Everything, all the time

As a piece of writing, I think my favorite part of the Bradotti book was the introduction. I felt like I could’ve read an entire book of these vignettes and her commentary on them.

But then I got to thinking: I feel like this kind of writing, wherein a lot of discrete data points regarding “the contemporary” are hurled at the reader with some to no comment, has become sort of a trope of writing about post-humanism. I can find it here or here or here or here or here. I’m thinking of it as a particular form of writing that I want to call the posthuman litany. I think it kind of has its roots in like the old cyberpunk style of prose that drives toward a sensory overload that is meant to gesture toward some sensation of futurity.

In fact, that’s the main thing I get out of reading these kind of posthuman litanties: that the writer is trying to gesture toward some big, looming shape that all these data points are meant to indicate (in the sense of index). But the more I think about it, I often find it all too convenient that the big monster (the present, the future, the Anthropocene, the posthuman, the apocalypse) that the litany is meant to connote, is sort of elided by this rhetorical approach. This is why it frustrates me a little bit in Bradotti’s book (and a lot of “posthumanist” thinking that I’ve looked at) that, behind the strum and drang of the introduction, the intellectual framework is still the same old poststructuralism that’s been getting warmed over since 1966. I would be really interested to see thinkers who can name the contemporary in its whole rather than by its parts.

I was wondering, from a Digital Humanities perspective, if the move toward empiricism might give an angle toward clarity in this matter of grasping the posthuman, or if its a sideline?

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2 thoughts on “Everything, all the time”

  1. I think your comment that you would “be really interested to see thinkers who can name the contemporary in its whole rather than by its parts” is a really interesting one. It is my impression that a lot of “posthumanist” thinkers, both those who willingly call themselves posthumanist and those who pre-date the rise of posthumanism, attempt to theorize totality and are often times critiqued for it on the basis of essentialism. I wonder then if there’s any way to even properly grasp “the whole,” as you suggest, or if the impossibility of doing so is why posthumanism is so often critiqued for its tendencies toward essentialism.

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  2. Yeah, Joe, I really see what you mean. And I’m not totally sure that I really believe that the “whole” explanation can really be arrived at. But I sort of admire thinkers that are at least taking a stab at it. Sometimes I worry that the scholarly commitment to “the partial” or is maybe (in 2019 rather than 1966 or 1978 or 1990) more ideological than empirical. Maybe we need a critique of the critique of grand narrative too. Maybe we let ourselves get a little too haunted by negation. I do know that the sort of litany of posthuman weirdness that I described above seems at the same time a gesture toward totality and an avoidance of explaining it, and that just seems like a half measure to me. But I also am just not quite sure about any of this.

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