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I will be teaching three sessions with
ACT I, September 17
ACT II, October 1
ACT III, October 15

 We Will Dance With Mountains, 2023
Dr. Cara Judea Alhadeff: Apocalypse of the Familiar


Montanyas yoran por aire (Mountains cry for air)
—Ladino proverb (the language of my maternal and paternal family

1991. Westchester County, New York. Immediately following my first photo session in the woods with the cicadas and my naked pokeberry-juice covered friend, my skin erupts with an itchy, pusy, peculiar allergic reaction. The more I look like I have been infested with flesh-eating parasites, the more I cannot resist photographing my body’s newly acquired monstrosities which I unapologetically flaunt. My initial skin affliction escalates into an enormous, amber-colored pustule, the size of a 50-cent piece, which grows in the middle of my left shin. As it continues to swell, I feel the infection eating into my tibia. My aching leg bone awakens me in the middle of the night—I am becoming rotten flesh. (Over thirty years later, I can still feel the phantom pustule eating through my leg flesh/bone—a prosthetics of memory). Although and because I am convinced, I have gangrene, I feel compelled to photograph my own decay. The more the inside oozes to the outside, the more provocative the image, the greater my compulsion—my pulsion. I am struck by the uncanny familiarity. This collaboration between my mind and body has served as a perverse demanding gift, provoking me to relentlessly photograph my body in flux. In the name of the ineffable, my body continues to generate inexplicable skin afflictions that have become central to my photographic material. The wound has become my most generous creative material. I am both horrified and thrilled by these disabling fecundities.

I wrote the preceding text when I was twenty years old. Thirty-two years later, I continue to co-gestate in conjunction with the stranger within. Self-contamination seeps as auto-infestation and eternally recurring contamination, a continual re-infection in which one cannot quarantine oneself from oneself. One “knows” oneself by surrendering to verisimilitude, to the impossibility of knowledge, comprehension, arrival—a mutually edible commitment (jumping into the unknown) to the Ecozoic (Ecotheologican Thomas Berry’s concept of the Ecozoic—in which humans share mutually beneficial relationships with the world around them. Intellectually, structurally, and spiritually, this requires a disabling of our bodily and psychological attachment to petro-pharma infrastructures we symbiotically integrate with our natural environment (it eats us, we eat it), rather than compete with it/us. Renouncing the Anthropocene as we shift into the Ecozoic Era means that we honor the sentient capacities and intensities of animals, plants, trees and the organic intelligence of these more-than-humans, our kin.


…my sole occupation is torturing and being tortured…namely, to get the damn word out of the damn mouth.
Franz Kafka

My ancestors are a fugitive peoples. Having been expelled from Spain and the barbaric ethnic cleansing promulgated by the monarchy, shaped by hybridized Diasporic languages and the ineffable, my cellular memory murmurs the impossible—I live it, I parent it—every day. As a Sephardic, Arab-Jewish woman, I inscribe the morcellated body with unresolvable questions; I fragment it in order to expand and expose. I apocalypse the familiar.

Jewish peoples have inhabited a host-parasite historical space of alterity within their adopted countries over the centuries—an uncanny zone of the stranger within. As with any irreducible irritant, the host interrogates: What must be done with that which cannot be assimilated, that which will not submit to equality? As I investigate this question, vulnerability surfaces as a prostheticized “shared deterritorialization” between host and parasite (Thousand Plateaus 294)—“a co-existence of two asymmetrical movements”. Becoming-vulnerable means that we are in a continual state of transition. Because identities in this realm are unfixed and in flux, they become-relational. Difference establishes this condition of vulnerability. Vulnerability operates from the Law of Impermanence: “[it] sustains such continual disturbance between the essentially interrelated antitheses and does not allow them to come to equilibrium” (“Zarathustra, the Moment, and Eternal Recurrence of the Same” 7). Again, we are confronted with the aching paradoxes of post-humanism.

In his The Temptation to Exist, E.M. Cioran enlists Samuel Beckett: “What is the good of passing from one untenable position to another, of seeking justification always on the same plane?” (7). Through individual and collective reflections on the intersection between greenwashing and environmental racism (green colonialism as the exported version) with the phenomenon of iatrogenics as a form of psycho-corporeal colonization, we will disentangle the query “what if the ways we respond to the crisis are part of the crisis?” For example, the fallacious “renewable” energies revolution that attempts to replace one hegemony with another. Through our individual and social bodies, we will shake loose binary-locked “truths,” conformist assimilation that drives toxic mimicry: equality-as-assimilation that colonizes then neutralizes difference. At the ever-shifting intersection of ethnicity, art, sexuality, and social ecology, exploring the vulnerability of the body as a strategy for social justice, we will co-inhabit multiple becomings.


I am so vast, I eat my own placenta.
Sepharic, Brazilian Clarice Lispector

My son Zazu (movement in Hebrew referring to the Law of Impermanence, social movements, my photography and video art reminiscent of Trinh T. Minh-ha: “when stillness culminates there is movement”) was born on my fortieth birthday—an unassisted homebirth one block away from the mobile center of Occupy Oakland. Zazu was born with two placentas. We ate the Succenturiate lobe (the smaller placenta embedded in the larger one) raw, the (m)other placenta dried and ground by our local curandera.

Zazu’s birth (a becoming into community) echoes one of history’s most controversial stories, the story of Jonah and the Whale. The whale does not digest Jonah through simplification, reduction, assimilation; the whale gestates Jonah through simultaneous decomposition / re-generation, amplification, expansion. This gestation dis-ables the most reluctant of all Hebrew prophets. As with posthuman narratives of descent— escaping the deity-induced storm by descending into the hull of the boat to enter a deep, deep slumber, descending into the bowls, the womb of the deity-produced Leviathan (the trickster big fish/ the whale), descending into the ineffable, descending mountains, darkness is that which generates illumination. The whale, as it “eats” Jonah, disabling the familiar, is apocalyptic—its internal darkness reveals to Jonah his own co-capacity for agency. Jonah is the quintessential postactivist.

With this gestation in mind, I contest Anne Dufourmantelle who, in her discussion of Spinoza, claims: “we were separated in the violence of birth, but apart from that act nothing is separated, no more I, you, we, us, all of you, than the order of things posited in language” (Blind Date 98). Zazu’s birth, his body leaving mine, was not a separation—through our mutual dis-abling we became more connected than ever. Reminiscent of Rancière’s “together apart”, our discrete borders actually (re)connected us. We became a becoming. My son’s birth embodied disidentification. In a Heraclitean sense, birth is an integrated process of transformation, not a definitive severing. Birth, the First Law of Thermodynamics (the total amount of heat energy can never be altered; energy can never be created nor destroyed, instead it is transformed), embodies a remarkable contraction of union and separation—not of splitting away or a sectioning or de-ciding, but an interconnectedness—a lived différance. Dufourmantelle’s privileging the physical as a lens through which we identify our relations not only aborts our potential chiasmic unity, but is inconsistent with much of her text that emphasizes the multiplicity of corporeal cognition—ranging from the spiritual to the energetic.


The superfluous, a very necessary thing.

In my 2022 “Blood Chocolate” article for Tikkun: Journal of Radical Empathy, I wrote: When told about the consumption of chocolate in the West, one child slave laborer stated, “These people are eating my flesh.”

This is an example of the horrors of denial culture in action.

In The Reader, Bernard Schlink’s novel about love and dignity in the face of the Holocaust, there is a scene where the main character confronts the cruelty of indifference as motivation for murder: human beings considered useless can be methodically disposed of. As a child of a Holocaust survivor, it is particularly horrifying for me to witness how industrial civilization continues to harness apathy and contempt of difference. My Sephardic, Arab-Jewish ancestral memory, my cellular memory tells me we must reconsider waste in terms of symbiotic kinship: a pencil, a rubber band, a square of toilet paper, a fruit tree, a family pet, a human friend, or a stranger in a distant land, all connected to us as kin.

Yet, most of the objects on which dominator cultures depend (our digital devices, our fast-fashion textiles, our motorized vehicles (internal combustion engine and electric!) depend on mountain-top removal MTR / moutain-top mining MTM (the fact that there are acronyms makes the practice even more grotesque). Like “overburden” (obliterated rock, earth, dirt, topsoil layer in order to access the ore being mined), the top of a mountain is seen as superfluous, disposable, in the way of what we need to consume—both earth and mountain are submerged in the discourse of negation.

As a wavering, yet potent counterbalance to indifference, denial, complicity, I suggest we induce mutual edibility through somatic cognition. What if we could re-direct our evolutionary trajectories from a totalizing petro-hegemony to a helical soma of storytelling? Re-embody those rhizomatic intensities? What if we lived our lives as if we knew one another’s stories? And, the stories of the objects around us—objects that we may take for granted…? Apocalypse of the Familiar is not referring to an end of the familiar (as if there is such a “thing”), but an ongoing revealing of what we take for granted in dominator cultures.

For example, a cibopath is someone who has the ability to consume food and know everything about the food’s history; Food=cibo & Knowledge/Intuition=path (suffering). Cibopathic capacity represents a cellular knowing of an “object’s” (in the case food) supply chain—it’s embodied energy. For example, if one bites into a banana, they get a somatic download of how the banana was grown (with or without DDT banned in the US, but flagrantly used by North American corporations throughout the Global South), whose bodies were involved in the production and transportation of that banana (migrant workers, cargo ships powered by coal, the coal miners, and on and on)…the imbricated stories of agribusiness and subsistence farming unfold with each bite. Or if one bites into a hamburger, the story of the cow becomes apocalyptic: did the grass-fed cow come from a nearby small farm or a meat Industry’s CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation); was it slaughtered indiscriminately or by using Temple Grandin’s “squeeze machine” techniques.

Such somatic cognition imagines a profound refusal to accept our status-quo mind-body dichotomy that reifies both institutionalized body phobia and institutionalized fear of thinking/ anti-intellectualism. It ignites our epigenetic potential, activating our individual body’s and social bodies’ epigenome that can be passed onto future generations. Such somatic cognition can transform history. Thomas Berry reminds us: “We must say of the universe that it is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.” Profound respect for our interconnectedness, embedded in our corporeal and cognitive language of animacy, we can learn to embody the mutually edible tendencies (in a Deleuzian sense) of the cibopath. We can disable the ignorance and malfeasance of HUMAN / THING dichotomy. The practice of becoming cibopath reflects other mental and physiological acts we take for granted: seeing, the transport of memory, the notion of color. A disabling of these acts can ignite not only a sense of wonder at who we are, but a sense wonder at who we might become if we embrace the impossible invoking “drastic remappings in the brain” (Oliver Sachs 1995: 41).



There comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness . . . that time is now.
– Wangari Maathai

As for how I will structure my sharings/teachings, I can offer two openers:

  1. I like to set the stage of strength-in-vulnerability: I share a very brief story about my childhood with the underlying contradictory ideas of belonging. I ask the participants if they have experienced a similar situation to “Where are you from? …No, Where are you REALLY from?“

Set up a safe space for discussion.

  1. My primary invitation through our corporeal consciousness is to reconsider what we think we know. Using a non-binary icebreaker based on seemingly intractable conflicts, I talk participants through a brief meditation exercise. The purpose is to develop our spiritual intelligence by considering the both/and, multiple perspectives, contradiction and ambiguity, the messiness between individual desire (imbricated constructed and intuitive) and social lived experience.

For our embodied practice, we will play with possibilities that potentially can guide us from solipsistic complicity to collective agency—what Karen Barad would call “agential realism:” interspecies collaborative processes that invite becoming intimate, becoming animate. This ability to respond (responsibility in the context of Donna Haraway, Camila Marambio and Cecilia Vicuña) offers the opportunity of being fully alive. Through co-regulating interruption, helical disruption, somatic dissonance, and parenthetical eco-social political and aesthetic imperatives, we will investigate our quotidian the potency of quantum entanglements (how all living things—from our microbiome to the macrocosmos—are utterly interwoven). For example, in the visual realm, Benjamin formulates interruption in relation to sequence—a montage of cuts, a montage of textuality that offers an open quality of the signifying process. Interruptions dis-able; they are differential, relational—they become symbiotic parasites that transform their host, their illusory origin. Interruptions disable unitary structures that are founded on simultaneously erasing difference with breeding an insidious illusion of separation upon which modernity and its nationhood brutalities are built. Such collaborations defy the homogenizing drive toward purity linked with property. Karen Barad urges us to remember: “The cut is an onto-epistemological device wedged between otherwise interwoven and mutually implicated ecology. The cut is a form of epistemic and material violence and incision…The cut is not a metaphor it is a political technology.” Refusing to accept the political technology of borders, our embodied practices of the jungle’s mutual edibility (dancing with definitions of the jungle from the 1770s to the 1850s to the 20th century) will challenge “wall fetishism” and “the state’s right to maim. Like the jungle, “the forest incessantly challenges the logic of separation” (Olga Cielemecka).

In Zazu Dreams: Between the Scarab and the Dung Beetle, A Cautionary Fable for the Anthropocene Era, my magical realist, speculative fiction, I attempt to incite such a deterritorialization of the infrastructures of storytelling. I cite Chekov: “How are we describing the structural, legal, and ethical problems with which we are confronted?…When we acknowledge that misrepresentation of the problem massively acerbates it, we can begin to experiment with ever-expanding possibilities of change, not fixed ‘solutions’” (Letter to Alexis Surron, October 27, 1888). As Chekov tells us: there are no solutions in life, there are only alternatives—in contrast with Margaret Thatcher’s TINA (There Are No Alternatives). In our story, Zazu looks for “alternatives” for a better world in the least expected places, the places you would think the opposite would be the case. Congruently, Arundhati Roy implores us to “conjure beauty from the most unexpected things, to find magic in places where others thought never to look” (179).

Alongside salt, sand, and amber, mutually edible bacteria is one of the primary characters in Zazu Dreams. I write:

The humpback explains, “YES! I heard rumors that the United States was soon going to be buried in poop—poop of all kinds: human, animal, insect. Some old whale friends told me they saw swarms of dung beetles fleeing the North American continent because they could no longer bare to eat the poop from the United States. The dung beetles cried that the poop was contaminated with GMOs, pesticides, glyphosate, vaccine-adjuvants, hospital hazardous waste, flame retardants, endless chemicals and pollutants—the dung beetles, who have survived for 30 million years, knew better than to eat what had become an industrial toxic soup. “Not only is North Americans’ poop chemically toxic, but when people living in the US die, their bodies are now toxic—so they can’t decompose, because nobody wants to eat them—no dung beetles, no vultures, no horn flies, not even the bacteria.—they are fleeing too.” Then our mammal cetaceous friend began to cry: “Now I understand—many of our beached whale and dolphin friends’ dead bodies are also filled with chemicals. If nothing eats our bodies, we will no longer be a part of the cycle of life; we will all be separate, forever isolated from one another. The shores and lands are getting covered in unwanted dead bodies and poop” (77, six footnotes removed from this excerpt).

In 1994 in his Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect, David Orr warned: “At death, human bodies often contain enough toxins and heavy metals to be classified as hazardous waste” (1). Now, twenty-nine years later, given vaccines and their adjuvants administered through the CDC required schedule, the measurable toxins and heavy metals in human cadavers have exponentially increased. Mutual edibility is radically shifting.

As Arundhati Roy reminds us, we do not have the luxury of a colonizing enemy, we are not fighting a common enemy, through expulsion—like Jonah and the whale—refusing easily digestible binaries upon which modernity depends, we are rebirthing/ resurrecting ourselves as co-emerging zombies. Elizabeth Grosz urges this promiscuous crossing when she writes: “I am not suggesting a necessary reciprocity here, but rather a co-implication. …There is always equivocation and ambiguity in passion…sensuality [and embodied cognition] tend to spread out over many things, infecting all sorts of other relations” (sex, time, perversion 204). Infecting the future implies an embodiment of the present as the beyond. Homi Bhabha’s concept of the beyond lucidly reflects Nietzsche’s incessant and irreducible becoming, a “continual non-arrival” of gestating the unknown. Helene Cixous also dwells in the beyond:

And so when you have lost everything, no more roads, no direction, no fixed signs, no ground, no thoughts able to resist other thoughts, when you are lost, beside yourself, and you continue getting lost, when you become the panicky movement of getting lost, then that’s when, where you are unwoven weft, flesh that lets strangeness come through, defenseless being, without resistance, without batten, without skin, inundated with otherness, it’s in these breathless times that writings traverse you…from the throats of your unknown inhabitant, these are the cries that death and life hurl in their combat (1991: 39).

Given that July is Disability Pride Month, I suggest we infect ourselves with this beyond, the collaborative creative risk-taking potential of social disease and disability.