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Open Education: A Study in Disruption (London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 2014) - book co-authored by Coventry’s Open Media Group and Mute Publishing, and designed as a critical experiment with collaborative, processual writing.

A performative project Janneke Adema has put together, based on our ‘The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists’ Books and Radical Open Access’ article for New Formations.

Cover

'Towards a Post-Digital Humanities: Cultural Analytics and the Computational Turn to Data-Driven Scholarship', American Literature, Volume 85, Number 4, December, 2013.

Pirate Philosophy

'Pirate Radical Philosophy', Radical Philosophy: A Journal of Socialist and Feminist Philosophy, 173, May/June, 2012.

Piracy and the law

Lecture on pirate philosophy

Special issue of Culture Machine on pirate philosophy

Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here, in the OA archive CSeARCH or in Coventry University's online repository CURVE here

'The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists' Books and Radical Open Access' (co-authored with Janneke Adema), Materialities of the Text issue of New Formations, Number 78, Summer, 2013.

Forget the Book: Writing in the Age of Digital Publishing, with Doug Sery, Sean Cubitt and Sarah Kember, CREATe at Goldsmiths, University of London, 25 May, 2013.

Lecture on 'Radical open access in the humanities: or, will the future editors of Žižek have to publish his tweets?' at Columbia University

Wednesday
Feb192014

Zombie Materialism III: From Materialism to Materials

(The following is taken from a text called ‘What are the Digital Posthumanities?’. It forms the basis of a chapter of a book I’m working on, the provisional title of which is Pirate Philosophy. Zombie Materialism I: Derrida vs Deleuze? is available here, and Zombie Materialism II: New Materialism here)

The reason I am interested in the kind prejudice regarding theory I outlined in Zombie Materialism II: New Materialism, is not out of some stubborn refusal to move on and get with the new materialist programme, and insistence on staying where I am by defending the legacy of Derrida and deconstruction - and even, dare I say it, suggesting it be re-engaged. As one of the co-founders of Open Humanities Press I’m partly responsible for the publication of two book series - Graham Harman and Bruno Latour’s New Metaphysics, and Tom Cohen and Claire Colbrook’s Critical Climate Change - that could in their different ways both be said to share Rosi Braidotti’s ‘impatience’ with deconstruction. (Moreover, at least one of these series is explicitly associated with new materialism: Rick Dolphin and Iris van der Tuin’s New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies appears in New Metaphysics, and includes interviews with Manuel DeLanda, Karen Barad, and Quentin Meillassoux, as well as Braidotti herself.)

Nor should any of this be taken as implying that, rather than raising the question of what it means for our ways of being as theorists and philosophers if writing, print-on-paper and the codex book are not regarded as the ‘natural’ or normative media in which ‘theoretical’ research and scholarship are conducted - a question that, as we have seen, can be said to represent part of posthumanism’s own repressed - we should instead continue to concentrate on writing linearly structured, original, fixed and final print-on-paper texts, in uniform multiple-copy editions, on an all rights reserved basis, on the grounds that these too can be considered to be intricately bound up with the material. One of the reasons I’m interested in Derrida (together with Bergson, Deleuze, Braidotti et al) is because his philosophy has the potential to help those of us who are not resistant to thinking through the conditions and assumptions of our own disciplines (such as those that do indeed have to do with writing, print-on-paper and the codex), and who are open to denaturalizing and destabilizing disciplinary formations (including those associated with theory), to avoid slipping into such anti-political moralism ourselves. It can do so by virtue of the way, in its attention to detail and rigour, it teaches us not only to read and (re)write texts hospitably and responsibly. It also encourages us to pay careful attention to how arguments such as those around materiality (and the need to focus on software, hardware, life, biology, genetics, ecology, the environment, electronic waste and so on) are more often than not conducted in the very language and writing that such new materialism is ostensibly trying to move us on from.  In addition, Derrida’s philosophy can help us to avoid the kind of moralism that can be detected in many theories of materialism through the emphasis it places on paying close attention, not just to reading, writing, language and the text - and with them, as we shall see, to the critical and creative rethinking of concepts such as precisely writing, language, text, materiality, matter - but to their material properties, practices and processes of production as well.

Derridaglas.jpg

Witness the care he devotes to considerations of the stylus or writing instrument, the pen, typewriter (first mechanical then electric), and word processor, the signature, paper, the letter, postcard, ‘mystic wax writing pad’, the book and of course its ‘inside matter’, as well as to the institutions of literature, philosophy and the university.  And that is without even mentioning Derrida’s various creative experiments with the material form, format, size and shape of his texts: the use of multiple columns, extended footnotes and so forth in works such as Dissemination, The Post Card, Glas, ‘Tympan’ and ‘Circumfession’.

It thus comes as no surprise to discover that not all materialists have succumbed to the tendency of zombie theory to position deconstruction in terms of the limitations of its concern with text, signification and the linguistic. In Quantum Anthropologies, Vicki Kirby adopts an highly sophisticated materialist  approach to reading the legacy of Derrida in order to ‘recast the question of the anthropological – the human – in a more profound and destabilizing way than its disciplinary frame will allow’.  Kirby proceeds to criticize as naïve, complacent and lacking in rigour John Protevi’s claim in Political Physics that Derrida’s ‘general text… while inextricably binding force and signification in “making sense””, is not an engagement with matter itself’. In fact, an engagement of this nature is not possible, if  Protevi is to believed, since matter, for deconstruction, ‘remains a concept, a philosopheme to be read in the text of metaphysics’, or else ‘functions as a marker of a radical alterity outside the oppositions that make up the text of metaphysics’.  Kirby condemns this account of deconstruction on Protevi’s part on the grounds that the assumption ‘Derrida's "no outside metaphysics" must exclude matter… entirely misses the extraordinary puzzle of how a system's apparent interiority can incorporate what appears to be separate and different.’ As far as Kirby is concerned, while ‘"text“ and "metaphysics" are sites of excavation, discovery, and reinvention for Derrida, Protevi uncritically embraces their received meanings’.

There are many Deleuze's

It is also worth pointing out that not all Deleuzian’s have adopted a moralistic approach to materialism. If, for Kirby, ‘there are many Derrida’s’,  then there are many Deleuze’s too! One of the most interesting articulations of a materialist ontology inspired by Bergson and Deleuze is that provided by Tim Ingold, another anthropologist, in an essay called ‘Materials Against Materiality’ that can be found in his book, Being Alive. Ingold notes how, despite the impression it gives, ‘the ever-growing literature … that deals explicitly with the subjects of materiality and material culture seems to have hardly anything to say about materials’:  about the very matter of bodies, non-human objects and the environment. Instead, the concern of those emphasizing the importance of materiality is primarily with the language and writing of other theorists and philosophers. The materials meanwhile have gone missing.

As his title suggests, Ingold recommends a shift in attention from ‘the materiality of objects’ precisely to ‘the properties of materials’. It is a shift that once made is capable of exposing:

a tangled web of meandrine complexity, in which – among a myriad of other things – the secretions of gall wasps get caught up with old iron, acacia sap, goose feathers and calf-skins, and the residue from heated limestone mixes with emissions from pigs, cattle, hens and bees. For materials such as these do not present themselves as tokens of some common essence – materiality – that endows every worldly entity with its ‘objectness’; rather, they partake in the very processes of the world’s ongoing generation and regeneration, of which things such as manuscripts or house-fronts are impermanent by-products.

Hopefully all this explains why I do not want to oppose the tradition of Spinoza, Bergson, Deleuze and Guattari to that of Derrida here. It is not hard to see how even a rigorous reading of Deleuze’s materialist philosophy can be employed to show that deconstruction is actually far more concerned with matter, materials and material factors than a lot of erstwhile (new) materialism.

In fact, according to Ingold, far from helping to theorize the material, the concept of materiality as it features in a lot of studies of material culture serves to reinforce, rather than overcome, the classical dualities and dialectical (Latour would call them modern) oppositions between nature and culture, immaterial and material, language and reality, things and words, body and mind. This is because a part of the material world such as a rock or stone tends to be considered by discourses on materiality as ‘both a lump of matter that can be analysed for its physical properties and an object whose significance is drawn from its incorporation into the context of human affairs’. For Ingold, however:

humans figure as much within the context for stones as do stones within the context for humans. And these contexts, far from lying on disparate levels of being, respectively social and natural, are established as overlapping regions of the same world. It is not as though this world were one of brute physicality, of mere matter, until people appeared on the scene to give it form and meaning. Stones, too, have histories, forged in ongoing relations with surroundings that may or may not include human beings and much else besides.

He thus takes great care to distinguish between ‘the material world’ of material culture theorists and a ‘world of materials’ or, better, the environment. The material world exists in and for itself. The environment, by contrast:

is a world that continually unfolds in relation to the beings that make a living there… And as the environment unfolds, so the materials of which it is comprised do not exist – like the objects of the material world – but occur. Thus the properties of materials, regarded as constituents of an environment, cannot be identified as fixed, essential attributes of things, but are rather processual and relational. They are neither objectively determined nor subjectively imagined but practically experienced. In that sense, every property is a condensed story. To describe the properties of materials is to tell the stories of what happens to them as they flow, mix and mutate. 

 

Tuesday
Feb112014

Disrupting the Humanities

The Centre for Disruptive Media presents

Disrupting the Humanities
 
A series of 3 half-day seminars looking at research and scholarship in a 'posthumanities' context, organised by the Centre for Disruptive Media at Coventry University, and held over the course of spring and summer, 2014. Disrupting the Humanities will both critically engage with the humanist legacy of the humanities, and creatively explore alternative and affirmative possible futures for the humanities.
http://disruptivemedia.org.uk/wiki/

The first seminar will take place on Friday March 7th at Coventry University (ET130) from 1:15-6:00pm

Disrupting the Scholarly Establishment: How To Create Alternative and Affirmative Humanities Institutions?

Speakers:
Sarah Kember (Goldsmiths/CREATe)
Endre Dányi (Mattering Press)
Craig Saper (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Karen Newman (Coventry University)

Mark Amerika (The University of Colorado Boulder)

The event is free but registration is recommended to ensure a place http://disruptivemedia.org.uk/wiki/

Disrupting the Scholarly Establishment: How To Create Alternative and Affirmative Humanities Institutions?

The first seminar in the series, Disrupting the Scholarly Establishment, focuses on alternative ways of creating, performing and circulating research and scholarship in a posthumanities context. It brings together scholars and practitioners who have actively tried to rethink some of the humanities' established forms and methods in an affirmative way by experimenting with the establishment of new academic organisations and institutions.

In the first seminar panel, Scholarly publishing: scholar-led initiatives and experiments in digital publishing, Sarah Kember, EndreDányi and Craig Saper will discuss a number of initiatives  that reimagine the relationship between authors, publishers, distributors, libraries and readers. The aim of these initiatives is to createmore opportunities for the  publication and circulation of the kind of work that the established, 'legacy' publishers increasingly regard as being too difficult, experimental, radical, specialised or avant-garde to be economically viable.

In the second panel, Art education: practice-based research and open art education: new structures and new institutions, Karen Newman and Mark Amerika  will address recent developments in open art education and practice-based research. They will explore how we can establish new structures and new institutions that challenge some of the divisions that still exist between art practice and scholarly research, between the lecturer and the learner, and between the learning space of the classroom and the 'outside world'.
 
Friday March 7th
Coventry University
Jordan Well
Ellen Terry Building, Room 130 (ET130)
CV1 5RW Coventry
United Kingdom
 
http://disruptivemedia.org.uk/

Saturday
Feb012014

Immediations, edited by Erin Manning and Brian Massumi

Open Humanities Press has launched a new book series: Immediations, edited by Erin Manning and Brian Massumi.

'Philosophy begins in wonder. And, at the end, when philosophic thought has done its best, the wonder remains' – A.N. Whitehead


The aim of the Immediations book series is to prolong the wonder sustaining philosophic thought into transdisciplinary encounters. Its premise is that concepts are for the enacting: they must be experienced. Thought is lived, else it expires. It is most intensely lived at the crossroads of practices, and in the in-between of individuals and their singular endeavors: enlivened in the weave of a relational fabric. Co-composition.

“The smile spreads over the face, as the face fits itself onto the smile” – A. N. Whitehead

Which practices enter into co-composition will be left an open question, to be answered by the authors in the series. Art practice, aesthetic theory, political theory, movement practice, media theory, maker culture, science studies, architecture, philosophy … the range is free. We invite you to roam it.

Alongside single-author monographs, we are keen to encourage experiments in collective writing and new forms of co-composition. Co-composition is an intercession, not a mediation. Begin in the middle. Catch a thinking in the midst and compose with it. Curate thought in the thinking-doing. Reinvent the book.

For more about this new series, please visit:
http://openhumanitiespress.org/immediations.html

To contribute to the series, please contact Erin Manning or Brian Massumi

Managing Editors
    Ronald Rose-Antoinette
    Adam Szymanski

Advisory Board
    Pia Ednie-Brown (RMIT, Melbourne)
    Athina Karatzogiannion (University of Hull)
    Jondi Keane (Deakin University, Melbourne)
    Adrian Mackenzie (Lancaster University)
    Erin Manning (Concordia University)
    Brian Massumi (Université de Montréal)
    Graham Meikle (University of Westminster)
    Anna Munster (University of New South Wales)
    Timothy Murray (Cornell University)
    Brett Neilson (University of Western Sydney)
    Ned Rossiter (University of Western Sydney)
    John Scannell (Macquarie University, Sydney)
    Gregory Seigworth (Millersville University)
    Bodil Marie Stavning Thomsen (Aarhus University)

Thursday
Jan302014

Zombie Materialism II: New Materialism

(The following is taken from a text called ‘What are the Digital Posthumanities?’. It forms the basis of a chapter of a book I am currently working on, the provisional title of which is Pirate Philosophy. Zombie Materialism I: Derrida vs Deleuze? is available here.)

To be fair, the kind of prejudice Braidotti displays in The Posthuman regarding theory has come to be accepted almost as a form of common sense in much of the humanities and social sciences. Thanks to a complacent adherence to this new orthodoxy, post-structuralism and deconstruction are regularly positioned by stands of critical thought associated with ‘new materialism’ as being precisely the kind of transcendent, language, writing and text-focused philosophies we need to move on from in order to concentrate on those aspects of material reality  our culture is increasingly regarded as being actually about (e.g. software, hardware, code, platforms, and of course their physical supports and material substrates: wires, chips, circuits, disks, drives, networks, airwaves, electrical charges, optical rays and so on).

Dennis Bruining relates such new materialist discourses to the way in which, in spite of both the poststructuralist critique of foundations, and their own awareness of the untenability of ideas of this kind (of biology-as-destiny, for example, in the case of theories of life, genetics and the body), ‘there still lingers the notion of, and a longing for, a present underlying foundation and/or truth in some political and theoretical movements and writings’. It is a longing for truth or foundation Bruining connects to the contemporary turn to science in the humanities. But as Clare Birchall and I demonstrated in our contribution to New Cultural Studies, attachments of this nature can also be linked to what Wendy Brown calls ‘anti-political moralism’. As we wrote there, this is a term Brown uses:

to refer to a certain ‘resistance’ to thinking through the conditions and assumptions of one’s own discipline; and, in particular, to the consequences for both leftists and liberals of not being able to give up their devotion to previously held notions of politics, progress, morality, sovereignty and so forth. Significantly, theory has been a regular target for moralists, Brown observes, frequently being chastised for its ‘failure’ to tell the left what to struggle for and how to act. Indeed, Brown asserts that 'moralism so loathes overt manifestations of power… that the moralist inevitably feels antipathy toward politics as a domain of open contestation for power and hegemony'; and that 'the identity of the moralist is', in fact, actually 'staked against intellectual questioning that might dismantle the foundations of its own premises; its survival is imperiled by the very practice of open-ended intellectual inquiry’.

Bruining likewise draws on Brown’s thinking on moralism (in his case under the influence of Joanna Zylinska’s chapter in New Cultural Studies on ethics). Bruining does so to show how, in the new materialist works he engages with (which include Susan Hekman's The Material of Knowledge, as well as the collections Material  Feminisms edited by Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman, and New Materialisms edited by Diana Coole and Samantha Frost),  the emphasis on the concept of materiality, which in such discourses comes to represent ‘that universal and indisputable good that must be preserved’, and criticism of post-structuralism and those modes of thought associated with it for not theorizing the material, is actually a form of reactionary ‘material foundationalism’.

(Constantina Papoulias and Felicity Callard identify a similar afoundational-foundationalism with regard to the empirical-experimental biological evidence that is used to underpin the materialist approach to the theory of affect, such as when:

Teresa Brennan asserts that ‘experiments confirm that the maternal environment and olfactory factors... . shape human affect’, and Brian Massumi reassures us that ‘the time-loop of experience has been experimentally verified’. Even as affect theory shows how a biology of afoundational foundations can be imagined, the language through which the findings of neuroscience are invoked by cultural theorists  is, paradoxically, often the language of evidence and verification, a language offering legitimation through the experimental method. It is through the old foundational language, in other words, that the afoundational biology is appropriated.)

But just as interesting to my mind is the way such moralizing – also evident in the calls Braidotti associates with theory-fatigued neo-communist intellectuals such as Badiou and Zizek to ‘return to concrete political action, even violent antagonism if necessary, rather than indulge in more theoretical speculations’ - often takes the place of and in fact substitutes itself for genuine critical interrogation. In line with this, Brown argues that:

Despite its righteous insistence on knowing what is True, Valuable, or Important, moralism as a hegemonic form of political expression, a dominant political sensibility, actually marks both analytic impotence and political aimlessness - a misrecognition of the political logics now organizing the world, a concomitant failure to discern any direction for action, and the loss of a clear object of political desire. In particular, the moralizing injunction to act, the contemporary academic formulation of political action as an imperative, might be read as a symptom of political paralysis in the face of radical political disorientation and as a kind of hysterical mask for the despair that attends such paralysis…. Indeed, paralysis of this sort leads to far more than an experience of mere frustration: it paradoxically evinces precisely the nihilism, the antilife bearing, that it moralizes against in its nemisis – whether that nemesis is called conservatism, the forces of reaction, racism, postmodernism, or theory.

Along with the emphasis on creative affirmation rather than negative critique, the anti-intellectualism of such moralism goes a long way toward explaining why new materialists so often indulge in the unthinking repetition of reductive clichés about post-structuralist theory in general and deconstruction in particular:

a) without feeling the need to provide a careful, rigorous reading (let alone ‘(re)reading’ or  ‘“rewriting”’)  of specific thinkers and texts. As I say, Braidotti does not read Derrida’s works in any detail in The Posthuman: after all if you already know what they say, you don’t need to. Instead, the issue of what deconstruction is is both simultaneously decided in advance and excluded from the analysis;

b) when an actual rigorous and responsible engagement with his texts would reveal that writing, for Derrida, is nothing at all if it is not a material practice,  even in the most obvious, received sense of the term. This is because, for it to be capable of being understood, a written mark must have a sense of permanence. This in turns means it must be possible for it to be materially or empirically inscribed. In short, the condition of writing’s very possibility is the material. This explains why the transcendental is always impure, according to Derrida. Textuality and materiality, transcendence and immanence, even deconstruction and software code, as Federica Frabetti has shown in her work (see here and here), cannot be set up in a dualistic relation in this respect, as language and (theoretical) writing are already material.

We can thus see that deconstruction is much less a part of  any supposed ‘linguistic turn’, and much more concerned with the material, than it is portrayed as being in what might be called zombie theories of materialism.

Monday
Jan202014

Zombie materialism I: Derrida vs Deleuze?

(The following is taken from a text called ‘What are the Digital Posthumanities?’. It forms the basis of a chapter of a book I am currently working on, the provisional title of which is Pirate Philosophy. For reasons of time and word count, it was not possible to include this section on Zombie Materialism in the version of ‘What are the Digital Posthumanities?’ that was first given as a keynote lecture at the DigitalHumanities@Leuven conference, University of Leuven, September 18-20, 2013, and then published on Media Gifts (here). It is therefore being made available now in this supplementary form. In the longer book chapter version, Zombie Materialism appears immediately after the passage that discusses how, in her book The Posthuman, Rosi Braidotti pushes her work as close to the extremes of the humanities as she can without it actually becoming posthumanities; and how we therefore find ourselves once again being pulled back toward humanism.)

Significantly, Braidotti does not consider the contradiction between the humanities and the anti-humanism inherent to posthuman critical theory to be a fundamental problem in The Posthuman:

The best examples of the intrinsic contradictions generated by the anti-humanist stance is emancipation and progressive politics in general, which I consider to be one of the most valuable aspects of the humanistic tradition and its most enduring legacy. Across the political spectrum, Humanism has supported on the liberal side individualism, autonomy, responsibility and self-determination. On the more radical front, it has promoted solidarity, community-bonding, social justice and principles of equality... These principles are so deeply entrenched in our habits of thought that it is difficult to leave them behind altogether.
And why should we? Anti-humanism criticizes the implicit assumptions about the human subject that are upheld by the humanist image of Man, but this does not amount to a complete rejection.

In fact as far as Braidotti is concerned ‘one touches humanism at one’s own risk and peril’. Which is all very well, but it does rather beg the question:  how does this continued support for humanism and the values and practices of the (post-anthropocentric and posthuman) humanities relate to the importance she attaches to affirmative alternatives to dominant visions of the subject and self, to non-profit, collectivity, open source and so forth? If we accept that we live in posthuman times and do want to act according to the rules, guidelines and criteria she sets out for posthuman critical theory and posthuman ethics, does this not require us to ‘move beyond’ the ‘standard parameters and practices’ of the humanities, as Cary Wolfe’s Posthumanities’ suggests?

The very first reference Braidotti makes in The Posthuman is actually to this short (hard to find in its full version) text by Wolfe in which he argues that, instead of ‘reproducing established forms and methods of disciplinary knowledge’, posthumanists need to ‘rethink what they do - theoretically, methodologically, and ethically’. Braidotti mentions it, however, not in relation to any discussion of the possibility of becoming posthumanities, but simply to draw on his description of what is meant by the human after the Enlightenment: ‘The Cartesian subject of the cogito, the Kantian “community of reasonable beings,” or, in more sociological terms, the subject as citizen, rights-holder, property-holder, and so on’. Braidotti does not refer to Wolfe’s ‘Posthumanities’ again in her book. In fact, the only other time she mentions Wolfe (according to her index: actually, Wolfe is also cited on p.70) is in a discussion of the relation of the posthuman to the humanities that immediately follows the above passage about the intrinsic contradictions generated by the anti-humanist stance:

The difficulties inherent in trying to overcome Humanism as an intellectual tradition, a normative frame and institutionalized practice, lie at the core of the deconstructive approach to the posthuman. Derrida opened the discussion by pointing out the violence implicit in the assignation of meaning. His followers pressed the case further: ‘the assertion that Humanism can be decisively left behind ironically subscribes to a basic humanist assumption with regard to violition and agency, as if the ‘end’ of Humanism might be subjected to human control, as if we bear the capacity to erase the traces of Humanism from either the present or an imagined future’ (Peterson, 2011: 128). The emphasis falls therefore on the difficulty of erasing the trace of the epistemic violence by which a non-humanist position might be carved out of the institutions of Humanism. The acknowledgment of epistemic violence goes hand in hand with the recognition of the real-life violence which was and still is practised against non-human animals and the dehumanized social and political ‘others’ of the humanist norm. In this deconstructive tradition, Cary Wolfe (What is Posthumanism?) is especially interesting, as he attempts to strike a new position that combines sensitivity to epistemic and word-historical violence with a distinctly trans-humanist faith in the potential of the post-human condition as conducive to human enhancement.

Braidotti takes this as further support for her decision to argue for the development of a posthuman humanities studies, rather than a posthumanities, as a means of moving beyond the contradictions and tensions between humanism and anti-humanism.

It is interesting, then, that one place where the issue of the violence implicit in the assignation of meaning has been raised in relation to The Posthuman is precisely with regard to Braidotti’s reductionist and rather negative attitude toward philosophical theories associated with so-called ‘post-structuralism’ and deconstruction. (And this is in spite of what she says about wanting to avoid, indeed transcend, negativity, and support a ‘monistic philosophy which rejects dualism’ in order to ‘overcome dialectical oppositions’ and engender ‘non-dialectical understandings of materialism’.) Braidotti’s complaint about critical thought ‘after the great explosion of theoretical creativity of the 1970s and 1980s’, is that it was as if ‘we had entered a zombified landscape of repetition without difference'. Now I can understand why she might say this (although zombified does seem a rather a harsh word to use). Without doubt post-structuralism did in certain hands become yet another orthodoxy (the usual move is to castigate literature departments in the US as being the chief offenders). Still, if we are going to make statements about the zombified landscape of theory it’s probably best to try to avoid slipping into similar zombie repetitions ourselves as much as we can. Unfortunately, this is not something Braidotti manages to achieve, as her comments about the ‘limitations’ of deconstruction’s ‘linguistic frame of reference’ being the reason she prefers to take a more ‘materialist route’ when dealing with the posthuman bear witness.

Oversimplified position statements of this nature are not confined to Braidotti’s book of course. In fact, if there isn’t one already, someone should set up a blog to record them all. They could do worse than begin with examples of the repetitive rhetoric that is often used to divide the history of critical theory into movements, moments, trends or turns (the cultural turn, linguistic turn, affective turn, visual turn, computational turn, materialist turn and so on). And from there the associated attempts to replace one mode, orientation or attitude of thought with another (e.g. textualism with realism and materialism, negative critique with constructive and creative affirmation, representational with non-representational theory, and the emphasis on lack of post-structuralist psychoanalysis with the ‘desiring theory’ of much ‘Deleuzianism’), by declaring that we ‘no longer’ live in one era and  now belong to another (be it that represented by the shift from hegemony to post-hegemony, social constructivism to monism, or indeed the ‘speculative turn’ away from the previous ‘deconstructionist era’ and the subsequent ‘period dominated by Deleuze’).  

Another reason I am interested in Braidotti’s book in addition to those I have already provided, however, is because I can’t help wondering if her uncritical repetition of certain reductive refrains regarding critical theory – despite the respect she professes to have for it and for her post-1968 teachers, who included not only Deleuze but Foucault and Irigaray too - is connected to the (non-)decisions she makes over non-profit, open source, and collective ways of acting, working and thinking as a philosopher and theorist, and about not pushing further toward becoming posthumanities. Take Braidotti’s claim that:

The posthuman subject is not… poststructuralist, because it does not function within the linguistic turn or other forms of deconstruction. Not being framed by the ineluctable powers of signification, it is consequently not condemned to seek adequate representation of its existence within a system that is constitutionally incapable of granting due recognition….
The posthuman nomadic subject is materialist and vitalist.

What is being given yet another outing here, as Stefan Herbrechter points out, is the by now all too familiar antagonism over ‘affirmation and negativity, action and decision’, the material and language, between those approaches inspired by Gilles Deleuze and those more influenced by Jacques Derrida. Given the emphasis placed in The Posthuman on being both critical and creative, the issue here is ‘where and at what level the “critical” would “bite”’, or 'cut' as Karen Barad would have it. For those steeped in a rigorous engagement with the philosophy of Derrida - with whose name deconstruction is most closely associated, but with whose texts Braidotti does not engage in any detail in The Posthuman, often relying on commentaries instead - ‘this would at least also have to occur at the level of language (or discourse)’, as Herbrechter rightly emphasizes.  This would in turn render problematic Braidotti’s attempt to distance her theory of the posthuman subject from modes of critical thought concerned with representation, signification and the linguistic:

Not only does Braidotti here somewhat betray her own intellectual ‘cartography’ but she is also arguably ridding the future humanities of their most important methodology on which, precisely, the critical potential of posthumanism will depend: namely making sure everyone remembers that the argument about the posthuman is fought precisely at the level of representation, symbolic meaning and thus (amongst other ‘media’) in language.

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