Upcoming Talk: April in NYC

“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.”
Nietzsche

This event addresses a fundamental problem for contemporary theory: How can we think the darkness? On one side of this darkness is a regression and slippage back to gothic-romanticism, a state of mind, and thinking that FWJ Schelling alluded to when he said that: “History as a whole is a progressive, gradually self-disclosing revelation of the Absolute”. On the other side, is the scientific-realist perception of and about the darkness, as it overwhelms us, and encourages immersion in absolute [nothingness-strangeness-the alien]: i.e. it performs as the nature of the universe.

We begin from a consolidated position of darkness: >No hope, no future, no humanity, no way out, no limitations to thinking the darkness …

From this start-point spring 3 perspectives:
Dark Anthropocene = geology folding back into a singularity <
Afropessimism = contemporary methodology for destroying the world <
Non-standard animism = a politics of indivisible extra-terran non/humanity <

The three perspectives are material experiments in working with and in the darkness. The stakes of these experiments are multiple — they constitute finding something when one is blind. The risks are high, the rewards potentially immense. This is not theory by any other name than an encounter on a dark horizon …

Afro-Pessimism as Aesthetic Blackness

Ligon-Untitled_Four_Etchings_1992_B0The beginning to a talk I will give at the Cultural Studies Association conference in Riverside, CA next week. On the occasion of Achille Mbembe’s new preface to the African reprint of On the Postcolony by Wits University Press

Mbembe: Critique is witnessing as well as endless vigilance, interrogation and anticipation. A proper ­critique requires us first to dwell in the chaos of the night in order precisely to better break through into the dazzling light of the day.

We recognise the moment of pessimism when the layers of the past and the world of the present fall into the void; that is, a place that is not a place. We recognise the moment of pessimism when we trivialise human experience or provoke misplaced empathy or contempt, when, unable to release language, we succumb to the elemental materiality of the there is.

We enter this “dark night of language” when its symbolising powers are suddenly crippled and, instead of revealing what is hidden within the self-evident and what lies beneath the surface, behind the mask, language circles in on itself and hides what it should be showing.

This paper is on the darkness that clings to so-called “afro-pessimism.” My thesis is that to take the “pessimism” of afro-pessimism seriously, I argue for moving from the metaphysical pessimism of making claims about this world to the moral pessimism of a fatalistic attitude towards the world. Continue reading “Afro-Pessimism as Aesthetic Blackness”

New – Hostis: A Journal of Incivility

bagh-nakha

Feel free to share widely.

Hostis: A Journal of Incivility

Call for Submissions

Issue 1: Political Cruelty

Few emotions burn like cruelty. Those motivated by cruelty are neither fair nor impartial. Their actions speak with an intensity that does not desire permission, let alone seek it. While social anarchism sings lullabies of altruism, there are those who play with the hot flames of cruelty. We are drawn to the strength of Franz Fanon’s wretched of the earth, who find their voice only through the force of their actions, the sting of women of color’s feminist rage, which establishes its own economy of violence for those who do not have others committing violence on their behalf, the spirit of Italy’s lapsed movement of autonomy, which fueled radicals who carved out spaces of freedom by going on the attack (“Il Diritto all’Odio” – The Right to Hatred), the assaults of Antonin Artaud’s dizzying “Theatre of Cruelty,” which defames the false virtues of audience through closeness with the underlying physicality of thought, and the necessity of Gilles Deleuze’s ontological cruelty, which returns difference through the pain of change that breaks through the backdrop of indifference.

We are looking for submissions that defend cruelty. In addition to scholarly essays, we are looking for any original work suited to the printed page: directions to dérivés or other lived projects, maps, printed code, how-to instructions, photo-essays, détournements, experimental writing, directions to word-games, illustrations, or mixed-media art. To remain consistent with the journal’s point of view, we seek material whose tone is abrasive, mood is cataclysmic, style is gritty, and voice is impersonal.

Submissions will be selected by an editorial collective. Contributors should expect to receive critical feedback in the first stage of review requesting revisions to improve their submission and make it consistent with the other contributions selected for inclusion. While we are not soliciting proposals, we are happy to comment on possible submissions before official review.

We will begin reviewing submissions on February 28th, 2014. Send your submissions to hostis.journal@gmail.com as MS Word, rtf, pdf, jpg, or png files. Include a title, author name, content, and any formatting requests. Expect to complete requested revisions during March-April.

Continue reading “New – Hostis: A Journal of Incivility”

New Writing on Colonialism

hunters-hunted

Expansions on the earlier State and as a Virtual Object paper. — PS: after discussing it w/ Gregg Flaxman, I’ve decided to “deontologize” the whole paper to sharpen the ontology/virtuality divide.

Marxists Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have a useful illustration of a similar abstraction in their 2000 book Empire. According to Hardt and Negri, colonialism works as an abstract machine (a term synonymous with abstraction or virtual object). The abstract machine of colonialism, they say, creates a dialectic of identity and alterity that imposes binaries divisions on the colonial world.[1] The identity of the European Self, for instance, is produced through the dialectical movement of its opposition to and power over a colonial Other. The prevailing critique of colonialism in the early 20th century responded itself dialectically by revealing that the differences and identities created by colonialism appear “as if they were absolute, essential, and natural” but are in fact incorporeal and therefore function “only in relation to each other and (despite appearances) have no real necessary basis in nature, biology, or rationality.”[2] Hardt and Negri name two conclusions to this dialectical critique: first, that the European Self must continually use material violence against its Other to sustain the dialectical appearance of corporeal power, and second, that such a negative dialectic of recognition is hollow and prone to subversion. But reality itself is not dialectical, only colonialism is, Hardt and Negri contend.[3] And because dialectics is one only mode in which abstract machines operate, they suggest that the effective response to colonialism is not a negative antithesis, such as the negative project of négritude or Sartrean cultural politics. An effective response, they say, is the reciprocal “counter-violence” of Franz Fanon and Malcolm X, which produces a separation from the movement of colonialism. Such violence is not itself political, yet the violent reciprocity of “a direct relation of force” breaks the abstract bond holding together incorporeal colonial power and poses a disharmony that arrests the colonial dialectic while opening a space in which politics can emerge.[4]

As Hardt and Negri go on to describe Empire, they do not call it an abstract machine, but perhaps we should. Continue reading “New Writing on Colonialism”