RQ: Jane Bennett, “Powers of the Hoard” (237-69)


Keep the following questions in mind as you read Jane Bennett’s “Powers of Hoard,” (237-58) The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

1. According to Jane Bennett, how have other philosophers engaged with stuff as a “vital force” (237)? What do all the explanations about how the material world interacts have in common? What does Bennett’s project fit into the history of philosophy that she cites?

2. What does Bennett mean “Vibrant Matter” (239)?

3. How does Bennett define rhetoric, or what is the relationship between things and words (242)?

4. According to Bennett, what “powers” do things possess (243)?

5. How does Bennett’s project relate to Herring’s?

6. What two maxims, i.e. rules of conduct, does Bennett provide to help “guide our encounters” hoarders/hoards that is more than simply pathological (244)?

7. According to Bennett, what is a hoarder? Who decides? What distinguishes a hoarder from other types of collectors (245). What determines these distinctions?

8. To what extent are all of “us” hoarders according to Bennett and why? What conditions make pathological overconsumption possible? Why does she classify the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the Internet as hoards? Do you agree–why/why not?

9. According to the A&E TV show Hoarders, why do people amass so much stuff that they threaten their lives?

10. According to Bennett, why does stuff “‘overwhelm'” hoarders (252)? How does she agree and how does she disagree with psychological explanations for hoarding?

11. Is hoarding a response to loss? What other “comforts” does hoarding provide?

12. What does Bennett mean when she says, “Any extant contour or boundary of entityhood is always subject to change; bodies are essentially incorporeal. This applies to the hoarded object as well as the hoarder’s body: each bears the imprint of the others” (254). What are some examples she gives of this imvorporeality?

13. What does Bennett mean when she says, “In an act of sympathy and self-recognition, the hoard accesses the it-stuff within the hoarder herself and forms bonds therein” (258-9)? What are some examples of what Bennett calls, “Inorganic sympathy”?

14. Do hoarders, like connoisseurs, “escape the oppressive world of marketed goods” (260)?

15. In the final section, Bennett explains, “It is not normal today to think of ‘inanimate objects’ as possessing a lively capacity to do things to us and with us, although it is quite normal to experience them as such” (263). If we do experience vibrant matter or lively objects, think about junk drawers, why is there a “tendency to forget thing-power, to overlook the creative contributions of nonhumans and underhear their calls” (263)?

16. Do you agree with Bennett when she argues, in the final paragraph of the chapter that “Each of these sites (hoarding, but also poetry, archeological digs, religious communities, and schizophrenia) might shed light on the role that a not-quite human form of effectivity might be playing in maintaining the over-consumptive, ecologically disastrous society that I (and we) live in” (269)?

Song Dong, Waste Not (2006)