Helen Palmer and Vicky Hunter
16 MARCH 2018
What is a worlding? What is an –ing? Does the addition of a suffix –ing denoting the verbal noun phrase shift the world from a being to a doing; to a gerundive and generative process?
The performativity of the noun that repeats itself as a verb or gerund; the world’s worlding, is the setting up of the world. Worlding is a particular blending of the material and the semiotic that removes the boundaries between subject and environment, or perhaps between persona and topos. Worlding affords the opportunity for the cessation of habitual temporalities and modes of being.
The notion of ‘worlding’ arising from non-representational theory provides a useful lens through which process of human-non-human enmeshment can be considered. Kathleen Stewart (2012) provides a definition of worlding referring to the “affective nature” of the world in which “non-human agency” comprising of “forms, rhythms and refrains” (for example)reach a point of “expressivity” for an individual and develop a sense of “legibility”. Through this process a particular ‘world’ emerges for the individual through their engagement with a number of interrelated phenomena.
Anderson and Harrison expand on worlding further: “…the term ‘world’ does not refer to an extant thing but rather the context or background against which particular things show up and take on significance: a mobile but more or less stable ensemble of practices, involvements, relations, capacities, tendencies and affordances.” (Anderson & Harrison, 2010, p. 8)
New materialist perspectives enable us to look deeper into entangled human-world relations and consider further what the immediately perceived life-world might consist of, and how immediate encounters connect to and intersect with the wider world and invoke or implicate worlding processes above and beyond a set of physical or situational conditions. Autre-mondialisation is a particular articulation of ‘worlding’ that Donna Haraway gains from the work of Paul B. Preciado and discusses in When Species Meet (Haraway, 2008). More recently Haraway has created the world of ‘Terrapolis’, in which “companion species” engage in relentless processes of “becoming with” a world in which; “natures, cultures, subjects and objects do not pre-exist their intertwined worldings” (2016, p. 13). The articulation of worlding processes require careful handling and they may be reflected on and communicated in various ways, for instance through description, imagery, metaphor and theoretically informed perspectives as Haraway observes: “It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what descriptions describe descriptions, what ties tie ties.” (Haraway, 2016, p. 12).
Haraway alludes here to the importance of articulation through third terms, through selecting and applying the most relevant or appropriate terminology that might convey something of the human-non-human worlding. Her notion of Terrapolis therefore calls into question the nature of matter itself, what we perceive and consider as human and non-human matter, what counts and what matters and, through doing so enables the fostering of new ontological dispositions towards the world and worlds at large. From such a disposition, the world, the body and their material actants are equally conceived as materially amorphous, unfinished and always on the move. As Haraway claims, SF (science fiction, or speculative fabulation) is one definition of worlding. As she says, “SF is storytelling and fact telling; it is the patterning of possible worlds and possible times, material-semiotic worlds, gone, here, and yet to come.” (Haraway, 2016, p. 31). Haraway’s personae are multiple: strings, critters, mythological entities occupy the same narrative space. For example, she proposes “snaky Medusa and the many unfinished worldings of her antecedents, affiliates, and descendants” (Haraway, 2016, p. 52). Snake-haired Medusa re-speculated and re-fabulated.
It is clear when Haraway is sketching out her version of worlding that she is keen to separate her use of the term from that of Heidegger’s: “Finished once and for all with Kantian globalizing cosmopolitics and grumpy human-exceptionalist Heideggerian worlding, Terrapolis is a mongrel word composted with a mycorrhiza of Greek and Latin rootlets and their symbionts” (Haraway, 2016, p. 11). Worlding for Haraway manifests itself in the SF sense: “a risky game of worlding and storying; it is staying with the trouble.” (Haraway, 2016, p. 13). Some of her earlier thinking around the conception of worlding can be seen in her Companion Species Manifesto (2003) as in her subsequent reference to Whitehead’s process philosophy, specifically concerning his theory of prehensions. “Reality is an active verb, and the nouns all seem to be gerunds with more appendages than an octopus” (Haraway, 2003, p. 6) (and of course tentacularity rears its tendrils later for Haraway not merely as a figure but as an active mode of thought). Here we are explicitly made aware of the noun-as-gerund, active worlding, which in Haraway’s most recent work is put into effect in the creation of Terrapolis: “a story, a speculative fabulation, and a strong figure for multispecies worlding” (Haraway, 2016, p. 10).
Worlding therefore is an active, ontological process; it is not simply a result of our existence in or passive encounter with particular environments, circumstances events or places. Worlding is informed by our turning of attention to a certain experience, place or encounter and our active engagement with the materiality and context in which events and interactions occur. It is above all an embodied and enacted process – a way of being in the world – consisting of an individual’s whole-person act of attending to the world. Wording is worlding, and what we need to do is word the world better (Foley, 2017).
KEYWORDS: place, embody, material, semiotic, agency
GENEALOGIES: feminist new materialisms
HYPERNYMS: onto-epistemological frameworks
HYPONYMS: articulation, realisation, materialisation, making
ANTONYMS: disembodiment, unworlding
Anderson, B. & P. Harrison (2010) (eds) Taking – Place: Non-Representational Theories and Geography. Farnham: Ashgate.
Foley, Jessica (2017) ‘Word the World Better’ postcard, part of Engineering Fictions box set of scores (Dublin: CONNECT) (www.engineeringfictions.wordpress.com)
Gregg, M. & G. Seigworth (2010) (eds) The Affect Theory Reader. London: Duke University Press
Haraway, D. (2016) Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Haraway, D. (2008) When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Stewart, K. (2012) ‘Tactile Compositions’, Affective Landscapes Conference, University of Derby, May 2012.
Stewart, K. (2010) ‘Worlding Refrains’ in M. Gregg & G. Seigworth (eds) (2010) The Affect Theory Reader. London: Duke University Press, pp. 339 – 53.
Source https://newmaterialism.eu/almanac/w/worlding.html accessed on 6th November 2022