Theory, Culture and Society

Published by SAGE Publications
Online ISSN: 0263-2764
Publications
Article
This article argues that the life-works of Norbert Elias and Franz Borkenau can Lest he understood together, as they were developed in close interaction during the 1930s. Deriving inspiration from Freud, they took up the project formulated by Weber at the end of his 'Anticritical Last Word'. However, in two significant respects they went beyond the Weberian problematics. First, overcoming the centrality attributed to economic concerns, they rooted the Western civilizing process in the long-term attempt to harness the violence that was escalated by the emergence and then collapse of the Roman Empire. Second, they emphasized the crucial importance of periods of transition that follow an overall dissolution of order and mark the possible future course of events.
 
Chapter
What fundamental changes in the state, and in the analysis of the state, have been stimulated by economic globalization? In the course of interactions with global markets and regulatory agencies, so-called Asian tiger countries like Malaysia and Indonesia have created new economic possibilities, social spaces and political constellations, which in turn condition their further actions. The shifting relations between market, state, and society have resulted in the state's flexible experimentations with sovereignty. Graduated sovereignty refers to a) the different modes of governing segments of the population who relate or do not relate to global markets; and b) the different mixes of legal compromises and controls tailored to the requirements of special production zones. The Asian financial crisis further demonstrates the concept of graduation in that the market-oriented agenda can mean different things, strengthening state power and protections in certain areas, but not in others.
 
Article
Although the concept of information is an inherently qualitative entity implying the capacity for meaning creation, in the historical development of this concept there has been a consistent emphasis on quantitative aspects. The generalization of the information concept from a specialized military term to a concept of broad social application occurred during the period when society as a whole became militarized in the 1930s and 1940s. After the Second World War, with the development of systematic information theory and the spread of computers in society, the military associations of the information concept gradually became obscured. But the popularity of information society theory in Japan and the USA indicates a need to review the military associations of its key concept. Today, with the development and spread of numerous global and local media, the information phenomena are experienced in a manner that far outstrips the narrow confines of the concept's history. So the concept of information needs to be understood as a field of struggle in which different definitions confront each other leading to the creation of new practices and alternative concepts.
 
Article
A received criticism of information is that it is an instrumentalization of knowledge. This article questions the conditions for such a critique. Examining developmental systems theory, biology and social sciences, it argues that information is a situated event; that it is intrinsic to the development and (de)structuring of mnemic organization (meaning) at a number of levels; and that such developmental systems are epigenetically constituted. This concept of information leads to: a critique of the statistical-quantitative determination of information that is put forward as its mathematical theorization; a review of characterizations of ‘information societies’; and comprehending instrumentalization as a variant of the event of information at the specific level of the constitution of the human understood as an anthropotechnical complex.
 
Article
The university is an archaic institution and can claim to have a more or less continuous history over more than two millennia and, at least in the forms that prevail today, could be regarded as a ‘Western’ institution. However, the combination of globalization and cybernation will set the parameters for the next round of the university's development. A trend will be the growth of global universities, both virtual and land-based. At the same time, the growth of professional life outside of and between institutions has lessened dependency on them, and the academic intelligentsia has become interconnected as never before.
 
Article
This essay traces the increased centrality of technology to social life across the period of modernity. It examines major shifts in thinking about technology which underpin the shift from industrial to post-industrial society, and the emergence of concepts such as ‘technoscience’ and ‘technoculture’. It argues that a critical analysis of technology must probe the way that histories of technological progress have been implicated in colonial hierarchies privileging the West. In examining the extension of technology from machines that make things to ‘machines that think’, including biotechnology and computerized ‘aritificial life’, something implied in every historical iteration of technology is laid bare: defining the technological activates the border between nature and culture, and goes to the heart of what it means to be human.
 
Article
This article explores the hermeneutical force and flexibility of the 9/11 idiom, by identifying some ways in which it served as an interpretative framework for the attacks of 26 November 2008 in Mumbai. The idiom’s transposition to Mumbai represented, in part, a contest over American rhetorical capital. Re-territorialized as ‘India’s 9/11’, the idiom has re-signified a range of local interests, aspirations, and contests over urban space and identity in Mumbai. In this context, I examine two symmetrical developments within the civic spaces of the city in the immediate aftermath. The first involves the emergence of an upwardly mobile middle class and elite as it took the form of collective survivor-spectator, appearing as a coherent, highly visible and effective public agent. The second involves an apparent suspension of competing narratives of urban terror, which in the past have been enacted through demotic violence in the form of the communal riot. The article suggests that these developments in Mumbai must be read through the city’s incorporation into an emergent narrative of ‘global’ or so-called ‘9/11-type’ terror. In the case of 26/11, the terrorist attacks were possibly understood as the exercise of ideological indifference to identity, as levelling the value and distinction of moral communities to the abject experience of sheer bodily life.
 
Article
Subject to severe financial constraints while operating within a regime of moral panics driven by the `war on terrorism', higher education in the United States faces both a legitimation crisis and a political crisis. With its increasing reliance on Pentagon and corporate interests, the academy has largely opened its doors to serving private and governmental interests and in doing so has compromised its role as a democratic public sphere. This article situates the development of the university as a militarized knowledge factory within the broader context of what I call the biopolitics of militarization and its increasing influence and power within American society after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Highlighting and critically engaging the specific ways in which the forces of militarization are shaping various aspects of university life, this article focuses on the growth of militarized knowledge and research, the increasing development of academic programs and schools that serve military personnel, and the ongoing production of military values and subject positions on US campuses. It also charts how the alliance between the university and the national security state has undermined the university as a site of criticism, dissent and critical dialogue.
 
Article
Moving on after September 11 will require more than just eliminating organized terrorist networks and providing humanitarian aid, crucial as these two interventions are. There is a much larger landscape of multiple devastations in the global south that the global north cannot escape. While socio-economic devastation may not cause terrorism directly, it does promote extreme responses, such as trafficking in people, and can facilitate recruitment of young people for terrorist activity, both random and organized. These multiple devastations need to be addressed - by world and country leaders, by the supra-national system, by NGOs, by global civil society, by corporate economic actors. The article confines itself to the need for governments' action through new specialized multilateralisms and internationalisms. It argues that we can even make a narrow utilitarian case that it is in the global north's interest to address these issues. The particular cases through which the argument is developed are the growing hyper-indebtedness in the global south and the accumulation of contradictions in the immigration regime prevalent in the global north. Examining these is a way of dissecting the nature of the challenge and identifying specific governance deficits.
 
Article
In an example of Enlightenment ‘engaged research' and public intellectual practice, Euler established the basis of topology and graph theory through his solution to the puzzle of whether a stroll around the seven bridges of 18th-century Königsberg (Kaliningrad) was possible without having to cross any given bridge twice. This ‘Manifesto' argues that, born in a form of cultural studies, topology offers 21st-century researchers a model for mapping the dynamics of time as well as space, allowing the rigorous description of events, situations, changing cultural formations and social spatializations. Law and Mol's network spaces, Serre's folded time, Massey’s ‘power geometries’, Lefebvre's ‘production of space’ and ‘rhythmanalysis’ can be developed through a cultural topological sensitivity that allows time to be understood as not only progressive but cyclical, relationships and the ‘reach’ of power can be understood through ‘knots', and a topology of experience to model the ‘plushness of the Real' via extra- and over-dimensioned time-spaces that capture nuance while drawing on systematic conceptual resources.
 
Article
The article records the three stages of work undertaken to assemble a single organized corpus of Simmel’s dispersed writings after his death in September 1918. This incudes a first phase of work by Gertrud Simmel and Gertrud Kantorowicz from the years of the Weimar Republic, a second phase from the post-1945 period, overseen by Michael Landmann and Kurt Gassen, and a third phase, inaugurated in the 1980s by a team of scholars at Bielefeld University headed by Otthein Rammstedt and – initially – Niklas Luhmann, which resulted in the 24 volumes in print today with Suhrkamp Verlag.
 
Article
In recent critical studies, according to Gibson, a sustained and profound critique of Fanon has been launched by feminist and postcolonialist theorists over the past decade, focusing on ‘Algeria Unveiled’. By and large, this critique explores what Fanon calls the ‘historical dynamism of the veil’: the ways in which women strategically donned or removed the veil to subvert French colonialism, and the role women played in the Algerian War. Some theorists criticize Fanon for eulogizing the retrograde tradition of the veil and for ‘normalizing gender inequality’. Others reproach him for his Orientalizing views. A number of critics confuse his pronouncements on the impact of the war which revolutionized the Algerian society and gender relation with the reactionary policies implemented in post-independent Algeria. To fathom the political and ethical concerns raised by Fanon, concerns which such criticism eschews, I propose to read Fanon’s ‘Algeria Unveiled’ in tandem with Bourdieu’s Algeria 1960 against the physical and symbolic violence to which Algerian women were subjected as they were coerced to remove their veil.
 
Article
This article makes the controversial argument that Bourdieu’s theory of practice offers both a model of transformation and social reproduction. However, it also claims that his account of cultural production is marred by two blind-spots. First, it contends that Bourdieu has neglected key forms of material support, notably, that offered, post-war, from the ‘left hand of the state’. The subsequent New Wave of 1950s and 1960s British drama had authors who possessed neither economic capital nor certified cultural capital. Secondly, it interrogates Bourdieu’s conclusion that popular culture can never be source of canonized art. Adopting the view that Bourdieu focused too exclusively on legitimate culture, it seeks to contrast his theories on this point with the approach developed by Raymond Williams. The last section sketches a Bourdieusian analysis of Bourdieu. It reads his writings in the light of the different origins of the British and French fields of cultural studies.
 
Article
This introduction will be followed by two larger parts. The first one aims at describing significant changes in the lust balance since the sexual revolution. It is subdivided according to the four phases that are distinguished. The first phase is the sexual revolution itself. The second one, a phase of transition from the end of the 1970s to the mid-1980s, is characterised by the shift from 'sexual liberation' to 'sexual oppression'. In the third phase, there is a lust revival, and in the fourth, from the early 1990s onwards, a lust and love revival continues. The second part of this article consists of an attempt at interpreting and explaining these changes by presenting them as regularities in processes of integration and civilisation.
 
Article
This article explores the role of photography in the global work of justice by way of a case study. It focuses on the publication, in December 2001, of a set of photographs by the Mexican newsweekly Proceso, depicting events that occurred in Mexico City on 2 October 1968. Taken at the culmination of a summer of student activism, when the military opened fire on student demonstrators and bystanders, the published photographs showed previously hidden scenes of detention and torture. Locating the publication of these photographs in relation to the historical processes of democratic reform in Mexico, the article aims to contribute to debates regarding the agency of photographic images in the visual politics of humanitarianism, shifting the emphasis away from questions of whether photographs work, to explore instead how they work. In particular, it focuses on the circumstances that authorized the simultaneous entry of the photographs of 1968 into the Mexican and international media spheres, and seeks to illuminate broader questions regarding their specifically photographic mode of address and the intersection between the national settings in which human rights abuses take place and testimonial appeals addressed to a global imagined community.
 
Article
In this interview with Jean Grondin, Gadamer discusses the meaning ‘linguisticality’ and acknowledges his intellectual debt to Heidegger, Augustine, Vico and classical Greek philosophy. Heidegger’s influence on Gadamer can be seen in Gadamer’s awareness of pernicious ontological effects of the Latinization of European language, his awareness of the centrality of technology to the understanding of contemporary philosophical problems and the idea that ‘language speaks’. From Augustine, Gadamer derived his theory of the word as that which cannot be known and brought under control; from Vico the idea that language is rhetorical; and from classical philosophy the Aristotelian idea of phronesis and the Platonic idea that the idea of beauty is inseparable from the idea of the good. Gadamer concludes the interview with a discussion of the need for humanity to overcome its present fascination with technology.
 
Article
Violence may be productively understood as a secularized theological concept. Doing so challenges claims that secularism is necessary to prevent religious violence, and it also challenges claims for a Christian triumphalist alternative. William Cavanaugh’s embrace of such a triumphalism is called into question when his genealogical method is interrogated in light of the Foucaultian genealogical project.
 
Article
This article discusses Eurocentric history, its focus on the Renaissance and modernity, which continues also in recent global history perspectives. Goody’s argument regarding renaissances in the plural situates Europe in the wider field of Eurasia and deeper in time, going back to the Bronze Age, characterized by plough agriculture, the use of animal traction and urban cultures. Goody’s perspective includes viewing renascences as accelerations and leaps in the circulation of information. Since it is always the trope of the modern that marks Eurocentric claims, unpacking modernity is central to scrutinizing this construction. Goody shows that Europe is a late-comer rather than a forerunner to major strands of modernity. A wider question this account poses is: if Renaissance in the singular produces modernity in the singular, do renaissances in the plural produce modernities in the plural?
 
Article
The High Line – a public park on a repurposed railway track in New York City – first opened to the public in 2009, and has been increasingly celebrated as a model public space, and as a democratic project directed by community. Artistic and amateur photographic practices have significantly informed the High Line’s design, landscaping, publicity, urban policy, use and constellations of community. This photo-conceptual essay critically considers the constitutive function of the photographic image, as photography produces, interpellates and defines the public and public sphere of the High Line. However, these imaging practices have also taken increasingly regulated form, and endorse conservative forms of community, personhood and publicness. The new park’s imaging practices may be understood as supplementary to neoliberal forms of property accumulation, in fact diminishing public space even as they purport to represent it. Drawing from the historical avant-garde, feminist critiques of representation and anti-capitalist urban theory, the following photographic series critiques the High Line’s photographic apparatus, from within a practice of photography, and from a position within the field of contemporary art.
 
Article
The relationship between opera and gay subcultures (especially male), lifestyle practices and consumerism has been noted by cultural critics and musicologists - the former in affirmative terms, the latter largely hostile. This article explores this relationship initially through a review of the existing literature before concentrating on the striking affinities in the discursive construction of both cultural forms. In the modem era, both opera and homo- sexuality have been stigmatized and marginalized in their respective rationalizing `scientific' domains: musicology and sexology. Both have been authoritatively declared unhealthy, both reconstructed out of the distinctive repressions of Victorianism, both subsequently searching for inclusion and legitimacy.
 
Article
The abrupt climate change thesis suggests that climate passes through threshold transitions after which change is sudden, runaway and unstoppable. This concurs with recent themes in complexity studies. Data from ice cores indicates that major shifts in global climate regimes have occurred in as little as a decade, and that for most of the span of human existence climate has oscillated much more violently than it has over the last 10,000 years. This evidence presents enormous challenges for international climate change negotiation and regulation, which has thus far focussed on gradual change. It is argued that existing social theoretic engagements with physical agency are insufficiently geared towards dissonant or disastrous physical events. Wagering on the past and future importance of abrupt climate change, the paper explores a way of engaging with catastrophic climatic change that stresses the inherent volatility and unpredictability of earth process, and the no-less inherent vulnerability of the human body. Drawing on Bataille and Derrida, it proposes a way of nestling the issue of environmental justice within a broader sense of immeasurable indebtedness to those humans who endured previous episodes of abrupt climate, and considers the idea of experimentation and generosity without reserve.
 
Article
Edward W. Said’s Orientalism has attained canonical status as the key study of the cultural politics of western representation of the East, specifically the imaginative geographies underwriting constructions such as the Middle East and the Islamic world. The Ottoman Empire overlapped both European and exteriorized Oriental space during much of the period that Said dealt with, yet while the existence of the empire is referred to in Said’s study, the theoretical implications of that presence for his critique of Orientalist discourse are not. The material presence of the Ottoman state, in the Arabic-speaking lands, but also crucially, and for a longer period, much of south-east Europe and Anatolia, highlights long-standing Oriental geopolitical and cultural agency in the face of unidirectional narratives of western encroachment. Attention to the specific discursive manoeuvres undertaken by the West to handle that disruptive, intrinsic Ottoman presence in Europe itself may add traction to the notion that the Orient was imagined as a radically exterior point of comparison. It is argued that the history of western representation of the Ottoman Empire constitutes a pre-Orientalist discourse, whose dual, perennial purpose is to make pragmatic accommodation for an Ottoman Oriental material presence in Europe yet never to fully acknowledge its discursive presence as being of Europe. I argue that by supplementing Said’s critique with a full consideration of the Ottoman legacy, a reformulation is possible that integrates the Islamic Orient as an intrinsic component of historically informed notions of European space, while dissolving notions of the absolute distinction of that latter construct from the wider milieus in which it is embedded.
 
Article
This article explores the ideological and historical basis of new authoritarian South Asian and Hindu movements, and considers the links between their ideologies and the history of racial and ethnic formations in the west during the Enlightenment period. Using Paul Gilroy's work on radical black conservatism as a starting point, the author explores some of the metaphysical ideas behind the late modern recovery of primordial ethnic belonging. The author considers the possibilities of a volkish anti-racism in contemporary movements by highlighting the similarities between contemporary right-wing Hindu revival and older German romantic strands that cultivated `primordial' nationalisms based on an appropriation of archaic Vedic scriptures. The background to the concept `Aryan' is explored. The author considers how many far-right ideas about ethnicity and nationalism have found a deep resonance in `New Age' writings. The conclusion links these themes to a broader discussion of metaphysical ideas.
 
Article
The speculative philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead offers critical social and cultural theory an unusual way of rethinking the place and value of experience in its concerns. This article explores the challenges that Whitehead's approach to experience, deliberately contrasted with the subject-object thinking of modernity, creates. The article seeks to provide an account of the importance of Whitehead's appeal to naïve experience and of how this appeal counters some of the problems of more recent and more familiar accounts of the fate of experience which draw on some of the same historical points of reference — especially Romantic poetry. In particular, the article suggests that Whitehead's broadly impersonal conception of the open structure of experience as constructive process mitigates the `pathos of finitude' attendant upon critical accounts which presume the unity of experience and then ask how this unity is shattered under modernity. Whitehead's work is situated transversally to analysis and phenomenology and is argued to accord a value to and role for abstraction which calls for a more experimental approach to the topic. While `naïve experience' clearly differs from the understanding of experience evident in other accounts, the article also suggests that it is not incompatible with a more Foucauldian kind of singular history.
 
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Focusing especially on Science and the Modern World, this article explores Whitehead's understanding of the social contexts and repercussions of mathematical and scientific abstraction. It investigates his remarks on the need to offset pernicious practices of abstraction in the context of a renewed concern with the link between conceptuality and materiality in social theory. Whitehead's inquiry into the problematic legacy of Galileo and scientific materialism is then contrasted with a different diagnosis of the abstractive maladies of modern society, the one put forward under the Marxist rubric of `real abstraction'. While both stances allow us to explore the social repercussions of abstractive practices, it is argued that an understanding of the practically abstract character of capitalism permits us to identify the limits of Whitehead's pedagogical wish to reform our culture of abstraction.
 
Article
Drawing on contemporary pragmatic philosophy and grounded in a reading of techniques associated with digital media as sophist practices of influence and manipulation, this paper proposes an ‘experimental’ reading of key aspects of the topological qualities of the infrastructure of the knowledge economy, with its obsessive attempts at measuring, recording and monitoring, or ‘qualculation’. Taking seriously, albeit with humour, early criticisms of actor-network for its ostensibly Machiavellian proclivities, it offers a series of playful stratagems for the exploration and analysis of power as an emergent property of socio-technical relations. Topology, in this account, becomes relevant to cultural analysis because of the way that it allows us to think together processes constructive of the intensive continua of ‘desiring production’ with the sociotechnical operations of digital media infrastructures. Different elements operative within digital media (the super-hub, the power of small numbers, recursion and relational databases) are read stratagematically – as figures of a praxis (the material practice of immaterial labour), that reveals different facets of the operations of power, while also allowing for counter-tactics to be deployed. Rather than proposing a theoretical account or an empirical analysis, the paper develops what Stengers (2011) calls ‘operative constructs’, which become ingredients for further active exploration of and thinking about the topological qualities of mediatic infrastructure. The paper addresses four different and overlapping areas of digital media from a point of view that considers the plural, compositional quality of media/power relations.
 
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Revisiting Fanon’s classic theory of violence and relying on some of his case studies, this article detects the propensity to see the world in abstract formats as the source of the most malignant forms of revolutionary violence. Based on this, the article explores how abstraction may still be a healthy way of thinking, especially in a globalized and postcolonial world. Two mechanisms for handling abstraction in humane ways are proposed, both of which exclude loyalties to principles or communities so long as those could only be imagined in abstract forms. The two mechanisms of humanizing abstractions proposed here include the capacity to see local stories as manifestations or episodes of universal tales, and the ability to see one’s concrete cause in relationship to a multiplicity of world causes being acted upon in the same forum.
 
Tag cloud, frequencies of terms in a UK controversy about smart electricity meter according to the Googlescraper, November 2009. 
Article
This paper examines the limits and possibilities of topological approaches in the social analysis of technology. It proposes that topology should be considered not just as a theory to be adopted, but equally as a device that is deployed in social life in a variety of ways. Digital technologies help to make clear why: these technologies have facilitated the spread of a topological imagination, but they have also enabled a weak form of topological imagination, one that leaves in place deterministic ideas about technology as the principal driver of social change. This paper examines this situation and alternatives to it through an empirical case, that of smart electricity meters. On the one hand, these technologies enable only a limited ‘expansion of the frame’ on technology, one in which the primacy of technology is maintained. But they are also used to render relations between technology and society more complexly. I explore topological devices deployed in this second way, such as the digital visualization tool of tag clouding and propose that this device enables an empirical mode of critique: here, topology does not just help to foreground the entanglement of the social and the technical, it also helps to dramatize the contingent, non-coherent unfolding of issues.
 
Article
A distinction between basic archetypes of urban form was made by Bruno Fortier: the accumulation city as opposed to the creation city. These archetypes derive from archaeology - being based on the Roman and the Egyptian city - but are interpreted as morphological paradigms, as a set of assumptions and underpinnings determining spatial planning and design. The creation city is described as expression of modernity - the paradigmatic origins of which can be traced back to Descartes’ ideas on the city - analysed as an ontology of destruction, among other things. A conceptual framework connecting the creation city to modernity is presented by interpreting Fortier’s archetypes through the anthropological work of W.T. Jones. Influenced by postmodern cultural analysis and architectural discourse, the paradigmatic importance of the accumulation city seems to increase. It is argued that interest in the accumulation city is related to a discord which is characteristic of modernity but which seems to be denied by the urbanistic modernism of the 20th century. Methodologically, we argue that modernism should be seen as part of a post-paradigmatic phase of modernity rather than as an expression of modernity at its zenith. It is argued that the discord of modernism should not lead to a discussion of modernism and postmodernism as contrary paradigms, but that the understanding of the city oscillates dialectically between these two paradigms.
 
Article
No The rise of networked social movements contesting neo-liberal globalization and protesting the summits of global finance and governance organizations has posed an analytical challenge to social movement theorists and called into question the applicability to this global milieu of the familiar concepts and heuristics utilized in social movement studies. In this article, we argue that the self-defining alter-globalization movement(s) might instead be engaged with as an expression and effect of global complexity, and we draw upon a ‘minor’ literature in social movement studies that includes Gregory Bateson, Gilles Deleuze and Alberto Melucci to illustrate our claims. This article uses a Deleuzian reading of complexity to describe the phase space of the ‘movement of movements’, and its perturbation of global civil society through the iteration of sense-making processes (reflexive framing) and the exploration of singularities inhering in social movement ‘plateaux’. Those transnational gatherings, protests and social forums facilitated by computer-mediated communications and the advent of unprecedented mobility which constitute a ‘shadow realm’ that remains largely invisible to political exchange theories operating within the conceptual confines of the nation-state.
 
Article
In a wide range of contemporary debates on Japanese cultures of technological practice, brief reference is often made to distinct Shinto legacies, as forming an animist substratum of indigenous spiritual beliefs and cosmological imaginations. Japan has been described as a land of Shinto-infused ‘techno-animism’: exhibiting a ‘polymorphous perversity’ that resolutely ignores boundaries between human, animal, spiritual and mechanical beings. In this article, we deploy instances of Japanese techno-animism as sites of theoretical experimentation on what Bruno Latour calls a symmetrical anthropology of nature-cultures. In staging a dialogue between actor-network theory and Japanese techno-animism, we show how Shinto cosmograms provide an enlivening and alternative diffraction device on several of the ontological motifs manifested in Latour’s work. In particular, by mobilizing the territory of a ‘new’ animism debate in anthropology – manifested in the work of Philippe Descola and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro – we attempt to infuse Latourian ‘multinaturalism’ with new, other-than-western analytical energy. Extending actor-network theory, we argue, Shinto cosmograms offer an interesting vantage point for interpreting the immanent, affective, enchanting and enabling powers of non-humans in contributing to collective life. By thus broadening the ‘cosmopolitical’ imagination beyond Latour’s own European-Catholic frame of reference, Shinto techno-animism offers up a wider reflection on contemporary entanglements of science, politics, ecology and cosmos. This reflection, we conclude, opens up a new intellectual territory, allowing us to trace techno-animist streams of thinking both ‘East’ and ‘West’, beyond the confines of the scientific naturalism indigenous to European thinking.
 
Article
By excavating the ambiguities of the helicopter’s machinic-prosthetic view, a perspective which may be distant and abstract, while also near and viscerally present, this article will explore how megacity security is increasingly waged and consumed. The article argues that megacity security marches to the rotator-beat of the police helicopter, fuelled by military technophilia and in a context of the biopolitical desertion of the megacities’ most vulnerable. The article takes three aspects, visually expressed and constituted through aerial-helicopter security. Drawing from several megacity examples including Mumbai, Lagos, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the first resolves megacity confusion with legibility. In the following section the article examines the mobilization of the security gaze, and the final section explores how helicopter visuality may hold or territorialize megacity space.
 
Article
This article is about a period of technology transfer – the late 1910s and 1920s – when wartime aerial reconnaissance techniques and operations were being adapted to a range of civilian uses, including urban planning, land use analysis, traffic control, tax equalization, and even archaeology. At the center of the discussion is the ‘photomosaic’: a patchwork of overlapping aerial photographs that have been rectified and fit together so as to form a continuous survey of a territory. Initially developed during the First World War to provide coverage of fronts, photomosaic mapping was widely practiced and celebrated during the postwar years as an aid to urban development. The article traces both the refinements in photomosaic technology after the Armistice and the rhetorical means by which the form’s avant-garde wartime reputation was domesticated into an ‘applied realism’ that often effaced its site-specific perspective, its elaborately rectified optics, and the oppositionality of both its military and civilian uses. The article has a broader theoretical aim as well. Classic statements of both structuralist and post-structuralist spatial theory (Barthes and de Certeau are the primary examples here) have produced an ossified geometry wherein the vertical is the axis of paradigm, top-down strategy, and manipulative distance and the horizontal the axis of syntagm, grassroots tactics, and resistant proximities and differences. In its close study of the technology and rhetoric surrounding interwar photogrammetry, the article provides an example of how one might reverse the long-standing misrecognition of high-altitude optics as effacing time, difference, and materiality – and what it might mean to view such optics as, instead, a resource in turning from abstract toward differential conceptions of both aerial photography and our theoretical habits. This turn I call ‘applied modernism’, a term that accesses both the wartime photomosaic’s affiliation with avant-garde painting and its insistence that portraits of the total are always projections from partial, specific vantages.
 
Article
The import of underground facilities in military strategy in the US grew exponentially after the Gulf War. The success of precision-guided conventional missiles meant that any above-ground building or complex could be accurately targeted and destroyed, thus driving states with less sophisticated weapons to go underground to secure space for covert weapons development and the protection of command and control centres for military and governmental functions. Underground facilities have thus become the main challenge to objects of detection and targeting practices for US military research and development. This article provides a meditation on the underground in relation to military planning and technology, the limits of aerial visual control of terrain, the plans by the US military to counter underground defensive moves, the efficacy of tele-technologies to detect and destroy such installations at a distance, and an oblique genealogy of aerial and subterrestrial strategies in relation to technologies to overcome the limitations of each. In so doing, the article argues a deeply connected relationship between the imaginary and the material in attempts to realize a mastery of space and populations essential to military operations, thus posing questions about sensory perception, the status of the subject with regard to agency and control, and the prosthetic outfitting of the subject that both supports and blunts agency and control.
 
Article
First coined in modernity, the aesthetic is a vague, polysemic and contested concept whose complexities arise from the variety of the ways it has been defined in the history of its theorization, but also in its formative prehistory in theories of art and beauty that preceded its modern coinage. After noting key points of that prehistory, the article traces three major modern tendencies in construing the aesthetic: as a special mode of sensory perception or experience that is relevant to life in general; as a special faculty or exercise of taste focused on judgments of beauty and related qualities such as the sublime; and as a theory (or essential quality) of fine art. The idea of aesthetic disinterestedness is critically examined, and contrasts between the concept of art in Western modernity and in pre-modern and Asian culture are also considered.
 
Ayisha al Qurd and her son Y assir, 1988
Article
The point of departure of Berger and Mohr’s Another Way of Telling (1982) is what they call the discovery that ‘photographs did not work as we had been taught’. Since their book was written, the same feeling of ‘discovery’ has been expressed in other writings on photography. Often, these ‘discoveries’ have been linked with the way ‘ordinary’ people have been using photography. This paper addresses this recurrence and asks what are the discursive conditions under which this understanding of photography has been perceived as a ‘discovery’ whenever it has surfaced in the last 30 years. The paper analyzes the conceptual grid within the hegemonic discourse on photography that has contributed enormously to the marginalization of this new understanding of photography — the common opposition between the ‘aesthetic’ and the ‘political’, and accordingly between two seemingly contradictory judgments: ‘this is too political’; ‘this is too aesthetic’. These judgments, applied frequently to photographs taken in zones of ‘regime-made disaster’, usually differ and sometimes completely prevent the possible encounter with the photographed people who, through the photograph, are co-present with the spectators in the event of viewing the photograph.
 
Article
The article considers some aspects of the problem of both individual & collective identity in the context of the development of different kinds of warfare in modern western society. The elucidation of these relations requires an unexpected application of aesthetic ideas; in particular the notion of the sublime. It is argued that the experience of combat is one possible 'real' form of the sublime. It is further suggested, paradoxically, that sublime combat cannot actually be experienced; it is an 'inexperience'. The historical significance of modern western war literature, thus, is just that it fills the 'gap' left by the destructive inexperience of combat & it allows those who endured it, as well as those who did not, to construct a 'memory' of the events themselves.
 
Article
In this interview, conducted following the publication of Le Temps revient, Michel Maffesoli discusses his view of postmodernity and its connection with the aesthetic, current intellectual life, the ‘tribalism’ for which he is best known in the Anglophone world, and his own intellectual development.
 
Article
In a range of digital creative productions and digital culture, questions of how to deal with finitude are on the rise. On the one hand, sectors of the digital entertainment industry – specifically computer games developers – are concerned with the question of how to manage `death' digitally. On the other hand, death and suicide have become the impetus for humorous artistic expression. This article tracks the emergence of a digital ethos that is cognizant of consequence, finitude and even death. Rather than pit a 1990s `will to life' against an emerging `death drive', I argue that the shift to an ethos in which dark consequences ensue from digital actions must be understood by working through digital code's technicity and unfolding this relation of technics to both ethics and politics. Although Bernard Stiegler's analysis of technicity goes some way toward unfolding a political analysis of the aesthetics of digital code, his articulation of noopolitics fails to provide us with a way to conduct ourselves digitally in an era of cognitive capitalism. I look to critical software practices and their provisional networked publics, with potential lines of flight for contemporary technoculture via novel digital `codings'.
 
Article
Aesthetization, or aestheticization, has recently become a new key word in scholarly debates about culture and society, roughly concerned with the kind of phenomenon that pictorial turn describes. It is not that `aesthetization', in its literal sense, is making the unaesthetic aesthetic, nor does it point to the sort of topics typical of an aestheticized human life as favored by some traditional Chinese intellectuals; rather it is about a transaesthetization . This process differs not just in the range and extent of aesthetization, but in its essence and nature: reality will no longer exist when it is transaesthetized and what is left is an aesthetic realm only; in other words, there will be no reality, but purely the `hyperreal'. Accordingly, transaesthetization can then often be associated with the concept of simulacrum, or the proliferation of images; it would thus result from the expansion of simulacra. However, there arises the problem that simulacrum is not identical with image. Assuming that the beauty of image consists in its rich connotations and its presentation at the level of form, it is doubtful that transaesthetization is configured merely by the simulacral. Why, and how could it be so?
 
Article
In the Sociology of Emotion and Affect Studies, affects are usually regarded as an aspect of human beings alone, or of impersonal or collective atmospheres. However, feelings and emotions are only specific cases of affectivity that require subjective inner selves, while the concept of ‘atmospheres’ fails to explain the singularity of each individual case. This article develops a theory of social affect that does not reduce affect to either personal feelings or collective emotions. First, I use a Spinozist understanding of the ‘body’ to conceptualize the receptivity and mutual constitution of bodies, to show how affects do not ‘belong’ to anybody; they are not solely attributable either to the human or to any kind of body alone, but emerge in situations of the encounter and interaction (between bodies). Next I build upon Jean-Marie Guyau’s concept of transmissions to show how we can theorize affect as an emerging transmission between and among bodies. Finally, I demonstrate how we now have a complete conceptual frame for theorizing affect in relation to all bodies in any given social scene, the grand composition of which I call affectif.
 
Article
In the context of the highly contested discourse of posthumanism, this essay examines Mark Hansen’s attempt to give a robust account of technology in its extra-linguistic dimension by evincing an ‘‘‘originary’’ coupling of the human and the technical’ that grounds experience as such (Hansen, 2006a: 9). Specifically, I argue that Hansen’s perspective is haunted by the representational logic that it moves against. In this, I do not repudiate Hansen’s argument as such, but rather reject one of its central underlying implications: that the extra-discursive materiality of technology might be accessed, linguistically, without attaching a meaning to it that is foreign to this materiality. To this end, the essay begins with an examination of technesis as it is initially developed by Hansen, demonstrating the necessity from which it sprang, the contribution that Hansen’s reading makes, and its ultimate limitations. From here, the essay articulates Hansen’s argument for an affective topology of the senses, corroborating the increased importance of digital technologies in this perspective through a brief comparison of Roberto Lazzarini’s ‘skulls’ (as read by Hansen) and my own piece ‘Sound’. Finally, this comparison pivots the essay towards a critical analysis of Hansen’s account of primary tactility that demonstrates its dependence on the (representational) logic of language. In closing, then, I argue that what is accomplished by Hansen’s putting-into-discourse of technesis is, paradoxically, a re-staging of the constitutive ambivalence of deconstruction that reinvigorates the posthumanist elements of that discourse.
 
Article
This article examines the industrial art of videogame design and production as an exemplar of what could be termed affective design. In doing so, the article theorizes the relationship between affect and attention as part of what Bernard Stiegler calls a ‘retentional economy’ of human and technical memory. Through the examination of a range of different videogames, the article argues that videogame designers utilize techniques of what I term ‘affective amplification’ that seek to modulate affect, which is central to the commercial success of these games. The article considers how the concepts of amplification, modulation and bandwidth, developed through this example, inform and expand understandings of this retentional economy by analysing the ways in which affective design attempts to transmit and translate the potential for affect through a range of technical systems and environments.
 
Article
This article is concerned with some of the ramifications of the affective dimension of Fanon’s writing. In their latest book, Commonwealth, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri take Fanon’s attempt to transcend European universality through the struggle for a ‘new universality’ as an exemplary schema that informs their politics of alter-modernity. In the article, I show that the affective dimension of Fanon’s search for a new universality is far more anti- than alter-European, albeit in an ambivalent way. I analyse how this difference between an affective ‘anti’ and an intellectual ‘alter’ arises in Fanon’s analysis and experience of racism. I refer to this particular experience as mis-interpellation and analyse the equally particular affect it generates. More generally, I show that if one is to make use of Fanon’s work today one cannot separate the intellectual and the affective that are so intertwined in his analytical work as Hardt and Negri do. To do so is to abstract from the serious political ramifications that the presence of this affective dimension entails.
 
Article
At the focal point of contemporary biopolitical knowledge and power is human life in its contingent, evolutionary and emergent properties: the living as adaptive and affective beings, characterized in particular by their capacity to experience stress and fear that works together with vital survival mechanisms. This article addresses new techniques of psychiatric power and therapeutic epistemologies that have emerged in present-day military-scientific as well as media technological assemblages to define and capture the human in its psychobiological states of emergency. Specifically, the focus of this article is on one special kind of screen medium, called Virtual Iraq, a virtual reality device designed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder among war veterans. The article analyses Virtual Iraq as an example of new forms and strategies for the management of affectivity and memory that have been developed in conjunction with contemporary neuroscientific discourses on the evolutionary origins of emotional life and its neurobiological functionality among humans qua species. Furthermore, it discusses Virtual Iraq as an example of the biopolitical work of contemporary screen media in which the reality of images starts to concern the organism’s internal functioning instead of being anthropological or communicative, tapping into the brain’s capacity of self-organization as well as contributing to the production and maintenance of psychological immunity.
 
Article
This article will take up Deleuze and Guattari’s allusive yet insightful writings on ‘the secret’ by considering the secret across three intermingling registers or modulations: as content (secret), as form (secrecy), and as expression (secretion). Setting the secret in relation to evolving modes of technological mediation and sociality as respectively pocket, pooling, and plasma, the article works through a trio of examples in order to understand the contemporary movements of secrets: the memories of secrets evoked in an intimately interactive music video by the band Arcade Fire (as an example of ‘pocket’); the movements of secrecy turned fabulative in the scopic-doublings of airport full-body scanners (as ‘pooling’); and, finally, the collective secretions that come to saturate and stretch around the globe as expressed by liquidity-seeking financial innovations (providing an angle onto ‘plasma’). These three instantiations of contemporary secrecy are framed by a discussion of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook – truly a couple for our age: each intent, in their own way, upon bringing an end to secrets. Throughout, we try to maintain close attention to the emerging rhythms and dissonances that engage secrecy in a dance between the half-voluntary and the half-enforced.
 
Article
This article explores the distinction between anti-colonial longing and postcolonial becoming through a commentary on Antjie Krog’s Begging to Be Black. The epistemology and ontology of postcolonial becoming is the central concern. Begging to Be Black is a mytho-poetic narrative in which a world is imagined where King Moshoeshoe, missionaries from the 19th century, Antjie Krog and her friends and colleagues, ANC cadres, the Deleuzian philosopher Paul Patton, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the ANC Youth League are placed in the same narrative space where they can intermingle. And this is done to respond to a crisis of the present — the difficulties South Africans face in grappling with the legacies of colonialism and Apartheid, and the fact that there is a process of un-homing and re-homing that Krog feels white South Africans in particular need to think about more deeply. The article compares Krog’s approach to decolonization with that of the leading South African philosopher of ubuntu, Mogobe Ramose. Both Krog and Ramose offer the epistemological and ontological resources for grappling with the relationship between past, present and future in a decolonizing setting. The article examines how postcolonial critique may take place through liminal figures. Liminality is characterized as central to postcolonial becoming.
 
Article
This article considers the changing perceptions, expressions and representations of violence in South Africa post-1994, with particular reference to photography. Following the evolution of the documentary tradition in its relationship to the political history of South Africa, I will suggest that since the release of Nelson Mandela and the first democratic elections in South Africa, photography has taken a new turn, particularly with regard to its representation of violence, which had been its primary iconography up to that watershed moment. I will follow three arguments (from Sartre, Benjamin and Mbembe) in my explication of the ways in which violence has both altered South African society and assumed a different place in the collective mind of South Africans living in a country that is politically free but grappling with an ever-rising wave of violent crime.
 
Article
This article addresses debates around the fate of antiquated symbols of colonial domination in postcolonial societies. The handling of apartheid material culture still generates controversy more than 15 years after the country’s first democratic elections. Built in 1949 to commemorate the Great Trek into the interior of the country, the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria has stood as the embodiment of Afrikaner nationalism and mythology. A number of factors prevented the demolition of the site, including the spirit of national reconciliation. In order to remain relevant and to secure state funding, staff members at the Voortrekker Monument have attempted to map onto the original exclusionary imagery a more inclusive narrative that hinges on the protection of ‘minority rights’ to cultural preservation. This case study sheds light on the way political transitions create openings for the interrogation of colonial monuments – whether they should be destroyed, revised or left untouched – and the development of a postcolonial memorial landscape.
 
Top-cited authors
John Urry
  • Lancaster University
Arjun Appadurai
  • New York University
Nikolas Rose
  • King's College London
Nigel Thrift
Karin Knorr
  • University of Chicago