I used to wonder why superhero franchises spend so much time on origin stories. The focus on an individual’s trauma at the expense of attending to the social context. The time spent on flashbacks. Entire movies given over to the dawn of a hero. The answer I think is that these origin stories create a pivot used to justify the forthcoming actions of these superheroes. They justify their awesome power and the gargantuan decisions they take for the greater good. So to in real life, origin stories are there for when we wonder why.
Do you wonder why so many people do not have enough food to eat? Do you wonder why you cannot afford to own your own house? Do you wonder why you are sexually frustrated? Do you wonder why you have a chronic health condition? Do you wonder how to make more money? Do you wonder why you even exist? I believe origin stories are there to help when our imagination wonders. They justify what we see, taste, smell, feel, and what we hear. How we think, speak, listen, and act. Origin stories define what is scientifically, morally, mortally, and existentially crucial.
They are the premise. The bickering of politics, the calculations of economics, your personal development, our societal transformation, my job, your kids, your life, the lives of others, the cows you eat. The way these everyday phenomena have emerged in the world balances on the pin head of an origin story. Why are you fighting? The origin story tells you its because life is a competitive struggle. Why are you caring? The origin story tells you because humanity is noble at its core. Why do you own this land? The origin story tells you why. Why do you not own any land? The origin story tells you why.
The origin story. That’s what I am fascinated with. Because when my thoughts wander and wonder and imagine, it’s the origin story that provides a sense of direction in the landscape of life. They define whether I end up looking endlessly for the promised land, stuck in a rut or dancing atop a mountain to the sounds of James Brown. These origin stories are the pivot that leverage the entire galacta-tonne of how we collectively understand what it means to be human. I invite you to join me in reading a set of books that rewrite the origin story of human civilizations with a particular attention to to stories around hunter-gatherers and agriculture.
We will end with the much anticipated David Graeber (RIP) and David Wengrow’s new book ‘The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity’ which will be published on the 19th of October. A book that aims to ‘fundamentally transform our understanding of the human past and offer a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society.’
Before we reach this we will start with James C Scott’s exploration of the relationship between early State Societies and agriculture. We will then encounter Abdullah Ocalan’s postcolonial reading of civilization from his prison cell, as an early leader and intellectual inspiration for the Rojavan Revolution rooted in Ecology and Feminism. Bruce Pascoe fuses aboriginal storytelling with archaeological data to bring a new light to a civilization classified as subhuman by a colonial empire, in particular a mystification of them as simple hunter-gatherers. I am then bringing it home to Cyprus with a kickass paper by Sarah Harris on how colonial civilization’s have used the Ruined Landscape Narrative to justify landgrabbing around the world, actually ruin landscapes, but also mystify other kinds of ecological practice.
Against the Grain – Monday 12th July 19:30 – 21:30 UTC
Roots of Civilization – Monday 23rd August 19:30 – 21:30 UTC
Dark Emu – Monday 6th September 19:30 – 21:30 UTC
Ruined Landscape Narrative – Monday 18th October 19:30 – 21:30 UTC
The Dawn of Everything 15th November 19:30 – 21:30 UTC
If you would like to participate email me: avikhalil[at]protonmail[dot]com