m of care – feb 23

Reading Group on Ayça Çubukçu’s @ayca_cu “David Graeber’s Anthropology of Human Possibilities” (2022)


Ayça Çubukçu, who was a dear friend of David Graeber, uploaded on Academia the draft of a caring and insightful paper about him, partially published as a foreword to the German edition of Fragments. – [has link to acedmeia dot edu site where you can jump thru ‘free’ hoops/register to get it downloaded]

my notes from paper – ayça on david’s possibilities

ayça on david graeber‘s fragments of an anarchist anthropology and dawn of everything (book)possibilities et al

notes/quotes from zoom meeting – (my connection was choppy so might have to re add notes when video comes out):

a: story of essay.. after david passed.. i was invited to write something on fragments.. which is 1st part of essay.. then invited to participate in launch of doe.. it was a way of mourning him.. simona and i have been having an extended convo

simona: on fb i wrote that i don’t totally agree w some.. main about the role of myth.. you talk of myth as not entirely negative but suspicious.. when you say david and david are building myths.. it sounds a bit like they are deceptive.. but only way to think of human rights.. i would like to discuss the role of myth in david’s work.. it’s true he’s dealing w myth and in a way he’s building myth.. but i disagree that this myth means fake .. 2nd pt.. about human rights and human nature (see below).. i think there’s a tension in david’s work.. this is why i like it so much

bad internet connection.. just got knocked off.. oi.. will have to retake notes from video

simona: (back on.. she’s talking about spinoza.. nika jumps in.. )

a: simona and convo with her.. has made me rethink.. this piece is submitted already for publication.. but i thought hard about it.. i’m not consciously using myth in a negative way.. i think what really got me thinking in using myth in quotation marks.. is a parallel proclivity by d&d in doe to claim sci and sci knowledge in almost an enlightenment way.. they say ‘proposing a new sci of history’.. so that and their sometimes derogatory use of myth.. got me to pt of ‘creating a new myth’.. even if i’m not an anthro.. i think myths are very important to give a shared meaning.. would like value free use of word ‘myth’.. wengrows response to this was.. myths are not a bad thing.. which agree

steve: wanted to ask you about simona’s question about myth (shoot losing connection again).. myth can be wonderful/good.. but problem when paradigmatic then paradigms solidified and symptomatic of kind of idol worship..

a: that’s a part of it.. that’s my conclusion w david’s legacy.. we shouldn’t canonize he’s legacy.. but also in terms of claim to historical knowledge whether predicated on archeological evidence et al.. it can be dangerous too.. esp if it passes as unquestionable science

christian walter: on myth as id of group.. so if want to change things.. need to give people not so much a flag.. but something they can carry in their hearts.. a moral standing.. but once engage in myth making.. hard to get rid of.. but if don’t stuck w thing you have.. what struck me about david.. he was looking for way out of what we have now.. so in a way .. have to start w a new myth.. have to make new one to get rid of current.. but risk is.. it won’t be what you wanted it to be.. then gets instituted and stuck again..

a: i don’t think david was saying .. we should begin from morality and then practice.. i think he was pointing out alt moralities.. not like morality is abc then we’ll add.. no rather.. anarchistic ness.. line in doe that got me was the 3 freedoms.. make a claim that they were simply assumed by our ancestors.. then .. how do you have access to what ancestors assumed.. i believe the version of human history that d&d propose in doe.. if look at alts.. i’d rather take this new myth.. my problem is not in the ‘myth’.. but the claim to science is what gives me hesitation

nika: what is diff between it and story.. i think david was a collector of stories.. he embraced the situations.. that’s what pirates is about.. so if design space where this is possible.. don”t have problem christian described.. where stuck t.. so i think pirates about this.. what do you think

yeah that.. imagine if we listened to the itch-in-8b-souls 1st thing everyday & used that data to connect us (tech as it could be.. ai as augmenting interconnectedness for ongoing unstuckness).. as the day

a: yes.. still thinking about the passion of that question.. in their work.. it doesn’t claim to just be another story.. and if it was just another story.. i would be ok with that too.. it’s the science claim.. that bothers me.. even though i believe it

simona in chat:

The passage I’m referring to

how can we know what freedoms our ancestors simply assumed? In posing this question, I am not intimating that “our ancestors” are essentially unknowable because they are too alien (ontologically different, one might say), but that even if archaeology and anthropology, and the humanities and the social sciences more broadly, may have as their purpose the reshaping of our “conceptions of who we are and what we might yet become” (525), it remains unclear whether they have the capacity to do that without deploying some kind of “myth”—including new myths about “what being sapiens really means” (118).

Nevertheless, to the extent that myths are necessary to give shared—that is, social—meaning tohuman life, the ones Graeber and Wengrow devise with reference to new archaeological and anthropological findings may prove more inspiring ones to “believe” than teleological theories of social evolution which uphold current social and political arrangements as irrefutable “progress.”After all, “humanity,” too—as an ostensibly distinct species, ideal, community, actor—may require a new myth, a “new science of history” (24), to bring and hold it together. With The Dawn of Everything, Graeber and Wengrow first and foremost call humanity into being by writing its history, by exploring its possible pasts and futures, by making “it” a scientific, and noless metaphysical, fact.

michael: what were claims in fragments that then show up

a: that’s my realization.. i think david has always been studying human possibilities.. that’s the way i bring the two books together.. that’s my summary of greatest task of his scholarship.. t

shambhavi: on interaction between culture and medium.. matter of what you want to call what and which terms and who is reading it.. can be story, myth, virus.. then .. what are ways it can replicate, die, mutate.. when look at sci system.. often points of transformation.. just wanted to bring in perspective.. perhaps you can reframe.. what’s point of calling this myth sci if doesn’t fit.. not that category anyway

david campbell: visual art.. writing same way.. always from start dealing w illusions.. but artists start w an impulse to search for truth.. so normal in that process to be free with what might be mystical.. i think art is trying to communicate a truth in something you can’t argue in sci way.. it’s about the in between space.. so things i’ve been reading.. i allow the author an artists license

a: yes.. david takes a lot of that.. i think that’s extremely important.. i’ve been thinking a lot about ‘artistic license’ esp since reading pirate enlightenment.. i was discussing today w wengrow.. w/o license of creativity.. this book couldn’t have been written.. about stories while questioning it.. but everything is.. we’re all just interpreting the world.. but to do it in historical (context).. if we don’t do it that .. missing the point.. david’s great genius was in taking those creative licenses.. based on evidence.. and re interpreting.. but.. that license is always taken.. by sci, anthro, archaeo.. trying to get at most probable story and we call that sci

patrick timmer: when we think of sci can we think of it as a process to arrive at most probable.. rather than saying d&d seriously believe they’ve got everything right..

simona: first time we had meeting it was about bs jobs.. and i thought.. strange the way he works.. serious but really weird.. steven was talking of fetish.. (missed next part)

a: so glad you brought that up simona.. already in doe .. centrality on equality and freedom.. also in pirates.. so one of other tasks in this exploration of human possibilities.. is exploring our concepts.. he calls the decolonizing the enlightenment.. effort to re imagine the dominant historiography.. nothing short of european ness.. nothing else exists.. it has been the intellectual history.. and david has the daring methodologically, creatively, to turn it upside down..t there never was a west.. should have been a book on its own

history ness et al.. david (w) on history et al

a: in fragments passing remark david makes.. about malagasy society.. same can be said about david.. after death.. he’s acquired even more authority.. but then what do we do w that authority in anarchist spirit.. t

craft conditions (program social software) that allows us all to undo our hierarchical listening.. in sync.. as global reset/detox

christian walter: you talk about graebers rejection of vanguardism.. in end always end up w some who form vanguard

a: well .. what is defn of a vanguard.. i think w david it was genuine.. he was an anti vanguardist.. i was suspicious in beginning because he was writing about what i was doing.. then when i got involved w him after 9/11.. i saw him in action.. he couldn’t be more so.. he’s so consistent in opposing this kind of vision.. he was completely against following a person..t to me.. that’s undeniable and fundamental aspect why he called himself an anarchist..

a way out.. sans any form of people telling other people what to do.. sans any form of m\a\p

shambhavi: aim is not one individual profits over others.. but want to reframe characterization of human nature as competitive.. et al.. and say .. not so.. if trying to throw tools/math off.. i’m a sci.. and this is not something that is appropriate to tools.. et al.. ie: investigate complexity et al

missed a lot of what she said

a: thank you that would be interesting

so she put in chat: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yADvWpxHCAQ&ab_channel=SantaFeInstitute.. https://twitter.com/sfiscience/status/1622680489709428736?s=20]

oh my.. just looked at twitter thread (which is recap of video by Samuel Bowles- prof of microeconomics and the theory of institutions).. and oh my.. seems to totally be missing point.. and plugging own work/ideas.. ie: ‘”[Graeber & Wengrow’s] project would have stood a better chance if they had drawn on modern evolutionary theory, including behavioral ecology and economics. If you are theorizing about how to have a better world, you need a dynamic model. The tools for that are now fantastic.”‘ then gives image of ‘the book i wish they’d written’

oh my.. you need a non model model.. ie: graeber model law et al.. ie: a nother way

quinn costello: curious about graeber’s ref of anthro becoming another clog in machine.. could you talk about what that means

a: david had strong ideas about identiy and id politics.. but also about schismogenesis.. what id is in first place.. what it is and how it changes.. i don’t think he took it at face value.. his notion of politics was much more expansive.. so *i’m focusing on risking.. humanity as an id.. t

*yeah that.. nationality: human ness et al


a: i was interested in what d&d say about humanity.. what is human.. when anybody says that i go.. what? what makes us human.. t

two books ness..

dawn of everything: ‘demolishing all the wrong stories of what we can’t do’ so we can get out of sea world

myth of normal: listening deep enough to hear/see our legit needs (what makes us human).. so we can org around that

lisa brawley: on invocation of sci and how it functions.. some of this is a strategic intervention.. seizing of the language as a pirate would.. stituating it in that context..

a: yes.. thank you for saying that.. even his sci was like piracy.. you inspired me to think of david now as a mock scientist.. as a good thing.. like a mock king.. ‘actually david was a quintessential enlightenment man’.. i’m sitting w that thought.. see.. what a friend.. he keeps giving.. t




fav parts from ayça on david’s possibilities:


He was drawn to anthropology because “the discipline opens windows on other possible forms of human social existence; because it served as a constant reminder that most of what we assume to be immutable has been, in other times and places, arranged quite differently, and therefore, that human possibilities are in almost every way greater than we ordinarily imagine” t (1). First and foremost, then, I read Graeber’s own scholarship as an anthropology of human possibilities.

black science of people/whales law


Graeber and Wengrow insist that the questions we are accustomed to asking about the essence of humanity (“are we, as a species, inherently cooperative or competitive, kind or selfish, good or evil?”) blind us to “what really makes us human in the first place, which is our capacity—as moral and social beings—to negotiate between such alternatives” t

and/or to try something legit diff.. sans binary ness of even back & forth ne

Graeber and Wengrow state decisively that The Dawn of Everything “is a book mainly about freedom” (206). “What ultimately matters,” they write when introducing this tantalizing book, “is whether we can rediscover the freedoms that make us human in the first place”.. t

graeber and wengrow freedom law.. missing pieces

need to org around legit needs (maté basic needs)


Rhetorically, Graeber and Wengrow ask, “Is not the capacity to experiment with different forms of social organization itself a quintessential part of what makes us human?.. t

huge.. but need a means to do that ongoingly.. ie: imagine if we listened to the itch-in-8b-souls 1st thing everyday & used that data to connect us (tech as it could be.. ai as augmenting interconnectedness)


Graeber and Wengrow assert that “human beings [are] fundamentally imaginative creatures,” at the root of which lies our *proclivity for excess.. t .. **We are creatures of excess,

*why we need to get back/to graeber stop at enough ness of an undisturbed ecosystem

**that’s whalespeak – we have no idea what legit free people are like


en,” Graeber and Wengrow insist, “something has been lost” (2). Towards a conclusion then, the authors formulate what this loss entails: “It is clear that something about human societies really has changed here, and quite profoundly. The three basic freedoms have gradually receded, to the point where a majority of people living today can barely comprehend what it might be like to live in a social order based on them” t (503).

black science of people/whales law.. so hari rat park law et al

Their answers are at once speculative and provocative, particularly when they explore “the convergence between systems of violence and systems of care” (517) as a critical, even a causal explanation for this loss. Graeber and Wengrow suggest things may have begun to go wrong “precisely when people started losing that freedom to imagine and enact other forms of social existence” t (502).

graeber violence in care law.. steiner care to oppression law.. et al

need to get back/to imagine if we ness.. so need 1st/most: means to undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/nature ie: tech as it could be


will not take the form of some sudden revolutionary cataclysm—the storming of a Bastille, the seizing of a Winter Palace—*but will necessarily be gradual, **the creation of alternative forms of organization on a world scale, new forms of communication, new, less alienated ways of organizing life, which will, eventually, make currently existing forms of power seem stupid and beside the point.

*actually not.. today we have means/need to leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..

**need 1st/most: means to undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/nature so we can org around legit needs


In Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, writing of Madagascar, Graeber observes how “it often seems that no one really takes on their full authority until they are dead.” To my mind, we now have to deal with Graeber’s “full authority” in an anarchist spirit. The task at hand cannot be petrification through idolization or canonization, but the extension of an invitation to think, play, and experiment with his contributions to anthropology and anarchism alike.

huge – beyond his time.. may his time be soon.. for (blank)’s sake

adapted from david’s dedication to bhaskar in radical alterity



museum of care meetings

museum of care