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What is rinding? and other postmodern neologisms

11 August, 2009
Rind by keishkakeishka, (c) Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

Rind by keishkakeishka, (c) Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

Below is an announcement about an upcoming lecture by Kathleen Stewart in Sydney.  Scroll on down to wonder at the postmodern abstract for her talk.

Transforming Cultures is pleased to announce that this year the TfC Annual Lecture will be presented by:

Professor Kathleen Stewart (Dept. of Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin).

Atmospheric Atunements

Thursday 20th August 2009, 6:00-8:00 pm
University of Technology in Sydney Gallery Function Centre, Level 6, UTS Tower Building.

Something throws itself together. Or sags, shifts tone, or fails. Invisible airs quicken around nascent forms, rinding up like the skin of an orange. Circulating forces waver and pulse, visceralizing the sheer sense of something happening. The ordinary hums with the background noise of all that takes place in moments, scenes, objects, resonances, rhythms. The atmospheric attunes to the sentience of things passing in and out of existence, to the expressivity of what Giorgio Agamben calls ‘whatever being’. This sensing out that attends is itself a labor of worlding, an effort to inhabit a flighty ground.

This writing asks what it takes to live out the worlding of forces rinding up and dissipating. But it also wonders about the significance of accretion itself. The way that an atmosphere accretes for senses in sync with it (or sort it) and the worlding that accrues partially or fully, quickly or slowly, for a time, with habit or shock, in practices or daydreams. A worlding – an attunement – that can be sloughed off, realized, imagined, brought to bear or just born.

I hope to attend so that, if there’s a question and answer session afterward, I can ask, “What is rinding?”

14 Comments leave one →
  1. 11 August, 2009 5:17 pm

    The orange?
    In Italian we call this “parole in liberta'” (it can be translated in English as words going mad) :-p
    in any case, I am sorry that I can not attend it as well (despite my allergic reaction to post-modernism in general)

  2. 12 August, 2009 7:35 am

    Yeah, Kathleen Stewart’s awesome that way. What makes it particularly great is that her book, anyway, is about Appalachian poverty, tin shacks, coal-miners’ wives, possum-eatin’, and so on. A rich cocktail.

  3. costa permalink
    12 August, 2009 10:10 am

    sounds really interesting: thanks for bringing that to my attention. I’ll try and make it.

  4. Drew Walker permalink
    12 August, 2009 8:56 pm

    In one respect, Katie Stewart’s work could be considered as an example of how to grapple with writing about non-elites.

    While ethnographers often see themselves as doing this, they are too often actually writing about groups as small elites, as the hardened, palpable (not pulpable 🙂 substantial, layered webs of significance (which Geertz call “cultures”). In my own work, these small elites make up “big C” Causes which often unintentionally reflect both professional academic career positioning and a secreted, pervasive missionary-like presence of the ethnographer’s “people.”

    If you read some of Stewart’s work in this light, I think you might see that she is trying to “rind” away this small elite perspective and deal with something beyond webs of significance.

    If you try this, watch out because pulp usually heads like a bullet for your eyes!

    – Drew Walker

  5. Barbara Piper permalink
    13 August, 2009 8:05 am

    Drew: I enjoyed the pun you attribute to Geertz (who was simply repeating Weber’s notion of culture as webs of signification, not webs of significance. This is the kind of pseudo-similarity that lead Derrida to explore the relationship between difference and deferral — to the dismay of semiotically oriented Weberian/Geertzian culture theorists….) Stewart’s published work is excellent, but what she’s doing with worlding and rinding is beyond my limited imagining!


  6. Margaret Fortune permalink
    13 August, 2009 2:14 pm

    I thought the meaning of rinding was clear:

  7. 13 August, 2009 2:41 pm

    LOL Margaret!! Beware those who create postmodern neologisms in their work: when you make up a new word, it might already exist in the Urban Dictionary or the Rolodex of Love. And if it does, it might be the word for some unspeakable sex act (in this case, it’s not so much unspeakable as logistically inscrutable — how do you swallow a strip of bacon without chewing it? — oh, never mind, I need to stop trying to figure out how rinding works).

  8. Drew Walker permalink
    14 August, 2009 4:37 am


    Not “speaking to” Derrida (pun?), I do think there is a point of discussion relevant to Stewart vis-a-vis Interpretation of Cultures, p.5, where Geertz actually does write:

    “webs if significance”

    Now, if Geertz is referring to Weber’s use of Bedeutung or Bedeutsamkeit, meaning and significance are right, but if Geertz or anyone else is “semioticizing” Weber here, there are issues with that.

    I see Stewart as addressing one meaning/significance of “significance” (okay, a pun this time 🙂 through playing with the other.

    I’ve always thought Stewart and I think alike here. The insignificant is/are often so in both senses.

    _ Drew

  9. Drew Walker permalink
    14 August, 2009 5:06 am

    Upon further investigation, the whole Geertz-Weber thing is even more complex. There is a good chance that Geertz was referring to the term Sinnzusammenhang (basic treatment in link below)

    In maybe an all-too-German way, Weber uses this notion (these webs of significance)to combine subjective meaning and historically determined/situated meaning.

    This having been said, I think this only strengthens my take of Stewart above.

  10. Barbara Piper permalink
    14 August, 2009 10:39 pm

    Hi, Drew – forgive me for not being sure if you are taking my humorous comment much too seriously. I was, of course, riffing on the double meaning of “significance” in English: ‘meaning’ versus ‘importance’. Geertz meant ‘meaning’ and often commented to us gradate students many years ago that “webs of significance” were not always “significant” but were always signifying. Thus “signification.”

    Don’t over-tax the Weberian links. Geertz was explicit about the influence of Talcott Parsons on his thinking when he was a graduate student at Harvard, and Parsons’s, of course, was the great introducer of Weber to U.S. social scientists, and an interpreter of Weber for Geertz himself.


  11. Drew Walker permalink
    15 August, 2009 1:23 am


    Thanks. I agree, that Parsons element in much of Geertz is really the key here. It must have been great to assimilate and engage it all first hand.

    Having spent a fair amount of time around German academics and intellectuals, a common observation is that Americans are well known for riffing, sampling their big figures and ideas. Many like this, others mention it in a snobbish way.

    It seems that Geertz made a popular riff in the “webs of significance” Weber attribution/translation sans Parson.

    The curious point may be that several of the Writing Culture founders saw Geertz as a pioneer and godfather of sorts, I think due to their interpretation of him in the more Weberian sense described above.

    Maybe what you just explained tells us why Geertz never embraced them back.

    I think Katie Stewart and others take a more existential path, if you will, not being able to divorce meaning from purpose, significance, motivation and so on, much more like Weber and less like Geertz’ “Parsonianism.”

    Thanks for that. It really makes the question of rinding (with no strings attached) sizzle in the bacon grease.

  12. 15 August, 2009 4:36 pm

    The better the means we have to communicate, the less we actually manage to communicate. Electronic communications, instead of narrowing the cultural gap, make us realise that it is much wider than we thought.

    It it weren’t for blogs i would never have known that there are Americans who, in all seriousness, say things like “universal health care is theft”, and expect others to take it seriously. Even when I do understand the words, the mentality is way beyond me. It rinds me, perhaps.

  13. 16 August, 2009 9:07 am

    Well to be fair to Americans, Steve, I’m not sure that this a “cultural gap” — the Americans that *I* know (such as my mom, who recently forwarded me some info debunking Republican myths and misinformation about healthcare reform and who wholeheartedly supports universal healthcare and is happy to have her taxes pay for it) would agree with you that that’s crazy talk. Seems like more of a political gap to me, not a cultural gap. I think that in most places you can find wealthy people who want to hoard their money while the poor suffer, and they articulate this hoarding desire in the language of ownership and theft.

    But yes, perhaps the fact that such a comment is not immediately decried as being as offensive as a racist comment in the American political context indicates that there’s something radically different about American political culture.

    I just asked a Canadian whether he thought it imaginable that a Canadian could say something like that. And he said no, it’s unimaginable that a Canadian could say something like that in front of any other Canadian. So maybe it is cultural difference after all.

  14. 23 August, 2009 2:15 am

    Regarding ‘rinding’ as a sex act – sounds like one of those mythical sexual practices dreamed up by 13-year-old boys and never put into practice. Except perhaps later on by internet porn stars, creating a bizarre semantic loop of sex and virtuality. So maybe that’s what Stewart had in mind?

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