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  • Enchantment in an Age of Occupy
  • Betty M. Bayer (bio)

Occupy Wall Street enchants. It preoccupies one's attention. To occupy is to dwell in something, to inhabit it. I am absorbed by the question of how to inhabit enchantingly this planet one calls home in an age of occupy everything.

To enchant, as Jane Bennett (2001) reminds one, has a French connection to the verb chanter, "to sing" (OED []). Singing sounds may move one, whether in poetry or music; to sing out is also to cry out about something (to sing differently) or to tell of something. The "sonorous stream" along which one may be carried, to borrow Bennett's phrase, points in other directions as well: to an appeal, for example, as in singing for one's supper, and to assemblages of people, as in chant, a musical repetition, an embodying and occupying gesture. Chants are often measured, unhurried, recitative and rhythmic performances. Chants are resonant dwelling spaces.

But how to think through such enchanting effects of sonorous streams, to what one might call, to invoke William James, varieties of enchanting experiences? How does enchantment relate to protest? To occupy movements and practices? To matters of being, becoming, and bemingling? These questions prove the struggle. To colleagues and friends alike, the question of enchantment circles back without delay to the need for some form of enchantment in today's world, to the need for, as one colleague put it, "vocabularies of enchantment."1 This essay concerns itself with enchantment's range of expressive forms and techniques in today's preoccupation [End Page 27] with dwelling and inhabiting spaces and places, with forms and articulations of being and becoming, of a resonant ontology.

To inquire into enchantment's expressive forms is to raise what Arundhati Roy (2011) said of Occupy Wall Street at People's University's having, in the span of a few months in fall of 2011, "introduce[d] . . . a new political language into the heart of empire"—"the right to dream in a system that tried to turn everybody into zombies . . . mesmerized into equating mindless consumerism with happiness and fulfillment." Talk of the "right to dream," of activist resonances across the globe, of, to borrow Landy and Saler's words, "strategies for re-discovering at-homeness in the world," inclusive of "wonder and the infinite" is to talk of enchantment (2009, 11). In a curious resound with occupy movements, the first chapter of their edited book on reenchantment opens by asking, "Where and how do we dwell?"

To dwell or inhabit the world finds a parallel place of inquiry in Robert Pogue Harrison's turn to gardens' effect to "reenchant the present" (2008, 39). To strategies of reenchantment, then, Harrison adds "the gardener's vocation of care," or practices of cultivation. Gardens, he writes, "give order to our relation to nature. It is our relation to nature that defines the tension at the center of which stands not only the garden but the human polis as such" (48). He continues: "To say that the transitory gardens of New York are speech acts means that they speak, in a public if nonverbal mode, of the human need to make ourselves at home on earth that does not necessarily make room for us" (48).

To make room is a political act, as Virginia Woolf reminds us. Conjuring up Judith Shakespeare—sister to William Shakespeare—who dies young, poor, and without writing a word, Woolf puts before readers the power of the imaginary as a power of history making. To grant to Judith a "continuing presence" in need only of "the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh," is possible, says Woolf, "if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write," to draw life "from the lives of the unknown who were her fore-runners" ([1925] 2005, 112). Woolf's writing is all about movement—physical and mental—made apparent, transits of body and mind traced as a practice of "street haunting" (see Woolf [1930] 1942); that is, the act of walking is one course of expression egging along other sonorous streams to liberate ordinary worlds from convention...


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