Belinda Eslick — Political change as natality: Birthing new worlds, together

My thesis explores how we might conceptualize politics in a more poetic way with the aim of imagining a more feminine politics—one that could acknowledge women’s political action as different, rather than other, to masculinist institutional political action. I suggest that to propose a politics that is truly different from the phallocentric, culturally entrenched political systems and institutions, we need to begin to think very differently about what it means to be political, to create political change, and also about what constitutes political space. I intend to move beyond a systematic, bureaucratic, and largely combative conception of politics in order to question how we could think about politics and how we might create political change in ways that acknowledge the flowing and cyclical nature of life on Earth and that promote connection, love, the cultivation of life, and that of our individual inner worlds. Luce Irigaray’s work, particularly that of the past two decades—including her thought about relating, loving, and the way in which our subjectivities are affected by embodiment, breathing, space, and the natural world—can help us think how we might re-conceptualize politics at an embodied, human level and consider how we can change the world in subtle ways through our manner of being and relating as embodied, sexed subjects. I endeavor to do that in my thesis, partly by considering a political change to be a sort of natality, or to conceptualize political change as the birth of a new world.

The concept of natality allows us to think about a political change as the birth of something new and truly different from that which was before. I suggest that thinking about creating a political change as a process of birth could allow us to imagine a political change that is transformative in the sense that it is born of but different from the present state. Change, then, could be born from a place where we are connected to our own bodies, to an other, and to the temporality and materiality of the present moment. I suggest that by thinking of political change as a process of birth, and through connecting in this way, we might create changes that encourage growth and that lead to further, fluid changes—even if that to which we give birth is really different from that which was before. Thinking about creating change as giving birth also means that we can acknowledge that, like the process of any other birth, creating the new amounts to a cyclical gesture, and that our world is continually always-changing and always-becoming.

I initiate such a birth with an ovulation rather than with a conception because, as Irigaray suggests, going to meet an other requires that we have gained our own subjectivity, that we must inhabit our own world before we can reach and cross its threshold to meet with another world  (Irigaray, Sharing the World, p.7). In my thinking about political change as natality, I consider ovulation to be the point from which a new world can begin to gestate: as a dream about a new temporal and material world. It is where, as single subjects, we can begin to imagine a potential new world, and I suggest that we might do this by daydreaming—instead of merely thinking or designing—because a new world that is daydreamed arises from our own worlds, our own bodies. When we daydream, we can enter into an embodied, meditative state and this allows us to establish a link or a bridge between the present world and a future world that is anchored in our inner being and with the material and temporal state of the present moment. In this sense, this dream is different from a utopia, which does not prioritize a connection with the present moment. Irigaray writes that we should cultivate our own worlds with the intention of meeting an other (op.cit. p. 9). And so if, as ones, we have daydreamed of a new world within our own horizon, and have cultivated our own world with the intention of enlarging it by meeting with an other and their own world, two daydreaming subjects can be drawn to and meet each other—“his or her call will join our own” (Irigaray, op.cit., p.11).

When two subjects encounter one another, something new happens between the two: “A breath or soul has been born, brought forth by two others” (Irigaray, op.cit., p.:31). The encounter between two subjects with their individual dreams can result in the conception of a new, shared dream, which can gestate in the space opened between them and their worlds. Relating to an other requires that we continue to encounter her/him, which involves a continual motion between inward and outward, contracting and dilating (Irigaray, op.cit., p. 57). This way, energy never becomes stuck in oneself or in the other, and the shared dream—which dwells in a potential state in the space between the two subjects—can continue to grow. This motion, Irigaray writes (idem), keeps energy alive, and eventually, through a continual movement of relating, the shared dream of the two subjects can be embodied and our dream change the existing world. In To Be Born, Irigaray, in 2017, explores the moment when a baby comes into the world and she notes that, in fact, a baby gives birth to itself through breathing for the first time. Irigaray suggests that it is by taking our first breath outside of the mother’s womb that we first express our will to live and that it is through remembering and cultivating our breathing that we might ensure our becoming as human beings. Irigaray’s thinking about the birth of a new human being can help to consider how a new world—the one that I imagine to be born of two dreaming subjects—once born, has its own autonomy and can continue to breathe towards its being and becoming. Though the two subjects can somewhat affect the existence of the world that they have created, once it is born, this new world also has a life of its own. The living energy that has been cultivated to give birth of a shared dream between two subjects does not stay in   only one space; rather, it spills over and contributes to the living energy of the cosmos itself. And so from the cultivation of energy between two subjects toward creating a new world, a new life can spring up around and beyond us, too. This is a very different motion of energy in comparison with that which happens when political changes result from—even if in combative resistance to—existing, persisting systems or orders. Instead, the political changes that I propose—and which were born by cultivating connection, love, and a living energy—can give rise to further changes in a flowing cycle of political growth, for “A living energy necessarily grows” (Irigaray, Sharing the World p. 57).