inadequate futures

[005 - Satin Island]

May 20, 2017

alex christie

I picked up Tom McCarthy's Satin Island when I began conceptualizing and planning my dissertation proposal. In an effort to situate my project in whatever 'the contemporary' is, I scoured the web for discussions, syllabi, and articles that focused on the contemporary novel. Reading through Post-45's series of letters from Princeton's 'The Contemporary' conference, McCarthy's novel came into focus as 'the most discussed (and maligned) novel of the conference,' so I decided to give it a shot.

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[004 - negativity in Culp]

May 15, 2017

alex christie

I'm revisiting Andrew Culp's Dark Deleuze this week. My director suggested the book last summer somewhere between me reading A Thousand Plateaus and Claire Colebrook's Death of the PostHuman as an example of a negative version of Deleuze that might help make sense of Colebrook's work. In general, and this is the way I've always read D&G, TP has always been this joyous and affirmative text riddled with 'little monsters' for cultivating novel concepts (Culp 1). Each plateau offered something new---a new concept, methodology, reading. In moments of lucidity (usually while reading and then never again) it feels very portable. Dark Deleuze, by comparison, is very different: 'Emerging from scholars concerned with the condition of the present, the darkness refashions a revolutionary Deleuze: revolutionary negativity in a world characterized by compulsory happiness, decentralized control, and overexposure' (2). This struck me as odd for two reasons: first, all of my work is 'concerned with the condition of the present,' so it seemed odd that I hadn't encountered much of this scholarship. But second, and while I absolutely agree with Culp that the revolutionary concepts offered by Deleuze throughout his corpus---'transversal lines, rhizomatic connections, compositionist networks, complex assemblages, affective experiences, and enchanted objects'---had been largely integrated into public consciousness, it's never occurred to me Deleuze's work had run it's course, cleaved into neoliberal-ese (7).

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One thing I'm having trouble articulating and working through in the dissertation proposal is the extent to which posthumanism and posthuman subjectivity (interrelated but definitely not coterminous) are either local and site specific or transcendent and ontological. It's clear to me how posthumanism as a discourses arises in the latter half of the 20th century: globalization, transnationalism, and the onset of network culture force us to think differently about how humans are connected. The cellphone (and really, the smartphone) shifts attention away from the human body to the human with(in) a network. The smartphone has become a very literal and felt extension of one kind of cyborg subjectivity. In this way, it's like what Nathan Jurgenson says about identity performance: 'Social media surely change identity performance. For one, it makes the process more explicit' ('The Disconnectionists'). Our imbrication in technology makes explicit something we might have missed before---how the human and tool are woven together into assemblages or amalgams---but that then seems ontologically grounded.

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Rereading Karen Barad's Meeting the Universe Halfway is a refreshing reminder of everything I find useful in new materialism and posthumanism. Concerned primarily with how quantum physics might reshape the way we think about matter, agency, and ethics, Barad's work if helpful for articulating where ethical commitments beyond the human, or the human-to-human, might reside. Her reworking of agency is particularly important for her interweaving of the philosophy of physics and poststructural, as she repeats throughout. For Barad, agency is not something humans have, or even particular bodies possess, but rather a distributed enactment across an intra-active assemblage (my word) or apparatus. She argues, 'Agency is "doing" or "being" in its intra-activity. It is the enactment of iterative changes of particular practices---iterative reconfigurings of topological manifolds of spacetimematter relations---through the dynamics of intra-activity. Agency is about changing possibilities of change entailed in reconfiguring material-discursive apparatuses of bodily production' (178). This emphasis on intra-activity reminds us that we (and let's leave this as a slippery signifier) are involved in agency with other matters we tend to not consider imbricated in ourselves. Matter comes to matter through 'iterative reconfigurings;' states that both continually change but also remain the same---cells perpetually dying and being replaced in bodies human and otherwise, for example. Agency is less a deployment of force here than the tipping over of a system into something else or towards a different state---a storm tipping over from rain and thunder into a tornado and back again. In a more anthropocentric mode, it's also about admitting that who and what we are is heavily influenced and perhaps even dependent on the matter that surrounds us, both discursive but also (new) material. It's here that I see Barad linking up rather explicitly with poststructuralism, as if to intensify the performative and disciplinary sutures provided by Butler and Foucault.

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[001 - blogging the dissertation]

April 24, 2017

alex christie

This blog is a work in progress and performance of writing my dissertation. Today is the first day of writing and research after turning in a draft of the proposal. I imagine this blog taking the form of both sharing relevant research, compressed/compiled for a more general audience, as well as a place to work through the contingencies of academic labor for both graduate and recent graduate students.

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