Discovery of Self in Poor Theory

“Poor theory is less a theory than a way of proceeding.” (Excerpts taken from Poor Theory: Notes Toward a Manifesto, Critical Theory Institute)

An intellectual sits on the train searching. Pulled down by the pure exhaustion of the daily commute any hope for creativity unravels. Look around. See loaded devices and ear plugs with hanging wires that shoot music into young people’s bouncing skulls. It’s the young urbanite’s attempt to wipe out the harsh reality of scraping metal, a crying baby, the monotone voice of a conductor announcing stops that cut across the city like a connect the dots puzzle. Each stop moves us further away from wealth and elements of whiteness decrease. The space is transformed each time a person exits the train and another boards.

A dark skinned man in a grey hat wearing an inconspicuous trench coat leans over a book that talks about poor theory. Everything freezes like a movie screen shot.  Zoom in slowly and a critical moment emerges from the chaos and anonymity. Zoom in further and hover over the book. Peer into the text and see the writing take on a life before you. It is right there – the answer. The writing is about the poor. It says the poor have another way of seeing the world and this perspective has intellectual value.

What power is there in seeing that the cup is half empty? What does one find in nothingness? Is there a transcendental purpose within the experience of poverty? What do we learn from the poor that completes us, makes us understand the holistic nature of our human experience, the necessity for relational thinking?

Discovery of power in oneself, validating one’s life’s experience, finding abundance in one’s poor identity transforms. Discovery of power in the other, validating the other’s life experience, finding abundance in the other’s poor identity transforms.

“Poor theory invites us to jettison the economic rationalities that reduce our theories to use values and wise investments and other naturalized vestiges of a system of surplus accumulation that profits from waste and catastrophe.”

An intellectual sits on the train searching. Each stop takes us further, from one place to the next we travel, together we learn different ways of seeing and telling. Capture this discovery. Feel free to identify yourself in new ways, to recognize the merit in one’s personal heritage, to let go of borrowed perspectives on what or who we should value in life, to transcend, to embrace.

Discoveries of Self within Poor Theory:

·       Poor me finds ways of making the most of limited resources

·       Poor me works around intransigent problems even when the means at my disposal are limited

·       Poor me recognizes that situations are riddled with error

·       Poor me elevates fascination and urgency over mastery

·       Poor me is armed with an awareness of limits but tinkers and works against and around them

·       Poor me sees abundance in what is commonly labeled as poor

·       Poor me recognizes merit in what is generally considered meretricious

·       Poor me is concerned with the everyday and the social

·       Poor me is concerned with the “not quite” and with disappointment

·       Poor me is interdisciplinary

·       Poor me thinks historically

·       Poor me is alert to novel ways in which different forms of life come to matter