Thinking Like Tumbleweeds: Bodily Genres and the Vitality of Beings at Large

Safet HadziMuhamedovic (SOAS University of London)
Vanja Hamzic (SOAS University of London)
Gina Heathcote (SOAS Unviersity of London)
Emily Jones (University of Essex)

Short abstract:

How can we think tumbleweeds to revisit the work tumbling away from the hegemonic scripts of what it means to be (non)human? We welcome papers on bodies (of 'people', 'matter', 'thought'…) as styled into genres, as well as on the roaming resilience of the otherwise.

Long abstract:

Nonhuman beings are at hand to craft a figure of speech or a visual trope, but they exist, nevertheless. As the silent cinematic extras, tumbleweeds usually entered the scene to designate someplace desolate and uninhabited, a wilderness encroaching upon the order of home. In The Plainsmen (1936), a tumbleweed bursts into a home whilst Louisa Cody is cleaning (she kicks it out with her broom). Tumbleweeds are the 'Wild West' (refusing to be tamed, settled), yet they had been brought from the Russian steppes in the nineteenth century (apparently piggybacking on grain imported to South Dakota). 'Tumbleweed' denotes the germination technique of several species from which the plant detaches from the root and diffuses the seeds as it is carried by the wind (these dispersal units are known as diaspores). Their tissues die out to allow the seeds to escape. They entangle each other, but also with the 'humans' and the 'things' they encounter. Their agency is inseparable from the wind. They are a hindrance - 'invasive' and 'noxious' - an unhomely weed, freed from home. They symbolise awkward silence, frontier areas and abandonment. Yet, they cross borders, connect disparate zones and signal strange, resistant, budding life. Papers may engage tumbleweeds as meaning-holders, extend their theoretical purchase, or disconnect from the root and tumble about wider plains. They can deal with mobility and flux, silence, subjectivity, kinship, nomads, frontiers, posthuman theories, natureculture, Actor-Network Theory, or something otherwise. We welcome 'ethnographic' and case-study engagements, as well as ventures of 'pure' imagination.