Complex Singularities

Adventures in Thinking Outside the Tower
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Musings about Quantum Entanglement

I filled a glass with ice from the refrigerator and was using the nozzle on the door to further fill the glass with water. I was watching as the sharp stream of water cut though a particular oblong of ice, right in the middle. I was waiting for the point at which it cut through completely, the event of severance, when the one piece became two. I watched it inch closer and closer, and was waiting to see the two halves become two pieces, to suddenly lose their rigidity and drift apart, to lose their orientation to one-another and shift in differentiating ways. But as I watched, I realized: I had missed it, the event had occurred. The two halves were now two pieces, but had kept their orientation to each other intact. My glass full of ice had frozen together enough that the halves were still connected to each other through the underlying substate of other ice cubes. They had preserved their orientation because, despite seeming disconnected from my limited vantage point, upon further observation their were still connected through a different medium, through a further dimension.

On Editing

One of the reasons the writing process—and especially academic writing—relies so heavily on editing is that it is a sedimentary process. Writing develops over time, where slowly and steadily, layers of new information and nuance are added into a manuscript. When something is first drafted you do so in dialogue with a number of other texts, data, an archive, etc. But the longer you work on something, the more drafts you do, the more that initial piece comes into contact with new readings, new perspectives (including those of readers, editors, reviewers, students, conference presentation audiences)—all of which tug and nudge what is on the page into new shapes. Part of this is deliberate, part random. You might seek to fill gaps, pursue lines of flight, but you might also be reading something for a completely different reason and you discover that through its lens your writing has acquired a new facet, there is a new connection you can embroider in, a footnote that needs to be added. A news story might collide with your writing and knock it into a new orbit. In this way writing is always diachronic, a text before even its publication after which each additional reader brings new context to it and remakes it and its meaning and signification anew. It unfolds (or folds?) over time, through small measures, intricately worked together.

CFP: The Rise of “Alt-Right” Discourse, the Backlash against Social Justice, and Resistances

Call for Papers

Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture & Social Justice/

Études critiques sur le genre, la culture, et la justice sociale

Deadline: June 15, 2017

Issue 39.2

 

Thematic Cluster: The Rise of “Alt-Right” Discourse, the Backlash against Social Justice, and Resistances

Editors: Sara Matthews & Nathan Rambukkana

In a Daily Intelligencer article dated November 6, 2016, Rembert Browne coined the term “the intersectionality of hate” as a way to frame how the so-called “alt-right” coalesced and mobilized their various populist platforms of hatred in support of then Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump.[1] This affinity politics of the far-right was an ideological coup: it worked the energies, synergies, and discourses of social justice politics but for opposite interests and inverted motivations. Since the U.S. election, the North American “alt-right” movement continues to provide a politics of shared identity to White Supremacists/Nationalists and others who identify racial justice as reverse-racism; to Men’s Rights Activists (MRAa) who experience feminisms as an endangerment to men; to Pick Up Artists (PUAs) whose promotion of rape-culture as date-culture finds purchase on college and university campuses; to precarious workers sold on the false consciousness of “immigrants taking their jobs,”; and to old-school gamers who encounter the “new games journalism” and female identified designers as a conspiracy to “ruin gaming.” The rise of the far-right—re-packaged, rebranded, and sanitized as the “alt-right”—is backlash politics writ large. It is what happens when ensconced privilege is displaced and traditional power is questioned or eroded.

This Atlantis cluster aims to address these “alt-right” formations from a social justice perspective that refuses the cooptation of its practices, discourses, and languages. We seek contributions that consider multiple approaches to the “intersectionality of hate” as anchored in three interconnected focal points: alt-right “discourse,” the attendant backlash against progressive culture and work, and resistant politics. Contributions should address at least one of these points, but would ideally address two or all three. In keeping with Atlantis’s scope, which includes scholarly articles but also creative works such as poetry, short stories, and/or other creative/experimental work, we also encourage submissions from those with outside-the-scholarly-box ideas.

Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • The discourse/semiotics/mythology of the “alt-right”
  • The identity politics surrounding these issues, including self­-identifications and labeling of others such as Social Justice Warriors (SWAs)/white knights/snowflakes/the far (alt) right/gamergaters/Pick Up Artists (PUAs)/Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs)/cucks and cuckservatives
  • The mobilization of “post-truth” and “alternative-facts” narratives to assault consensus reality and weaponize the hyperreal
  • The psychic structures of populism and hatreds
  • The intimacies formed through moments of contact and cultures of resistance
  • Strange alliances and new solidarities emerging from this, such as former White Supremacists or conservative personalities such as Glenn Beck, Fox News, and National Post writers breaking ranks
  • Continuities/discontinuities with previous periods of backlash such as anti-Civil Rights and antifeminist backlashes in the 60s, 70s, 80s
  • The mobilization of memes (such as those featuring “alt-right” mascot Pepe the Frog), and social media platforms in perpetuating these discourses of organizing resistances (such as “Rogue” and “Alt” governmental twitter accounts in the US)
  • The politics of identification, desire and destruction (such as the “punch a Nazi” meme and video game)
  • Reports from the field such as from the Women’s Marches, Scientist March, Women’s Strike, General Strike or other protests

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the editors at smatthews at wlu dot ca and nrambukkana at wlu dot ca. For full details on Atlantis formatting and submission policies for all formats of submission, please see http://journals.msvu.ca/index.php/atlantis/about/submissions.

[1] Rembert Browne, November 9, 2016, “How Trump Made Hate Intersectional,” Daily Intelligencer, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/11/how-trump-made-hate-intersectional.html

Multiple paths to critique?

The anti-war aspect of the “alt-right” is perhaps the most interesting thing about it. Fascinatingly, it comes from the exact opposite place of social justice critiques of war (i.e., that America should only take care of itself and not spend money or resources them foreigners, etc.) but weirdly ends up in similar, while not the same, places with respect to certain issues.

NOMOREPOTLUCKS article: Critical Intimacy Studies in the Era of Intersectional Hate

In this short piece, I look at what insights critical intimacy studies and affinity politics might have for the new ideological and political struggles made manifest in the rise of the so-called “alt-right” and Trumpism. In particular I explore tactics for reckoning with their powerful deployment of an “intersectionality of hate,” especially seeing new opportunities for uncanny alliances and for troubling binaries.

Check it out on NOMOREPOTLUCKS: http://nomorepotlucks.org/site/critical-intimacy-studies-in-the-era-of-intersectional-hate-nathan-rambukkana/

Field Musings

You know your research object has become a research field when it becomes impossible to keep up with all the new material it keeps hurling your way without a research team.

Discursive Struggles

How many world-historical struggles have been discursive struggles?

Social Justice Warriors Unite!

As a discourse analyst, the calls to not use the term “alt-right” and instead use “White Supremacy” miss the mark I think. You can’t discount the materiality of the discourse of the alt-right, which contains elements of White Supremacy and White Nationalism, yes, but also consists of MRAs, Pick Up Artists, Gamergate, anti-gay and trans elements, etc. The alt-right is a re-articulation of various discourses forged out of, as Rembert Browne put it, the intersectionality of hate. We cannot collapse that dire diversity because it gives us clues to the multiple fronts of this battle. As with grassroots organizing, which the right excels at, it seems like they have also trumped us with respect to affinity politics. 

These are backlash politics writ large—writ yuge—and we need to do what we do best: name, identify, deconstruct, create cracks, workshop alternatives, persevere, make change. I say we start taking up the mantle of Social Justice Warriors in the proud tradition of taking their discourses and reversing them. This is what they are trying to do to us, after all, they are using our own tool kit and tactics to get at us. Enough. I refuse to cede that ground, to let “social justice” become their term to mock us with. 

Social Justice Warriors unite!

On Weaving Something other than a Shroud for the Day after the Apocalypse

I’m re-reading Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” for my Robotic Intimacies class, and this passage, written in the depth of 80s struggles and fear, leapt out at me an appropriate measure of today, too:
 
I do not know of any other time in history when there was greater need for political unity to confront effectively the dominations of ‘race’, ‘gender’, ‘sexuality’, and ‘class’. I also do not know of any other time when the kind of unity we might help build could have been possible. None of ‘us’ have any longer the symbolic or material capability of dictating the shape of reality to any of ‘them’. Or at least ‘we’ cannot claim innocence from practising such dominations. White women, including socialist feminists, discovered (that is, were forced kicking and screaming to notice) the non-innocence of the category ‘woman’. That consciousness changes the geography of all previous categories; it denatures them as heat denatures a fragile protein. Cyborg feminists have to argue that ‘we’ do not want any more natural matrix of unity and that no construction is whole. Innocence, and the corollary insistence on victimhood as the only ground for insight, has done enough damage. But the constructed revolutionary subject must give late-twentieth-century people pause as well. In the fraying of identities and in the reflexive strategies for constructing them, the possibility opens up for weaving something other than a shroud for the day after the apocalypse that so prophetically ends salvation history.
 
Here’s to new affinities, new alliances, new possibilities, and to fighting those old and new struggles now upon us—as well as those that loom in the offing. And here’s to weaving a new and better future, together.

Robotic Intimacies as Class and Chronicle

Robot Creation of Adam

I just finished my first Robotic Intimacies class of the term, and I’m excited by what this new semester has in store. One of the insights that came out in discussion with a current grad student who had taken the class last term, the first time I taught it, is that the problematics that had to be brought to the surface last semester, were the first things that students had in mind this year. We thought perhaps this had to do with the growing societal prominence of robotic technologies, artificial intelligence, bionics, wearable technology, and posthuman subjectivities broadly. While before it was an oncoming horizon, with landscape that you could make out if you were looking for it, 8 months later we are just that much closer, and the details are more present, more urgent.

Articles on the 4th industrial revolution, weaponized drones, bionic appendages, mind-controlled technology, teledildonics, named AIs with distinctive skill sets and personalities have been on the rise. In Flesh and Machines (2002), roboticist Rodney Brooks talks about how there is a massive gulf between the the robotic dreams of science fiction and the actual machines of today, but also talks about how, year by year, we are closing that distance. He posits that “in just twenty years [from 2002] the boundary between fantasy and reality will be rent asunder” and, from a 2016 standpoint, I have to think his timeline is more-or-less accurate. The interesting thing is teaching a course on a topic that’s societal prominence is in a process of rapid becoming. I’m coming to see the course as also a chronicle of the changes that are underway, one that has one foot in the present and the other in a future that is fast approaching—and palpably closer each term.