Aliens, Monsters, and Revolution in the Dark Deleuze

This is the longer version of a blog post I initially wrote for the University of Minnesota Press. You can find the shorter version on their blog here.

French philosopher Gilles Deleuze is usually characterized as a thinker of positivity. Consider two of his major contributions: the rhizome as an image for the tangled connections of networks, and the molecular revolution as transform spurred by unexpected quantum drift. These concepts catapulted the popularity of his thought as the digital age seemed to reflect social forms matching each form, namely the world wide web of the internet and the anti-globalization ‘movement of movements’ that lacked central coordination. Commentators marshaled his work to make sense of these developments, ultimately leading many to preach the joy of finding new connections to the material world (New Materialism), evolving the human at the bio-technical level (Post-Humanism), and searching out intensive affective encounters (Affect Studies).

In my new book Dark Deleuze, it is not my contention that such “affirmations” are incorrect. Rather, my argument is that Deleuze was ambivalent about their development, and later in life, became more a critic than proponent. In updating Deleuze for the digital age, I did more than restore a critical stance – I worked out how his lost negativity could be set loose on this world by destroying it.

Here I expanding on the Dark Deleuzian notion of “Death of This World,” a term I introduce as an image of negativity, by rendering it here as “the alien.” Instead of using well-worn digital examples, I instead explore the greatest looming question for the humanities: the Anthropocene.

Continue reading “Aliens, Monsters, and Revolution in the Dark Deleuze”

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New Publications, Presentations, Articles, and Research

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Sorry for not using this venue lately for my ongoing research. Will probably return to using it in the new year. For now, here is completed, ongoing, and future work. (Also, most of my free time has been soaked up by the search for a permanent job.)

Publication Schedule:
1) Hostis: A Journal of Incivility. Printing has already started. Expect copies to be available within a couple weeks via our distributor.
2) Escape. Book proposal nearly finished. Solicit publishers within next three months. Manuscript for submission: 67,500 words.
3) Dark Deleuze. In preparation. Final manuscript to be 15,000-25,000 words.

Presentation Schedule:
1) Chicago, “Feminist Mappings of the City,” November 2014, (passed).
2) Vancouver, “Militancy, Antagonism, and Power: Rethinking Intellectual Labor, Relocating the University,” January 2015.
3) Walla Walla, “Direct Action Training,” February 2015.
4) Spokane, “‘Money is Just Paper but it Affects People Like Poetry’: Capitalism and Public Address,” February 2015
5) Pittsburgh, “Weather Station,” April 2015.
6) Riverside, “#GHE20G0TH1K: Afropessimism as Aesthetic Blackness,” June 2015.

Upcoming Article Topics:
1) Feminism and the Metropolis
2) Wages for Housework, Wages for Facebook: Antagonism at the Point of Circulation
3) The State, Concept not Object: Abstraction, Cinema, Empire
4) (In preparation) Insinuation as Communication
5) (In preparation) Irregular Media: Digital Resistance after Guerrilla Warfare
6) (In preparation) What Does Capitalism Sound Like?

Ongoing Research Areas:
1) The Non-Representational Turn: Anti-connectionism, Insufficiency, Opacity
2) The Inhumanities: Anonymity, Code, Subjectivity
3) Negative Feminism: Gender, Hatred, and Pop Culture

Matter That Matters: Materialist Feminism & Sexual Difference

bodies-that-matterReading Elizabeth Grosz’s Chaos, Territory, Art for the first time finally made materialism click for me. I had been feeling a growing dissatisfaction with social constructivism; and while I had been reading plenty of materialists who insisted on “matter that mattered,”  I never knew how to explain it, or at least without recourse to a crude reductionist paradigm. With Grosz, however, we see how differences (and in her case: sexual difference) create a beautiful tension from which art and culture spring forth. At last, a beautiful demonstration on why matter matters. Enjoy.

I want to start with some mythical sense of “the beginning.” “In the beginning” is chaos, the whirling, unpredictable movement of forces, vibratory oscillations that constitute the universe. Chaos here may be understood not as absolute disorder but rather as a plethora of orders, forms, wills—forces that cannot be distinguished or differentiated from each other, both matter and its conditions for being otherwise, both the actual and the virtual in-distinguishably. Somewhere in this chaotic universe, in a relatively rare occurrence, through chance, molecular randomness generates [6] organic proteins, cells, proto-life. Such life can only exist and perpetuate itself to the extent that it can extract from the whirling and experientially overwhelming chaos that is nature, materiality, and their immanent forces those elements, substances, or processes it requires, can somehow bracket out or cast into shadow the profusion of forces that engulf and surround it so that it may incorporate what it needs. Henri Bergson, one of Deleuze’s major philosophical influences, understands this as a skeletalization of objects: we perceive only that which interests us, is of use to us, that to which our senses have, through evolution, been attuned (Bergson 1988). That is, life, even the simplest organic cell, carries its past with its present as no material object does. This incipient memory endows life with creativity, the capacity to elaborate an innovative and unpredictable response to stimuli, to react or, rather, simply to act, to enfold matter into itself, to transform matter and life in unpredictable ways.

Such elementary life can only evolve, become more, develop and elaborate itself to the extent that there is something fundamentally unstable about both its milieu and its organic constitution. The evolution of life can be seen not only in the increasing specialization and bifurcation or differentiation of life forms from each other, the elaboration and development of profoundly variable morphologies and bodily forms, but, above all, in their becoming-artistic, in their self-transformations, which exceed the bare requirements of existence. Sexual selection, the consequence of sexual difference or morphological bifurcation—one of the earliest upheavals in the evolution of life on earth and undoubtedly the most momentous invention that life has brought forth, the very machinery for guaranteeing the endless generation of morphological and genetic variation, the very mechanism of biological difference itself—is also, by this fact, the opening up of life to the indeterminacy of taste, pleasure, and sensation.6 Life comes to elaborate itself through making [7] its bodily forms and its archaic territories, pleasing (or annoying), performative, which is to say, intensified through their integration into form and their impact on bodies. Continue reading “Matter That Matters: Materialist Feminism & Sexual Difference”