Much of the strangest architecture associated with humanity is infrastructural. We have vast arrays of rusting cylinders, oil rigs dotting wastelands like lonely insects, and jewel-toned, rhomboid ponds of chemical waste. We have gray and terraced landfills, 5-story tall wastewater digester eggs, and striped areas of the desert that look as though they rendered incorrectly until we realize that the lines are made of thousands of solar panels. Massive cooling towers of power plants slope away from dense, unidentifiable networks on the ground and are obscured in their own ominous fog. If there is something unsettling about these structures, it might be that they are deeply, fully human at the same time that they are unrecognizably technological. These mammoth devices unblinkingly process our waste, accept our trash, distribute our electricity. They are our prostheses. They keep us alive and able, for a minute, to forget the precariousness of our existence here and of our total biological dependence on a series of machines, wires, and tubes, humming loudly in some far off place.
A concept is worldly but it is also a reorientation to a world, a way of turning things around, a different slant on the same thing. More specifically a “sweaty concept” is one that comes out of a description of a body that is not at home in the world. By this I mean description as angle or point of view: a description of how it feels not to be at home in the world, or a description of the world from the point of view of not being at home in it. As I have tried to show in my work on comfort and discomfort (see here), so much phenomenological writing was written from the point of view of a body that “can do,” a body that is at home in the world, a body that is received by a world. … When I use the concept of “sweaty concepts” I am also trying to say we can generate new understandings by describing the difficulty of inhabiting a body that is not at home in a world. Sweat is bodily; we might sweat more during more strenuous activity. A “sweaty concept” might be one that comes out of a bodily experience that is difficult, one that is “trying,” and where the aim is to keep exploring and exposing this difficulty, which means also aiming not to eliminate the effort or labour from the writing (I suspect not eliminating the effort or labour becomes an academic aim because we have been taught to tidy our texts, not to reveal the struggle we have in getting somewhere).
But Google’s 360 programme, which photographs indoors, has no pretence of cartography. The people are now the point in spite of their blurred faces. Human behaviours and interactions are recorded in these images of restaurants, libraries, hair salons and dentist waiting rooms. Even if a business decides to vacate when the photographer arrives, there is no mistaking the lingering traces of humanity. Taste and personality come across in the tattered lace of a cafe tablecloth or a vase of flowers on an empty reception desk at a car dealership.
— Joanne McNeil, “Look Inside: The unexpected uses of Google Street View” in Frieze Magazine
I was never one of those critics or theorists who felt there is a literary “system.” If there is one, it is a very inefficient one for sure, designed by its very nature for failure, for in these and other texts we can find the straining of the very notion of systems. This stress factor, I argue, can be interpreted as the imprint of doubt, skepticism, critique, resistance, some of which is successful in challenging the system, some not. They all try to move the center. These texts gesture toward visions and aspirations to be other than systemic, or let’s say they point to a relation of tension between themselves and any binding systemic account of itself. They point to the strengths and weaknesses of the systems in which they are positioned.
— David Palumbo-Liu, “If Comparative Literature is a Global Positioning System, How Can We Move the Center?”