“A Clean, Well-lighted Place” as Anthropological Analogy

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A Few Central Points and their Periphery

Individual experiencing of the self, of one’s own emotions and of the body—as it changes, knows discomfort and pain; as it ages and then declines—becomes generally much more bearable in this clean, well-lighted place that is the very plaza or main square of cultural order. This is, in fact, the argument of Hemingway’s short story by the same name: the culturally rational, because it requires of the individual that she momentarily leave behind the anomie that is her own physical, physiological idiosyncrasy (which she has no choice but to minimally homogenize in at least the functional appearance of her conformity to the group), becomes the resource of rational personality itself. Because in the reconstitution of my rational self momentarily do I set aside the rigors—and loneliness and indignity, finally—of what is, in a strictly structural sense, something like the dereliction of my own singular entity; because from an evolutionary standpoint continuity in time and life itself is only in the group, although physical-physiological singularity still remains, no doubt, a necessary requirement!

That is to say, the centrality of evolution is the group; human physical-physiological singularity is its periphery.

That is also to say that the rational, socialized self, because it is a requirement the group imposes on the individual, forces the corporal, somatosensory and emotional self to some extent into the periphery.

And this is also to argue, then, that the civilized self as of especially the advent of agrarian-based anthropology, is a physiologically extrinsic self that necessarily displaces, to some extent her own physiological-corporeal origin.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Clean,_Well-Lighted_Place

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Human language can similarly be understood as a relationship between a periphery of individual cognitive and physio-anatomic idiosyncrasy (the anomie that, from a structural standpoint, becomes corporeal-physiological singularity in itself), and a center of “opprobically” imposed congruence around which multiple individuals articulate collective experience: but it is through the cultural rationality of the socialized self that something like physioanthropological group structure is established and reinforced through time. Such a congruence, arising first as syllabic to later acquire a phonological substance (through the group’s particular attribution of meaning to sounds), historically turns into an ever-increasing syntactic complexity which, finally, leads to the conceptual elaboration only written language con ultimately attain.

The centrality of human experience as evolution on Earth is the group (versus the periphery of individual idiosyncrasy.)

But the logos of group functionality is the socialized, rational self that necessarily displaces a prerreflexive, somatosensory self (the self that is in fact the technical periphery of human consciousness, according to A. Damasio.)

In regards to human, cultural groups, the socialized and to some extent “physiologically extrinsic” self is, invariably, also a linguistic self, in opposition to an underlying, preconscious, structurally displaced somatosensory periphery.

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First published in 1995 (English version, 1998)

The notion of a process of permanent recreation or reconstitution of individual subjectivity and a higher semiotic self (an autobiographical self, in the words of Damasio) takes place only as of a deeper neurological, pre-reflexive antecedent: such a somatosensory periphery as something akin to a universal, proto object of sensory stimulation and only nascent emotional response from which the emergence of culturally-framed, individual consciousness is then possible, becomes in itself an accurate description of what Giorgio Agamben presents as the bare life component universally underlying culture and anthropological stability. From the standpoint of Agamben’s political theory, it is precisely this physiological-corporal and preconscious entity that becomes the object of modern political sovereignty. But although Agamben details the history of what he allows is a structural question going back to the origins of culture (and especially as of the advent of sedentary religion), he considers the contemporary situation a clear and harrowing distortion, in which bare life has invaded all other venues of our understanding and valuing human experience (when this was not the case in ancient Greek culture that differentiated a higher, good life of which the city became symbol and champion defender.)

The distinction Agamben makes between the classical Greek Zoe and Bios can similarly be considered in light of a center-periphery relationship that contains–or hides–an underlying, symbiotic connection of mutual dependence between the parts. Agamben’s thesis is, of course, the matter of a confusion between both, leading ultimately to the incapacity of bios (that is, our culturally rational mode of socialized being) to understand and value its own technical origin and structural antecedent (Zoe).

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Some cultural phenomena based on a Damasian-like notion of neurological periphery as means toward consumer/voter persuasion and general sensory-metabolic invigoration as entertainment:

In televised baseball, the alleyway formed in this image between pitcher catcher/umpire and batter is where the viewer spends most of her visual, metabolic time: the tension is constant and is increased by the mannerism of the corporal figures. But it is exactly in this context of extreme physiological stimulation for the viewer that advertisements are strategically placed with the specific objective of exploiting such metabolic process and its intensity thereby gaining more immediate and probably subliminal access to the consumer’s longer term memory.

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A subliminal innuendo of violence and lurking danger out there on the street is visually denoted by just a tacit imagery: no conceptual nuance of any kind is necessary as an aesthetic addressing of the individual’s prerreflexive fear in regards to the obvious danger we all live in as upstanding citizens. But whether this is statistically real or accurate gives way to other priorities like general police (and/or military) funding–ultimately an aggregate financial question that in this manner gains a kind of subliminal and underhanded access into the public sphere itself of democratic politics.

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The 1968 film Night of the Living Dead is considered to be the first contemporary zombie film and predecessor to the current cultural construct; Zombieland (2009) pictured here, is one of several dark comedies which spoof such a semiotics. But the technical underpinning to the whole genre remains clear and consistent: the protagonists of these films and television series are invariably always confronted with the mass uprising of something like our own somatosensory, preconscious periphery. Such an enemy is, of course, a cognitively down-graded version of a former socio-rational self. And evidently, one the most invigorating sensory-metabolic elements of theses films, in regards to the intensity of viewer experience itself, is a cryptic mechanics of the social self forced on us like a mirror in regards to which the only option–viscerally for us as a viewers–is to smash it, finally, as hard as we can.

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The Bourne Identity (2002); The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) are the original sequels of this string of spy films starring Matt Damon and whose protagonist is beleaguered by the anthropological duality of his own personality, in regards to a previously CIA-manipulated and trained, somatosensory self that he cannot remember nor accept–nor morally condone from the standpoint of his own newly-recovered, socio-rational, sociomoral, conscious self. Because these are spy films that are also amnesia films (if such a genre can be said to exist), in which the moral implications of the agent’s acts have been technically removed from the sociomoral awareness of the higher self. But as a human instrument of originally CIA psyops design, it is ultimately the American political-military establishment itself that hides, in such a neurological blind spot, from the “moral hazard” of political assassination and the broader, generally unacknowledged sphere of le rasion D’état (except, of course, for a few honorable subordinate, government employees who become the auxiliary forces of reason and justice, along side the protagonist-hero himself, versus the deeper echelons of power and its ever-present, always unbridled, moral-monetary corruption, etc.)

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A secular analysis of this book of Jewish and Christian scripture sees a juxtaposition of images to establish the central and underlying logic of the text: people’s adherence to and embrace of Yahweh implies the continued and plentiful existence of agrarian-based villages and towns; but people’s loss of love for Yahweh means empty dwellings in abandoned towns, desolate of both human and agricultural life. Such an imagery on a non-verbal and only aesthetic periphery, primes again and again what is ultimately a form of conceptual cognizance that nevertheless is transmitted primarily through a logic of juxtaposed images. Such a mechanism is, of course, the sensory-cognitive cornerstone of literary or poetic experience itself!

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This 2004 film is a case study in the practical application of A. Damasio’s continuum of the self (from neurological, somatosensory periphery to socio-rational, autobiographical personality) in which sensory-metabolic invigoration is used to overcome the actual spatial limitation this Amish-like community is trapped by. Because sensory-metabolic invigoration as stimulation of the corporal self towards her own, group-imbricate, moral definition as person, is in many ways an all-absorbing process that ends up obviating physical immobility and our experiencing of it as a form of misery: always have cultures thrown themselves into the heat of the problem as process of discerning reality according to their own socio-rational paradigm of knowing, and the intragroup tension conflicting interpretations cause. In effect, such a tension ends up being experienced as a form of comfort, luxury even, as it elevates us, through heated but essentially non-violent social interaction, above the hardship of just bodily experience.

In the film this is the reason, then, that a group of semiotic operators within the community secretly work to constantly feed the perception of their fellow inhabitants by fabricating and maintaining through time an always ambiguous, never conclusively apprehensible, sense of real danger and threat, so that the cryptic material reality of what essentially constitutes life in a concentration camp, can actually be experienced as a sort of epic struggle and adventure–in fact, the survival of the community through time depends on the technical question of an at least physiological horizon experienced by the socialized self as ultimately a form of freedom and expanse!

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Social Engineering (in one of its definitions) is a today fashionable term for what previously would have been understood as a confidence trick or con. But the present day, technological version seems to move more in the direction of more efficiently exploiting the pre-reflexive side of individual sensory-metabolic experience. And given the we metabolically transpire, so to speak, in a state of permanent reconstitution of a the conscious, socio-rational and culturally-framed self (at least in our waking hours), if you can subtly (cryptically) intrude on the preconcious part of that process, it follows you a have greater possibility of controlling or directing the individual’s conscious decision making ability as output. In this sense, it is a worthwhile exercise to approach, for example, FACEBOOK from a Damasian standpoint of neuroloigically-produced consciousness and to pose the question as to what really motivates people to spend their time delving in only an imagery of self on an invigorated, mental stage of only virtual social interaction (although there are indeed other ways of benefiting from said platform)? The likely answer is that people don’t usually ever think about it–but the more important thing is that M. Zuckerberg and his crew surely have!

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The process of socio-rational emergence of the Damasian autobiographical self as of a somatosensory, neurological, and preconscious periphery, can be understood as inchoative (in its linguistic meaning); that is, a new cycle of “selfization” initiates, once again, with every renewed episode of sensory-cognitive stimulation of our deeper, non-conscious object-self. The metabolic transit through a Damasian continuum of consciousness, from only sentient, body stimulus to culturally-bound, moral personality (a higher, subject and agency self), becomes the structurally cryptic hub at the center of a universal and opprobic geometry of human groups through time, versus the exo-group reality they resist but are, at the same, time dependent on. So, in the sense that individuality is inchoative in the way described here (in the fact that it must continuously reconstitute itself according to the ideas of A. Damasio), it can also be conceptualized as above all anthropological, that is in regards to the necessarily social context of Damasian reconstitution of sociorational consciousness, in the true logos of our survival only as groups. For after all, in what other context would such a living continuum of sensory-metabolic reconstitution of the conscious self actually take place?

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The above image is a loosely approximate recreation of what A. Damasio refers to as neural maps or patterns the nervous system ends up representing in regards to new stimuli that almost ceaselessly occupy the theater both our preconscious and conscious perception. But the image here in question which as a consequence of biological evolution could be said to have originally arisen out of the need for a higher, more sophisticated dynamics of homeostasis (the regulation of overall corporal systems and physiological process), I shall use as a pictorial conceptualization of the self (or what is called interoception), for this is, conceptually, A. Damasio’s point of consolidation of human conscious and the doorstep, so to speak, to subjectivity. But the image is above all a representation the brain ends up presenting to you as the observer of your own emotions; and just this ability to at least partially contemplate your somatosensroy double is what differentiates you from all other mammals, for example. That is, in the mind of a dog there in fact exist similar, neural images (this form of neurologically-mediated homeostasis is patrimony to higher, nervous system-endowed creatures), but, as A. Damasio defends, there is no observer of such physiological process, no feeler as experiencer, then, of metabolic changes produced by new, arising stimuli–and so no self.

But the evolutionary advantages of such mental imagery are clear: if you relate to your corporal self principally through such images, it is easier -and faster- for you to foresee dangerous or life-threatening situations in regards to the physical integrity of your own body: and the consequences, then, of any decision you take can be anticipated beforehand rather than just blindly walked into; and this even in regards to less then conscious, more instinctive and necessarily split second choices of emergency action towards the evolutionary objective of getting your body out of harms way!

Of course there is another important consequence of this mode of our relating to our own bodies through the distance, so to speak, of a neurological double: not only physical peril can be foreseen and anticipated, so can the moral consequences of our acts in regards to the question of whether that body that I know as mine will continue to warrant its own rightful place in the group I belong to and on which I know (or “viscerally understand”) my own survival depends. That is, a mechanism that was a originally born of physical circumstances also operates on a partially non-physical plane of images ahead, so to speak, of what later becomes a strictly physical, somatosensory periphery: sedentary anthropological experience will, of course, end up structuring itself on such a virtual or totemic structural asset and its possibility for moral invigoration, over and beyond the physical limitations of agrarian dependence!

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The practical use of thermal imaging of human emotion is, apparently, almost common place today but has, for me, a secondary use in illustrating what ultimately must be a revision of our understanding of rationality itself. The process here exemplified of human perception and physiological response to it (for in all cases such individual somatosensory and metabolic response as portrayed in each one of these figures can only be understood as having been prompted, probably through the subject’s simple observations of moral and emotionally poignant situations in some way or another forced on her) reveal one’s cognizance as something akin to a form of really corporal intimacy, in the extent that what one experiences through the senses ends up having a strictly subjective impact on the individual’s physiological process of self: that is, observable events or representations may not have the same relevance for everyone, given that, for example, the neural patterns of specific and personal memory are, of course, exclusive to physical singularity itself and over a specific body’s life time.

But what if the above image were to be interpreted as referring not to a different emotional category applied in succession to the same prototype individual, but rather different individuals all experiencing, momentarily different emotional responses: how could a group maintain its collective configuration or unicity, if each different individual is enthralled in his or her own sensory-metabolic intimacy? The first step towards an answer would be to understand that in normal circumstances of collectively physical experience, all the individuals would contemplate more or less the same reality, so the diversity of response would end up, to some extent, converging (although never completely!)

But another way of imposing a certain uniformity on the individual’s sensory-metabolic experience and physiological process would be to understand socio-rationality as in itself an instrument in exactly this sense:

Socio-rationality becomes the result of the individual’s being impelled to partially curtail and mold her own emotional response to adhere to the group’s socio-moral reality;

This partial molding or homogenization of the individual’s physiological process in regards to the group is initially a much more preconscious, sensory-metabolic rather than conscious force within the Damasian process of reconstitution of consciousness and the autobiographical self.

Such an internal force in the singular individual in conjunction with the spatial immediacy of multiple group members, becomes in time the universal foundation of culturally-framed, individual identity.

But the reason to adhere to the group’s socio-ratioanlity is physiological-corporal singularity itself: the individual’s body and physiological idiosyncrasy become a permanent challenge to the sociorational and also its primary source of technical support and sustenance.

And this probably could be understood as just a further step in the history of survival as the specie’s permanence through time on Earth: the universal human group uses socio-rationality not to suppress diversity, but really to support itself it the moral-emotional ferociousness only an individual body can ultimately know in her never ending, never completely culminated struggle to belong as form of self-preservation. For individual’s are motivated–coerced, even–on many different levels to adhere to the group as the true vessel of our survival, but never at the complete expense of the idiosyncrasy of physiological-corporal singularity itself. It also goes without saying that socio-rational groups can achieve greater heights of aggression, in regards to exo-groups, but without forfeiting their own collective, internal uncity (that’s the bad news, at least historically!)

1)Because sensory-metabolic invigoration of the individual becomes the deeper sustaining force of the group and its socio-rationality (which is, in turn, available to the individual has her very resource to rational personality itself!), human groups end up universally appropriating to a great extent their own sensory-metabolic experience as the very core of an often ritualized, collective identity that needs to to be frequently reaffirmed in time, and given the inchoative or emergent character of individual consciousness. And in this way, groups proactively affirm themselves, to some extent above and beyond just external contingencies.

2)But subjectivity in the collective diversity of the group is a form of permanent tension in itself that should be considered an asset to the ongoing, more or less continuous exercise of the group’s socio-rational identity and way of knowing: a certain conflict of perspective among individuals becomes in itself the need for, and so justification of, group rationality.

3)The mechanics of human groups conceptualized here as sustaining themselves through the individual’s neurological-metabolic reconstitution of self (and the availability of rational experience then afforded to her) should be conceived as a complex phenomenon in which multiple forces or systems end up relating to each another through symbiotic relationships of mutual but autonomously-reinforced interdependence. Therefore, in the same way socio-rational, cultural order is because of and dependent on the physiological-corporal idiosyncrasy of multiple, singularly physical individuals, individual personality (that is not the same thing as as culturally-framed, socio-rational identity) should also be approached in regards to its deeper, technical ambivalence. That is, individual’s are forced to some degree of conformity with the group precisely because they can never completely (anatomically) belong; which is also to say, conformity is because of, ultimately depends on, non-conformity; the continuance in time of group identity is because of, is dependent on, the underlying permanence of the anomie of physiological-corporal singularity itself: but in order to address individual personality, as opposed to culturally-produced, individual identity, it is necessary to take in and account for the technical complexity as problem of such a higher dichotomy–people always defiantly belong to the groups they are ultimately dependent on, otherwise their would be no tension for the group to sustain itself, no reason to effectively be in a collective, socio-rational sense!

4)Another inference as of the ideas of A. Damasio is that a degree of fundamental and underlying emptiness must be postulated regarding the origin of our conscious experience: because individual consciousness begins in our somatosensory, corporal perception, there is no further state or place we can go back to on which to justify the legitimacy of our own identity. Because simply put and moving backwards from consciousness to the neurological, the identity of self ends in the physiological experiencing of the senses, beyond which there is nothing.

5)The theoretical conjecturing of hollow man based on the condition of our neurologically-produced consciousness but as anthropological constant, is important because it would account for our universal obsession with our own origins, heritage and existential meaning. And this idea would also help to explain the true desperation that is at the universal heart of the individual’s need for the cultural group of survival: indeed, there is nothing beyond the group in the same way there is, physiologically, nothing beyond our somatosensory self. All moral/rational identity and self-awareness is something only a group can ultimately bestow on human, physiological-corporal singularity.

6)But because there is no possibility of contradiction in regards to whatever groups postulate about their origins, narrative itself becomes an imposition as sensory appropriation of crucial importance, especially after the historical advent of agriculture and in regards to the problem of accommodating our socio-physiological nature originally evolved as of more nomadic groups: in sedentary, agrarian-based anthropology, more elaborate semiotic horizons become crucially important to physiologically compensate (in the sensory-metabolic invigoration of the neurologically-constituted consciousness) what formerly had been a much more physically-based mode of group cohesion (a previous mode of being that, as living structure, relied to a much greater extent on a physiology of actually walking!)

7)Just as a Damasian conception of neurologically-produced consciousness displays an inchoative or emergent quality, so do agrarian-based, sedentary anthropological contexts: that is, just as human groups need to sustain, maintenance, and feed their own group rationality through the sensory-metabolic idiosyncrasy of individuals, so is it also necessary to continuously provide morally-weighted, sensory stimulus to sedentary anthropological contexts. It is in this way that such contexts achieve their normal state of stable, working complacency, that is, in the condition of their being susceptible to the recurring and periodic, sensory-metabolic invigoration of individuals. The stability, then, of sedentary contexts arises out of the successful, albeit structurally cryptic, addressing of our underlying neurological, sociophysiological essence.

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Santander, Spain. 1913

Through the sensory urgency of the bullring and the violent seriousness in the dramatized choreography of man’s arrogant will to prevail over Death itself (or such is the ultimate, aesthetic objective the bullfighter seeks transmit), it is as if the ordered lines of a socially correct suit and hat (worn by older, mustachioed gentleman in left foreground) were buttressed: cultural order, to exercise itself in time, would seem to be always in response to the threat of excess, violence and chaos—all those forces of our natural hubris that become the paradoxical guarantors of the cultural rationality we cling to, and our very reason to be civilized.

In this way, the image establishes outright the juxtaposition as enigma, between a late 19th century figure of order and progress (palpable in the fashion of the times), versus the represented agony of bodily strife and finitude—both human and animal—in the ring. But if it were not for the spectacle of corporal seriousness as controlled and artistically-administered transgression in regards to the principals of order and collective peace, could the rationality embodied in the sharp and methodically-cut lines of that suit and hat hold on to its living relevance for us as body-obliged, sensory individuals?

And in the background is that same cultural order, but replicated in the aggregate and on the group plane of mass spectator audiences: through exposure to corporal and morally-weighted sensory invigoration the somatosensory, neurological priming of socio-rational individuality is possible, in this way servicing the basic underlying, and universal sociophysiological circumstances of human groups. Fortunately for us, however, we rely on a representation of physical-moral conflict that is physiologically real in the sensory invigoration its contemplation causes, but that does not transcend the realm of already-established social convention—and so implies no moral consequences on the physically real plane of political order itself.

(Or not for human beings at least and in the specific case of bullfighting–or at least not so frequently!)

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In identical sedentary circumstances, the mechanics of human groups and their structural need for socio-rational individuality is physiologically accommodated through the individual’s sensory-metabolic stimulus and invigoration. Following the writings of Clifford Geertz in Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight (1973), the image here can be understood as reflecting the same basic juxtaposition of the spectacle as corporal violence of the birds and their fight to the death, and a clan-based social order that reaffirms itself in this process of societal cognizance. That is, the fury of the birds is, momentarily, our very reconstitution as social order despite all its imperfections, for without it all is lost: or this is the paraphrased summary of what Geertz explains as a form of deep (‘morally profound’) activity-entertainment (as opposed to other forms of non-profound amusement as simple gambling activities and casino-like games also present culturally). But the difference between these two distinct ways of betting, as the author explains, lies in the fact that in cockfighting, each bird is patronized by a different social clan making the violence itself a form of vicariously-experienced, political conflict, which, of course, does not ultimately transcend the activity itself.

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The cultural practice known as Tsantsa

Once again (similarly to previous bullfight image) the moral seriousness embodied in an anthropomorphic artifact (a shrunken human head) is juxtaposed with a particular cultural order in the form of the clearly symbolic apparel both people are clad in, as well as with the fact that an older generation is, evidently, actively recreating (teaching? indoctrinating?) the very experience of cultural identity itself. But the force of this process arises out of sensory-metabolic invigoration, specifically in the intensity of the anthropomorphic effect the contemplation of the skull has on our somatosensory, pre-reflexive perception as surely a universal circumstance of human, socio-physiological experience.

However, for anyone not corporally-bound to the societal group here portrayed, the anthropomorphic horror experienced—terrible to the extent that it is anthropomorphic and so morally poignant, universally from the standpoint of our own bodily entity–leaves one brutally dumbfounded, with no available rational explanation or cultural decoding. For the body-bound member of the anthropological group, on the other hand, such a heightened excitement at initially the most profound level of physiological stimulus in regards to an emerging sense of the corporal self that in the contemplation of the miniaturized face cannot help but see the specter of one’s own potential fate, becomes vehicle and vector towards a paradigm of group-specific individuality. That is, in thralls of individual sensory-metabolic terror a specific culturally-bound logic is reinforced: individual emotion is, in the end, what breathes life into cultural identity. So naturally, it would seem cultures are extremely resourceful in creating sensory stimulation opportunities by whatever means available to them.

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Some anthropomorphic resources human groups exploit towards sensory-metabolic invigoration of somatosensory-bound individuals

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1)The human figure denotes in our perception something like the basic building blocks of our capacity for moral significance itself. But our individual need to perceive and partake of that significance (a meaning that will eventually sustain culturally specific, moral conceptualizations) stems from our own corporal vulnerability as sensory-bound, opprobrium-subject members of groups. And it is our bodies that become the stakes, so to speak, each one of us brings to the table of social interaction and without which the original evolutionary game of group survival is impossible.

2)Because it is the somatosensory, corporeal periphery that sustains the center of cultural order and identity, human groups tend to end up controlling to a great extent their on sensory experience (a form of leveraging external circumstances in favor of the group much in the way playful, or faux intra-group violence in mammals or birds could be understood as also a form of socio-physiological maintenance in time, over and beyond external contingencies.) In this technical sense, then, the sensory-metabolic experience of culture activities and ritual in general (like those portrayed above) could be understood as a form of peripheral, physiological-sensory metabolic exercising or reconstitution of specific, human group identities and socio-rational definition.

3)The human figure and face can be understood as the object “of preference” of our perception, and this universally to such an extent that we are anthropomorphically biased in regards to our ability to perceive reality around us: for what could be more important to our sensory-corporal priority than detecting other animated creatures (animals) and human beings around us?1 What survival value, ultimately, could anything else not in those categories have?2

4)The circumstance, then, of ambiguity in this sense and of not being quite able to discern the human figure–or only intermittently, as sometimes human-like, but some times not–has a powerful impact on human, neurologically-mediated homeostasis, constituting an important resource of physio-titillation available to groups towards leveraging of their own sensory experience: carved human figures, facial mask, dolls, statues, life-like dummies and wax figures (or even the human corpse), could be understood as something akin to universal anthropological constants that provide individual sensory-metabolic invigoration through exploiting the periphery of individual, socio-physiological configuration. But whether such an invigoration is used to propel deeper, moral (i.e. structurally relevant) group constructs and semiotics, or if it is used alternately as a form of just entertainment entirely–or partially– devoid of any moral nuance, depends on the historical experience of a specific human group and its culture: both uses, in some degree or another, are in fact more than likely patrimony to all universal human group experience.

5)We are acutely sensitive as well to body posture as visual mannerisms (in the the artistic sense of this word and notion3.) Given this fact, it is not surprising that universal artistic representation of human beings plays on the effect the sight of dramatic body postures and positioning of limbs has on us as, once again, a form of physiologically-aesthetic, metabolic invigoration. But it would seem that this invigoration is possible because it proceeds from a peripheral, not-yet-conscious realm of sensory-corporal urgency the belonging individual is subjected by: such a pre-reflexive, underlying urgency could be understood as the deeper foundation of the moral-rational itself. And so the entire catalogue of different and specific ethnographic experience, then, could be understood as different, culturally-specific, group strategies and mechanism towards exploiting the same universal, underlying and prototypical human, socio-physiological configuration (much in the way contemporary linguistics understands universal individual potential for language acquisition, versus the specific cultural-linguistic context the individual is born into.)

6)Also observable is the undeniable evolution of artistic representation and reproduction, from more physical and corporeally-based forms of enactment as spectacle, towards a more technically refined ability to recreate morally poignant (that is, body-relevant, or opprobic) spectacles of representation: more realistic human-like figures; refined pictorial representations that combine also written text; the stamping or engraving of artistic reproductions; and the invention of the printing press itself, are all phenomena that should be understood as arisen as a result of generally more sedentary, agriculture-based, anthropological contexts which, in order to service the underlying inchoate quality of our neurological, socio-physiological essence, are driven to create ever expanding, virtual contexts of physiological invigoration and expanse for the somatosensory periphery of any and all specific, culturally-bound, sociorational experience.

7)Basic corporal, anatomic movements of limbs would also seem to connote a certain primary, body-moral value in the perceiving eye, in regards to a violence of movement and individual intention; and this to the extent that the practicing of physical activities or sports with no real sociocorporal consequences, besides being of a deeper a zoological origin (and which constitute a more physically-based form of metabolic invigoration) also provides a readily available source of sensory-metabolic excitement, not just in the practicing of such exercise, but rather as public spectacle itself. Naturally, agrarian-based anthropological contexts always have had no choice but to exploit the physiology of such spectacle. Crucially, it is during the Second Industrial Revolution (mid 19th century Europe) that the foundations of contemporary spectator sports were laid, coinciding with a flourishing of several other non-physical means towards sensory-metabolic invigoration (incipient popularization of printed or engraved, photographic images; continued expansion of printed journalism as a form not only of receiving information, but as means towards morally poignant invigoration; development of more popular literary genre in the form of serialized stories, the contemporary short story, as well as the birth of the “detective” and “suspense” genres).

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1 Faces in Clouds: A New Theory of Religion, 1993. Stewart Elliot Guthrie

2 Ibid

3The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response, 1989. David Freeberg

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A Contemporary (Western) Pictorial-Photographic Ken

Martha Rosler (Artistic composition based on American Civil War photograph by Timothy H. O’Sullivan)

The use of poignant, bodily moral stimulus for somatosensory-bound members of human groups (and specifically for more sedentary societies) becomes an important force of socio-rational reconstitution which, quite logically, groups end up controlling to some extent themselves, thereby reinforcing their very permanence above and beyond actual contingencies: no doubt this capacity should be understood as a power mechanism of existential, group imposition and anthropological constant. There are, however, different intensities of sensory-metabolic invigoration as of the individual’s perception of bodily strife, conflict or direct forms of physical violence among fellow human beings. To behold the corporal conflict of contemporary sports, for example, and while it does forcefully resonate in the spectator, it cannot be understood as producing the same metabolic effect–in the same way and degree–as the firsthand witnessing of the violent street killing of another human being (although perhaps boxing, or similar blood sports could be understood as in some way approaching a similar state of metabolic excitement).

In this sense, it would seem intellectually irresponsible not to consider contemporary journalism, from a structurally anthropological standpoint, as in fact a source of a very intense, bodily moral, metabolic invigoration for the sensory-bound, socio-rational individual. And perhaps an equally negligent intellectual position would be to consider the advent of contemporary journalism (beginning surely as of the 18th century, at least) as coinciding with technologically developing, sedentary, agrarian-based societies, instead of viewing such a resource towards sensory-metabolic invigoration of individuals as in fact structurally determined by such societies, and as a phsyio-structural necessity inherent to them.

But the underlying question must also be addressed as to the structural need sedentary experience has of violence itself: it may very well be that the existence of crime in also a contemporary sense–and specifically the reporting of it and its aesthetic reproduction (in articles, novels and short stories, eventually films and, of course, televsion)–ends up serving the same somatosensory, neurological and pre-reflexive periphery of the civilized, socio-rational self; and this probably because the contemplation of violence exercises over the individual a form of physiological sovereignty in response to, and against which groups are formed and reinforced.

That is to say, human groups sustain themselves off of a geometry of individual, physio-metabolic urgency towards safety and protection in the group, versus the onslaught of some form of external violence as threat; and the initial moral question for the physio-corporeal member of the group, then, is in the belonging to, and the being eligible to remain in, the collective fold. But it is very likely, following a Damasian-like continuum of emerging human consciousness, that both of these elements at the heart of moral significance itself, arise at first in the realm of the pre-reflexive and not-completely-conscious, somatosensory periphery of anthropological individuality; that they are, possibly, elements of the most primary (not fully reflexive) state of cenesthesia.

But perhaps the most important source of sensory-moral, metabolic invigoration of for sedentary individuals (and thus towards the structural stability of the agrarian-based societies they belong to as socio-rational subjects) is the contemplation of openly belligerent warfare among opposing groups: for it very well may be that there is nothing more significant for somatosensory (pre-reflexive) individuality than the spectacle of groups in the thralls of ferocious, mutual conflict, given the preconsicous, sensory importance we attribute towards our own corporeal integrity and salvation in groups4.

Evidently, the value of what we understand as contemporary war photography has helped to hold us to the task, so to speak, of a vicarious experiencing of what is clearly in our nature; and it is this innate intensity as sensory-moral exhilaration, in just our visual contemplation of the experience of war, that has done undeniable service to world society as a whole, as a form of moral grounding leading, ultimately, to the conceptual-judicial formalization of contemporary Human Rights.

The argument to be made, then, is that the reproduction of a physiology of bodily moral conflict in the observer (that, hence, stops short of actual physical enactment) constitutes a very important–probably central–exercise for the somatosensory-bound individual of agrarian-based anthropology. Unfortunately, such a servicing of cultural rationality through sensory-metabolic invigoration constitutes something of an elliptical process from the standpoint of rational experience: and that is precisely the problem for us as contemporary bearers of an anthropological context that, due to technological advances starting as in the 19th century, can no longer afford to leave its own stability in just the hands of conflict-based systems of socioeconomic and political functionality.

Goya, Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815)

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Goya, Napoleonic Wars

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Constantine Guys, Crimean War (1853-1856)

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Roger Fenton, Crimean War

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Roger Fenton, Crimean War

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Mathew Brady, American Civil War (1861-1865)

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Franco Prussian War 1870-71

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Franco Prussian War

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CUBA Troops in trenches during the Spanish American War in 1898.

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The Second Boer War (1899-1902)

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Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905)

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Russo-Japanese War

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WWI (1914-1918)

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Russian Revolution (1917-1923)

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Irish War of Independence (1919-1923)

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Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922)

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Second Italo-Ethiopian War (1935-1937)

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Robert Capa, Spanish Civil War (1936-39)

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WWII (1939-1945)

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1) An anthropological continuum is thus established between a sphere of physical, directly sensory-corporal interaction between human beings (including spoken language), and progressively more elaborate forms of sensory-metabolic stimulus through artifacts, devices and mediums of physiological representation and reproduction. But in all cases, the technical objective achieved is one and the same: somatosensory, metabolic invigoration of the individual is universal periphery to any and all, specific socio-rational identities the collective unicity of human groups has always depended on.

2) While there are varying degrees of intensity, morally poignant sensory invigoration would seem to always be present in any cultural logos of group membership; the foundation for such a significance is, of course, the human body itself, as it is witnessed, portrayed, represented or symbolized through any manner of contemplation in which, paradoxically, it is really the beholder’s own body at the center of what is being observed, such is the force of opprobic relevance in us and in regards to the-never-culminated agony of our own bodily belonging to the group, or not.

3)In this way the inchoative quality implicit in a Damasian conceptualization of consciousness as of human neurology, effectively corresponds with the reality of sedentary anthropological contexts in time, which tend to accommodate our originally nomadic sociophyisiology by substituting physically corporeal experience with sensory-metabolic invigoration: in this sense, the already innate, bodily moral susceptibility in us and at the prereflexive level, is a resource war photography capitalizes on, elliptically circumventing, so to speak, the rational mind through a sensory-moral poignancy to ultimately exercise, buttress, and reinforce that same rational possibility.

4) The relationship between sedentary, agrarian-based anthropology and war is, thus, physiologically profound to say the least; a relationship that sees the functional possibility of sedentary contexts coming to depend on the invigorating expanse the narrative and pictorial representation of war has always provided culture proper (that is, that cultural experience born of agriculture): the narrative of Homer, The Old Testament, and Hindu scripture, as well as some pictorial traditions in Muslim and Japanese culture are just a few of the many anthropological examples that attest to this. But in all of these cases, it is legitimate to suppose that the physiologically intense invigoration in the strictly aesthetic contemplation of war and violence, has always, to a great degree, precluded–at least partially—the real likelihood and need for actual violence.

5) Finally, it is the dependence sine qua non sedentary experience has on physiological or sensory-metabolic invigoration (to in fact surmount the technical question of our originally nomadic socio-physiology), that has dictated, over the last 500 years of world history and its technological development, this natural tendency to renew and re-establish, again and again, sensory-metabolic spaces for own physiological invigoration and expanse. Today this idea is understood as “virtual reality”, specifically in regards to the relatively recent consolidation of computer or cybernetic experience; but a better understanding of sedentary culture would see its virtual quality in its is very beginning, as in fact a technical need inherent to it. This is so and to such an extent, that Life Magazine, not surprisingly founded in 1936 amid the turmoil of the world at that time (but destined to an essentially immobile, consumer society and bystander readership), may better convey its function through an inversion of terms: for magazine life is an effective, condensed way of understanding sedentary culture and its inescapable, technical dependence on sensory-metabolic invigoration.

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4 Though not popularly understood, it is an easily demonstrable fact the human eye is acutely sensitive to sensory objects that can be interpreted as groups–and this to such a degree that the eye tends to personify series of objects (pine trees, empty theater seats, multiple building windows illuminated at night, etc…); and this surely because of the sensory-moral, psychic force such sensory experience exerts over the pre-conscious and opprobic periphery of the (socio)rational mind.

Pictorial exercise in regards to anthropomorphic series of objects

Bibliography