Rise of Nondiegetic Media

For reasons that I don’t entirely understand, blogging seems to provoke in me a backward glance, not the kind of hyper-immediate status updates and running commentary of quotidian fancies typically associated with the format. And so I’ve been returning to some previous endeavors and trying to rethink them in the light of new concerns and new contexts. An immodest undertaking to be sure, still what appears in germinal form at one point might require the passage of time to grow and evolve, where only from another perspective it appears fully legible. Such is the logic of “discovery,” a term that should be used with extreme caution, given the role that creativity and innovation play in the new economy. And yet, as with Badiou’s truth procedures, we must adhere to such moments of discovery when they appear, aligning our subjectivity to them, not as a way to enact the mandates of postfordist labor in which innovations are tagged and banked like raw materials, but precisely to deviate from such mandates.

One discovery that came to light for me around seven or eight years ago concerns the old relation in narratology and aesthetics between diegetic elements and nondiegetic elements, those other things, whatever they might be, that separate themselves from the diegesis. Part of a very old conversation stretching back to Aristotle if not earlier — διήγησις being the old Greek term for narration — the diegetic/nondiegetic relationship has a strong connection to the critical discourse around the historical avant-garde (Brecht) as well as to the early harbingers of postmodernity (Godard). Addressed typically if not superficially via tactics like “revealing the apparatus” or “foregrounding the aesthetic infrastructure,” the diegetic/nondiegetic relationship became a kind of shorthand for political intervention, describing in essence the very conditions of possibility for what counts as political art: whatever perpetuates the lure of diegetic enthrallment is reification at its worst, while whatever shatters such spectacle by illuminating the conditions of its own production is progressive and political. Continue reading

Guy Brossollet’s “Non-battle”

Counter-insurgency is a urgent issue in American life today–indeed around the world–as state and non-state actors alike perfect the art of subduing popular upheaval. Viewing individuals and populations as liabilities even threats, the army and the police have been forced to adopt a series of new tactics, from urban warfare and occupation, to ideological campaigns and the winning of “hearts and minds,” to torture and other forms of non-lethal force.

The police have recently come under scrutiny in the wake of a spate of killings. And rallies against police brutality are met by cops in riot gear and military-grade equipment recently procured through Pentagon grants. Police vehicles equipped with Stingrays and LRADs are now a common appearance at protests and marches, not to mention semi-automatic weapons, flash grenades, tear gas, and pepper spray. Continue reading

The Universe of Things

(Here’s also a podcast of the recent panel discussion between me and Shaviro hosted by the New School on Nov 7th.)

With the recent publication of The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism, Steven Shaviro confirms his status as one of the most interesting speculative realist auimagethors. In a philosophical field littered with mines and booby traps, characterized by antagonisms and growing factionalism, Shaviro has managed to produce a very lively book filled with equitable and generous readings of dozens of authors. He’s certainly the most diplomatic author working in speculative realism today, while still pursuing a particular line of argument all his own. The book is filled with creative and insightful observations on a number of different contemporary debates and conversations. Yet at the same time Shaviro has carved out an original set of concerns and proposals for the future of speculative thinking.

As I see them, the three basic contributions to speculative realism made by Shaviro are (1) connectionism, (2) panpsychism, and (3) aesthetics as first philosophy. Continue reading

Changing Fortunes of Contemporary French Theory

Here is an audio recording  on “The Changing Fortunes of Contemporary French Theory,” in which I say some flattering things about Laruelle and some unflattering things about Latour.

The recording is from a recent lecture in the Film and Visual Studies program at Harvard. The doctoral students there were incredibly interesting and generous discussants. All in all an excellent visit.

Here is the dossier of network images discussed about 14 minutes into the talk.

Immanence

There’s a new issue of Parrhesia. It’s one of the most interesting journals active today and I encourage you to take a peek if you haven’t already. In browsing through the issue I was struck by a few things. First, Laruelle’s fingerprints are all over this issue. This is evident more in the reviews than the articles two of which are by or about Bernard Stiegler — although it’s interesting to note that Stiegler has credited Laruelle with “having introduced me to the work of Gilbert Simondon.” In addition to the review of Laruelle’s Dictionary of Non-Philosophy, I know that Daniel Barber, Alex Dubilet, Anthony Smith, and Ian James are all interested in Laruelle or working on him in some way or another.

The second thing that occurs to me is how important immanence remains in contemporary debates. Immanence has always occupied an odd place in the history of philosophy, often appearing as a counter-orthodoxy or heresy that tears the fabric of metaphysical representation. Theories of immanence resist describing things “as” they are. Rather immanence identifies things “in” whatever they are.

But before exploring the how of immanence, let’s revisit the why. Why should we care about theories of immanence? Is immanence a good thing? If so, why? Continue reading

Network Pessimism

I’ve been thinking a lot about pessimism recently. Eugene has been deep in this material for some time already. In fact he has a new, lengthy manuscript on pessimism called Infinite Resignation, which is a bit of departure from his other books in terms of tone and structure. I’ve read it and it’s excellent. Definitely “the worst” he’s ever written! Following the style of other treatises from the history of philosophical pessimism–Leopardi, Cioran, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and others–the bulk of the book is written in short aphorisms. It’s very poetic language, and some sections are driven by his own memories and meditations, all in an attempt to plumb the deepest, darkest corners of the worst the universe has to offer.

Meanwhile, the worst can’t stay hidden. Pessimism has made it to prime time, to NPR, and even right-wing media. Despite all this attention, Eugene seems to have little interest in showing his manuscript to publishers. A true pessimist! Not to worry, I’m sure the book will see the light of day eventually. Or should I say dead of night? When it does, the book is sure to sadden, discourage, and generally worsen the lives of Thacker fans everywhere. Continue reading

Book Release & Panel Discussion

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SPECULATIVE FUTURES
A Conversation with Steven Shaviro & Alexander Galloway

Moderated by Eugene Thacker

Presented by the Liberal Studies Program of the New School for Social Research & the School of Media Studies, New School for Public Engagement.

Friday, November 7, 2014, 5:30pm

Continue reading

Warm Pride

I follow with astonishment the discourse on global warming, because, first and foremost, we’re screwed and, second, nobody is doing the slightest thing about it.

The discourse seems to be changing today as well. The conversation on global warming is slowly but decisively changing from “addressing” warming to “living with” warming. We’ve shifted from a language of natural equilibrium, to a language of irresistible evolution. This is what I find particularly astonishing. We moderns, lovers of sober rationality and the freedom from constraint, have slowly succumbed to the ultimate amor fati. So unwilling to adhere to a disciplinary regime if it might curtail our way of life, we now willingly submit to the greatest force of all. Those who were the most levelheaded pragmatists now unwittingly adopt a brute fatalism. Climate Science = Destiny. Continue reading

Queer Atonality

I’ve been reading and re-reading Jordana Rosenberg’s fascinating essay on “The Molecularization of Sexuality,” published recently in Theory and Event. It’s a long and challenging piece, one that demands a high level of attention from the reader, but at the same time offers rich rewards in equal measure. Rosenberg covers a lot of ground, dealing with the contingency and fragility of “being together,” and provocatively challenging some of the tenets of contemporary queer theory and critical theory.

The essay is devoted to what Rosenberg calls the “ontological turn” in recent discussions in the humanities. By ontological turn, she means that strange polyglot that spans everyone from Jane Bennett to Beatriz Preciado, from Steven Shaviro to John Protevi, and from Eugene Thacker to Samuel Delany. What a bunch! But more generally, she cites speculative realism, object-oriented ontology, new materialism, and neo-vitalism. Labeling the ontological turn a form of “onto-primitivism,” Rosenberg puts forth a powerful polemic: “the ontological turn is a kind of theoretical primitivism that presents itself as a methodological avant-garde.” Continue reading