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Theory and Philosophy

In Thrall

In Thrall

How can we get closer to the wounded belly of the world?

Choose your own birth adventure: either you come out of a dark vagina or an iridescent anus. Taking over for Spinoza, the receding figure who is always with us, Kafka laughs at the childishness of a second creation story. In his work, the animal speaks while the human is, ultimately, struck dumb by anal bureaucracies of his own making. Legal fictions estrange humans from each other and create, in the most sensitive souls, fissures that never heal.

Circle of Visibility

Circle of Visibility

The familiar shadow of American self-realization

What is the remedy for dropping a bomb on fellow human beings, allowing their homes and the homes of their neighbors to burn to the ground, shooting at those trying to escape the fire, giving near life sentences to the survivors, and then, covertly, keeping the bones of those who died in the attack as trophies? What is the remedy for the creation and maintenance of the carceral state?

Fire in the Hold

Fire in the Hold

On Afropessimism

Inasmuch as the end of the world already feels imminent — we are, after all, staring down mass racial injustice, environmental catastrophe, and a global pandemic — vague gestures toward a radical restructuring of society without even a basic blueprint feel, if not incomplete, indicative of a failure of imagination.

Game of Groans

Game of Groans

Green Hitlers, narrative prostheses, and the final episode of the world-pummeling HBO blockbuster

As the fanboys and reply guys will leap to point out, Game of Thrones is set in a fantasy world and thus is not offering us a historically accurate version of the European medieval past. But it is, at another level, just as obviously set in a version of that past, albeit one with giants and dragons and the living dead. And insofar as that temporal orientation is the case, in its final maneuvers the show cheats its viewers of the capacity to respect the very pastness of that past by overlaying a presentist moral logic of political development onto it. In this narcissistic political schema, characters who are untroubled by monarchy are evil, while characters who support electoral systems are good. The effect of this rigged historical framework is to generate a smug sense of quasi-recognition, coating the sedimented layers of a past-that-never-was with a zesty little spritz of incipience.

Meeting Needs

Meeting Needs

If movements’ labor produces change in society, who then produces the movement?

Political meetings rely upon social reproductive labor: washing dishes, caring for children, feeding participants. But the meeting itself also presents a reproductive challenge: how do participants sit, in what sequence do they speak, how do they address one another? The stakes of these questions are high, and can ultimately sustain or destroy us. These sorts of high stakes are why Silvia Federici lifts up movements that “place at the center of their political project the restructuring of reproduction as the crucial terrain for the transformation of social relations.” The work of reproducing movements is not only that of sharing the invisible labor that makes a meeting possible; it is also about attending to the ritual practices of meetings themselves, like speaking and listening, that foster and maintain relations of activism. This is the work of meeting needs.