Staying with the Trouble

I have just started reading Donna Haraway’s Staying with The Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Haraway uses the term “Chthulucene” to describe our current era: “Chthulucene is a simple word. It is a compound of two Greek roots (khthôn and kainos) that together name a kind of timeplace for learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying in response-ability on a damaged earth” (2).

On the first page of her work, Haraway describes the task for all of us in the current troubled times as “to make kin in lines of inventive connection.” The time of being able to solve problems solo, of heroes and white knights, of the “great men of history” is long past, if it ever existed at all (…it didn’t). The inventiveness required in the 21st century is deeply collaborative from beginning to end.

Thick connections are the infrastructure needed to move forward now—in our work and most everywhere. In my path through the CLIR postdoc, the meetings and workshops, and some of the change and unevenness that has come with it, I’ve seen the value of the messy configurations and reconfigurations of people, places, and tools that Haraway alludes to as essential to “staying with the trouble.” A postdoc in library spaces was, for a lot of us, an unexpected path forward from our doctoral studies—potential “trouble” in some senses. What if it was a bad fit? What happens at the end of the two years? Will we find a way to be the writers/researchers/teachers we hoped we’d be in a library space?

Our answers have been all over the place. But the connections we have made and re-made (or I have —I’ll just speak for myself) have been rich and unexpected:  for example, conversations with guest speakers at the postdoctoral summer seminar at Bryn Mawr still turn up in the corners of my thoughts when figuring out plans or problems. In the face of the contingencies and “trouble” of 21st century academic work, the underground roots of the CLIR network of humans persists.

I am leaving this program feeling more than the sum of my parts, the sum of my experience. The strength of the CLIR networks goes beyond sources of ideas and potential collaborators, they are real assemblages of people and tools than can support library and curation work across disciplines, institutions, and barriers of time and place. We are the chuthulus of our own making.

Jeanine Finn is the Data and Digital Scholarship Librarian at The Claremont Colleges Library. She was a 2017–2019 CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow.