In formulating instructions for the assignment, I am unsure If should focus on Jullien’s concepts or his method. The notion of shi is a very interesting one, and I think it holds great import for thinking about an electrate metaphysics due to its close attention to “the disposition of things,” as he puts it (13).
However, I also think that his etymomethodology (etymological methodology) is peculiar enough to grant equal (if not more) attention. He writes in his introduction: “I have accordingly decided to make the most of the fact that we have in shi a word that can serve as a tool, even though it may not correspond to any global, defined concept with a ready-made framework and pre established function. This fact will give us a chance to undermine the system of categories in which our Western minds are always in danger of becoming mired” (13).
Here, Jullien is rather explicit in outlining the purpose of his selection: shi is a rather ambiguous term within China’s cultural history. For this reason, and not because it is a poorly understood term that needs to be more clearly defined (i.e. put into a “category”), Jullien wants to follow it. In this way, Jullien’s methodological movement across the disparate realms of Chinese culture mirrors the concept he is trying to elucidate for the reader, which is, perhaps, the only way to actually understand shi in any genuine sense. One has to take on shi as a method (“as a tool”), not as another term to look up in a dictionary or index.
Perhaps an electrate metaphysics should take this kind of methodological approach to grasping its essential characteristics. If the electrate realm is fluid and affective, then perhaps its method must be fluid and affective as well. My question: what kind of word-tools (or image-tools, for that matter) should we follow in extrapolating an electrate metaphysics?