Complex Singularities

Adventures in Thinking Outside the Tower
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N Rambukkana

Nathan Rambukkana, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Communication Studies

Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo



Note: Please see my open letter to my TA Lindsay Shepherd here:

My work centres the cultural study of discourse, politics and identities. I track flows of discourse as they move in and out of the public sphere influencing both individual and group identities, embodiments, and politics—both within cultural groupings and between those groups and the larger structures of society.

Specifically, my research addresses topics such as digital intimacies, the relationship of intimacy and privilege, hybridity and mixed-race identities, the social and cultural aspects new media forms, and non/monogamy in the public sphere. It is situated disciplinarily at the nexus of communication and cultural studies; methodologically within discourse analysis; and draws theoretical energy from a wide range of sources such as feminist,  queer, postcolonial, and critical race theories; semiotics, affect theory, event theory and psychoanalysis.

My book, Fraught Intimacies: Non/Monogamy in the Public Sphere (UBC Press, 2015) explores the increased mediation of non-monogamies since the early nineties—in every medium from television, to film, to self-help books, to the Internet—and how such convergent mediation opens these discourses up to societal scrutiny, as well as transformation. By exploring the privileged logics that frame our conceptions of intimacy, I explore the political and cultural implications of how we frame non-monogamy broadly in sexual discourse, as well as how the public sphere presences of three major forms of non-monogamy (adultery, polygamy and polyamory) display a complex relationship with “intimate privilege,” an emergent state in which one’s intimacies are read as viable, ethical or even real.

My new research is on the history of digital intimacies. This project investigates the intimate potentials and problematics of social media forms, drawing critical insights from intimacy theory (a subset of queer theory), but extending its ambit to consider multiple forms of digitally mediated togetherness. This project employs discourse analysis in combination with digital humanities methodologies to investigate past, existing, and emerging forms of digitally mediated intimacy. These include such topics as hashtags as technosocial assemblages; MMOs and avatar infidelity; the politics of race-activist hashtags such as #Ferguson; haptics and digital touching; and the emerging sex robot industry.  In conjunction with this project I also edited the collection Hashtag Publics: The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks (Digital Formations series, Peter Lang, 2015). This collection investigates the diversity of publics that hashtags address, with politics and positionalities ranging from subcultural and community maintenance; to speaking back to state, corporate and societal power and privilege.