Season 1, Episode 10: Curation

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If you have comments, ideas, or suggestions for future episodes, you can contact Carrie Jenkins here.

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Labels of Love logo designed by Jen Sung.

Show notes photography by Jonathan Ichikawa.

Labels of Love is a research creation outcome of the Metaphysics of Love Project, supported by The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Additional financial support for the project comes from the Canada Research Chairs program and the University of British Columbia.

I am grateful for help, guidance, feedback, and support from: Drusilla, Ray Hsu, Jonathan Ichikawa, and Mezzo.


[Speaking in this episode you can hear: Jonathan Ichikawa and Carrie Jenkins.]

Jonathan: You’re listening to Labels of Love.

Carrie: Hi and welcome to the podcast. I’m Carrie Jenkins, Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia and the author of What Love Is And What It Could Be. If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while then you’ll know I’ve said more or less that exact same phrase at the start of every episode of Labels of Love. But apart from those introductions and my wrap-ups, and of course the very first episode where I was talking about love-crafting, you haven’t heard much of my voice on this podcast. During the eight central episodes in which I was showcasing an interview with a guest, you’d only hear me occasionally responding to the person being interviewed or maybe asking them a question. But of course I was shaping what you did hear, and perhaps in more ways than were obvious. What you heard in those episodes reflected decisions that I had to make about who to invite on to the podcast, what to ask them, and how to edit what they said to me and their responses, how to present the material that I had and in what order, and with what music behind it and all kinds of other editing decisions. And of course some of that was based on what I thought might sound good, but a lot of it was my process of curation.

And in a lot of ways the process of writing a book felt very similar to me. When I talk about my book, What Love Is And What It Could Be, a lot of people have their own one thing that they are convinced is the thing that everyone should have read or should talk about when it comes to love. So sometimes people will say to me, “You know, why doesn’t your book say more about this one thing?” And the thing is everyone has a different one thing that’s their one thing. And so I try to explain that, you know, it’s only a short book etc. etc. But the other thing I have often found myself trying to explain is that a book isn't a comprehensive kind of response to everything that’s gone before it, and actually no book is like that. And I think it’s good to be particularly wary of or cautious about the ones that claim they are like that, because that can be a dangerous kind of misrepresentation. So my book, as I see it, is a contribution to a conversation, and it focuses on a few things that to me felt particularly urgent to talk about in connection with love. So it’s something highly curated, in a similar way to, say, this podcast series. And curation sounds like a nice concept, right? Maybe that sounds like something that museums do, something that nice old libraries do to keep things safe. Etymologically, it’s from a Latin word for caring. But in some ways concepts are just the smallest units of PR. Sometimes I call them the smallest units of spin. And, what we call “curation” can also be about exclusion, it can also be about gatekeeping. And when we look back at, say, the past for ideas about love, or when we read, say, a history of ideas, what we get presented with is a canon. Works and people who are considered to be canonical. And that canon is also something that has been curated, just like a book is, or like a podcast series is. Not by one person, usually, but by a range of social institutions, like academia, universities, or awards structures, other signifiers of prestige, what we’re supposed to take seriously. And even when they’re not obvious – in fact, especially when they’re not obvious – curators and that process of curation are really important and really worth understanding. So while I’ve been thinking all this about the role of curation, I’ve come to see philosophy itself, and especially the philosophy of love, as a process, a process of conversation. So it’s not static, it’s not a solo enterprise; it’s a collaborative thing. It’s not about being a genius and having the best theories and proving that everybody else is wrong. It’s not about hero worship for any one voice, or any one point in the conversation. It’s actually going well when everyone is listening, and not just talking, and when the loudest voices are not the only ones that we can hear. And so this conversation that is philosophy, when it comes to love I think is especially important, because it plays a part in the metaphysics, too: that’s to say in actually constructing what love is. And I talk about this in the book, how our models and our representations, particularly of romantic love, serve to delimit a kind of script that that love is supposed to follow, and thereby create the contours of our social construct, romantic love. Something that has specific limits, and that carries penalties if you go outside those limits. The script is changing over time, and I think it will keep changing, but only because we keep talking, we keep the conversation going, and we keep inviting people to the table. You know, a good conversation is not about showing that you were right and everybody else was wrong – that has got nothing to do with learning, it’s got nothing to do with making progress on difficult topics or difficult issues, and I think ultimately it has very little to do with the purpose of philosophy. Good philosophy, great philosophy, to me, has a lot more to do with changing minds than with solidifying them. And as they say, ultimately, changing your mind is good evidence that you have one. And that’s it for today’s episode, and for season one of Labels of Love. This episode has featured music by Podington Bear and Lee Rosevere, and I’d like to say a big thank you one more time to all my interview guests for being my conversation partners and sources of inspiration. I am hoping to create a second season of Labels of Love in 2018, and there’ll be more news on the timing of that hopefully in the new year. In the meantime you can find out more about my work at, or you can find me on Twitter where I’m @carriejenkins. Thank you so much for listening.


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