Lecture - A Spreading, Creeping Saturation
Dust is literally a relation between things: whether hair, sand, bits of dead skin, or other organic matter. It comprises the living and the dead, the past and the present. While the Ancient Greeks considered light the possibility for sight, that which separated the seeing and the seen, Russian philosopher Michael Marder argues that dust invades the milieu of perception,vacillating between invisibility and “redirecting our gaze to the space it impregnates.” Unruly geological contraband, dust is always on the move and recognizes neither political, geographic, or temporal boundaries. In this way, dust is a potent, if fickle, carrier of political narratives. As Marder notes, “Dust clouds are dispersed, atmospheric events. One could say:
diasporic. A spreading, creeping saturation.” Dust is perhaps the first and most common measure of smallness and forms the ceaseless tide of the becoming and dissolution of things. Unlike dirt, which has an association with the land and can therefore be construed as conveying the essence of a place, dust is much lighter: prone to winds and breezes it evokes a sense of motion and commotion. While dirt and soil can be mobilized and transformed into a grounds for nostalgia, dust is by nature anti-nostalgic and cosmopolitan. A Spreading, Creeping Saturation uses dust as a corollary to think through new ways of writing and narrating history. Building upon an image of a violent dust storm in my father’s home city of Ahvaz in Iran, the talk will present a series of dust storms—both real and imagined—to explore the unexpected transformations and agential force of this poetic, mercurial, and unstable, but nonetheless potent material to reflect upon notions of diaspora, environmental crisis, memory, mobility, and time.