Friday, September 26, 2008

outline of my field paper I am writing. Any and all feedback welcomed.


Critical Animal:
Biopolitics and the Common.

The agony of the rat or the slaughter of a calf remains present in thought not through pity but as the zone of exchange between man and animal in which something of one passes into the other.

- Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?

Section I: Introduction.

Besides wanting to introduce the ground by which the rest of the paper will take place, the biopolitical and the common, I will also want to affirm my concern for animals, as such. Concerning most of the rest of the paper could be argued from a perspective that really only cares about humans, I want to make sure that from the beginning I am committed to ending the slaughter of animals.

Section II: Remnants of Animals: An Ontology of the Damned

1. A Brief History of Biopolitics.

Begin with a brief history of the word, biopolitics. First coined by Rudolf Kjellén, in his 1916 book Staten som Lifsform (The State as Form of Life). Trace the word’s connection to the concept of lebensraum (living-space), and the naturalization of the state that blurs the inside of the state and the outside of the state, demanding both colonialism and a cutting away of the internal parasites of the state. This thought will achieve its fullest theoretical reflection in the 1920s work Staatsbiologie: Anatomie, Phisiologie, Pathologie des Staates by Jakob von Uexkull. (Uexkull’s importance for understanding animals pervades the work by Heidegger, Deleuze and Guattari, and Agamben). Trace this to Foucault’s concept of the biopolitical as a consent unresolved dialectic between life and politics. Explain how this dialectic plays out in the concept of biohistory (in history of sexuality) and the racial history (in Society Must Be Defended). End with the notion of the thantopolitical.

2. Metaphysical Machines

Explain Agamben’s proliferation of metaphysical machines in his work. Focus on two machines, the state of exception and the anthropological machine (which are the primary machines behind sovereignty and biopolitics, respectively). Despite criticisms to the contrary, both of these machines have not just an ontological make-up, but also a historical and genealogical character. Both machines also operate in very similar ways. Both are fundamentally kenomatic and empty, both work not by producing positive content, but rather by producing a zone of indetermination. Indeed, both simultaneously produce caesuras that force things to be considered either one or the other (legal or illegal, human or animal), while at the same time making sure that there is no way to every truly know what is what. Everything is potentially illegal, everyone is potentially an animal. Explain the precise characteristics of these two machines. Lastly, Agamben’s answer to these machines are the same well, render them inoperative through study.

3. The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon

We can observe the full nature of sovereign power and biopolitics meeting in the annual American ritual of the Thanksgiving Turkey pardon. Fiskesjo invites us to view this ritual in a critical way, but does not take it to its full radical conclusions. First of all we have displayed before us an act of pardoning, which is always a temporal miracle given to the sovereign. But the pardon is also the moment in which we see starkly the power to make dead or let live. At the same time, of what crime is the thanksgiving turkey guilty of? Indeed, the turkeys, genetically modified, seldom live out the year. In this production of life, we also have the full display of the biopolitical power, the power to make live and let die. We have here the co-terminus nature of sovereign power and biopolitics, which results in a thantopolitics.

4. A Fabrication of Corpses

It is now almost a cliché, following the analysis of the Agamben and Foucault, that the death camps of the Nazis represent one of the most profound moments of the meeting of sovereign power and biopolitics. Of course, what makes this so? Why the death camps, as opposed to other sources of state violence and death? Perhaps an answer is found in Arendt’s concept of the fabrication of corpses. To paraphrase her, it was not just who was killed, or how many, but the manner, the fabrication of corpses and so on. However, the death camps did not appear out of thin air. They were rooted in the practices, still relatively new, of factory farming. Models like the Chicago meat packing industry were used in designing the functioning of the death camps. While Arendt came to understand that genocide operated as an inverted murder; instead of concealing the identity of the killer, the purpose of the genocide is to wipe away forever the identity of the victim; the propose of factory farming is always to leave behind remnants of animals.

5. Dying Without Death.

Arendt wasn’t the only one to use the phrase fabrication of corpses; Heidegger did as well in his discussion of man-made mass death. What emerges in his discussion is his argument that the victims of man-made mass death certainly were killed, they did not experience death. He reveals that his real horror of the death camps was that humans became just like animals, unable to experience their own death. This is the first lesson of the ontology of the damned; the damned do not die. They cease living, but the damned do not die. Not death that is recognized in any way we have come to understand death. Neither meaningful nor mourningful, the damned experience a death that is not death.

6. Living Without Life.

The production of life itself, that is at the heart of factory farming, is haunted by its lack of actual life. Many of the animals breed to die are no longer capable of life. Much like the thanksgiving turkey, their bodies cannot sustain life in the long term. This is the second lesson of the ontology of the damned, living without life. A biopolitical production of life that lives until they are let to die. Animals in factory farms most fully embody what Wyschogrod terms a death-world; alive, but with no life-world.

7. Living Dead, Deading Life, and the Ontology of the Damned.

Contemporary theory is obsessed with figurations of the living dead. Specters, ghosts, musselmen, zombies, vampires; these are all figures of something that should be dead but for some reason remain alive. They are one figuration of the damned. The animals of the factory farm are something else entirely. They are the deading life, those that alive but somehow already dead. They are the perfection of the thantopolitical, and the basis of which contemporary productions of the damned depend.

Section III: The Closed: An Ontology of the Common

1. Animal’s Poverty

Heidegger proposed that while humans are world-forming, animals are fundamentally poor in the world. Explain what this means. Point out at the end that Heidegger explains the poverty with a play of words all rooted in nem. Animals are captivated by the world, whereas humans are able to capture the world. In all these plays (being captured by the world, or being able to capture the world) is all played out in words whose root is nem, and nem is rooted in nomos.

2. Schmitt’s Nomos

Explain Schmitt’s concept of the nomos as simultaneous production, distribution, and fundamentally land acquisition. Explain how this is for Schmitt the root of concrete economic and political existence. Also, explain how Deleuze and Guattari’s apparatus of capture depends on a fundamentally similar process. End with Schmitt’s connection of Nomos to the name.

3. A Brief History of the Person

Follow Mauss’ concept of the person. The person is historically rooted in rituals of owning and acquiring things. Indeed, it is only through rituals of owning things that we are able to become a person, acquire a name. Mention that the turkeys pardoned are always given a name.

4. Deleuze and Guattari’s Nomos

Contrast their nomos with Schmitt’s. Explain their nomos as rooted in a refusal to acquire land in the same way that Schmitt understands land acquisition. Their nomos is the nomos of the nomad, who functions much like Schmitt’s pirate. Indeed, the nomad even sees the land as if it is the ocean. This nomos belongs to nomands, it belongs to animals.

5. Poverty and Opportunism.

The poverty of the animal is one that refuses the transcendental. The animal always is stuck not in the humans world, but the haptic environment. The animal therefore is always rooted in a place of opportunism.

6. Becoming-animal, becoming-anonymous.

Section IV: Conclusion.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back, and with a book suggestion

Sorry I've been gone so long. And thanks to everyone who has kept up reading. I ended up taking the summer off, and then taking a while to get into the swing of the beginning of the semester. But the blog will be up and running again.
Today I want to also give a shout out to a new, interesting book. Please pick up and copy and read:

"Incomparable. Post-genre horror, apocalypse theology and the philosophy of oil, crossbred into a new and necessary codex." – China Miéville, author of Perdido Street Station

"Reading Negarestani is like being converted to Islam by Salvador Dali." – Graham Harman, author of Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things

Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials by Reza Negarestani has been published by and is now available. You can look for it in fine bookstores throughout the world or order it online:

Amazon (US):

Bookdepository (UK and the rest of the world):

CYCLONOPEDIA is a theory-fiction by Iranian philosopher and writer Reza Negarestani. Hailed by novelists, philosophers and cinematographers, Negarestani's work is the first horror and science fiction book coming from and written on the Middle East.

"The Middle East is a sentient entity – it is alive!" concludes renegade Iranian archaeologist Dr. Hamid Parsani, before disappearing under mysterious circumstances. The disordered notes he leaves behind testify to an increasingly deranged preoccupation with oil as the lubricant of historical and political narratives.

A young American woman arrives in Istanbul to meet a pseudonymous online acquaintance who never arrives. Discovering a strange manuscript in her hotel room, she follows up its cryptic clues only to discover more plot-holes, and begins to wonder whether her friend was a fictional quantity all along.

Meanwhile, as the War on Terror escalates, the US is dragged into an asymmetrical engagement with occultures whose principles are ancient, obscure, and saturated in oil. It is as if war itself is feeding upon the warmachines, leveling cities into the desert, seducing the aggressors into the dark heart of oil ...

At once a horror fiction, a work of speculative theology, an atlas of demonology, a political samizdat and a philosophic grimoire, CYCLONOPEDIA is work of theory-fiction on the Middle East, where horror is restlessly heaped upon horror. Reza Negarestani bridges the appalling vistas of contemporary world politics and the War on Terror with the archaeologies of the Middle East and the natural history of the Earth itself. CYCLONOPEDIA is a middle-eastern Odyssey, populated by archeologists, jihadis, oil smugglers, Delta Force officers, heresiarchs, corpses of ancient gods and other puppets. The journey to the Underworld begins with petroleum basins and the rotting Sun, continuing along the tentacled pipelines of oil, and at last unfolding in the desert, where monotheism meets the Earth's tarry dreams of insurrection against the Sun.
Praise for Cyclonopedia

"It is rare when a mind has the courage to take our precious pre-conceptions of history, geography and language and turn them all upside down, into a living cauldron, where ideas and spaces become alive with fluidity and movement and breathe again with imagination and wonder. In this great novel by Reza Negarestani, we are taken on a journey that predates language and post dates history. It is all at once apocalyptic and a beautiful explosive birth of a wholly original perception and meditation on what exactly is this stuff we call 'knowledge'." – E. Elias Merhige, director of Begotten

"This brilliant and exhilarating work is a forensic journey across the surface territories of the Middle East and into the depth of its sub-terrain. The earth is produced as a living artifact, gutted and hollowed out by nomadic war tactics, the practices of extreme archaeology and the logic of petroleum extraction. Inventing a radical new language and reconceptualizing the relationship between religion, geology, and ways of war, Reza Negarestani philosophically ungrounds thus the very grounds of contemporary middle-east politics." – Eyal Weizman, author of Hollow Land

"Cyclonopedia is an extraordinary tract, an uncategorizable hybrid of philosophical fiction, heretical theology, aberrant demonology and renegade archaeology. It aligns conceptual stringency with exacting esotericism, and through its sacrilegious formulae, geopolitical epilepsy is scried as in an obsidian mirror." – Ray Brassier, author of Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction

"Reza Negarestani's Cyclonopedia is rich and strange, and utterly compelling. Ranging from the chthonic mysteries of petroleum to the macabre fictions of H. P. Lovecraft, and from ancient Islamic (and pre-Islamic) wisdom to the terrifying realities of postmodern asymmetrical warfare, Negarestani excavates the hidden prehistory of global culture in the 21st century." – Steven Shaviro, author of Doom Patrols

"The Cyclonopedia manuscript remains one of the few books to rigorously and honestly ask what it means to open oneself to a radically non-human life – this is a text that screams, from a living assemblage known as the Middle East, 'I am legion.' Cyclonopedia also constitutes part of a new generation of writing that refuses to be called either theory or fiction; a heady mixture of philosophy, the occult, and the tentacular fringes of Iranian culture – call it 'occultural studies.' To find a comparable work, one would have to look back to Von Junzt's Unaussprechlichen Kulten, the prose poems of Olanus Wormius, or to the recent 'Neophagist' commentaries on the Book of Eribon." – Eugene Thacker, author of Biomedia

"From the city of Poetry and Roses in Iran comes this bloody bypass surgery on the heart of darkness." – David Porush, author of Soft Machine: The Cybernetic Fiction

"Negarestani's Cyclonopedia meticulously plots the occult matrices of an archaic petrochemical conspiracy that has set the earth on its carbon-cycle feedback loop to Hell." – John Cussans, Chelsea College of Art and Design

"Western readers can expect their peculiarly schizoid condition to be 'butchered open' by this work. Consider a grotesquely reductive, violent, comic yet still suggestive thesis: Islam is to Negarestani what Marxism is to Bataille. ... Read Negarestani, and pray." – Nick Land, author of The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism

Table of Contents

Incognitum Hactenus

Palaeopetrology: From Gog-Magog Axis to Petropunkism
Excursus I: Incomplete Burning, Pyrodemonism and Napalm-obsession
Machines Are Digging
Excursus II: Memory and ( )hole complex
Pipeline Odyssey: The Z Monologue

An Assyrian Relic
Excursus III: Occult, the State’s Macropolitics and Political Pollution
The Dead Mother of All Contagions
Excursus IV: Meteorological Teratology
Excursus V: Fog oil, a retrospection on obscurants
The Dust Enforcer
Excursus VI: Xeno-agents and the Assyrian Axis of Evil-against-Evil
The Thing: White War and Hypercamouflage
War as a Machine
Excursus VII: The Codex of Yatu

Telluro-magnetic Conspiracy Towards the Sun I: Solar Rattle
Excursus VIII: Barbaric Music and Vowelless Alphabets
Five Billion Years of Hell-engineering
Telluro-magnetic Conspiracy Towards the Sun II: The Core
Excursus IX: Dracolatry, Writing with the Middle East
Mesopotamian Axis of Communication
Excursus X: Az and Destrudo

Excursus XI: Life Modeling

A Good Meal: The Schizotrategic Edge
The Z. crowd: The Infested Germ-cell of Monotheism
Excursus XII: The Heretical Holocaust
Excursus XII: Schizotrategy and the Dawn of Paranoia