Posts by Casper Hernández Cordes

Pædagogisk antropolog. Boligsocial koordinator. Komponist. Lyt til min podcast: "Mand Hund Jord" - en undersøgelse af forholdene i det som omgiver os: http://bit.ly/hundjord

Du har fået færten af duftsporene

Velkommen
Du har fået færten af duftsporene
Fulgt dem mens de blev kraftigere
og flere
her er plads nok, på det her sted

på det her sted er der
et ukendt antal vækster og væsener
nye kommer til
oppe, nede, henne, imellem

se på din hånd
den kan gribe
her er en tråd
grib den med din hånd

herhenne, den ene fra kvist til kvist
den anden efter, nærved, nærer sig
omsætter

se på din anden hånd
grib denne anden tråd

derovre, én og anden tager stof ind
danner tråd, spinder

Du kan binde de to ender sammen
Du kan sno trådene om hinanden
vikle dem, flette

et andet sted, rundt om én, sætter en anden af
vender i luften, snor sig tilbage

Hvis du ikke har hænder, her
grib med noget andet
munden
lårene
øjet
tanken

her sættes meget om
stof blandes, flytter sig mellem grene, strå, stier og afsæt
……

Med trådene kan du danne andre baner, blande stof sammen
sætte nye duftspor

Pladsen slipper ikke op

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Jordskrift

(English summary below)

Imens jeg har gravet og gravet i det her forsøg på at komme til bunds i, hvordan vi mennesker behandler hinanden og vores omgivelser – og en mulig sammenhæng mellem de to relationer – har jeg i en periode valgt podcasten som format. Da jeg alligevel til dagligt går ture med min hund tænkte jeg, at det var en anledning til at lave en walk and talk podcast, hvor jeg dels registrerer de lyde, der opstår omkring mig, fra fugle, biler og andre organismer i omgivelserne, og dels taler om det jeg oplever, og om, hvad det får mig til at tænke på. Det blev til i alt 13 podcasts. Du kan finde dem på min dansksprogede blog, her. Det er som om, at det her format har udspillet sig for mig, nu. Til gengæld søger mine undersøgelser nu ad et andet format, nemlig korte tekster, digte, poesi, lyrik, eller hvad du vil kalde det. Jeg kalder det jordskrift.

Hvorfor digte? En inspiration kommer fra den franske filosof og videnskabsmand Gaston Bachelard, som har skrevet kolossalt meget om digtning. En af hans pointer er, at man gennem digtning kan forholde sig til næsten alt. For mig, som har baggrund i musikken, er det umiddelbart en lidt underlig tanke. For hvad sker der med tiden? Musikken eksisterer i kraft af, at den udfolder sig i tid. Men det gør tekst jo ikke. Så hvad er en udtryksform, der ikke får de super nuancerede bevægelser i spil, som netop en tidsbåret kunstform får med? Det har jeg selvfølgelig ikke noget svar på, men jeg kan se, at det at arbejde med tekst giver god mening på en masse måder alligevel. Det er bla. fordi, der er mange dimensioner i spil. Der er ordene, og deres dagligdags betydninger. Der er deres placering i det fysiske rum, på papiret. Og så er der samspillet mellem ordene. For det er tilladt i digtet at skære helt ind til benet, og på den måde kommer der en masse flertydighed i spil. Kort sagt giver digtformatet mig en effektiv kanal til at arbejde med en række dimensioner og niveauer på samme tid. Og så er formatet umiddelbart og praktisk at have med at gøre. Det er ikke noget udstyrsstykke. Jeg har kort sagt brug for min hjerne og min mobil.

Jeg bruger google docs som lager, og når jeg skal skrive åbner jeg et nyt dokument, og begynder at skrive. Som regel retter jeg til et par gange bagefter, typisk ved at fjerne sætninger, og ord som ikke er nødvendige og skaber ubalance.

Et eksempel. Jeg startede et digt med linjerne:

Det gentager sig
Dag ud
Dag ind
Evigt det samme

Så kiggede jeg på, hvad jeg havde skrevet. Og så, at de fire linjer på papiret dannede en form, som lignede et gab, en åbning, en mund. Derfor fortsatte jeg:

I det gab mellem samme og sig
Sniger sig ind
Linje for linje
Et gradvist tab af mening

Se digtet her.  Og følg med her, hvor jeg lægger nye tekster ind.

English summary

As a part of my pocket investigation, I am writing short texts, poems, or what you would like to call them. Since my mother tongue is Danish, they are in this language, spoken by approximately 5 mio people. “Jordskrift” means, literally earth/soil writing/text.

 

Sidder I godt, derinde, spørger jeg

Sidder I godt, derinde, spørger jeg
Ja, vi sidder ganske udmærket, svarer I og tilføjer
Og det er godt at have dig med
Herude sidder vi også fint, svarer jeg
Og dig, der sidder lidt længere inde end mig, spørger jeg
Nå, hvor længe har du så siddet der, og griner
Og du svarer
Ja, det er jo ikke længe siden jeg sad hvor du sidder, og griner
Og tilføjer
Og jeg er sikker på, at der snart bliver plads lidt længere inde til dig også
Og til dig på min anden side siger jeg
Sikke nogle pænt holdte negle
Du dér hænger på kanten i
Og imens du er for ophængt til at svare, tilføjer jeg
Der skal nok snart blive plads til dig heroppe også

Homemade instruments, inequality and new worlds

Siloé is a neighborhood in Cali, Colombia with a long history and a lot of culture. It is also considered “Cali’s most dangerous barrio“.

Through the friend of a friend, yesterday, I heard about Colombian musician and composer Moíses Zamora Mesu, who is working in a project called Los tambores de Siloé. Today, Moíses invited me to come and visit.

Every Tuesday and Friday, Moíses teaches music to a group of young kids in Siloé, playing on homemade instruments. With a lot of patience and innate teaching skills, he teaches the children to play his own compositions inspired by Colombian folklore, reggaeton and rap music.

I was lucky to be allowed by the parents to film the class, and share it, so please take a moment to enjoy these young musicians:

Notice the homemade instruments. So we have the “marimbotella”. This is a small marimba, where the bars are made from chonta wood – which is traditionally used in the marimbas of the Pacific Coast of Colombia – and the resonance tubes are made from … plastic bottles. A combination of garbage and traditional local materials. And we have the Bernáfono”, an instrument made from PVC tubes. The inventor of the instrument is Héctor Tascón. He is also the one who initiated the project, some years back. His wife is called Berna, by the way (guess where the name of the Bernáfono comes from 😉 ). As opposed to the marimbotella, the Bernáfono doesn’t correspond to any existing instrument. It is rather – as Moíses explained to me, After the class, over a glass of ice coffee – a kind of bass marimba, using the principles of a pan flute. Moíses and I talked about the use of recycled materials, and the perception of value. He told me that an aunt of one the girls in the group had asked her – in a condescending tone – what kind of trash this weird collection of tubes was supposed to be. The girl had explained to the sceptical aunt, that she considered herself proud to be a “bernafonista”, that it was not at all trash, and that it made her able to create beautiful music.

Listen to Moíses playing his own composition in the Bernáfono, here:

Note how, at some point, he covers the end of one of the tubes, thus halving its pitch…

As an educational anthropologist, what particularly interests me when observing this open air music class, is the intersection between acquiring skills, producing, and community building. I noticed that in Moíses’ pedagogy there is on the one hand an aspect of guided learning, as when he instructs the group in a specific composition:

On the other hand there are aspects of peer learning:

These are aspects about the surface level, you might say, of the project. At a deeper level, Los Tambores de Siloé have an impact on the neighborhood, that reaches beyond the mere producting of music. As one of the mothers who where watching the class told me: this is “a better alternative to bullets and drugs”. Schooling in Siloé is “free”. However, – the mothers told me – the obligatory school uniform costs 200 USD per year, the transport to and from school – by “motorratón”, which means at the backseat on a motorcycle – costs 6.000 COP, approximately 2 USD per day. And then comes school materials, lunchbox, etc. For this reason, there are families who simply can’t afford sending their kids to school… And then what? According to the mothers, too many kids end up hanging out in the streets, doing nothing, – or worse, I suppose by this they meant things involving bullets and drugs. (See also Clara Rübner Jørgensen’s article “FORKLÆDTE PENGE: En diskussion af brugerbetaling i en gratis nicaraguansk folkeskole”.)
Moíses told me about a boy, who since a young age had participated in the project. Now, at 15, he’s an accomplished marimbero, and Moíses hires him to play with him at gigs at weddings and the like. It’s kind of a cliché that a career as a professional musician can be “a way out of the ghetto” for young people. Nonetheless, as i experience it, the project Tambores de Siloé seems to be successful in opening up other alternatives, other worlds, for young people in a neighborhood characterized by huge inequality.

Bonus materials

This text is about sharing my thoughts from what we might call an improvised one-day ethnographic trip. My intension is also to share the footage for others to dig into. So here are some more videos for you:

The instruments

The Silicobombo

The Silicocaja

The interviews

More peer learning

Autism is an environmentalism

While reading and summarizing Descola’s giant work Beyond nature and culture, I have been ‘side-reading’ some stuff about autism.  Reading the book Women from another planet?: Our Lives in the Universe of Autism has made me think some additional thoughts to my reading of Descola.

Women from another planet? is a book, collectively written by a group of women diagnosed with autism spectrum. The authors are mostly using email as a medium, which is also reflected in the layout of the book, with small paragraphs (in italics), introducing a topic, followed by the women’s statements. I would like to cite a passage from a section headlined ‘Development and maturity’:

MM: I think that some of us [women with autism spectrum/Asperger’s syndrome (AS)] not only have our five senses on high, but also our sixth sense: that we do not draw a line between inanimate and animate beings, that they all have soul to us.

Daina: As a child, everything was somewhat alive to me. Perhaps the face-processing tendency that most NTs [neurotypicals] have, enables them early on to distinguish what is alive and what isn’t, and what is human and what isn’t.  

Ava: Or maybe what is and isn’t alive, is just another assumption that NTs make. So for the NT child, either because of the strength of those attachments to faces and the accompanying social world, or through some coincidental development process, the aliveness of the sensory world fades. Whereas we ASs retain more of the direct experience of the world and less of the face-addiction-belief thing.

This passage inspired me to do some thinking, that I would like to invite you to join.

Gradient neurodiversity?

Are we all wired differently? It’s generally admitted that we are all individually unique when it comes to our faces, our voices, our fingerprints. However it seems to be a general assumption that inside our bodies, – a part from what concerns ‘personality’ – we are all the same. We are the same, except from those, of course, who are ill, abnormal, deviant, right? Those who suffer from what we call a ‘mental disability’, those we give a diagnose that we call Asperger’s syndrome, autism, ADHD, etc.? What if we are just as uniquely different on the inside, as well? As one of the authors in Women from another planet? puts it:

“It seems odd that we value so much the beauty of diversity in nature yet seem afraid to share and appreciate the differences among and between ourselves” Susan Golubock 

Wirings in the West ….

So let’s imagine that we all enter the world with our own unique ‘mental fingerprint’, and that the ways our perceptions and brains are working differ, just like we have different sizes and shapes of noses. In this sense, I find the claim by the neurodiversity movement (NM) stimulating, that “atypical neurological development [is] a normal human difference” (Jaarsma and Welin 2012). In this sense, any given population contains – by default, and because of the ways genes work – a high degree of neurodiversity. I also find it stimulating to think that each culture has its own preference when it comes to brain wirings. Our modern, urban, Western culture favors what we understand as ‘normal’ wirings – or as the NM would call it ‘neurotypicality‘, whereas we unfavour certain other variations of wiring, such as for example those who lead to ways of interacting with people that we diagnose as autism.

The way we have designed life in our modern Western culture works fine for people (the majority? Or in fact only a small minority?) with a certain wiring. This is the case in our worklife, where the way to success not only goes through being skilled at what’s needed for completing the tasks, but the social aspects play a huge role as well. This counts unproportionally much when it comes to recruitment, as well as coping with the daily worklife. I think it might be related to the fact that in our hamster wheel way of life, the time we have available to spend with family and friends is so reduced, that the workplace has taken over the role of providing for our basic social needs. In this sense, people who are less wired for the ‘face-processing tendency’, as Daina calls it, will have a hard time accessing the labor market and staying in a job – no matter how skilled they are at the tasks demanded. What about other cultures? What kinds of wirings do they favor? 

… and the rest

It seems that there is a double movement in our time that is narrowing in the space for what is considered normal and useful for society. This movement has to do, on the one hand, with the way we organise production – IE what parts of human life,we choose to format into paid jobs – vs other activities that are defunct – like shepherding, or industrial jobs for that matter. On the other hand the value we give to social skills, which is now pervading all spheres of society, extending from the private sphere to also include the workplace. In other cultures and times, the way to organise production and social life might follow other logics, that might favor other kinds of wirings, which would suggest a different, and sometimes probably broader (or maybe narrower) definition of which personal traits are considered normal and useful.

These are thoughts that my reading of the accounts from women diagnosed with autism spectrum has inspired me to think. A third thought, that the quote above makes me think, has to do with, not only the way a culture structures its production, but also its whole basic relationship with the world, how its people perceive their surrounds. In other words, their ontology, their cosmology. As the quote suggests, people diagnosed with autism, see the world as animated. This inspires me to ask the question, if there is a certain relationship between on the one hand what we in the West consider as a defect – IE the way a person diagnosed with autism sees the world – and on the other hand the way animist cultures experience their surroundings? According to the women writing about their experiences as ASs, their faculty to perceive the liveliness of objects and textures in their surroundings is not related to a defect in their brains. They argue that all people, as children, perceive the world as animated. The difference is, that most people stop thinking that way because of the expectations from society, whereas people with autism manage to keep, what we would traditionally call a ‘naive’ relationship with the world. Does it make sense to think about animism as something which is latent in all cultures – since it is a way children spontaneously think – but that in some places, this aspect is suppressed whereas others maintain it, in adult life too? This is a quite traditional point of view, which I think you could find in early 20th century art movements, and also in evolutionist theories in social sciences. Descola argues vividly against this stance. The idea that people in animist cultures are somewhat more ‘natural’, because they are more ‘child-like’, uncorrupted, and that all cultures have – at some point in history been through an animistic phase,  is rather problematic. Descola argues that toady’s animist cultures have tens of thousands of years of history behind their current state. They, too, have a history. And social life in cultures that do not have written language is not more simple, or naive than in those who have. On the contrary, as Descola argues (somewhere), it requires much more complex cultural practices, in the form of rites, myths etc., in these cultures, in order to maintain the social fabric, without the written word as a medium.

Autism is an environmentalism

If there is a parallel in the way of seeing and interacting with the world between certain cultures – the ones that Descola calls animist, (read my ‘selective pocket summary’ here) and people with non-neurotypical wirings in our culture, I think it makes sense to add a third question to the two core questions in my ‘pocket research design’ no. 2 (read about it here). Here are the two questions…..

    1. In what way can pre-modern forager societies be said to adhere to proto-ecological guidelines?
    2. How can these societies serve as a model for a bio-synergistic civilization…. and now, I’m adding this question:
    3. What role does a culture’s favored brain wirings play when it comes to a sustainable relationship with the environment?

Indeed, the authors in Women from another planet? talk about how they have a close relationship with green movements, and how they relate to all living and inanimate beings in a respectful and connected way.

As Ava writes:

Many of us here clearly feel a connection with rocks, plants and animals. For me, this is not just an intellectual thing, it is something passionate and living, that I experience deeply in mind, emotions and body all at once (e.g. my response to a familiar tree). Bound with that is a sense of love, respect & responsibility for life, that is most simply and purely experienced in the world of nature, but which also extends to the complexities of human life and the wonders of the wider universe

Maybe the preeminence of ‘the face-processing tendency’ in our Western culture, or in other words, the fact that interactions are expected to favor what is genuinely human, ie the exchange of emotional states and thoughts primarily via facial gestures and spoken languge, sets the standard for what we expect from our surroundings. Maybe this is why we tend to expect animals to act in human-like ways (with intentionality, plots, etc.). Maybe this is why we tend towards optimizing the use-value of non-humans to serve human needs, while forgetting the value that  other organisms have to themselves and other parts of their surroundings.

My point is, that the place to look for other non-Western ways of conceiving of the relationship between human beings and their surroundings might not only be in non-Western cultures, but also in parts of our own culture that are suppressed, forgotten or considered useless, weird, deviant. Animists and autists have another way to reason with nature, it seems….

Or, to finish of in the words of Diane:

“Maybe AS isn’t really a defect. We have traits that may be actually needed in society, and if only society would start listening to us instead of marginalizing us, maybe solutions could be found for the worlds’s serious problems that currently seem to be unsolvable” Diane, in Women from another planet?

Readings:

Descola, P. & Lloyd, J. (2013). Beyond nature and culture. Chicago London: University of Chicago Press.

Pier Jaarsma and Stellan Welin, Autism as a Natural Human Variation: Reflections on the Claims of the Neurodiversity Movement, 2012, Health Care Analysis, (20), 1, 20-30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10728-011-0169-9  Postprint available here

Miller, J. (2003). Women from another planet? : our lives in the universe of autism. Bloomington, IN: 1stBooks.