
natural phenomena – a practical expression of
what Eduardo Viveiros de Castro terms
“multinatural formations”.
Consider further these scenarios of
diplomatic first contact. (..)


Debbora Battaglia is Five College Fortieth Anniversary Professor of Anthropology at Mount Holyoke College. Ongoing interests include personhood, alienness and belonging; the cosmopolitics and socioaesthetics of world-making; visual anthropology in the material world; the anthropology of science and technology


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