JANE.png
“Among the many revolutionary changes of this century, perhaps those which go deepest are the changes in the mental methods we can use for probing the world. I do not mean new mechanical brains, but methods of analysis and discovery that have gotten into human brains: new strategies for thinking.”
— Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Vintage, 1992, p428
“Maybe it is worth running the risks associated with anthropomorphizing (superstition, the divinization of nature, romanticism) because it, oddly enough, works against anthropocentrism: a chord is struck between person and thing, and I am no longer outside a nonhuman ‘environment’.”
— Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: a political ecology of things. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010, p. 120.
“…had I been alone for longer than a year I might have become a rather strange person, for inanimate objects began to develop their own identities: I found myself saying “Good morning” to my little hut on the Peak, “Hello” to the stream where I collected my water. And I became immensely aware of trees, just to feel the roughness of a knurled truck or the cold smoothness of young bark with my hand filled me with strange knowledge of the roots under the ground and the pulsing sap within.”
— Jane van Lawick-Goodall, In the Shadow of Man, New York: Delta, 1971, p. 50.

The Jane Approach is an ethos that underscores the way that onomatopoeia researches, while remaining a research project unto itself. Drawing on inspirational affinities between Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall and Jane Bennett, The Jane Approach explores ways to alleviate the destructive tendencies of anthropocentrism. Each of these Janes draw attention to the idiosyncratic presence and agency of things and non-human animals such as chimpanzees, cities and trash. Along related lines, The Jane Approach aims to magnify the co-creation implicit within all imaginative activity, and to find ways of amplifying the ecological powers of design. Initially explored through the design transformation of Avery Green (a house-person), this approach remains open to ongoing, collaborative development.

Several book chapters that move more deeply through theoretical explorations of both Avery Green and the Jane Approach, are forthcoming (due to be published in 2018) in Architectural Materialisms (Edinburgh Press), and an Immediations anthology (Open Humanities Press).

THE JANE APPROACH: Goodall, Jacobs, Bennett

Jane van Lawick-Goodall’s book, In the Shadow of Man, was published in 1971.  It is an account of the development of the Gombe Stream Research Centre in Tanzania, established in 1965 by Goodall, dedicated to researching chimpanzees.

I got a copy from the library largely because I admire Jane Goodall, and was interested to read about her early work. In particular, I was wanting to know more about her approaches to research and how they developed. I was aware that her levels of empathising with the chimps, her naming of them, and ways of dealing with them were seen as ‘unscientific’ and viewed with suspicion by many scientists. Aspects of her willingness to empathically connect,  to risk anthropomorphising, and to offer a well felt clarity of observational insight seemed to have an affinity with the contemporary, philosophical work of Jane Bennett, and the even earlier work by Jane Jacobs, dating back to the early 60s, on cities and economies. All of these women, working in quite different arenas, have had a profound affect on their respective disciplines, not only in terms of what we have some to know and understand through their work, but through the way in which they have approached their subjects. Given that all three give notable attention to ethics in their work, in one way or another, I wondered if the work of all of these ‘Janes’ might point to important ethical dimensions implicit to research “methodologies”. Helped by some discussions with Anna Tweeddale, who has a particular interest in Jane Jacobs, it occurred to me that it may be worthwhile considering these three women as a constellation, to see if the value of their individual contributions might be further illuminated if considered in relation to one another. The idea of ‘The Jane Approach’, as a project and proposition to explore, was born.

This project is about articulating the crucial importance of approach: of the way we engage, enquire, and activate. Approach is not somehow secondary to the knowledge that research generates, but is tied up with the core know-how that we develop. As Jacobs summarises: “Among the many revolutionary changes of this century, perhaps those which go deepest are the changes in the mental methods we can use for probing the world. I do not mean new mechanical brains, but methods of analysis and discovery that have gotten into human brains: new strategies for thinking.” [Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Vintage, 1992, p428]

It is perhaps also worth saying here that the ‘Jane Approach’ would seem to also bear an affinity with the work of scientist, Barbara McClintock, who I discussed (after Isabelle Stengers and Evelyn Fox Keller) in my doctorate as exemplifying a certain ethico-aesthetic know-how of emergence, where art and science dance together through shared styles of movement. I won’t go into that in detail here, but would like to recall Stenger’s suggestion that:

“Perhaps this is the real lesson [of Barbara McClintock]… –not the discovery of an “other” reason, but the exploration of what reason is capable of when it is liberated from the disciplinary models that normalise it; the exploration of the real reasons one can have, even if one has a liking for it, for not feeling “at ease” in the sciences; the attempt, no longer isolated but interdependent and perhaps explicit, of resisting the social irrationality of the sciences.” [Isabelle Stengers, (1997), Power and Invention. Situating Science, Theory Out of Bounds, Vol 10, Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, p130]

I tend to think that these Jane’s, along with Barbara, demonstrate approaches to research that are not just important to the kind of creative practice research we undertake at AEL, but potentially critical. Can we use this idea of The Jane Approach to articulate approaches to research that are highly tuned to the ethical, through being situated, empathic, and rigorous – ?