The slave is the threshold of legal non-personhood, communing among other things, where the damned coexist with this bitter earth, with nonhuman animals, wild and hunted, domesticated and slaughtered, with aspects of the natural landscape like plants and rivers despoiled, and mountains and mineral deposits blown apart and mined out, all the fauna and flora, all of the inorganic matter and the immaterial stuff that is split off from the world of proper human beings and corporations.
To presume recourse to transcendence is to disavow such foreclosure; yet to abandon the negative is to accept the terms of the world that produces such foreclosure. I understand this to mean that such foreclosure is not only something that takes place within the world; it is also that by which the world itself takes place, the means by which the world claims or makes itself.
This is to say that the position of the unthought is affected by the total configuration of the world, or by every term of this configuration. Yet what is at stake in the psychic struggle that you observe seems to involve not so much a response to the world as a turning away from the world: a refusal to address such being affected only in terms of how or whether it proceeds to affect the world. In any case, it seems clear that the generalized reception and recapitulation of the thought of Deleuze and Guattari has pursued lines that flee any encounter with such passivity.
Against such flight, one could very well imagine that the matter of immanence is the matter of flesh—of that which, affectable before the world, demands the uprooting or undoing, the deracination or passivization, of the world.
Affirmationist immanence poses itself in opposition to the transcendent restriction of life, but the life it wants to liberate from the transcendent is already transcendent; the life one is supposed to immanently affirm is already established through and as the presumption that such life transcends non-life. The affirmationist account of immanence thus depends on a transcendent structure. Might immanence be articulated not as a self-subsistent field, an already established realm that breaks through frontiers imposed by the transcendent, but rather—negatively—as an antagonistically downward movement?
Deleuze and Guattari remark that immanence is without any dative, that immanence is not immanent to any additional term—including, I would add, the term of life Deleuze and Guattari, Without term and its provision of bearings or a base , immanence would be intrinsically vertiginous, such that its only proper vocation is to accede to what is improper to all terms, and such that there is nothing to affirm but what is without term. I would follow, I would say, yes.
There is nothing to affirm. But what is without term? What is improper to all terms is without term. What is without term is improper to all terms. And always there are, nonetheless, terms; terms that seem to name what is improper, that seem to name what is without term, and they surface and disseminate within the discourse of any radicalism whatsoever with the hope of destroying it and the promise of salvaging it.
They are limit-terms, scandal-terms, refusal-terms, but also terms of disavowed engagement and solicitation, terms of the most fully ambivalent demand for leadership and example, whether vanguardism excites or disgusts. Ambivalent because they want, paradoxically, to hold onto themselves, which is to say preserve their impropriety.
Who knows what to do with their damnation? Rise above it, wallow in it, or pay it no mind: all transcendent sense making, all so many attempts to take control. And I was struck there by the ways that each of their presentations had something very profound to say about the relation between the speculative, the specular and the spectacular in the formations of blackness and anti-blackness. Speculative: not only about possible futures, but also possible pasts and presents.
Specular: not only as a question of self-reflection, as in a mirror, but also reflection more broadly, of images and ideals originating or emerging from a range of sources. Spectacular: not only as a matter of the dramatic and the visually engrossing, but also the arresting, the striking, the breathtaking.
One way to put it might be that speculative problems regarding specularity provoke and enable spectacular labor read: problems in theorizing a seemingly impossible black appearance lend themselves to spectacular scenes of subjection. An inference is an immanent reference that cannot get outside itself except perhaps to go deeper within, perhaps infinitely so—tracking singularity from the cosmic to the quantum, not in a way that is theoretically unified but rather linked through a dark luminosity.
So, we are confronted with a problem that is resolved by neither visibility nor invisibility, by neither sound nor silence, by neither enlarging nor shrinking the scale, neither broadening nor narrowing the frame; but that seems to be addressed most pointedly and most poignantly as a form of appearance that annuls itself, a self-cancelling utterance, an involution of scale, a torquing of the frame, all perhaps as a means of exercising some influence over what cannot be controlled. This is an act of agency for the unfree.
And if we, ourselves, are that unfree thing that we do not know and cannot solve, if we are most powerfully that inhuman element of dispossession that upsets and unleashes every humanism and anti-humanism alike, what then? Agency for the unfree, like medicine for melancholy before the blue moonlight. You cannot be free, no one can, you can only fight for freedom, pursue the struggle. You cannot be free, so you pursue it. You cannot be free, so you must pursue it, but how? Being a mystery is not the same as being mysterious to others , keeping your inner self to yourself.
Being a mystery involves acknowledging we are always losing control, in one sense, in order to gain some direction or directive in another. It involves, then, establishing a rapport with the uncanny, the unconscious, the unimaginable, which is also to say the inescapable and the ungraspable. We cannot be free in the same way that we cannot be fixed. Sometimes broken, but always, at least and at last, we are unfixed. This is the agential paradox that arises when our efforts structurally undermine or inhibit our stated intentions, the paradox of willing the disappearance of our will.
This is where critiques of dispossession—and a whole series of terms from the lexicon of social death, like dishonor and natal alienation—miss the point fundamentally. You do not need to be self-possessed, or reactively desire self-possession, to be dispossessed. You can recognize a certain ontological non-possession of the self at the same time that you recognize—and remark critically upon—the political ontological dispossession of the claim to the self that organizes a social order and structures its libidinal dynamics.
I suspect that this is hard for many to see because, among other things, they are working from a witting or unwitting affection for transcendence, including those notions of transcendence that you rightly note can accommodate a theory and practice of affirmationist immanence. And moralism follows quickly. A small point, but I would flip the order of the terms, I think, because passivity is the more fundamental for me. It is the necessary condition of creation, or to cite Fanon once more, of the introduction of invention into existence.
And, though I often enough use the words as synonyms, I like invention better than creation, despite what might be read as selecting the name of a traditionally masculine enterprise over a traditionally feminine endeavor in fact, both notions have been appropriated as quintessentially masculinist and the province of certain classes of men.
Eschewing some of the theological restrictions of creation—with all the connotations of causing to be, bringing into existence, designing, and so on—I am drawn to invention because it suggests, in its etymology anyway, an encounter, wherein activity and passivity are confused by definition: from the Latin venire — to approach, to arrive, to meet. An encounter is something that happens to you as much as something you pursue or bring about in some way.
It leaves unresolved the question of origins and so holds open the question of any possible future as well. Further still, it is linked to the idea of the wind— ventus —to what blows in with the wind and to the winds of change, but also with the wind itself. Is the wind an active force or passive air moved by active forces? This is where we might say something about the intrinsically vertiginous immanence of what is without term.
This is something more radical than being adrift, lost in the oceanic feeling. That condition—without landmarks—might describe situational disorientation. The more complete disorientation of an objective vertigo can not rely upon even those elementary distinctions of solid, liquid, and gas; and instead involves the amassing or condensation of centers of gravity within a general field, a void, providing no prior points of orientation, a scale and register of passive activity, and eventually action, that one might describe as astrophysical.
Centers are not bases or foundations; they are ways for thinking in generalized disorder, decisions without criteria, means without ends. An argument that anti-blackness is not simply anti-black racism, or even a combination or intersection of that racism and other forms of domination, that it is not another species of oppression, not just distinct and horizontally related to the whole array of mass suffering; but rather that it operates according to another sort of genetic or generative relation to the form and content of our political struggles as such.
The cardinal problem facing an ethics drawn from this vertiginous, antagonistic, downward movement is the likely unavoidable convolution of at least two differing aspects of vulnerability, one ontological and one political: affectability and violability.
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We have to carefully distinguish them, even as they remain entangled. In discussions of afro-pessimism to date, the focus all around has been almost exclusively on the latter, on who and how and when and whether to mention and mediate the violability produced by racial slavery and its afterlife, especially as this violability is or is not, foremost, gender-specific, but also specific to region, historical period, de jure legal standing, de facto legal status, class location and so forth. And I mean this in a strict sense, not the casual sense in which we talk about something emotionally charged or unseemly or even something we would describe as traumatic.
I mean taboo in the sense of something that we recoil from for reasons that are as obscure as the conviction is strong. The taboo touches upon the foreclosure that makes possible a more or less successful defense against that loss of the possibility for loss or gain. Affectability, then, would be the name for the ontological condition of absolute vulnerability that is disclosed—or provoked—by the political data of violability.
And because an ethics of affectability always runs the risk of somehow endorsing violation, however tacitly, it gets shunted into a restricted economy of beautiful, loving creation or the creation of beauty and love.
We are not just open to wonderful things like beauty and love, however; we are open to terrible things like ugliness and hate too. We must assume the risk, or as you put it, accede to it.
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DB : I wonder, then, what it would mean to think about taboo with regard to, or with the reach and touch of, the flesh. Flesh seems to name the indiscernibility of affectability and violability—or, perhaps better put, to undo those criteria by which one seeks to discern, to fix, an imporous boundary between them. Would hainamour thus come down to a matter of flesh? Like taboo, mysticism concerns the incomprehensible and the disintegrative, though more as promise than as threat. Mysticism is etymologically intertwined with mystery, and so the question of mysticism arises from your commentary on Holiday, Dove, and Griffin.
This is not to say that being a mystery is an instance of some more general, perennial phenomenon called mysticism.