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Recent Issues




Vol. 31 | No. 1 | June 2022


        Special Issue: The Paranormative

Introduction: The Paranormative
Editorial Board

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Over two years later, a “return to normal” remains the pandemic’s most enduring political promise, a token of hope to hedge against continued death and precarity. Held within this recursive promise, however, is a prima facie condition that deserves interrogation. What, exactly, is the “normal” to which we will return? Will capitalism and its attendant crises no longer demand our attention absent a continual state of emergency? The coherence and stability of the “normal” eludes us. Georges Canguilhem sees the normal as itself a chimeric category that, from the perspective of medicine and science, is not so distant from the “pathological” it is meant to foil.

In the contemporary moment, what we might term paranormativity has further infringed on our so-called norms, unfolding in internet circles, blue-chip art institutions, and scenes of communal mourning.

Read now at Duke University Press


Poetry, Ghosts, Mediation
Jack W. Chen

This essay takes the example of a poem composed by a ghost in the Tang dynasty—one of many preserved in literary anthologies and treated as actually having been authored by the dead—as an entry point to ask broader questions of ghostly haunting and poetic presence. What the essay demonstrates is how both the ghost and the poem are informed by logics of analog mediation (rather than representation): how the ghost finds purchase in the world only through bodily possession, spatial haunting, material displacement, and psychic transference and how the poem effects the transmission of mind through the channels of linguistic form, meter, and rhyme. Neither the ghost nor the poem exists except in or as its mediations, yet through these mediations, both the ghost and the poem become present and are communicated into the world. While contemporary media theory has identified the intertwined discourses of technology and spiritualism, the focus has almost solely been on the nineteenth century and later, on the age of electric and electronic telecommunications. The medieval ghost poem, as an exemplary case, complicates this account, showing how poetry has long served as a necrotechnology that mediates the dead and returns ghosts to presence.

Read now at Duke University Press


Two Poems by Cristina Peri Rossi

Translated and Introduced by Liz Rose

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Cristina Peri Rossi was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, but has lived in Barcelona since the early 1970s, when she went into political exile. The only woman associated with the Latin American Boom, Peri Rossi has continued writing despite political repression, tenuous immigration status, and linguistic discrimination. She has published nineteen books of poetry and earned many literary prizes, most recently the 2021 Premio Cervantes.

My translations focus on the theme of lesbian intimacy as it relates to queer concepts of home in exile. Peri Rossi’s portrayal of exile is woven with eroticism, affection, and affect made manifest in corporeal experience. Yet her work highlights what is in excess of the corporeal, especially what is beyond normative body/spirit and human/animal distinctions.

Read now at Duke University Press


The Para-Worlds of Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky

Delali Kumavie

This essay argues that Lesley Nneka Arimah’s collection of short stories, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, evokes para-worlds that reveal and contend with the world and its norms. Examining the collection’s entwinement of magical, mythical, and animist modes with science, technology, and innovation, the essay shows how Arimah’s work creates its own metagenre, which functions as a paranormal frame that disrupts the common sense of existing interpretive frameworks of progress and difference. The paranormal in Arimah’s work is a space where the illegible significance of Blackness exists. These para-worlds, the essay contends, are paranormal because they function as parallel, ancillary, and barricading structures that reveal the spatial and temporal continuums that order the world. Viewing the norm as the world-constituting structures instantiated in 1492, the essay contends that Arimah’s para-world functions as a continuum to reveal the ever-present structures of violence.

Read now at Duke University Press


The Devil Finds Use: Black Queers Do The Exorcist
Brandon S. Callender

Beginning with James Baldwin’s critique of The Exorcist in The Devil Finds Work (1976) and ending with campy allusions to the film in the works of three contemporary black gay authors, this article argues that the aesthetics of possession helps articulate queer forms of desire that blur the lines between agency and passivity. Deploying José Esteban Muñoz’s theory of disidentification, it shows how black and queer subjects disruptively locate themselves in the horror genre by drawing on their racial affinities with the genre. The first section proposes that the most prevalent claim in black horror studies today—that black life is more frightening than the supernatural—actually originates with Baldwin’s 1976 rebuke of the film. By disidentifying with horror, Baldwin shifts attention away from paranormal evils and onto a more horrifying normative world. Sketching enthusiastic alternatives to Baldwin, the latter half of this article examines idiosyncratic attachments to the film that are routed through the demonic. By disidentifying with the possessed child, the narrators of Larry Duplechan’s Eight Days a Week (1985) and Blackbird (1986), James Earl Hardy’s B-Boy Blues (1994), and G. Winston James’s Shaming the Devil (2009) all articulate fraught performances of desire.

Read now at Duke University Press


Poems by Oksana Vasyakina and Elena Kostyleva
Translated and Introduced by Helena Kernan

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Oksana Vasyakina and Elena Kostyleva are contemporary Russian poetesses who contribute to Ф-письмо (F Letter), a digital platform that publishes, critiques, and celebrates feminist writing. Their work is testament to a generational change in Russophone poetry, which has seen a decline in the certainties and declamatory style of the previous generation in favor of all-embracing polyphony and linguistic experimentation, an ethical commitment to decolonization and leftist politics, and a strong focus on diverse spectrums of gender and sexuality.

Vasyakina’s “Girl” is the latest in a series of poems that trace the trials, tribulations, joys, and hopes of the author’s own biography. The poem was published not long after her debut novel, Рана (Wound), a hybrid text that includes essays, poems, and novelistic plot devices and enters into dialogue with several female thinkers, both past and present.

Read now at Duke University Press


The Prion As Nature’s Undead
Kathleen Powers

The prion is a self-replicating protein that infects the central nervous system. This essay applies Georges Canguilhem’s criterion for life, biological normativity, to the prion for the purpose of arguing that the existence of the prion within living systems requires attention to how biological matter uses space. Without the involvement of DNA, the prion protein is physically capable of transforming nonprion proteins into prion proteins—a capacity afforded by the specific characteristics of the energy landscape it propagates within, which in turn is determined by the specific arrangement of atoms in its molecular architecture. Like a hammer that is a mirror, the prion compresses and folds surrounding proteins, making its environment identical to itself. This essay studies how information exchange occurs for the prion for the purpose of arguing for a philosophy of biology premised on the analysis of space with attention to form over the analysis of language with attention to genetic code.

Read now at Duke University Press


Starships and Slave Ships: Black Ontology and the UFO Abduction Phenomenon
Jonathan Jacob Moore

Evidence suggests that the UFO/alien abduction phenomenon is exclusively experienced by white people in the United States. But while scholars have probed abductee narratives to surface political and symbolic anxieties for decades, none have thought of the phenomenon’s whiteness alongside the archival absence of Black abductees. Using abductee accounts, interdisciplinary studies of the UFO abduction phenomena, and critiques of Black subjectivity, this article attends to the ontological anxieties that permeate UFO abduction narratives and their choreographic resonance with the psychosomatics of Black life. This article begins by examining the exceptional narrative of Barney Hill, America’s first and thus far only popular Black abductee. Then it brings into focus UFOlogy’s aporetic negation of racial subjectivity and suggests that the UFO abduction phenomenon is, a posteriori, inaccessible to the Black nonsubject. Finally, it returns to Hill’s experience and offers speculative implications of a libidinal relationship between the starship’s technics and the slave ship’s terror.

Read now at Duke University Press


Cover: An Aspiration to Enfold All, from Thought-Forms: A Record of Clairvoyant Investigation, by Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater (1901). © Sacred Bones Records. More info

Volume 31.1 is available at Duke University Press. Qui Parle is edited by an independent group of graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley and published by Duke University Press.


Vol. 30 | No. 2 | December 2021


        Articles

RE: [No Subject]––On Nonbinary Gender
Marquis Bey

This essay attempts to imagine what nonbinary gender might be through an autotheoretical and imaginative email exchange between the author, as “X,” and the author’s gender as nonbinary. Indeed, theorized conversationally throughout are the difficulties and potentialities of nonbinary gender, or nonbinariness as a refusal of gender.

Read now at Duke University Press


Skulls, Tree Bark, Fossils: Memory and Materiality in Georges Didi-Huberman’s Transvaluation of Surface
Magdalena Zolkos

Studies of material objects in the field of memory studies have followed diverse epistemological and disciplinary trajectories, but their shared characteristic has been the questioning of philosophical assumptions concerning human relations with inanimate things and lower-level organic objects, such as plants, within the Aristotelian hierarchy of beings. Rather than accept at face value their categorizations as passive or deficient in comparison to the human subject, critical scholarship has reformulated the place and role of nonhuman entities in culture. This essay examines the nexus of materiality and memory in the work of the French philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman, with the focus on the questions of mnemonic affordance of things and plants. The essay proposes that Didi-Huberman’s project can be approached from the perspective of “undoing” the key binaries of Western historiography of art and material culture: surface/depth, exteriority/interiority, visibility/invisibility, and malleability/rigidity. Focusing on imaginal representations of memory objects in Didi-Huberman’s two essays Bark and Being a Skull, the essay situates these texts within the context of his philosophical reading of Aby Warburg’s iconology, and argues that Didi-Huberman’s undoing of the binaries that have traditionally structured thinking about materiality and memory could be productively approached as a philosophical project of transvaluating surface.

Read now at Duke University Press


Index and Image: Benjamin, Héring, Heidegger, and the Phenomenology of History

Ronald Mendoza-de Jesús

Although Walter Benjamin anticipated a confrontation with Martin Heidegger regarding the theory of historical knowledge, this confrontation was never fully elaborated. This essay contributes to filling out this lacuna by arguing that Benjamin’s concept of the dialectical image was conceived as a phenomenological corrective to Heidegger’s historicity. To clarify the phenomenological sources of Benjamin’s conception of the image, it reads the traces of Benjamin’s engagement with the early phenomenologist Jean Héring in the first sentences of entry “N3,1” in Das Passagen-Werk, where Benjamin presents his notion of the image in explicit opposition to Heidegger. The essay argues that Benjamin relied on Héring’s notion of phenomenological essences as indexically individuated to conceptualize the historical index of the image and to provide a better (i.e., more concrete) way of “saving history for phenomenology” than Heidegger’s historicity. By tracking Benjamin’s debts and departures from Héring, this essay prepares the ground for a reconstruction of Benjamin’s confrontation with Heidegger and argues for the relevance of Benjamin’s conception of history for contemporary critiques of historicism.

Read now at Duke University Press


“Les Hypothèses Trop Hasardées”: Synecdoche and Speculative Method at the End
of the Rougon-Macquart

Justin Raden

This essay argues that the difficulties Émile Zola faced in closing the Rougon-Macquart novel cycle reveal a political imaginary whose notion of a clean line of progress depends on a technical supplement it disavows. At critical points Zola’s method exposes the disavowal of this technical supplement that functions as the prosthetic by which man overcomes a hereditary deficiency, his original psychosis in Zola’s account, and is also the means by which he allegorizes history as progress. But this supplement must also disappear from view, or operate as a vanishing mediator. Because, for Zola, the immediate political problem of engendering the right kind of political subjects for the Third Empire must be integrated into a larger evolutionary history, the rational overcoming of the original psychosis takes the form of a necessary and indeed automatic process. What is at stake here is not the inhumanism of generalizing the “Anthropos,” which has come under recent scrutiny, but the inhumanism integral to any humanism that imagines itself as teleologically or historically oriented—the inhumanism in humanism that subtends any imaginary of evolution or progress, because such a humanism must have recourse to technical prosthesis.

Read now at Duke University Press


From Exile to “Retro-Utopia”: A Yugoslav Writer’s Return
Djordje Popović

The act of writing ensures that exile is never permanent in the mind of the writer even if it is an abiding feature of his or her reality. Dubravka Ugrešić explores this paradox in much of her work, suggesting that migrant writers experience “double exile”—first on account of displacement and then because they are forced to reflect on the condition of being displaced, in effect, staging their alienation in the act of commenting on it. This dialectic of permanence and impermanence alone hints at a more developed relationship between home and exile than is usually allowed in the ontologically inflected interpretations of Ugrešić’s work. Instead of valorizing exile as a desirable, paradigmatically human condition, this article shows Ugrešić breaking with exilic literary and theoretical conventions by advancing the possibility of a return to what she calls “retro-utopia”—a place glimpsed in an unfulfilled past and a home to which a community based on shared positions, not identity, can return. The argument is based on an exegetical approach to an ur-document in transnational post-Yugoslav literature, Ugrešić’s 1997 novel The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, as well as on a key distinction in Edward Said’s secular criticism between filiative and affiliative social bonds.

Read now at Duke University Press


        Reviews

The United States at the Center of the Action
Jane Komori

A review of Mark W. Driscoll, The Whites Are Enemies of Heaven: Climate Caucasianism and Asian Ecological Protection (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020).

Read now at Duke University Press


Better Problems: Neoliberalism, Strategic Achronicity, and the Experimental Games To-Be-Made
Doug Stark

A review of Patrick Jagoda, Experimental Games: Critique, Play, and Design in the Age of Gamification (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020).

Read now at Duke University Press


Why Medieval Allegory?
Bernardo Sarmiento Hinojosa

A review of Katharine Breen, Machines of the Mind: Personification in Medieval Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021) and Nicolette Zeeman, The Arts of Disruption: Allegory and “Piers Plowman” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).

Read now at Duke University Press


Cover: Laura Frantz, Shandaken 10 a.m. (2013) More info

Volume 30.2 is available at Duke University Press and Project Muse. Qui Parle is edited by an independent group of graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley and published by Duke University Press.

Qui Parle, Volume 30, Number 1, June 2021

Vol. 30 | No. 1 | June 2021


        Special Issue: Networks of Belief

Networks of Belief: An Introduction
William Morgan and Kyra Sutton

It no longer registers as a shock to hear proclamations of an emerging age of networks, of algorithms, of artificial intelligence, of machine learning, robotics, ubiquitous digital devices, or the cloud. From economics to genetics, computation is heralded as the skeleton key to a treasure trove of the world’s best-hidden secrets. [...] But is the belief that “everything is a network” something that emerges in response to the emergence of ubiquitous digital connectivity? Or, rather, does the figure of the network have a deeper history that the digital simply brings into sharper relief? What is the relation between (belief in) the ubiquity of networks and late capitalism, that is, capitalism with cybernetic characteristics?

Read now at Duke University Press


Movement in Repose: Notes on Form of Life
Aaron Frederick Eldridge

How does tradition, a transmission of body and language, disclose a form of life? This article takes as its point of departure Talal Asad’s methodological pivot away from the modern concept of “belief” to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s concept of “form of life.” It elaborates the philosophical and anthropological implications of a rigorous notion of form of life through Asad’s concept of tradition and Martin Heidegger’s rereading of Aristotle’s physis. Interrupting this theoretical argument, a scene from the author’s ethnographic fieldwork with Orthodox Christian ascetics in Lebanon exemplifies the challenge (and insistence) of form of life. The article then turns to consider a powerful reading of form of life grounded in Baruch Spinoza’s theory of emanation and vitalist univocity. While echoing the concerns of this article, Spinoza’s philosophical ethic defers the central question posed by “form of life” by making the latter a world-producing apparatus. That approach to form of life foregrounds the possibility of being other than what one is, rather than the crucial question of “still experience” and its dynamic repose. The article concludes by reading this still experience alongside C. Nadia Seremetakis’s work in Greece, which details the work of stillness and memory, the deathly pain of history, as sites where the cultivation of noncontemporaneous forms of life are brought into relief.

Read now at Duke University Press


An Immanence without the World: On Dispossession, Nothingness, and Secularity
Alex Dubilet

This essay proposes to rethink the conceptual associations that bind immanence to the secular and oppose it to (divine) transcendence. It asks: What if immanence is divorced from the conceptual opposition between the world and its openings to (divine) other(s), between enclosure and the trace of a transcendent outside? What might arise if immanence is severed from its link with secularity, if it ceases to be merely another conceptual support in secularism’s metaphysical armature? To pursue these questions, the essay engages a variety of materials, including medieval mysticism, anthropological critiques of the secular, work in Black studies, critiques of the subject, and François Laruelle’s non-philosophical thought. The result links immanence more intimately with dispossession than with the subject’s self-possession—and entwines it with the undercommons, as the atopic lowest place, rather than with the nomos and topos imposed by the (modern) world and its regime of the proper. Immanence is thought of as anti- and antenomian force, a groundless ground coming underneath the conceptual logics of the world, its normative order of things, and life lived according to its distributions. As a result, rather than a weapon in modernity’s endless self-justifying polemics with religion, immanence opens forth trajectories for its destitution and delegitimation.

Read now at Duke University Press


Living In/difference; or, How to Imagine Ambivalent Networks
Carina Albrecht, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, and Laura Kurgan

In a 1954 essay Paul Lazarsfeld and Robert K. Merton coined the term homophily to describe similarity-based friendship. They based their findings on friendship patterns among neighbors in a biracial housing project in the United States, using a combined quantitative and qualitative, empirical and speculative analysis of social processes. Since then homophily has become a guiding principle for network science: it is simply presumed that similarity breeds connection. But the unpublished study by Merton, Patricia S. West, and Marie Jahoda, which grounds Lazarsfeld and Merton’s analysis, and the Merton and Bureau of Applied Social Research’s archive reveal a more complex picture. This article engages with the data traces in the archive to reimagine what enabled the residents of the studied housing project to live in difference, as neighbors. The reanimation of this archive reveals the often counterintuitive characteristic of our imagined networks: they are about removal, not addition. It also opens up new imagined possibilities for a digital future beyond the hatred of the different and online echo chambers.

Read now at Duke University Press


A Liar’s Epistemology: Herbert Simon’s Performative Artificial Intelligence
Brett Zehner

This methodologically important essay aims to trace a genealogical account of Herbert Simon’s media philosophy and to contest the histories of artificial intelligence that overlook the organizational capacities of computational models. As Simon’s work demonstrates, humans’ subjection to large-scale organizations and divisions of labor is at the heart of artificial intelligence. As such, questions of procedures are key to understanding the power assumed by institutions wielding artificial intelligence. Most media-historical accounts of the development of contemporary artificial intelligence stem from the work of Warren S. McCulloch and Walter Pitts, especially the 1943 essay “A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity.” Yet Simon’s revenge is perhaps that reinforcement learning systems adopt his prescriptive approach to algorithmic procedures. Computer scientists criticized Simon for the performative nature of his artificially intelligent systems, mainly for his positivism, but he defended his positivism based on his belief that symbolic computation could stand in for any reality and in fact shape that reality. Simon was not looking to actually re-create human intelligence; he was using coercion, bad faith, and fraud as tactical weapons in the reordering of human decision-making. Artificial intelligence was the perfect medium for his explorations.

Read now at Duke University Press


How to Make a Class: Hayek’s Neoliberalism and the Origins of Connectionism
Matteo Pasquinelli

It was not a cybernetician but a neoliberal economist who provided the first systematic treatise on connectionism or, as it would later be known, the paradigm of artificial neural networks. In his 1952 book The Sensory Order, Friedrich Hayek advanced a connectionist theory of the mind already far more advanced than the theory of symbolic artificial intelligence, whose birth is redundantly celebrated in 1956 with the exalted Dartmouth workshop. In this text Hayek provided a synthesis of Gestalt principles and considerations of artificial neural networks, even speculating about the possibility of a machine fulfilling a similar function of “the nervous system as an instrument of classification,” auguring what we call today a “classifier algorithm.” This article shows how Hayek’s connectionist theory of the mind was used to shore up a specific and ideological view of the market and schematically reconstructs Hayek’s line of argumentation from his economic paradigm backward to his theory of cognition. Eventually, in Hayek’s interpretation, connectionism provides a relativist cognitive paradigm that justifies the “methodological individualism” of neoliberalism.

Read now at Duke University Press


What is (Machine) Philosophy?
Luciana Parisi with William Morgan

This interview with the digital media theorist Luciana Parisi opens with the hypothesis that cybernetics is not merely the name for that postwar metascience of command and control. For Parisi, cybernetics names a “historical reconfiguration of metaphysics on behalf of technics.” This interview asks about the meaning and consequences of this hypothesis but steers away from the all-too-easy poiesis-as-panacea solution to the computational quagmire. Instead, this interview descends into the computational medium, into the specificity of its logic, asking what it might mean not merely to live in a cyberneticized world but to actively participate and believe in such a world. Parisi’s response puts to philosophy an important task: not to seek the accommodations of an expanding concept of the human within a machinic world but to think with the logic of the ascendant cybernetic metaphysics. For Parisi, a necessary move herein is to negotiate the reality of the algorithm’s syntactic operations, their performativity, a move that for her implies a certain form of belief. In tracking this form of belief across disciplines, this interview broaches questions of scalability, race and colonialism, the nonneutrality of technoscience, and the potential of computational aesthetics. Finally, the interview gestures toward Parisi’s future work, because, as she reminds us, we cannot go back; there are questions emerging from within machines that are eager to emerge and are waiting for us to think them.

Read now at Duke University Press


       Special Dossier: Breath

Introduction

The all-too-common refrain “I can’t breathe,” in response to obscene incidents of police brutality and the murder of Black people in America, has haunted us through this time where breath is not only dangerous and necessary but also, in this nation, hyperpoliticized at a number of flash points. The widespread refusal to wear a mask is effectively an insistence on breathing together, even if it marks the condition of one’s own last breath—or that of someone else, who may or may not have consented to sharing potentially deadly aerosol particles. Once a concern largely restricted to those with respiratory health conditions, breathing has now become a central preoccupation of the world. This special dossier, “Breath,” considers the politics, history, geography, and conditions of breathing from a moment of respiratory crisis amid a respiratory pandemic, the ecological crisis of California’s increasing wildfires and unbreathable air, and the brutal policing of Black American life. The short meditations in this dossier, from academics in various fields as well as creative writers, are responses to our current moment’s heightened awareness of the complexities of one of the most fundamental requirements for life.

Read now at Duke University Press


Collective Tissue
Jeffrey Moro

The trick about breath is that what goes in does not come out. Alveoli, dendritic sacs in the lungs, collect oxygen and exchange it for carbon dioxide, the fuel and waste of cells respiring at microscopic scale. Breath mediates in the word’s fundamental sense. In an unfolding ecological crisis and acute respiratory pandemic, twin technobiological catastrophes, we now face the question: What do media make us?

Read now at Duke University Press


Grass-Colored Air: Breathing with Osaki Midori
Daryl Maude

Breath holds time.

In a short set of passages on spring from 1934, the Japanese novelist and film critic Osaki Midori (1896–1971), who had suffered a breakdown and left Tokyo for her native Tottori Prefecture two years before, includes the following telegram. It is characteristic of the modernist style for which her work is known...

Read now at Duke University Press


The Anti-giraffe
Maria José de Abreu

The other day someone asked me how I would summarize the moment we are living in. My answer was that we are experiencing a total loss of perspective compensated only by an outstanding agility. Our incapacity to determine relations of cause and effect according to point of view is rewarded by a suppleness of form in responding to quick-shifting scenarios. The now-this-now-that sway of motion associated with the swift resolve of governmental leaders, market impulses, or media warfare is turning us into agile athletes whose intent is no longer to predict where things are going but to adapt as new situations erupt.

It is no wonder that calls for supra-agility come precisely when, due to a global pandemic, our breathing is being intensely regimented. If the virus includes all those who breathe as potentially infected, such inclusion also masks the violent exclusions...

Read now at Duke University Press


A Philippine Asphyxia
Kathleen Cruz Gutierrez

My eighty-seven-year-old father cuts holes in his masks. He says he can’t breathe otherwise. The fabric—whether stretchy, cotton, or woven—keeps him from taking full breaths, he protests. When we’re out, he pulls his mask below his nose, irreverent about public health guidance. His breathing, iyan ang kailangan (that’s what’s needed), COVID-19 be damned.

He was in Quezon City, Philippines, at the time of the first round of global coronavirus lockdowns. The numbers did not abate with the summer heat, and neither did the extrajudicial killings the present-day Philippine president rains on the populace. My father lived alone and preferred it that way. Until he couldn’t. The people he saw regularly—the buko (coconut) vendor, the titinda ng saging (banana salesperson), the labandera (laundrywoman) who helped with his weekly washing—retreated indoors to avoid the contagion. Local officials delivered cans of sardines to his apartment...

Read now at Duke University Press


as I take my seat...
Peter Myers

as I take my seat in the row in the hour of flight whose medium is an essence & my undoing via heartache of social bonds a type of corruptible weather I am in excess to or the debt canopy shadowing those surrounding fields & fields of heartache recede as the space before me turns social blur the night’s weatherless disruption the night’s letterless dysfunction pneumatic purr of the breathing machine I heard & saw my sister use through childhood episodes structuring breath music does this too only flightlessly flightlessly as music is I ascend to a rhythm in love with its own disruption but the breath stays grounded it didn’t make that choice once I made a choice then it made me back toward the origin of the breath it was one unending sentence & now I’m one unending sentence or...

Read now at Duke University Press


Groan
Kimberly Bain

Listen. There’s no introduction to Nina Simone’s rendition of “Strange Fruit,” only a single note. Her voice emerges. Rough. Direct. Accusing. Denouncing. Her entire performance is predicated on the tightly controlled breath: each word bears the weight of her lungs, none left unarticulated or lost among the bitter poignancy of images made into word.

Placing Nina Simone’s rendition of “Strange Fruit” is an effort in trying to place breath. Simone’s interpretation is no wail or cry. Hers is a performance steeped in a Black tradition of breathing, born of centuries of fugitivity and bearing the scars of a people trying to live in hostile atmospheres. Her “for the leaves to drop” extends “leaves” for a full seven seconds, voice a decrescendo like the wind wailing before a storm or the scream of a siren. Her guttural energy, baptized in anger and disgust...

Read now at Duke University Press


Cover: Tauba Auerbach, Grain - Conjoined Mandelbrot Quartet, Reflect, 2017. More info

Volume 30.1 is available at Duke University Press and Project Muse. Qui Parle is edited by an independent group of graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley and published by Duke University Press.

Qui Parle, Volume 29, Number 2, December 2020

Vol. 29 | No. 2 | December 2020


    Articles

How the Critique of Heaven Confines the Critique of the Earth
Mohamad Amer Meziane

This essay examines the effects of the critique of religion on the critique of capital and how the former confines the latter. It asks: What remains of the concepts of alienation or fetishism if they all stem from an anthropology of religion that seems to be criticized? If religion ceases to refer to an anthropological essence and is criticized as a European colonial concept, then what happens to the critique of capital? It argues that what Marx considers the condition for critique seems to be the blind spot of Western Marxism. Without a critical analysis of how the concept of religion is constructed and how religion is thus described as a human invention, Marxism cannot know itself. If Marx is a “critic of the critique of religion,” this gesture must apply to Marx as well as to Marxism itself. The critique of capitalism might need an alternative foundation if the anthropological concept of religion that supported it collapses. It is therefore impossible to maintain the critique of capital as it is while refusing the critique of religion that lies at its foundation.

Read now at Duke University Press


Otherwise than Blackness: Feeling, World, Sublimation
Tyrone S. Palmer

This essay thinks through the centrality of the concept of “the World” to theorizations of affect and the presumed correlation between feeling and world—that is, the notion that affective experience is necessarily generative of world(s)—that operates as an uninterrogated maxim in both contemporary and classical theories of affect. Focusing on the figure and question of the World and its grammars of relation(ality) and becoming, this essay considers the implications of an insistence on worlding in the context of anti-Blackness. It argues that the sustenance of the very concept of the World necessitates a foreclosure of Black affect’s destructive drive. Black affect is therefore an impossibility within the World, as that unbearable negativity which drives us toward its necessary destruction. In light of this, the essay argues further that the tendency toward an uncritical embrace of affect as a mode of world-forming within strains of Black critical theory—represented by turns to “the otherwise”—performs a sublimation of Black affect’s radical negativity, as encapsulated in the desire for the End of the World.

Read now at Duke University Press


A Living Community: Theorizing Immunity from the Autoimmune
Ohad Ben Shimon

This article proposes a theorization of immunity from an embodied autoimmune perspective. Arguing through what it identifies as the limitations in current clinical immunology explanations and politico-philosophical theories of immunity, the article seeks to embody, rather than metaphorize, the theoretical stakes of current immune theory. As a counterargument to dominant theorizations of immunity that pathologize or metaphorize the autoimmune bodily experience, the article forwards a more spacious, material, and affirmative theorization of the body. As the author supplements existing immune theory with their own emergent and embodied theory, they develop an autoimmune methodology based on their experience of living with an autoimmune disease. Part personal narrative, part speculative autoimmune theory, the article ultimately calls for a practice of self-care aimed at coming to tolerate the disagreeing community of the autoimmune body as it challenges normalized notions of what self and other, immunity and community, ease and disease mean.

Read now at Duke University Press


“South Africa Is the Land of Pet Animals”; or, The Racializing Assemblages of Colonial Pet-Keeping
Anna Feuerstein

This essay analyzes two late Victorian texts by white women colonists in South Africa—F. Clinton Parry’s children’s book African Pets (1880) and Annie Martin’s memoir Home Life on an Ostrich Farm (1890)—to nuance understandings of animality as racialization. By reading representations of colonial pet-keeping, the essay shows how the racializing tendencies of Western humanism—especially within slavery and colonialism—manifest within gendered animal-human relationships and help construct both Blackness and whiteness. It focuses on pet-keeping in the colonies to explore understandings of animal-human relationships within the Victorian empire and thus revises Achille Mbembe’s taxonomy of colonial animality. Moving beyond comparison and the tendency to group multiple kinds of dehumanizing practices within slavery and colonialism under the term animalization, the essay suggests that the assemblage is a more productive way to read the many layers of dehumanization taking place within colonial contexts. By analyzing constructions of Blackness, whiteness, and the animal together, it argues that within the animalization and dehumanization projected from the white colonist, we can move beyond reading only for anti-Blackness and locate significant moments of Black fugitivity, wherein Blackness escapes the racializing logics of Western humanism.

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Workers Entering the Prison: Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008) as Imperial Labor Film
Christopher McGowan

This article argues that Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008) represents an unexpected but compelling mutation of the genre of postindustrial labor film. Hunger depicts the protests of Irish republican prisoners inside the Maze Prison that culminated in the 1981 Irish hunger strike. At the same time, the film develops an extended representation of the labor of the prison workers who beat, humiliate, care for, and counsel the prisoners throughout the protests. By combining and reworking the genres of labor film, prison film, and Irish Troubles film, Hunger imagines the prison as a microcosm of a deindustrialized Northern Irish economy where labor has left the factory and become conjoined to the disciplinary power of the state, either as police work or as care work. In this way, Hunger attends to the “spirit” of what Lenin called the “labor aristocracy,” here reduced to the work of maintaining the very boundary between itself and those excluded from it. McQueen’s attention to the body and to the affective dimensions of labor and struggle, the article argues, allows Hunger to achieve a uniquely committed, totalizing representation of the political economy of Northern Ireland.

Read now at Duke University Press


Cover: Londi Lion, Black World II, 2020.

Volume 29.2 is available at Duke University Press and Project Muse. Qui Parle is edited by an independent group of graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley and published by Duke University Press.

Qui Parle, Volume 29, Number 1, June 2020

Vol. 29 | No. 1 | June 2020


    Articles

Carceral Entanglement in the Work of Leila Abdelrazaq
Keith P. Feldman

This essay considers how the graphic arts of Leila Abdelrazaq give form to Palestine’s contemporary worldliness and to the worldliness of Palestinian difference. It argues that Abdelrazaq’s work illustrates the entanglement of diaspora, memory, and futurity within the interconnected structures of enclosure and expulsion.

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Indefinite Detention
Judith Butler

Indefinite detention is a legal norm and practice that is increasingly acceptable throughout the world. It consists of arrest and forcible detention without a clear communication of crimes committed, and it can last indefinitely, since it deprives the detained of recourse to courts for review and release. Kafka’s Trial, which brought this kind of legal nightmare into focus, proves relevant for understanding the temporal sequence by which the expectation of justice through law is confounded and negated. Over and against the expectation that a set of legal procedures sequentially followed will deliver a fair verdict, if not justice, Kafka’s reordering of space and time exposes a world in which the allegation becomes punishment and the expected release becomes the renewal of detention itself. The relation between fictional and legal sequence proves salient for understanding the indefinite postponement of justice through law, exposing in the end a form of legal violence indistinguishable from criminality.

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The Late Masterwork of Gilles Deleuze: Linking Style to Method in What Is Philosophy?
Mathias Schönher

This essay proposes that What Is Philosophy? (1991), written in collaboration with Félix Guattari, not only presents a summary of Gilles Deleuze’s late creative period and, to some extent, a recapitulation of his entire oeuvre but also constitutes his third masterwork. The essay begins by tracing Deleuze’s three periods, especially the development of his thought during the last period, and the process of writing his final book. Then it explores the inextricable connection between the method of creation that results from What Is Philosophy? and its stylistic devices. Through its refined composition and succinct prose, the book puts itself at the service of the approach that leads to bringing forth philosophical concepts, and it attunes the reader to the creative activity. Thus, like The Logic of Sense (1969) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980), it forms a masterwork in which Deleuze’s philosophical efforts that spanned a whole period are condensed and mobilized such that while reading one finds oneself exposed to these efforts and is forced to continue them.

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Critical (Dis)pleasure
Bruno Penteado

Recent developments in literary studies that can be grouped under the umbrella term postcritique purport to restore, in our disciplinary practices, attention to affect, pleasure, and attachment, which postcritics believe the critical tradition has silenced and neglected. Postcritics depict critique as a violent hermeneutic practice of excavating a text’s hidden truths. This essay claims that postcritique’s understanding of critical theory is misguided and caricatural. By focusing on key thinkers of the critical tradition, particularly French philosophers, it argues that hermeneutic openness and nonmastery is a constant in many critical writings—and so is the question of pleasure. It suggests that many of postcritique’s propositions, which postcritics affirm are innovative and claim critique has disavowed, have always been a recurring topic in the work of critical theorists.

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Blanchot and Lautréamont
William S. Allen

Blanchot’s readings of Lautréamont are among the most important writings on this challenging author, and they are also crucial for the development of his own thinking, but they have never been discussed in depth. This essay surveys the whole range of Blanchot’s writings on Lautréamont and shows how they constitute the first considered attempt within his thinking to examine the notions of the fantastic and the image in relation to the experience of metaphor. This survey not only enables a renewed understanding of the significance of Lautréamont’s writings but also reveals how Blanchot transforms the Hegelian thinking of experience by way of its passage through literature.

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I Assure You, We Have the Strictest Alien Act Possible!: The Emergence of the Concept of “Risky Immigrants” in Denmark
Kaspar Villadsen

This essay tells the story of how Denmark transformed from a very welcoming and tolerant country to one whose prime ministers reassure its residents, “We have the strictest Alien Act possible.” The approach is genealogical, following Michel Foucault, and the empirical focal point is Danish immigration policies as they evolved from the late 1960s until today. This development culminates in the emergence of the “restrictionist policy paradigm,” which associates immigrants with risks like economic burdens, high unemployment levels, crimes, undemocratic attitudes, and the development of ghettos. From the perspective of the welfare project, the immigrants became “risky” as they were profiled in terms of their higher probability of developing suboptimal or dysfunctional behaviors that endanger the welfare state. The Danish experience is analyzed from a broader thesis on the welfare state as caught up between welfarist universality, industrial-capitalist expansion, and sovereign territoriality. Drawing on Foucault’s work, these different logics of statehood are analyzed as evolving constellations of law, discipline, and security. Danish immigration policy mutates over time so that policies of security premised on free circulation gradually give way to discipline and legal sovereignty that block, filter, and segregate immigrants. Alongside this movement toward territorial enclosure, the discursive construction of the immigrant changes fundamentally.

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    Review Essays

Mind the Gap: Islam, Secularism, and the Law
Rajbir Singh Judge

A review of Stephens, Julia, Governing Islam: Law, Empire, and Secularism in Modern South Asia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018); Messick, Brinkley, Sharīʿa Scripts: A Historical Anthropology (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018); and Asad, Talal, Secular Translations: Nation-State, Modern Self, and Calculative Reason (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018).

Read now at Duke University Press


Pact with the People?: Popular Genres, Public Concerns, and the Politics of Representation
Jonas Teupert

A review of Matala de Mazza, Ethel, Der populäre Pakt: Verhandlungen der Moderne zwischen Operette und Feuilleton (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2018).

Read now at Duke University Press


Cover: Leila Abdelrazaq, A Map of Palestine, 2015. More info. 

Volume 29.1 is available at Duke University Press and Project Muse. Qui Parle is edited by an independent group of graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley and published by Duke University Press.