“Progress and catastrophe are two sides of the same coin,” wrote Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism. Without the Joker, there is no Batman. How we weave together historical narrative is dependent upon crafting foils in order to highlight stories we mean to tell. Below is another brief soundclip, mainly me playing with the technology—and rehearsing ideas for an imminent podcast project (more on which soon). Dualities and dichotomies feature in how we approach the catastrophic, and I draw on a bit of fiction to help illustrate some of these.
Here’s a little audio clip from Walter Benjamin’s One-Way Street and Other Writings (as quoted in Andreas Malm’s Fossil Capital). Just to start the week on a positive note.
I’m thinking about Benjamin’s work more and more as I prep new ideas for a course on Catastrophic History (HIST 3CH3). I’m fascinated with his obsession with catastrophe, but also how it was prominent throughout many of the writings of other thinkers of the same kind of time. Hannah Arendt and Günther Anders, for example. More anon, but this serves as the backdrop for much of the preparation for the course. Which isn’t to say that this will be a course heavily driven by intellectual history (from the students’ perspective: probably not), but I’m interested to see if we can revisit some of these older ideas, and brush them off for the twenty-first century. I suspect we think (or should think, or need to think) about catastrophe rather differently. We should investigate that. And consider how it shapes our histories.