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This was the announcement of an anthropology lecture at Sydney University- can you understand it?

The violence that is poised between humanitas and inhumanitas speaks to the metaphysical ordering and phantasms of everyday political terror. Are practices of political aggression separable from the Western metaphysical divide between human and animal, and what are the ideological utilities of this divide? Does political animality point to an anthropological sovereignty that only acquires positivity, tangibility, and figuration through its displacement onto, and passage into, the extimacy that is animality? And why does subjugated or expelled animality perennially threaten anthropological plenitude as an uncontainable negativity?

 These questions imply that the many thresholds of language, labour and finitude that have repeatedly delimited, governed and consigned the animal and human in metaphysical thought and practice can be remapped as a properly political dominion: a wildlife reserve in which philosophical, ethological, and anthropological declaratives and descriptions encrypt zoopolitical relations of power and force, and where the animal predicate circumscribes a concentrated time and space of subjugation, exposure, disappearance and abandonment.

Maybe we could Google Translate it…

The simple translation is:  the lecture is suggesting that the definitions of human and animal are designed to justify the humans killing, expelling and dominating the animals because they’re not really human. I think.

But the announcement doesn’t say this very clearly. They used long or rare words nobody was familiar with. They used extremely complicated sentences that were hard to follow- that last paragraph is a single sentence! And they made up new words the audience didn’t know.

I think one of the most common reasons someone is obtuse is because the communicator wants to disguise the folly of their argument. Using really long words makes you sound smart, but it prevents your audience understanding why it is smart. This simultaneously gives you kudos and protects you from criticism.

The purpose of communication is to get others to understand you. You write a diary so that you can understand how you felt back then. You talk to someone to get them to understand what you think about whatever you are talking about. You write a speech or a lecture to convince your audience that you are right.

But communication is never about the person talking. It’s all about the audience. You want the audience to understand. You want the audience to agree with you.

Using really long words and complicated sentences makes you look smart, but it doesn’t help the audience. Therefore, it is bad communication. Everything you say needs to be designed to help the audience understand or agree with you.

  • Why don’t they think what I am thinking?
  • How can I answer those objections?
  • Are there certain words or ideas which they have an emotional reaction to?
  • Are there words or ideas that they really like that I can use instead?

It takes original thinking to tailor your communication to your audience, and it takes humility to focus on their needs to understand you, instead of on your brilliance at explaining things. I find it really hard.

But that’s what it takes to communicate. And this university lecture announcement failed to help others understand. It failed to communicate.

xkcd.com

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