critical theory

Our elders have been warning us about this for generations now—they saw the unsustainability of settler society immediately. Societies based on conquest cannot be sustained, so yes, I do think we’re getting closer to that breaking point for sure. We’re running out of time. We’re losing the opportunity to turn this thing around. We don’t have time for this massive slow transformation into something that’s sustainable and alternative. I do feel like I’m getting pushed up against the wall. Maybe my ancestors felt that 200 years ago or 400 years ago. But I don’t think it matters. I think that the impetus to act and to change and to transform, for me, exists whether or not this is the end of the world. If a river is threatened, it’s the end of the world for those fish. It’s been the end of the world for somebody all along. And I think the sadness and the trauma of that is reason enough for me to act.
—  Leanne Simpson, Nishnaabeg writer and theorist
Bodies are becoming like cities, their temporal coordinates transformed into spatial ones. In a poetic condensation, history has been replaced by geography, stories by maps, memories by scenarios. We no longer perceive ourselves as continuity but as location, or rather dislocation in the urban/suburban cosmos. Past and future have been exchanged for icons: photos, postcards, and films cover their loss. A surplus of information attempts to control this evanescence of time by reducing it to a compulsive chronology. Process and change are now explained by cybernetic transformation, making it more and more difficult to distinguish between our organic and our technological selves. It is no longer possible to be rooted in history. Instead, we are connected to the topography of computer screens and video monitors. these give us the language and images that we require to reach others and see ourselves.

Almost a relic, the body is exercised and sanitized to glorification. It is the last refuge of identity. Like the vanishing city, the body remains as the only concrete proof of existence. Yet, scattered and fragmented under the weight of technology, body and city can’t be recovered by means other than those that displace them: they must be recorded or registered anew. Video replaces the personal diary. Made up of images, urban culture is like a hall of mirrors, its reflections reproduced to infinity. Confronted with their own technological images, the city and the body become ruins. Even technology is attacked by an obsolescence that renders it old instantly. We are faced with a transitory landscape, where new ruins continually pile up on each other. It is amid these ruins that we look for ourselves.
—  Celeste Olalquiaga, Megalopolis: Contemporary Cultural Sensibilities
The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of emergency” in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that accords with this insight. Then we will clearly see that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against fascism. One reason fascism has a chance is that, in the name of progress, its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are “still” possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge — unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.
— 

Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History,” 1940

This one paragraph by Benjamin precisely summarizes the necessary intellectual response to the rise of Trump and Trumpism in America today. The German left’s failure to appreciate such an insight was disastrous in the 1930s, and the American left, so shocked that something so regressive as Trump is “still” possible, are in danger of doing the same.

Foucauldian morality

So Michel Foucault, arguably the best thinker and philosopher of the 20th century and original gangster of critical theory, had a set of morals all of his own that we should all consider paying mind to.

Foucault lived and achieved success through a moral code of only three steps.

1. The refusal to accept as self evident the things that are proposed to us.

  •  Don't accept anything as fact. Everything can and should be questioned.
  • Why should we believe that which is presented to us as fact, for most societal recommendations or instructions are norms, not rules.
  • A perfect example of this is gender norms. “you’re a boy so you can’t/shouldnt wear a skirt” (but like why?, thats not a rule, thats not a fact, thats nonsense.)

2. The need to analyze and to know, since we can accomplish nothing without reflection and understanding thus, the principle of curiosity.

  • research, understanding and falling on your own conclusions. most of what we know and believe has been told to us not achieved through self discovery or experience. 
  • most of the time when we believe we’re thinking were actually listening and repeating. So what have you not heard before and why?

3. The principle of innovation, to seek out in our reflections those things that have never been thought or imagined.

  • Again, figure out what have you not heard, been taught, or seen, and why you haven’t heard, been taught, or seen this.
  • what is it? and why can it or can it not come to be?
  • get a new perspective.

SO Basically…

Refusal~ Curiosity~ Innovation

and remember. “The enlightenment that inspired the liberties also invented the disciplines” M.F. (the OG)

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.
— 

Samuel P. Huntington, cited on the ‘Where is Raed?’ website, a day-to-day journal of everyday life in Baghdad under bombardment.

Extract in Robert J. C. Young, Postcolonialism, A Very Short Introduction (UK: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 32.

A disturbingly large amount of theory seems explicitly to undertake the proliferation of only one affect, or maybe two, of whatever kind – whether ecstasy, sublimity, self-shattering, jouissance, suspicion, abjection, knowingness, horror, grim satisfaction, or righteous indignation. It’s like the old joke: ‘Comes the revolution, Comrade, everyone gets to eat roast beef every day.’ ‘But Comrade, I don’t like roast beef.’ “Comes the revolution, Comrade, you’ll like roast beef.’ Comes the revolution, Comrade, you’ll be tickled pink by those deconstructive jokes; you’ll faint from ennui every minute you’re not smashing the state apparatus; you’ll definitely want hot sex twenty to thirty times a day. You’ll be mournful and militant. You’ll never want to tell Deleuze and Guattari, ‘Not tonight, dears, I have a headache.
— 

Sedgwick, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay is About You” in Touching Feeling, p. 146

This continues to be one of the most incredible things ever said about theory/theorizing

7

…we free spirits: it is only now, at the midday of our life, that we understand what preparations, bypaths, experiments, temptations, disguises the problem had need of before it was allowed to rise up before us, and how we first had to experience the most manifold and contradictory states of joy and distress in soul and body, as adventurers and circumnavigators of that inner world called ‘man’, as surveyors and guagers of that 'higher’ and 'one upon the other’ that is likewise called 'man’- penetrating everywhere, almost without fear, disdaining nothing, losing nothing, asking everything, cleansing everything of what is chance and accident in it and as it were thoroughly sifting it- until at last we had theright to say, we free spirits: 'Here - a new problem! Here a long ladder upon whose rungs we ourselves have sat and climbed - which we ourselves have at some time been! Here a higher, a deeper, a beneath-us, a tremendous long ordering, an order of rank, which we see: here - our problem!' 


The psychological manifesto of 1878. “Human, All Too Human” by Friedrich Nietzsche. 

Source:  Warner Bros. Pictures.

anonymous asked:

hi, I'm also trans. What are some of your favorite books on trans related critical theory? (I tend to avoid books such as whipping girl that use the word "transsexual".)

While Whipping Girl offers some good foundational work on issues older white trans women face, like you said, the language is quite dated and the whole book has been (rightfully) critiqued for being only pertinent to white, upperclass, etc trans experience. It’s unfortunate that this is all that comes up when someone looks up critical theory trans books. There are actually quite a few that center TPOC experiences within brilliant layers of analysis. I have too many favorites but here are my top five right now: 

1. Queer Necropolitics (Jin Haritaworn, Adi Kuntsman, and Silvia Posocco)

2. Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex (Eric Stanley and Nat Smith)

3. Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law (Dean Spade)

4. decolonizing trans/gender 101 (b. binaohan)

5. Nobody Passes (Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore)

The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.
—  Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History