Findings

This site shares findings from the Democratic Theorizing Project and puts them up for debate.

What is life?

What is life? This is a huge question! I explore this question through democratic theorizing in conversation with the Black Lives Matter movement. Here, I will briefly summarize the result of this exploration. This notion of life does not aspire to universality. It is rooted in the experience of oppression and the struggle for liberation of Black people in the US and in my own interpretations.

At its core, life is pure existence – a presence whose source is unspeakable and even unknowable. A simple being beyond comprehension. This existence manifests itself in an individual perspective. As humans, we come into being as corporeal creatures. Being our bodies and located in a specific physical and societal context – a country, a family, a class – we look at the world in a particular way. We always perceive the world through our bodily senses and our socialized and cultivated minds. We can never perceive it otherwise.[i] This perception is shaped, in many ways, by our particular intersection of nationality, race, gender, class, sexuality, age and bodily ability. We learn to live our lives through socialization and identification.

This implies a certain rootedness of life, but not its fixity. On the contrary, living means that this perspective, whose existence is unknowable, is constantly evolving. How we perceive the world is not predetermined. It changes with every moment of our lives. We wield agency in the process of identification, however limited this agency might be. To a certain extent, we have a choice whom we associate with, the groups we join, the jobs we take, the books we read, the TV shows we watch and the people we follow on social media. Life, then, is a process of life-making. We constantly produce our own perspective. Much of the time, we reproduce it, moving in established patterns. However, on occasions, we also break out of these patterns. Whether life-making takes a more linear or disruptive form, it is always an active process that entails choices, that entails potential for change. It is a continuous process of becoming.

Life-making as becoming means forming connections, both in a physical and in a social sense. Living is the process of connecting and disconnecting. From connecting in sexual intercourse to cutting the umbilical cord, from growing up in a family to moving out, from joining political groups to moving on to new alliances, life is connectivity. Connections in societal and political spheres are made through empathy, the attempt to understand and experience other perspectives. In summary, life is an ongoing process of life-making, of becoming, by creating one’s own ever changing perspective, through connections with other perspectives.


[i] Of course, mirrors or television are tools, used to see different things or see things differently, but we are only able to perceive these media through our own bodily senses.

What do you think? What would you answer, if someone asked you, what is life? What do you think about the definition above? Feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email.

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