Solarity Workshop Session 5

Speculative Solarities: Toward a Heliocentric Analytic

Led by Cymene Howe and Amelia Moore

In this workshop, we are interested in exploring an apparent paradox of solarity: on one hand the a-materiality of sunlight (as radiation, spectrum of light and color) and on the other, the power of sunlight and sunheat to produce all life on earth. Our tentative objective is to bring (the) sun into our thinking, reading and representing. Solar light and heat are normatively taken as background condition to planetary processes and yet rarely is solarity centered in the analytic work of the social and human sciences. In an effort to begin to think through what an “elemental analytics” might look like, we begin with the sun. Where and how does solarity come into contact with lifeforms as well as non-life forms, and what sorts of relationalities exist between beings and sunlight and sunheat? How might we think through Jane Bennett’s “solar judgment”—“as the sun falling around a thing,” or find solarity as “hyperobject” in the way that Tim Morton has imagined—that which permeates (like skin cancer) and yet exists beyond all human scale? Finding solarity in our works, surfacing its appearance/s: in physical form (as it impacts laboring bodies, for example) or in narrative form (as it illuminates landscapes) we might begin to ask how solarity inflects the possibilities of the social worlds we work with, and within.

While we are intrigued by solarity as a human-harnessed energy source (in the form of photovoltaic technologies for instance), here we are attentive to the lives that solarity creates or impedes. Using the perspectives found in feminist, STS, ethnographic and the more-than-human sciences and humanities, we hope to proceed in an unusual way. Instead of originating our analysis from a narrative or a social concern—our experimental conceit is to see how solarities work their way into, or condition, the materials, dynamics and forms we interpret as scholars and from within our various communities.  In this workshop we want to move directly into the lives that solarity makes—or perhaps breaks, in the case of increased greenhouse effects on a planetary scale or in the lives of migrants crossing the southern desert border of the United States. Our objective is to seek out solar inflections and influences in our work. Where does solarity appear or recede from view? Does surfacing its existential omnipresence open up new thought possibilities, or new actions? In short, how does solarity inform sociomaterial forms?