Posts Tagged ‘Imaginaire’

Asubha Meditation in less than 6 minutes

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2007 at 4:41 pm

Asubha (the unbeautiful, or just loathsome) is contemplated in a famous and somewhat notorious (in the West) form of Buddhist meditation which takes this as its name. In order to counteract an unhealthy attachment to the beautiful (subha), one contemplates the unbeautiful. How does one do this? Most commonly, one concentrates on and imagines the process by which the beautiful thing one is attached to will die, disintegrate, and fall apart. This is often practiced, therefore, in cremation grounds, or in specially cultivated areas where donated corpses are left to fall apart through the action of animals and time.

The practice of asubha meditation can be shocking and quite painful. The dedicated practice of asubha typically takes a very long time.

Want to start with an asubha-nimittam (a sign or object of unbeauty)? Try this youtube video. Warning: probably not safe for work, and may be shocking to your sensibilities.

Preah Ko Preah Keo Movie!

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2007 at 3:29 am

It’s a sad story, but good news for us! Thank goodness that esteemed Language Instructor and a man I’m grateful to call my own Lokkru (teacher) has started putting video clips (podcasts) up on the internet.

And the sad story up now, in two parts, is the story so close to the vast majority of Cambodian hearts: Preah Ko Preah Keo. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this story in Khmer culture. And now, as long as (a) you have an internet connection, and (b) you understand Khmer, you too can watch a version of this story as directed by Lokkru Frank Smith.

Part 1

Part 2 

Using your Eyeballs on Text

In Uncategorized on February 5, 2007 at 9:36 pm

Well, it’s a more interesting title than ‘reading,’ which is all this post is about.

This last week I was bound up with a larger than usual share of non-dissertation duties, but I still managed to get through two wonderful, wonderful new books on Buddhism, and a very fun book on Zombies (and therefore about deathpower, and therefore work-related). All highly recommended. Read the rest of this entry »

CamNews: “Feral Woman” Captured from the Forest

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2007 at 6:24 pm

This story appears to have captured the imagination of the world. As the story is reported, an 8-year old girl disappeared almost two decades ago near the Vietnamese border, when she was out watching cattle with her brother. The family never saw her again. Until the other day, when a ‘jungle woman,’ who is supposed to be ‘without language,’ ‘naked,’ and ‘walking just like a monkey,’ was captured stealing food from someone’s lunchbox. She was immediately identified as this girl through her possession of a similar/identical scar on her arm, and has been taken into custody by the family. There’s really no other word for it, since the young woman keeps trying to escape back to the forest, ripping her clothes off, etc. Some of the pictures published show villagers crowding around staring and pointing. It’s all a rather piteous spectacle. The sheer number of photos also indicate that she’s been under the lens for far too long in her brief period of return. Read the rest of this entry »


In Uncategorized on December 5, 2006 at 10:36 pm

Lots of reading this week: The new Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, almost completely on Cambodia; David Graeber’s big book on anthropological value, Thom Hartmann’s atrocious but well-intentioned eco-nightmare, and Alfie Kohn’s lovely caution against bribing your kids.

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Remembered Villages, Imagined Communities

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2006 at 8:48 pm

Ever since James C. Scott’s “Weapons of the Weak,” the concept of the remembered village has been a powerful notion with which to critique the all-too-cynical understandings of those who hearken to a past to critique the present. ((Most famously, perhaps, Hobsbawm and Ranger’s annoying and still-influential Invention of Tradition. Hobsbawm, Eric, and Terence Ranger. 1983. The invention of tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
)) It may be a ‘conservative’ move, but that is never the only thing it is. In an era of rapid mechanization of agriculture and the attendant landlessness and poverty that produced in Malaysia, Scott conceived of the ‘remembered village,’ a possibly romanticized vision of the village prior to the ravages of the Green Revolution, as a way of offending against and criticizing the rise of mechanized, feral capitalism by those who were suffering most from it. After all, in that situation, it was hardly those who were profiting the most who made the most frequent appeals to the order of the past (though they did so as well, usually to indicate that the respect they were due was no longer coming, as a result of the poor morals of the poor).

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Bachelard speaks of a need of the imagination:

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2006 at 8:45 pm

the need to animalize which lies at the origin of imagination. The primary function of imagination is to make animal forms. ((Gaston Bachelard. 1939. Lautréamont. Paris: Corti., p. 51. Noted in Casey’s Imagining in a footnote on p. 30))

Pretas (again) and Deathpower

In Uncategorized on November 1, 2006 at 8:53 pm

I received a wonderful response to my recent Pretas paper from a friend, which inspired me to write this response. I’m posting it here because these thoughts need to go into the reworking of this paper into an early chapter on death and giving, and also because it allowed me to state some preliminary thoughts on what I mean by Deathpower, which is, after all, the name of this blog. Here it is:

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Walter Benjamin on Imagination

In Uncategorized on November 1, 2006 at 5:49 pm

Benjamin, Walter. “Aphorisms on imagination and color.” In Selected writings. Volume I: 1913-1926, edited by Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings, 48-49. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.
Benjamin, Walter. “Imagination.” In Selected writings. Volume I: 1913-1926, edited by Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings, 280-282. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.
In this early fragment, Walter Benjamin makes the (seemingly highly platonic) judgment that

The gaze of the imagination is a gaze within the canon, not in accordance with it; it is therefore purely receptive, uncreative. ((Benjamin, Walter. “Aphorisms on imagination and color.” In Selected writings. Volume I: 1913-1926, edited by Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings, 48-49. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.))

Like Plato, for Benjamin here, the imagination is a deforming faculty, which receives and transforms, inevitably creating only untruth from the reception of truth. But Benjamin is also famous for his generally positive attitude toward the possibilities of human creativity. His “Art in the Age of Mechanical Production” remains important for many today; the ambiguity of his attitude towards human creativity is in evidence there, and throughout his work.
So if the imagination is only deformational, what possibilities are there, in Benjaminian thought, for conceiving of liberatory possibilities? A later essay, “Imagination,” Benjamin seems to identify two possibilities: In aesthetics, or art, the imagination itself creates beauty only insofar as it manages to re-present the de-formation of imagination’s action on reality itself, thereby including within imagination’s works the acknowledgment of its limitations. But in a more traditionally Benjaminian move which is simultaneously Platonic, Benjamin relies on the prophetic to supply a cognition and guarantee of truth.
This essay, for all its faults, is crucial in a number of ways:

  1. It focuses not on the idealistic or imaginal (in Corbin’s neo-platonic sense) liberation, but on the liberating imagination as a process of engagement and interaction
  2. It requires the constant interaction with reality, while never asserting that the imagination is capable of representing reality accurately
  3. It identifies the process of imaginative deformation with creativity and the fantastic, in opposition to ‘empirical destruction’ and death.

Regarding the Platonic aspect of Benjamin’s reliance on the prophetic: there is a difference between the two that is important. The similarities are that imagination in Benjamin and Plato is associated with forgetting, to which the liberatory answer is remembering, or more literally un-forgetting (anamnesis). This liberatory answer for Benjamin takes the figure of the prophetic in Benjamin, and enters into the folds of time, since Benjamin associates it with the Future.
It’s important enough for me to want to include the entire short essay in its entirety. (see below the fold)

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The contradictions of capitalism, according to Castoriadis, applied to Cambodia

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2006 at 9:40 pm

In a recent post I noted that the landlessness problem in Cambodia is at least partly a result of the penetration of the countryside by the formerly resisted tentacular manipulations of Capitalism. Capitalism’s ‘universal gearbox’ ((Galéano, Eduardo. The open veins of Latin America: five centuries of the pillage of a continent. . Translated by Cedric Belfrage. 25th anniversary edition ed. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1997 [1973].)) has harnessed the desires of farmers for the self-sufficiency that emerges from isolated agricultural smallholding, and yoked those desires to the depredations of mutant capitalism, which use the clearing of protected forests not only for the timber and gems, but also for the planting of plantations and eventually the building of factories. The factories built do not lift the level of Cambodian subsistence much more than the practice of agriculture, since there is no real domestic market, which means that the factories are merely the public face of Cambodia as a export-processing zone.

In a review of Cornelius Castoriadis’ (aka Paul Cardan) work in Solidarity, Maurice Brinton wrote that

The fundamental contradiction of capitalism still remains in the necessity for capitalism on the one hand to reduce workers to simple executors of tasks, and on the other, in the impossibility for it to continue to function if it succeeds in so doing Capitalism needs to achieve mutually incompatible objectives: the participation and the exclusion of the worker in production – as of all citizens in relation to politics. (( Brinton, Maurice. For workers’ power: selected writings of Maurice Brinton. Edited by David Goodaway. Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2004, 218))

This seems like a useful description of the process in current attempt in Cambodia, as elsewhere: to achieve action within the subject – a relationship of command or control – without compromising the subject’s basic autonomous processes that do the ‘magic’ that gets the goal done. In the wild capitalism that exists now this appears to be accomplished and reconciled in capitalism by the creation, a la Wallerstein of different spheres in the Modern World-System, or as I like to think of them, “Theaters of Capitalism” (in the military sense of ‘theater’). In Zones like Cambodia, the highest fraction of the ruling elite are controlled via their desires to consume and preserve their privilege, while the lower fractions, especially in the lower class itself, are controlled more by fundamental need and force. It is in the attempts to imagine forms of withdrawal which do not lead successfully to autonomy that the problem really becomes interesting. As I noted earlier, it is the desire for autonomy that drives smallholders to clear forest on behalf of plantation owners who own the land and allow the farmers to farm it as a means of preparing the earth, even going so far as to build them cheap homes.


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