Archive for historical present

Occupy Mathematics

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2011 by rgwallace

I gave the following talk at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City October 17 as part of a Festschrift for my father, and collaborator, Rodrick Wallace. A Festschrift is a symposium held–and a book published–in honor of a scholar, often on his or her 70th birthday. As opposed to a Gedenkschrft, held in memoriam (though there are some scholars who deserve the latter long before they’ve left for the great e-journal server in the sky).

I’ll start off with an old joke about Rod, in the de rigueur Boston accent. The joke runs like this: Equation 1. Equation 2. Equation 3. “We can see here an apartheid state entrains both oppressor and oppressed into a synergy of plagues.”

Equation 4. Equation 5. Equation 6. “It follows then that public health can be saved from a catastrophic vortex if and only if we smash the apartheid state.”

All kidding aside, we would make a mistake assuming Rod’s conclusions arise from his formalisms alone or—winky wink—vice versa. Instead, we should say they arise “and vice versa” and honestly so. Or better yet, inextricably so.

That’d be shocking if only because it would imply cultural and political precepts underlie mathematical mechanics. That the field’s formalisms are as much historical objects as many of the phenomena they address, as a number of commentators, including Wittgenstein and the ethnomathematicians, have ventured.

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The Born Identity

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2011 by rgwallace

With Richard Kock and Robyn Alders I co-authored the following review of food and forest crises. Richard presented an earlier version at the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Global Conference on Wildlife held in Paris in February. Over the next few days we will publish three slightly edited excerpts.

The past is more than prologue, setting the very paths on which subsequent circumstances contingently emerge. It also actively exists, albeit in a modified form, in the structures and processes we find ourselves a part of today.

Within such a framework we will argue here that solving the ongoing food security crisis in the coming decades requires reflecting back on agriculture’s role in human history and identifying key events and factors that have led to, and continue to drive, the current challenges.

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Egypt’s Food Pyramids

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2011 by rgwallace

A million minds momentarily magnetizing themselves along the same axis can turn a country’s deepest despair into an ecstatic sprint for freedom. What a people find revolting–a dictator decorated in American apologia–can be turned by a people’s revolt ridiculous.

No wonder so much effort (and money) is daily expended on propaganda in countries around the world. Obedience–the notion the rulers rule–is at its heart precarious.

But once a hypnosis is broken and history lurches forward, those who are unable to come to terms with the new order are left behind. They are relics, trivia, answers to riddles lost in the sand blowing about the noseless sphinx of empire. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his Washington supporters, Anthony to Mubarak’s Cleopatra, were so startled by January 25th’s uprising that nearly a month later each party still hadn’t grasped their newfound irrelevance.

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Does Influenza Evolve in Multiple Tenses?

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2010 by rgwallace

The past may possess a power greater than prologue. Anyone with a social networking account knows that. All of a sudden you find yourself daily interacting with people long thought boxed away. People mature, yes, but sensibilities remain largely intact and an old year, fine wine or vinegar, pours back up into the bottle.

“The past,” as William Faulkner diagnosed it, “is never dead. It’s not even the past.” Living in multiple tenses, in what we characterized in the previous post as Louis Althusser’s ‘historical present’, can be exhilarating or exhausting depending on the day.

That kind of time travel may be influenza’s bread-and-butter. Strains of the bug may retain, and strategically exploit, the capacity to evolve molecular characteristics of bygone eras.

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Influenza’s Historical Present

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2010 by rgwallace

I delivered the following speech, co-written with economic geographer Luke Bergmann, at a NIH-FAO-sponsored workshop held in Beijing earlier this month. The speech is based on a book chapter to be published later this year in Influenza and Public Health: Learning from Past Pandemics (EarthScan, London). The text is slightly edited.

This is the first of two talks I’ll be giving. Both I believe attempt to address one of the key concerns of our workshop: how do we work together?

And work together we must. Influenzas operate on multiple levels of biocultural organization: molecularly, pathogenically, and clinically; across multiple wildlife biologies, epizoologies, and epidemiologies; evolutionarily, geographically, agro-ecologically, culturally, and financially.

But it’s more than just a complicated story. The expanse of influenza’s causes and effects play out to the virus’s advantage. As I discussed at last year’s workshop, influenza appears to use opportunities it finds in one domain or scale to help it solve problems it faces in other domains and at other scales.

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