Below is my Dark Deleuze talk, which I gave today to the University of Washington Built Environment Reading Group. Thanks to them for being such great hosts. Q&A begins at 40:54.
You are cordially invited to a public talk, “Dark Deleuze,” on Thursday, June 25th at 11am in Gould Hall 442. The event is hosted by the University of Washington Department of Urban Design & Planning’s Built Environment Reading Group.
Deleuze once told a friend that a “worthwhile book” performs at least three functions: polemics, recovery, and creativity. In writing the book, one must reveal that (1) other scholarship commits an error; (2) an essential insight has been missed; and (3) a new concept can be created. My task is to present all three. First, I argue against the ‘canon of joy’ that celebrates Deleuze as a naively affirmative thinker of connectivity. Second, I rehabilitate to the destructive force of negativity that pervades his work. Third, I argue for learning a ‘hatred for this world.’
Emerging from scholars concerned with the intolerable condition of the present, the darkness refashions a revolutionary Deleuze; revolutionary negativity in a world characterized by compulsory happiness, decentralized control, and overexposure. The ultimate task of this approach is not the creation of concepts, and to the extent that it does, Dark Deleuze creates concepts only to write apocalyptic science fiction.
The conspiracy against this world will be known through its war machines. A war machine is itself “a pure form of exteriority” that “explains nothing,” but there are plenty of stories to tell about them. They are the heroes of A Thousand Plateaus – Kleist’s skull-crushing war machine; the migratory war machine that the Vandals used to sack Rome; the gun that Black Panther George Jackson grabs on the run, and the queer war machine that excretes a thousand tiny sexes. “Each time there is an operation against the state – insubordination, rioting, guerilla warfare, or revolution as an act – it can be said that a war machine has revived.” War machines are also the greatest villains of the book, making all other dangers “pale by comparison” – there is the constant state appropriation of the war machine that subordinates war to its own aims, the folly of the commercial war machine, the paranoia of the fascist war machine (not the state army of totalitarianism), and worst of them all, the “worldwide war machine” of capitalism “whose organization exceeds the State apparatus and passes into energy, military-industrial, and multinational complexes” that wages peace on the whole world. Continue Reading »
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This is the opening to Dark Deleuze: The Power of the Outside. I am fortunate enough to be hosted by the University of Washington Department of Urban Planning and Design to finish the project during Summer 2015. Expect portions of the draft to be posted as I complete the project in the few coming weeks. Those of you near Seattle are invited to a brief presentation based on this work at the end of the month.
Summarizing his deeply idiosyncratic work, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze describes writing about others as “a sort of buggery” or “immaculate conception” that is the result of “taking an author from behind and giving him a child.” Deleuze is still quick to distinguish his project from outright falsification. He strictly limits himself to what the author actually says; he attends to a thinker’s “shifting, slipping, dislocations, and hidden emissions” to give them “a child that would be [their] own offspring, yet monstrous.” More than 30 years after making these remarks, Deleuze now has plenty of little monsters of his own – rootless rhi-zombies, dizzying metaphysicians, skittish geo-naturalists, enchanted transcendentalists, passionate affectivists… My aim is to give him another child that shares his last name: “Dark Deleuze.” Continue Reading »
I contend that afro-pessimism has not taken pessimism seriously enough. In what many consider the foundational text, Frank Wilderson’s 2010 book Red, White, and Black, pessimism is only mentioned six times. While it is clear that his pessimism emerges from a metaphysical pessimism based on an objective claim about the world (Thacker, 67). I want to push the conversation forward not through the ontology of the non- but a non-ontology. Rather that developing negativity out from structural positionality, I want to develop the other “major key” of pessimism: the subjective attitude of pessimism towards the world (67). I do so by drawing on theories of gender, and philosophies of negation.
Outlining the source of negativity for various theorists may clarify the dispute between black optimism and afro-pessimism. To do so, I begin with Frantz Fanon’s “fact of blackness,” which I trace through optimist Fred Moten and pessimist Frank WIlderson.
Frantz Fanon’s negativity is the result of the “fact of blackness.” Featured in the fifth chapter of his psychoanalytic studies Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon theorizes blackness as a process of mis-recognition. It is on the street where one discovers their blackness, he says. “Look, a Negro!,” someone calls out, and he is “battered down by tom-toms, cannibalism, intellectual deficiency, fetishism, racial defects, slave-ships.” Suspending the step of the dialectic, blackness is sealed into “crushing objecthood” (109, 112). Continue Reading »
To understand blackness, one can begin with the context set by The Black Radical Tradition. Scholars have argued that enslaved African peoples have transferred and edited “historical, cultural, and moral materials” as an ongoing shared resource (Interview). Cedric Robinson argues in Black Marxism for the self-conscious development of those materials into a political project that he calls “The Black Radical Tradition.” Familiar Marxists fill the ranks of the Tradition, namely WEB DuBois, CLR James, and (more recently) Angela Davis. Generalizing the problematic out from individual thinkers, we can think the Lukacsian spirit of the challenge posed by the project of The Black Radical Tradition: how can blackness overcome the self-aware fact of shared condition to become a self-aware political force? Or in the elegant Marxian terms: the transition from a class-in-itself to a class-for-itself (commonly derived from The Poverty of Philosophy). Continue Reading »