Wednesday, February 19, 2014
An Epistemological Equation of Sorts: Home + Away = Abroad?
For if the last session - our maiden voyage - found us far out beyond those sailboats, afloat on the sparkling blue sea, this session - like a homing pigeon - took us back to the place from whence we'd come. First, though, we had to sit a spell on the threshold: using that space of neither here, neither there, to hash out the relationship between our point of origin and the spot where we had currently washed up on shore; tightrope-walking our way through the elsewhere and "elsewhen" (Greg Wise) of home if only to test the strength of its safety net, if only to push the limits of its pull on us. And indeed 'home,' as viewed from this borderlands vantage point, shook off those cozy cliches faster than you can shake out a welcome mat. Home Sweet Home? Hearth and Home? Home as - bless old Pliny the Elder (AD 23 - AD 79) - where the heart is? Well, let's just say that home as "dilemmatic space" (Bonnie Honig) better describes the image that captured our hearts, that gave us plenty to write home about, as we grappled with the question of what really keeps those home fires burning. If the answers to the latter were diverse, ranging from creatively nesting to continually negotiating those "little tactics of the habitat" (Michel Foucault) to consciously transforming the unhappy home of yesterday into today's site of active resistance, our task of unpacking this not-so-cozy-concept-after-all was aided by shifting the focus away from home as place to home-making as action.
Next, we divided ourselves into groups - Sojourners, Globe-trotters, Ex-pats, and Jet-setters - so as to explore the various ways that these folks, through time, have engaged with the extended stay "abroad" or the proverbial 'grand tour' "overseas." Selecting a suitable carrying case and then packing it for these various entities was one of the ways we got to know each of them better. Subjecting those same entities to an arduous questionnaire - Where is 'abroad'?; Does the idea of going abroad suggest slow travel?; Who goes abroad these days?; How might 'a move abroad' be considered 'a tactical evasion'? (thank you, Ian McEwan!) - resulted in some important insights into the tactics used by each of these groups to negotiate the terrain between Home and Away whilst Abroad. Linking these insights to questions we had collectively put together during our first session together, we were able to draw on these particular travelling 'types' to flesh out whether it is better to arrive at our destination with or without prior knowledge of it, whether organized travel affords us greater freedom or lesser freedom than 'disorganized' travel, and the role played by our senses as we immerse ourselves in foreign climes.
As for what comes home with us after we've been away, we'll give Francis Bacon (1561-1626) - known as 'the great empiricist' and 'father' of the scientific method - the final florid word on this issue:
"Let us only prick in some flowers, of that we hath learned abroad, into the customs of our own country."
Er....right. What's more, it's easy to see why he's also credited with having introduced into philosophy the art of inductive reasoning. Poor old Bacon, though...He died of pneumonia after scrabbling about in the cold while attempting to prick - in those days, the word meant 'plant' - snow into the interior of a recently butchered chicken in order to test out freezing as a method for preserving meat. The experiment was a success...The same could hardly be said of Bacon. As the old saying goes, and as we Canadians know all too well thanks to our own powers of induction: "A good woolly hat - never leave home without one!"
at 12:09 PM