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from Staring Into the Abyss

Chapter 2: Active and Reactive

Getting, finally, into Chapter 2 of the text we can begin to see Deleuze discuss some of the more controversial language in Nietzschian texts, specifically language around concepts like superiority and inferiority, and how the implications of that language are very much opposed to those often derived by fascist readers of Nietzsche. Within this discussion we can start to see how, rather than marking some sort of inherent concept of dominance or some inherent hierarchy, as people like Richard Spencer would have it, the concepts of inferiority is mapped onto the concept of reaction, which is then mapped onto a broader concept of power to act.

  • Consciousness is presented unpretentiously. By that, I mean that consciousness for Nietzsche is partial, limited, unable to grasp what is outside of consciousness. The Aristotelian paradigm is grounded in counsciousness that is separate from the world yet, from a position of non-knowledge, can somehow come to understand Truth of all things through conceptual thought alone. In rejecting this absurdity, Nietzsche enshrines this separation between consciousness and the world as central to the limits of consciousness. As such, consciousness can then re-enter the world as something formed by and impacted by the world.

  • As such, consciousness becomes inherently related to the body. Bodies in Nietzsche are not physical mediums. Rather, the body is typified by its insertion into the world, and, as a result, is directly a product of relations of forces, framed through the language of superior (more forceful) and inferior (less forceful) forces. In other words, consciousness is simultaneously limited to itself (it cannot think anything outside of itself, can't think the actual world), as well as formed through that which occurs outside of itself (in and of the world).

“What defines a body is this relation between dominant and dominmated forces. Every relationship of forces constitutes a body- whether it is chemical, biological, social, or political. Any two forces being unequal, constitute a body as soon as they enter into relationship” (40).

This constitutes the body, not as a solid singularity that persists across time, but as an arbitrary outcome of the shifting dynamics of plural forces coming into relation. The body here names this relation, that which is formed by the collision of the exteriorization of power or activity, its propelling into the world. Body here does not just name something like the human body, though the term does apply here. Rather, body is a term that marks a relation between multiple forces, with the body itself being the point of convergence, the relation. These relations of force with force are discussed as active (doiminant) and reactive (dominated) forces, with the difference in qualities (quantity here is a quality, an element of a thing) being referred to as hierarchy.

  • These “inferior” forces are not subsumed into “superior” forces; namely a dynamic of activity does not get eliminated simply due to a differential of force, but remains within the moment, as an element. The quality of “inferiority” or “superiority” is not some sort of declaration of inherent domaination (as really bad readers of Nietzsche like Richard Spencer would have one think), but is, rather, a descriptive property relating to a relationship of force. The concept of some sort of inherent nature, as bad readers of Nietzsche claim he is asserting, are, sort of like the individual in Stirner, static categories which may name some sort of dynamic, but which can never define, subsume, or limit that dynamic in itself. Force is always a conflictual relationship, and as such, it is a dynamic that constructs contingency and the particilarity of force in a moment, and not something that exists independent of force due to its independence from time (all universal categories are “timeless, namely outside of the world, metaphysical).

“Inferior” forces are defined not by some inherent deficiency, but purely in relation to a more acute force or a force of greater magnitude, and does nothing but name that imbalance without any sort of pejorative or qualitative assertion about the categories themselves. “Inferior” forces are reactive forces and function based on operating within the bounds of regulation, or externally imposed limits that they cannot overcome. The constellation of regulation defines the “inferior” force as part of a body (defined as a collection defined by an organizing logic). The body, as an organizational logic and force, is both a product of collection and a force that shapes the relation of “inferior” forces within the body without defining what those forces are. It is this organization of a unified singular body that precedes all concepts of the “self” for example.

  • Forces are traditionally discussed through a discourse on quantity, which is a quality of force (an element of the force but not the defining element). The framing of force through the concept of quality allows us to address a core conceptual issue, how we think relationality. For a relation to exist a commonality must be present to provide terms for that relation. In qualitative analysis comparison becomes impossible and commonality absent due to both the arbitrariness of qualitative analysis, as well as the positionality of qualitative analysis in the constantly shifting moment. This leads to two implications. Firstly, quantity becomes a point of convergence, but only to the degree that quantity becomes inseparable from the difference in quantity in relation; it is inconceivable without comparison. Even in simple quantities, like 2, we are positing an organizing logic that allows us to group things together through asserted commonality.

Secondly, if forces are within qualities and quantities are an element of quality, then quantity is taken into account as a property of quality and not independent from quality. This prevents the isolation of quantity from all other elements, and inserts it as an element of force among other elements. Quantities, as a result, never become simplified into some sort of equality of quantity; these quantities themselves are qualities of something else, and have their own qualities, rendering them particular and not common. As such, quantity and quality enter into a relation where neither is simply reducible to one another, but necessarily exist coimmanently.

  • Chance names the relation of all forces to one another. When forces come into collision the result is not confined to a calculus limited to the immediate forces in conflict. Rather, forces enter into conflict within a medium of action (the moment) that, in itself, is constructed of various forces in conflict, and both shape and are shaped by that medium. As such, some sort of definitive narrative on causation, some sort of understanding of “strategy” in the abstract, some discourse on political determinism (historical materialism), are impossible and rely on the reduction of conflict to such a degree as to cease speaking of dynamics in conflict, and retreat into speaking of abstract static objects. This dynamic foundation to force and conflict not only prevents any sort of singular definitive political narrative from emerging (especially in relation to some future utopian fiction) but it also grounds the world, occurrences, time itself, in chance and contingency reaulting from a collision of forces and bodies.

  • Force only exists in relation to other forces, and not independent of that conflict, and only to the degree that there is a differential of force, with the different quantities of force being qualitative differences; if force exists in relation to conflict, and force is equivalent between entities, then there is no conflict and thus no force. “This is what the will to power is; the genealogical element of force, both differential and genetic. The will to power is the element from which derive both the quantitative difference of related forces and the quality that devolves into each force in this relation. The will to power here reveals its nature as the principle of the synthesis of forces” (50)“.

So, far from the way that this concept is read when appropriated by authoritarians, the will to power names the differential quantity of force in relation to other forces; it is the basis of dynamic relationality. It does not exist separate from forces, and is bound up in the dynamics of conflict and flux that necessarily result from force, activity, life itself. If we allow for the will to power to be separated from the materiality of force (and thus the impossibility of unity, let alone something like a nation) then it is reduced to a metaphysical and moral object, which is what occurs in many forms of vitalism for example. In this reading force is always bound up with conflict, which is always something that occurs in moments that are, in themselves, defined by that dynamic of conflict. This return of the dynamics of conflict from past moments, which constructs the present, is what is referred to as the eternal return, a concept that Deleuze returns to at length later, and I would argue the most critical concept in the text.

  • To then argue for a systematization of forces is to posit a unity across both time and space, eliminating force itself, and positing a static immobile world of peace (the absence of conflict). Within Nietzschian language the concept of active force corresponds to the concept of “superior” forces, but these are not qualities that can be posited in some general, universal sense, but are always within and in relation to force, and thus the moment. As such, the question of whether a force is active or reactive is not reducible to a comparison of forces within some sort of static system, which posits the temporal singularity of both force and “systems”. Rather, the determination of whether forces are active or reactive is fundamentally grounded in the moment of conflict itself.

It is even possible for reactive forces to triumph over active forces, and in fact this is what often occurs. Any time activity is mobilized to preserve some sort of systemic limitation, inherent prohibition, some sort of limitation not grounded in the moment, this force is operating reactively. What is law or policing except this? We can see this in Hobbes, where the state is not posited as an object in itself, with an independent existence, but is only framed as a reactionary response to the anarchic, which is what Hobbes refers to as the “state of nature”. “Indeed, everything which separates a force is reactive as is the state of a force separated from what it can do. Every force which goes to the limit of its power is, on the contrary, active” (58-59).

This reactionary triumph constructs the core of modern positivism (we can also refer to this as prefiguration or utopianism). Within this framework conceptual understandings are elevated to the position of existential conditions of possibility for existence. For example, in Aristotle the existence of universal truth is asserted, which then means that all thought exists only in relation to this universal truth which is, paradoxically, not known (how we go from not knowing to knowing is an irresolvable issue at the core of all truth narratives). The framework is removed from materiality, and exists independent form the world and in a completely static form across time, elevating it to a metaphysical position that is capable of being above action and judging action. All morality is structured this way.

  • The will to power functions as the differential element of the relation of force, and must manifest only within that relation. “The relationship between forces in each case is determined to the extent that each force is affected by the other, inferior or superior, forces. It follows that will to power is manifested as a capacity to be affected” (62). This affection, the change in an entity as a result of something outside, occurs in all relations of force, for all forces involved, which makes all forces fundamentally dynamic and all relations of force momentary. The will to power, therefore, is not about some ability to maintain some rigid form and use that to inscribe the totality of life to justify some relation of domination, as fascist “readers” of Nietzsche would baselessly assert. Rather, the will to power is the ability to operate within possibility, as a formlessness, and to resist efforts to concretize that possibility, limit it, or define it. It is this capacity to be affected, to be changed and modified dynamically, that typifies a type of power that is active, that destroys governmentality, that renders things ungovernable as a power to become or of a possibility unbounded.

  • The actualization of becoming, as opposed to the possibility of becoming, functions as a reactive power, as a concretization of boundless possibility in a specific form, as opposed to any other possible form. For example, in any moment one has an infinite ability to act, on a formal level, as long as the universe is not deterministic. Yet, when we act we choose one possibility in lieu of others, eliminating those possibilities, and binding activity to the act of becoming. This interplay between the imposition of concretization and the destruction of limits in the possibility of force in action, functions as the core of the dynamic of force. This reactiveness of becoming is a result of the ways that becoming has been tied to some concept of being; that becoming itself, at any given moment, is what defines an existence in its totality. At the same time, the becoming-reactive of forces, in itself, generates new possibilities, new active forces, simply by the ability of force to effect and affect.

In the structuring of active force the destruction of the limitations imposed on possibility is viewed as an affirming force, and all affirming forces are active. It affirms by asserting a space in which an entity exists in a particular way, with all of the possibilities in the moment, but only to the degree that necessary limits are destroyed to allow for that possibility to emerge. This is not an either/or calculation, either concretization or possibility, but is a necessary interplay at the core of the very construction of any act (we choose one of an infinite number of possibilities, while at the same time creating possibility through the contingent impacts of the act). The task is not to eliminate concretization, which would result in some sort of formless existence; Stirner points this out in his argument against using absolute freedom as a sort of conceptual ideal. Rather, the task becomes the prevention of the emergence of policing, or the attempt to inherently limit all acts based on conceptual definitions of life and a logistics of force; forces that would prevent possibilities from emerging.

  • The point in which the reactive becomes the active is termed active nihilism, or the point where the will to nothingness (reactive force) becomes related to the eternal return. “Only the eternal return can complete nihilism because it makes a negation a negation of reactive forces themselves. By and in the eternal return nihilism no longer expresses itself as the conservation and victory of the weak but as their destruction; their self-destruction” (70)(weakness here is a term to identify the inability to overcome external limitation). This is an active destruction of the reactive, without then positing a new framework of limitation, as would occur in political modernism and all forms of positivism.

We will come back to the concept of the eternal return later, in future notes, but for now, it marks the return of the dynamics of the past in the construction of the present. For now, it is merely important as a source of tension. On one hand there is this return of the past, of the effects of the dynamics of the past, and the present exists as a highly particularized expression of the effects of everything that has ever happened ever. At the same time the moment of action is a moment of possibilities, where the past terminates in the present, and the present has its own effects which then contribute to the construction of other moments. There are a lot of implications to this, but the most relevant for this discussion is the discourse on the moment of imposition of limitation.

If limitations are only imposed in the moment in which the eternal return constructs the moment, then all limitations are in themselves that which operate within that moment as well. This means that any conceptual limitations are, in themselves, not able to function without the materiality of policing within the moment itself. As such, conflict is not able to be a theory of conflict in general, or, at its most absurd, some sort of theory of “revolution” or “history”; it is only relevant in its operationality in the present, making this act of destruction material in itself.


from Dice Game

Neurodivergence, Queerness, Anarchy!

“In the clear, critical light of day, illusory administrators whisper of our need for institutions, and all institutions are political, and all politics is correctional, so it seems we need correctional institutions in the common, settling it, correcting us. But we won’t stand corrected. Moreover, incorrect as we are there’s nothing wrong with us. We don’t want to be correct and we won’t be corrected.”

Three pieces on neurodivergence, queerness, and anarchy:

  1. “Max Stirners Embodied Egoism | From Self-Empowerment to Neuro-Anarchism” [Video Conference in Prague, February 24th 2018]

  2. “What is neuroqueer? | Intro from “Neuroqueer Heresies” by Nick Walker”

  3. “Neuroqueerness as Fugitive Practice | Against the grain of Applied Behavioral Analysis”

[CONTENT WARNING]: This compilation contains mentions of applied behavioral analysis, ableism, institutionalization, torture, murder, and death.

1. Max Stirners Embodied Egoism | From Self-Empowerment to Neuro-Anarchism” [Video Conference in Prague, February 24th 2018]

2. What is neuroqueer? | Intro from “Neuroqueer Heresies” by Nick Walker

What is neuroqueer (or neuroqueerness, or neuroqueering)?

“I should first of all acknowledge that any effort to establish an “authoritative” definition of neuroqueer is in some sense inherently doomed and ridiculous, simply because the sort of people who [engage] in neuroqueering tend to be the sort of people who delight in subverting definitions, concepts, and authority. That said, the [outline] that follows is the closest thing to an “authoritative” definition as is ever likely to exist.” – Nick Walker (She/Her)

Neuroqueer was originally conceived as a verb: neuroqueering as the practice of queering (subverting, defying, disrupting, liberating oneself from) neuronormativity and heteronormativity simultaneously. It was an extension of the way queer is used as a verb in Queer Theory; expanding the Queer Theory conceptualization of queering to encompass the queering of neurocognitive norms as well as gender norms – and, in the process, examining how socially-imposed neuronormativity & socially-imposed heteronormativity were entwined with one another, and how the queering of either of those two forms of normativity entwined with (and blended into) the queering of the other.

So neuroqueer was a verb first, and then, like its root word queer, it was also an adjective. As a verb, it refers to a broad range of interrelated practices. As an adjective, it describes things that are associated with those practices or that result from those practices.

One can neuroqueer, and one can be neuroqueer. A neuroqueer individual is any individual whose selfhood, gender performance, and/or neurocognitive style have in some way been shaped by their engagement in practices of neuroqueering, regardless of what gender, sexual orientation, or style of neurocognitive functioning they may have been born with.

Or, to put it more concisely (but perhaps more confusingly): you’re neuroqueer if you neuroqueer.

So what does it mean to neuroqueer, as a verb? What are the various practices that fall within this [outline] of neuroqueering?:

• Being both neurodivergent and queer, with some degree of awareness and/or active exploration around how these two aspects of one’s being entwine and interact (or are, perhaps, mutually constitutive and inseparable).

• Embodying and expressing one’s neurodivergence in ways that also queer one’s performance of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and/or other aspects of one’s identity.

• Engaging in practices intended to undo and subvert one’s own cultural conditioning and one’s ingrained habits of neuronormative and heteronormative performance, with the aim of reclaiming one’s capacity to give more full expression to one’s uniquely weird potentials and inclinations.

• Engaging in the queering of one’s own neurocognitive processes (and one’s outward embodiment and expression of those processes) by intentionally altering them in ways that create significant and lasting increase in one’s divergence from prevailing cultural standards of neuronormativity and heteronormativity.

• Approaching, embodying, and/or experiencing one’s neurodivergence as a form of queerness.

• Producing literature, art, and/or other artifacts that foreground neuroqueer experiences, perspectives, voices etc.

• Producing critical responses to literature and/or other cultural artifacts, focusing on intentional or unintentional characterizations of neuroqueerness and how those characterizations illuminate and/or are illuminated by actual neuroqueer lives and experiences.

So there you have it, from the people who brought about the term. This definition is, again, not an authoritative “last word” on the subject, because that would be a silly thing to attempt. Rather, I hope this will be taken as a broad working outline from which further theory, practice, and play will proceed.

3. Neuroqueerness as Fugitive Practice: Against the grain of Applied Behavioral Analysis

In its relatively short lifespan, applied behavioral analysis—the shaping of human [and non-human] behavior through operant conditioning—has risen to a state of eminence in the teaching and treatment of autistic children. This article reads the archive of behaviorist scholarship with and against the grain of ABA to two ends. First, I argue that behaviorism is a prevailing form of biophilanthropy: a form of biopolitics in which the technologies of control are rebranded as philanthropic ventures. I use biopolitics to demonstrate how inclusion into the capitalist society marks some (the includable) for life, some (the nonincludable) for death, and some for violence aimed at recuperating the normative future.

I use a case study from the corpus of behaviorist scholarship, “Effects of Punishment Procedures on the Self-Stimulatory Behavior of an Autistic Child,” to demonstrate how futurity is leveraged to seduce the teacher into the biopolitical project. My second use of this archive is to engage in a critical rereading of the text, locating moments of embodied resistance by the subject of the experiment. I make critical connections between the overlooked resistances within the archive of behaviorism and place these fugitive practices in continuity with contemporary notions of “neuroqueering” theorized by autistic scholars and activists.


Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a leading form of therapy and pedagogical method for autistic students in the United States. ABA is the practical arm of behaviorism science, which uses operant conditioning—contingent reinforcement and punishment— to shape behavior. ABA emerged as a scientific subfield in the 1960s as B. H. Skinner and his contemporaries tested their hypotheses about the experimental control of behavior on live subjects—including animals, children, and the disabled. In roughly 50 years, ABA has evolved from Skinner’s early experimentation to a full-fledged institution. As children are brought under the analytic lens of ABA, their future capacity for labor and social participation are evaluated. At a young age, those deemed to be lacking the potential for inclusion become marked for violence (intensive intervention and punishment) or displacement (institutionalization or incarceration), in the name of restoring the child’s threatened future.

I begin with two assertions: First, ABA is a technology of control that seeks to manage “unruly bodies”. Second, both disability and childhood contain an inherent queerness and precarious relationship to futurity, marking autistic or otherwise neurodivergent children as doubly-queer. I draw on two bodies of literature: behaviorist studies identifying queer behaviors in autistic children (Stimulations i.e “stimming”), and queer theory scholarship theorizing queerness as inherent in childhood itself. I argue that ABA serves the state in the management of embodied difference, through restoring normalcy. Specifically, I use gender studies scholar Kyla Schuller’s concept of biophilanthropy to demonstrate how biopolitical technologies are rebranded as a philanthropic venture.

Finally, I theorize resistance through an emergent concept of neuroqueer(ness). Neuroqueer(ness) represents an array of relationships between neurology and queerness including being both neurodivergent and queer, actively choosing to embody one’s neurodivergence, or queering ones cognitive processes. Queering, or the act of purposeful engagement with the non-normative, is a form of political disruption, an exercise in radical visibility, and a subversion of state control. I argue that neuroqueering can act as a fugitive practice that resists discourses of rights/recognition shaped by the neoliberal principles of individual freedom, rationality, and capitalist production.

Fugitivity, or a fugitive practice, is one that occludes capture; that exists outside of the formal structures of the state; invoking transience and elements of criminality). Essentially, I am interested in resistance in the most impossible of situations—the everyday fugitivity of children who occupy seclusion rooms, clinics, segregated special education classrooms, prisons, etc.

I purposefully contrast neuroqueering with the dominant mode of disability rights activism: advocacy for increased rights, compliance with disability law, and oversight. To do so, I use a case study from the journal Analysis and Intervention in Developmental Disabilities (Friman et al., 1984), focusing on how the subject of the intervention, Bob, is emblematic of both biopolitical discipline directed toward the queer body, and a fugitive practice of neuroqueering. I demonstrate how rereading the archive of behaviorism against the grain (Benjamin, 1940/ 2006) can provide evidence of liberatory praxis. I specifically look for moments of neuroqueerness as fugitive struggle within the archive of behaviorism, a body of work that claims to solve the problems of unruly bodies and minds.


Behaviorism emerged as a distinct field of scientific inquiry in the mid-20th century. In the tradition of Watson and Pavlov, B. H. Skinner began exploring motivation through animal experimentation, training animals such as pigeons to perform simple tasks through conditional reinforcement and punishment. In 1958, Skinner and other early behaviorists established the first journal for behaviorist research, “The Journal for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior” (JEAB). With the establishment of the JAEB in 1958 and the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis in 1968, the scope of behaviorism quickly expanded from small-scale animal experiments to eradicating perceived social maladies through operant conditioning. Early behaviorists donned a philanthropic role, claiming that their new science had tremendous potential to rehabilitate those previously thought to be irredeemable and to solve complex social problems.

Skinner’s firm rejection of the mentalism of Freudian psychoanalysis and his commitment to extreme positivism was a departure from psychoanalysis, as well as classical conditioning, and his theories drew wide criticism (Breger & McGaugh, 1965; Chomsky, 1959). Despite criticism, behaviorism has risen from a niche, experimental science to a highly professionalized field that has established preeminence in the treatment and education of disabled children. There is a particularly well-established connection between behaviorism and schooling for autistic children largely due to claims from the ABA industry being the only evidence-based therapy for autism (Keenan et al., 2015, p. 123). One of the defining features of early behaviorist scholarship was an interest in eradicating difference through the use of aversives. Aversive is a behaviorist term for a variety of negative consequences, such as electroshock, ingesting unpalatable substances, and physical restraint or seclusion (Moore & Bailey, 1973; Sidman, 1958). Although ABA, as a field, has shifted toward the use of positive reinforce- ment, “restrictive interventions” and variety of neologisms for punishment such as “over-correction” are still part of the practice of ABA, and current research on aversives continues to be published (Lydon, Healy, Moran, & Foody, 2015, p. 470–484).


This article uses biopolitics as a theoretical frame. Biopolitics, as defined by Foucault, has two interdependent features: the increased surveillance, discipline and control of the individual body; and regulatory control—governmentality—through which society is oriented toward economic production (Foucault, 2007). In US public schools, the school is tasked with the making of proper citizens and securing national futures through discipline and compliance (albeit sometimes masquerading as classroom management or positive behavior supports; Acevedo, 2018; Ball & Olmedo, 2013). Scholars in educational studies have explored the ways schooling reproduces hegemonic cultural norms and how students are socialized for a future congruent with White, heterosexual, middle-class values and embodiments (Anyon, 1980; Lugg, 2003; Piro, 2008). The future child, or rather the fantasy of the future adult, one that is a willing and productive addition to a liberal capitalism, functions to continuously orient the teacher to the not-yet-arrived. The specter of the imagined future adult haunts the extant child who is always in tension between the present version and their potential.

The teacher/therapist is thus engaged in what gender studies scholar Kyla Schuller terms biophilanthrophy, a “mode of incremental life” in which “racialized youth were gradually made to live and enter the capitalist economy” (Schuller, 2017, p. 21). Schuller (2017) argues that biophilanthropy “work[s] within institutions of discipline such as charities, schools, churches, prisons, orphanages and domestic homes, with the larger goal of creating useful cohorts of workers to further the accumulation of labor, power and wealth” (p.162). ABA is particularly exemplary of biophilanthropy because of its claim to rehabilitate its subjects, and to “make live” what once was set to be left to die (Foucault, 2003, p.241). Behaviorism emerged as a disciplinary technology of inclusion and momentous form of biophilanthropy in the 20th century. A successful application of the science of behaviorism allows for the recipient to be made includable in liberal capitalist society—and thus allows for any of the inherent violences contained within to be considered necessary, a preferable alternative to social (or literal) death.


To demonstrate how ABA disciplines the disabled body through biophilanthropy, I turn to the following case study from the Analysis and Intervention in Developmental Disabilities titled “Effects of Punishment Procedures on the Self-Stimulatory Behavior of an Autistic Child,” (Friman et al., 1984). The case study was selected for several reasons. First, current critical scholarship on ABA has focused primarily on Ivar Lovaas, a polemical figure most famous for his work at UCLA’s Young Autism Project and his infamous text Teaching Developmentally Disabled Children: The Me Book (Douglas et al., 2019; Gibson & Douglas, 2018). This text is often cited by anti-ABA activists on account of its unabashed ableist rhetoric and unapologetic endorsement of physical punishment (Anonymous, 2015). However, I resist singling out Lovaas, who is often misattributed as being the first to apply the science of behaviorism to the disabled. More accurately, Lovaas was one of many behaviorists experimenting on the disabled, a population of immediate interest to the emergent field. Second, the case study is relative chronological median in the history of ABA. This demonstrates both the past and future of the field. Friman was trained during the early development of the field yet is still research-active and continues to publish and present widely.

The subsequent abstract describes a three-variable experiment, with three separate interventions arranged as a comparison. The behaviors targeted were “hand-touching,” defined operationally as “whenever any part of one hand made contact with any part of the other hand in an apparently non-functional manner” (Friman et al., 1984, p. 42). The function of the experiment was to determine which of three punishments would be the most effective in lowering the rate of hand-touching. The study’s abstract reads:

Consulting psychologists evaluated the application of several aversive treatment methods for a self-stimulatory behavior exhibited by a severely retarded l l-year-old male. Three punishment procedures—the contingent applications of watermist (sic), lemon juice, and vinegar—were evaluated using a reversal design. Substantial reductions occurred for self-stimulatory hand-touching following the application of each procedure; low rates were maintained using water-mist during sessions conducted by group home staff members across a 6-month follow-up. The watermist procedure was as effective as lemon juice or vinegar, presented less physical threat to the client, and was preferred by the staff. (Friman et al., 1984, p. 39)

Behaviorist science is focused on observable change in the topography of an operationally defined behavior. A behavior targeted for intervention is first defined, and baseline data is collected on the rate of the behavior with no intervention. Then, intervention is planned and carried out. Data is collected on the rate of the behavior during and after intervention. In the first condition, each instance of hand-touching was responded to by misting Bob in the face with water using a trigger-type squeeze bottle. In the second condition, similar to the water mist condition, each instance of hand-touching was responded to by squirting 5–10cc of lemon juice into Bob’s mouth using a plastic liquid dispenser. The third condition was the same as the second, except that table vinegar replaced the lemon juice. This intervention was deemed necessary by the researchers and staff members because “numerous strategies to reduce Bob’s high rate self-stimulation had been unsuccessfully employed previously by the group home staff. These included differential reinforcement, time-out, hand-slapping, overcorrection and 2- and 4-point restraints” (Friman et al., 1984, p. 41). Although the researchers and staff mem- bers objected to Bob’s hand-touching, it was not inherently harmful to him or to others.


“Queer Futures”

In this case study, the researchers indicate that they chose Bob’s self-stimulatory hand-touching behaviors because they “could lead to more bizarre forms of self-stimulation” (Friman et al., 1984, p. 41). Bob’s body is described as potentially “bizarre,” signaling a future threatened by the queerness of his body. The threat of “more bizarre forms of self-stimulation” requires the teacher to reorient Bob toward a future as a productive laborer. Resisting this charge could threaten the teacher’s own claims to life, livelihood, employment, etc. I draw this connection to resist reifying a binary between teacher and student. Rather, within a biophilanthropic regime, both teacher and student are disciplined and surveilled. To reject this enterprise is to destabilize claims to humanity, for both researcher and researched.

A requisite to be included in the biopolitical sense is the desire for the heterosexual family unit, i.e., the familial relation favored by the capitalist economy. Children occupy a liminal space where their potential as heterosexual adults is cultivated religiously; the child is also constructed as asexual, without desire, and innocent. The child who resists the aggressive socialization of the schemes of childhood – who is bizarre – amplifies tensions around children, autonomy, and raising proper citizens. Queer theory has offered insight into the ways children’s sexualities are policed and oriented toward heterosexual futurity. In The Queer Child: Growing Sideways in the 20th Century, queer theorist Kathryn Bond Stockton troubles the notion of child as void of sexuality, positioning the queer child as occupying a space of altered temporality, growing toward a future that is already defined as socially illegible. Stockton writes:

Anglo-American cultures, over several centuries, thinking that the child can be a carefully controlled embodiment of non-complication (increasingly protected from labor, sex, and painful understanding), the child has gotten thick with complication. Even as idea. In fact, the very moves to free the child from density – to make it distant from adulthood – have only made it stranger, more fundamentally foreign, to adults. Innocence is queerer than we ever thought it could be.” (Stockton, 2009, p. 5)

The child’s innocence, that is, the psychological fantasy of the virtue of children, functions as a space where adult goals, motives, fears and anxieties can be projected – an uncanny set of object relations that feminist literary critic Lauren Berlant (2006) calls “cruel optimism”, p. 23 (Berlant, 2006). If the heterosexual child represents a dream, the queer child symbolizes death (Edelman, 2004). The overlap between the regulation of autistic bodies and the policing of gender and sexuality has been explored by education scholar Patty Douglas and social development studies scholar Margaret F. Gibson (2018) in “Disturbing Behaviors: Ole Ivar Lovaas and the Queer History of Autism Science.” The article explores Lovaas and his stu- dent George Rekers’s collaboration in The Feminine Boy Project, a grant-funded project that used the science of behaviorism to correct the behavior of “gender-disturbed children” and restore their chances at a heterosexual, gender-normative future. Gibson and Douglas aptly point to the “queer” history of autism science, and the way “The cruelty [of behaviorism] lies in how the measurements and interventions of this ‘optimism’ dehumanize, coerce, regulate, and do bodily violence to those deemed in need of a ‘cure,’ while recruiting and training others (teachers, parents, community members) to extend this pathologization, even at a cost to themselves” (Gibson & Douglas, 2018, p. 5). The queerness of childhood is a threat to the suspension of knowledge that creates a normative sense of growing towards a heterosexual future, and thereby requiring the intervention of the teacher, parent, therapist, etc.

“Righteous Death”

This case study illuminates how ABA is involved in the biopolitical project of managing difference; marking some bodies as worthy of life, some as worthy of death and some for recuperative violence with inclusion in mind. It also demonstrates the necropolitical mode of biophilanthropy. Necropolitics, as a departure from biopolitics, locates power as “the generalized instrumentalization of human existence and the material destruction of human bodies and populations” – rather than the investment into life – to “make live” (Mbembe, 2003, p.14). Similarly, within Schuller’s conceptualization of biophilanthropy, redemption is predicated on a figural death, and the redemptive capacity of the enterprise is bestowed upon those who are doing the redeeming, who are described as “build[ing] up children originally marked for death in order to suspend them in exploitable life, enabling the nation to extract their vital energies for agrarian, domestic and reproductive labor” (Schuller, 2017, p. 165).

By constructing the autistic body as a threat to national futures, those responsible are absolved on their guilt and their abuses are reconstructed as an act of service. This is necessary to seduce the teacher into administering punishments. The participation of the teacher is necessary and their buy-in is carefully considered. Friman et al. demonstrate this in their discussion of aversives:

“Several problems confront consultants who advise teachers and other direct care personnel about what aversive treatment to employ once positive approaches have been ineffective. First, to comply with legal and ethical guidelines governing aversive procedures employed by human service programs, the least aversive yet most effective method should be identified and used. Second, the staff responsible for administration of treatment should be in agreement that aversive treatment is less harmful than no treatment at all. Third, the treatment should not be so unpleasant that those responsible for its administration on a daily basis would be reluctant to implement it consistently.” (Friman et al., 1984, p. 41)

The researchers are strategic in convincing the teacher that no treatment would be worse. This mobilizes what feminist scholar Sima Shakhsari calls the “politics of rightful killing” which she describes as “the rightful living dead,” a liminal space between necropolitcs and biopolitics in which one cannot be killed by anyone (certainly not by the illiberal states), but only – righteously – by the liberating states, in the name of rights, freedom, democracy, free market and global security” (Shakhsari, 2014, p. 104). The child’s queer body then is availed to righteous death at the hands of the protectorate of subject-citizens (therapists, teachers, etc.) for rebirth and potential inclusion into sovereign life.

The threat of social death is omnipresent and a compelling motivator. The teacher is confronted by the harsh truths of biophilanthropy: the alternative to making live (even through violence) is figural (or literal) death. Within the unrelenting conditions of biopower, the staff is made aware of what is lurking on the other side of the biopolitical vector – an effective strategy to solicit the buy-in of the staff. This theme has been explored by scholars in a variety of disciplines. In “The Political Language of the Helping Professions,” political theorist Murray Edelman (1974) describes the ways that the language around disability and the helping professions effectively defines the limitless potential for abuse and state-power that is unquestionably exercised in the name of “therapy” (Edelman, 1974, p. 297). Edelman argues that the construction of the “helping professions” extends state power and seeks to code the exercise of power as benevolent care, obscuring the more nefarious particulars such as control, abuse, and loss of autonomy that are inherent in this exercise (p. 300).

In a more contemporary example, disability studies scholar Ann McGuire (2016) also conceptualizes how the therapist’s violences are dressed as care work. In War on Autism: On the Cultural Logic of Normative Violence (2017), McGuire describes how panic regarding bodies, normativity and deviance justifies filicide, or the murder of autistic children by their parents (pp. 1–3). She describes a rhetoric of autism kidnapping children (p. 144) and violence being normalized through parental desire to liberate children from autism (McGuire, 2016, p. 215). To be included requires the individual to be made includable, and for difference to be managed through the discipline of biophilanthropy.

“The Right to (be) Maim(ed)”

A schism has occurred in the field of special education between those invested in “curative violence” (Kim, 2017, p. 9), and those who wish to challenge medical models of disability. Scholars of inclusive education, for example, have contested how special education students are segregated from the mainstream classroom, and posit inclusion as a solution (Marshall & Goodall, 2015; Wilson, 2017). Within this discourse, the problems of special education have been framed as a debate about inclusion versus exclusion, and as a struggle for rights and recognition. However, using the case study of Bob, and the myriad other ABA studies that leverage recuperation as a precursor to inclusion, we can understand how the production of includable bodies vis-a-vis punishment and containment is a hallmark of contemporary biopower. Inclusion, therefore, exists in a recursive with exclusion. The right to be included contains within it a right to the disciplinary technologies of biophilanthropy.

The slipperiness of rights is explored robustly in queer studies scholar Jasbir Puar’s Right to Maim (2017). Puar demonstrates how the right to maim “is a right expressive of sovereign power that is linked to, but not the same as, ‘the right to kill’” (Puar, 2017, p. xviii). Complicating Mbembe’s necropolitics (2013), Puar contends that maiming is a means to extract value from populations who would otherwise be disposable, carving out a middle space between biopolitics and necropolitics. Puar calls for disability studies to contend with the disability caused by settler-colonial violence, and to think through how liberal models of disability enact state power and control. She demonstrates how disability rights discourses can act as an instrument of violence by expanding the purview of the state, under the guise of beneficence, while simultaneously debilitating segments of the population. Inclusion, or the project of inclusive education, demarcates who is includable and who is available to be maimed in the name of inclusion, fitting with Puar’s assertion that maiming is a means of extracting capital from an otherwise disposable population.

To demonstrate the ineffectiveness of rights-based intervention and the need for alternative theorizations of liberation, I turn to a policy document titled “The Right to Effective Behavioral Treatment,” published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis in 1988 (Van Houten et al.,1988) which outlines the rights of disabled people to “access to the most effective treatments available.” The document states:

“It is equally unacceptable to expose an individual to a nonrestrictive intervention (or a series of such interventions) if assessment results or available research indicate that other procedures would be more effective. Indeed, a slow-acting but nonrestrictive procedure could be considered highly restrictive if prolonged treatment increases risk, significantly inhibits or prevents participation in needed training programs, delays entry into a more optimal social or living environment, or leads to adaptation and the eventual use of a more restrictive procedure.” (Van Houten et al., 1988, p. 283–284)

In this model, the child has a right to restrictive intervention, like punishment and the use of aversives. In fact, the time away from inclusion and more optimal living and social environments is used as a justification for more restrictive treatment. Rights are inverted to serve the biopolitical function of producing a population available to be maimed, with the always present but never arrived future as a discursive shield to the material and immaterial violence of the therapy space. Inclusion, or inclusive education, as neoliberal, rights-based intervention is constitutive of bodies available for maiming. Violence is justified as a means to an end, a temporary process of extinguishing what is queer about the autistic child, in a trajectory toward inclusion – the purported solution. I, therefore, propose an emergent strategy that runs counter to the established solution of inclusive education and disability rights. I do so through reading against the grain (Benjamin, 1940/2006) – looking for the moments of resistance within the archive and situating my protagonists in continuity with contemporary grass-roots tactics.

“Neuroqueer Resistance”

I return to the case study to offer a rereading of Bob’s actions as furtive resistance. I do so to link together resistant figures within the archive of ABA with contemporary autistic scholars and activists theorizing resistance outside of the discourse of rights, recognition, and inclusion. In returning to Bob, we can mark his bodily resistances in the following passage:

“The subject showed an intense reaction when both the lemon juice and the vinegar were delivered and his reactions were as much a deterrent to on-task behavior during training sessions as his self-stimulation. His reaction consisted of trunk-twisting, arm-flapping, and leg-extension as well as grimacing, spitting, coughing, screaming, and crying. He also would turn from the bottle when it touched his lips or bite the spout once inside his mouth. It was apparent that prolonged use of either lemon juice or vinegar could cause possible physical injury, due to either Bob’s violent reactions or the physical effort necessary to decrease his avoidance.” (Friman et al., 1984, p. 44)

Notice, Bob’s well-being, autonomy or an internal sense of ethics is not what constrains the violence. Rather, Bob’s “intense reactions” become a deterrent to the administrator of the punishment. The abandonment of harsher punishments is a direct result of Bob’s “trunk-twisting, arm-flapping, and leg-extension as well as grimacing, spitting, coughing, screaming, and crying” (Friman et al., 1984, p. 44). The researchers conclude that prolonged use of vinegar or lemon juice could cause injury. Although it is not explicitly stated, we can infer that injury to the staff member is the ultimate deterrent, as the “physical effort necessary to decrease his avoidance” (p. 44) is of concern to the researchers. The body, in this case, refuses to be disciplined and queers the experiment.

Disability studies scholar Carrie Sandahl describes queering as “[spinning] mainstream representations to reveal latent queer subtexts [or] deconstructing a representation’s heterosexism” (Sandahl, 2003, p. 37). Sandahl notes the parallels between queering and cripping, which she describes as “spin[ning] mainstream representations or practices to reveal ablebodied assumptions and exclusionary effects” (Sandahl, 2003, p. 37). Taking up queering, autistic activists and scholars such as Melanie Yergeau, Nick Walker, and Elizabeth ‘Ibby’ Grace theorize a form of queering focused on the radical visibility of neurodivergence, which they term neuroqueer(ness; Grace, 2013; Walker, 2015; Yergeau, 2017). Neuroqueer(ness) is a means of understanding ephemeral confrontations such as the struggle between Bob and researchers. Neuroqueer both is something someone does and something someone is.

Much like the praxis of cripping, neuroqueering does not represent a legible activist strategy, a policy program, or a cogent philosophy. Neuroqueering represents what is available to the incarcerated body in a materialist sense. Bob, in this case, has little available in terms of modes of resistance. The purposeful segregation of autistic youth from autistic adults forecloses the possibilities of durational and coalitional resistance practices in a traditional sense. Bob is under guardianship, surveilled, and subject to brutal punishment. Thus, Bob’s writhing, combative body is what is accessible to him. In effect, Bob’s body becomes a site of fugitive struggle. His sputtering, spiting, and biting make it so difficult for staff members to administer the punishment that the lemon juice and vinegar are abandoned. Bob’s unruly body produces effects of material significance for him. The body-mind (Price, 2015) of the autistic subject makes chaotic which is meant to be controlled, and dutifully exposes the cruelty, making the frontline worker work for their right to maim (Puar, 2017). Within a carceral space, such as the one in which Bob resides, resistances are corporeal and fleeting. However, Bob, and the many resistant figures within the archive of ABA scholarship, can be understood as in historical continuity with contemporary autistic activists envisioning fugitive practices and evidence of a neuroqueer tradition.

“The Productive Capacities of Flesh”

Although the field of ABA has attempted to distance itself from the overtly violent practices of early behaviorism, facilities utilizing aversive treatments like electroshock, such as the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts, have continued to operate. The Judge Rotenberg Center is a residential facility/day school that has been at the center of public controversy on account of its prolonged use of electric shock as punishment, specifically its use of a custom-designed device called the gradual electronic decelerator (GED). The GED device is carried by the student in a backpack and controlled by staff members, and delivers charges of up to 41 milliamps—10 times the amperage used in most stun-guns—to the student’s legs, arms, hands, feet, fingers, or torso via electrodes placed on their skin (Pilkington, 2018). Numerous targeted campaigns have been launched against the Judge Rotenberg Center, including #StoptheShock, a grassroots advocacy campaign lead by autistic activists and focused on bringing public attention to the human rights violations committed by the institution. The Judge Rotenberg Center operates within a biophilanthropic logic, by continuously arguing that without this treatment, their students would never be integrated into social life due to their severe behaviors.

In “Unexpected Spaces of Confinement: Aversive Technologies, Intellectual Disability and ‘Bare Life,’” Nirmala Erevelles and DL Adams (Adams & Erevelles, 2017, p. 348) conceptualize the Judge Rotenberg Center as a “camp” and “zone of indistinction between law and violence,” using Giorgio Agamben’s conceptualization of ‘bare life.” Agamben, an Italian philosopher influenced by Foucauldian biopolitics, argued that within spaces such as a camp (the concentration camp in Agamben’s primary example), the inhabitants are reduced to “bare life,” a biological substrate that is not conceived of as human or rights-bearing (Agamben, 1998, p. 11). Agamben uses homo sacer – a figure who exists in a banished state under Roman law and can be killed by anyone, without consequence—to describe the state of bare life, arguing that there is a binary between bio (political life)/and zoe (bare life). Erevelles and Adams use Agamben’s concept of the camp and the homo sacer, to theorize the violence of the Judge Rotenberg Center, thinking through how disabled bodies—racialized bodies—are subjected to inhumane treatment despite multiple law suits, first-person testimony from survivors, and continued advocacy efforts. Erevelles and Adams concede that rights-based interventions are ineffective within a camp, as those within the camp are not conceived of as rights-bearing. They further speak to need for “radical alternatives” and gesture to Alexander Weheliye, who exhorts readers to “recognize and refuse the discursive and material violence directed towards subjects confined to a ‘state of exception’ in these unexpected spaces of confinement where brutal punishment is meted out to those conceived of as zoe (bare life)” (as cited in Adams & Erevelles, 2017, p. 362).

Alexander Weheliye’s Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human is a notable intervention in Agamben’s bio/zoe binary (1998). Weheliye (2014) offers a compelling challenge to biopolitics discourse that decenters the Western humanist concept of Man by exposing the racialized logics that render segments of the population as normatively bare under existing juridical systems. Building on the work of Black feminists like Hortense Spillers and Sylvia Wynter, and assemblage theorists like Puar, Weheliye introduces racializing assemblages as a means of understanding race as a set of political and social processes that discipline people into the “full humans, not-quite humans, and nonhumans” (Weheliye, 2014, p. 3). Drawing on Spillers’ “hieroglyphics of the flesh” (Spillers, 1987, p. 64), Weheliye deconstructs the writ of habeas corpus (you shall have the body) and posits habeas viscus (you shall have the flesh) as his contribution. He theorizes a politics and poetics of the flesh, imagining a political potentiality for those reduced to bare life, asking: “What ... might [it] mean to claim the monstrosity of the flesh as a site for freedom beyond the world of Man?” (Weheliye, 2014, p. 113). Weheliye’s work is generative in thinking through inclusion, as disabled students are required to prove their humanity through their proximity to neurotypicality, Whiteness, and legibility as Man, through compliance and performance of desired traits. Race and disability are co-constitutive, and equally participate in an exclusionary logic. To be granted habeas corpus—to have a body—requires personhood-as-property, a process that requires others to have flesh.

In contrast to Agamben, Weheliye (2014, p. 2) opens up political possibility for those reduced to flesh, by conceiving of “fleshy surplus” through which subjectivity (humanness) is co-constructed within and through violence. Weheliye explores the human born from political violence while at the same time not losing sight of the ways the law unevenly bestows humanity. Here the connection to neuroqueering is most salient: Being autistic—rather having an unruly, queer, autistic body—in these spaces negates personhood. The subject of behavioral experimentation is ren- dered nonhuman or not-quite-human. However, fleshiness has a capability for production, as evidenced by Bob.

Although Bob’s body has been racialized and disciplined into a nonjuridical subject within a camp, he is also able to produce material change through his fleshiness. Fugitive practices like neuroqueering and cripping intervene in neoliberal rights-based discourses by availing themselves to subjects enfleshed within contemporary biopolitical regimes. Both race and disability are mechanized to demarcate who is includable into political life, and who exists outside of its protections. A racializing assemblage is a political violence that acts hierarchically to position certain bodies as always harmful, always dangerous, always flesh. Similar to racializing assemblages, Schuller (2017) describes racialization as a set of social processes, stat- ing, “The racialized body was a disabled body (and vice-versa), deemed unfit for social life due to its reduced cognitive and corporeal capacities, which rendered in capable of self-constitution” (pp. 13–14). As such, the disabled body will never be served fully by the laws of Man. This is not to say that there are not moments of fleshy surplus within the edges of the law, as Bob demonstrates in this case study. This afterlife of the flesh invokes new possibil- ities and bodily imaginings outside of the realm of legible, rational resistance and agency and gestures to potentials for coalition between all who are disciplined within the current structure. Weheliye argues that the law can “bequeath or rescind ownership of the body” but it cannot “nullify the politics and poetics of the flesh found in the traditions of the oppressed” (Weheliye, 2014, pp. 136–137). I submit this rereading practice as an archive of a tradition of neuroqueering, as poetics and politics of the flesh.


In bringing biophilanthropy to bear on educational practice, I provide a critique of rights-based interventions that neglect the slippages inherent in the venture of rights. I also trouble inclusive education as a panacea, noticing the ways inclusion is mobilized within a biopolitical regime. This is not to say that scholars of inclusive education are conceptually misguided, rather that the discourse of inclusion has been appropriated in unanticipated ways. And although most critical education scholars understand inclusion to mean the deconstruction of ableist spaces, the term has come to mean the production of includable bodies; what disability studies scholars David T. Mitchell and Sharon Snyder term “inclusionism” (Mitchell & Snyder, 2015, pp. 12–14). ABA is one biopolitical technology aimed at recuperating the future of the subject through corporeal violence and displacement, but other parallels exist in social work and psychology, as well as within the prison industrial complex. By marking the historical specificities of this particular technology, I map connections to other biophilanthropic ventures and provide a means to reread those archives for moments of resistance and corporeal rupture. This extends to the prison, the school, the clinic, the therapy practice—all endeavors that require an individual death for the promise of national future. In the context of educational research, this article calls for engagement with irrational, fugitive resistances that happen outside of the formal structures of education; practices that resist biophilanthropic narratives of top-down activism. By invoking fugitivity and flesh, we can understand liberation outside of the courtroom, the policy document, the inclusive classroom, situating resistance in the racialized/disabled body; considering what resistance means when the only liberation available is to bite the teacher.


from ewaste distro

Our first software release is a tool called “fringe” for self-hosting git repos over tor hidden services. We can use fringe to publish our software projects (including fringe itself) as well as explore how we want to evolve a set of practices for some kind of “anarchist software development” not mediated by platforms, administrators, or accounts (to varying degrees).

One of our design goals with fringe is to have a lightweight daemon to run on the computers we already have with varying levels of connectivity. We will explore how to create arrangements for mirroring across similarly unreliable devices to increase availability overall, when that is a desirable property.

With fringe, you are anonymous by default, as much as we can manage. git demands a “name” and “email” by default and will not let you commit anything until you have provided something. When you create a fringe repo with fringe init or clone an existing repo with fringe clone, a project-local email and name are generated from random characters. You can fringe rotate to generate a new random email and name.

git will also leak your time zone by default which can be very revealing in some cases. Even without a time zone, dates and times can be revealing in other ways. fringe installs a hacky post-commit hook to set the date on every commit to 00:00 on January 1, 1970 for both the AuthorDate and the CommitDate. If you fringe log (alias for git log --format=fuller) you can see all the commit headers to make sure you didn't miss something.

To get started, you will need:

  • tor command in your $PATH
  • torsocks command in your $PATH (often ships with tor)
  • git
  • nodejs

Once you have the installation requirements, run this command to download the software:

torsocks git clone -o ewaste git://ewastevhn3dool3z7jilzvujshallrmitd6jcnr4jwgy6hriumkbzjad.onion/fringe

The -o ewaste is our way of de-emphasizing the origins of the software and its role as the “authoritative” version. Our future work will expand on this idea further.

The file cmd.js is self-contained so you can copy or symlink into your $PATH.

ln -s $PWD/fringe/cmd.js ~/.local/bin/fringe

Once you have the command, you can fringe init from the cloned git directory to initialize commit anonymization and the config for proxying through tor.

Then run fringe daemon in a terminal tab, screen, tmux, init script, or whatever and leave it running. Check out the readme in the git repo for fringe that you cloned earlier and type fringe to see a list of basic usage info.

If you didn't skim through the readme, here's a quick synopsis for how to share a local git repo with fringe so that anyone with tor can clone it.

First, get a list of your local hidden service addresses by running fringe onions. fringe will automatically create a hidden service address the first time it is set up.

Next, cd to a repo you want to share or create a new repo with fringe init then add some commits. If you choose an existing repo not created with fringe, be aware that the commits will contain the name, email, date, and timezone info that git saves by default.

Once you have selected a local repo to share and navigated to its directory, run fringe share ONION REPO_NAME with an ONION address from fringe onions and a REPO_NAME that you want to share this repo under (as git://ONION/REPO_NAME).

Once you have run fringe share ..., you can list all the repos you're sharing with fringe repos.

If you want someone else to be able to clone your repo, they can either run:

fringe clone git://ONION/REPO_NAME

if they have fringe or else they can run:

torsocks git clone git://ONION/REPO_NAME 

if they only have git and torsocks.

We invite you to take, steal, modify, take credit for, and generally make the software your own.



from ewaste distro

This project explores the connections between software, networks, decentralization, anonymity, hacking, technological production, and anarchism. We are interested in how our lives are shaped so significantly by the mundane and esoteric technical choices which create the worlds we inhabit. We are critical of experts, moderators, and administrators but we seek to understand their world so that we might come up with alternative practices for our own ends.

A large area of our focus is to produce and distribute original software, albeit in ways which also demonstrate our ideas and reflect our values. Our texts will elaborate ideas from the software and the software will embody ideas from our texts. Our intended audience is more technical than most anarchist publishing projects. There is often social overlap among technical and radical groups, but we find the opportunities for synthesis to be underexplored.

This project is critical of technological production generally, but we find ourselves in a world not of our design, already littered with technological artifacts waiting to be reprogrammed for some other purpose.


We are cross-posting to (http://chistqvhpsuxxxgccn3a7lqze24idsatjmkcqqqawwosflduy4utfyqd.onion) for a slightly larger reach (but not too large) and a hybrid presence on the clearweb. Our software will only be distributed on the dark web, but we will show you how to set that up.


from nudism as an illegalism

CW: too many links to too many subreddits

As of June 27, 2022, the “About Community” sidebar for the subreddit r/makenuditylegal reads as follows:

This page is for spreading the word that public nudity isn't sexual in nature, and is about expressing yourself without wearing clothing. This community hopes to change the minds of those that think being naked is about sex and make it legal in the near future, as America and surrounding areas are very negative about it. We aim to legalize public nudity in the U.S. and abroad. Please subscribe and spread the word :) Being naked is human, freeing, and society has a backwards view on it. Be free!

The subreddit presently has just over 3000 subscribers, which puts it far below the r/nudism subreddit with its 83,000+ subscribers as well as the more modest r/naturism subreddit with 17,000+ subscribers. It is a forum of ideas more than images, too, which is to its credit. There are many other ostensibly nudism-focused subreddits that have anywhere between one (1) and tens of thousands subscribers (for instance, r/nudists has ~46,000), but the posts on most these subreddits are overwhelmingly made up of photos, with very little in the way of links to news articles or to meaningful discussion (insofar as meaningful discussion is something that happens on Reddit).

The likes of r/makenuditylegal, r/nudism, r/naturism, and a very small number of other subreddits with even fewer subscribers (like the puny r/anarcho_naturism with its ~800 members) stand out, then, from the dozens of subreddits catering to those who wish to see photos of naked people in the woods, naked people gardening, naked people camping, etc.

Next, within this small group, r/makenuditylegal has the distinction of actually being committed to a fulsome “nudist politics”, i.e. the realization of a world in which nudity is “legal”, which I take to mean a world in which people can be naked in public places without risk of detainment, jail, fines, and/or the fear of any of those three.

Within the “idea space” of nudism on Reddit, then, the “Pro-Legalists” (as I will hereafter refer to them) of the r/makenuditylegal subreddit constitute a sort of activist or pro-revolutionary hardcore with respect to realizing an expanded option of nudity in society. Obviously posting on the internet isn’t really activism, but in the post-Gamergate era, it should be recognized that there is at least some kind of relationship between discussion forums, on the one hand, and social movements and subcultures that exist in the real world, on the other.

So, the problem with r/makenuditylegal isn’t really the subreddit’s name, even if that is objectionable to me as an anarchist. As far as I’m concerned, as much as I might personally benefit from public nudity being legal in the place where I live, legality ought to be done away with insofar as legality is a function of societies being dominated by states. But that’s a topic for another day, and probably, another outlet.

If anything, I respect the Pro-Legalists for the immoderation of their rhetoric in articulating their political objective, which—though framed in a statist way—is really not so much about the legality as it is about the nudity. The Pro-Legalists don’t see any good reason for nudity to be criminally sanctioned and punished, and they speak clearly and to the point on that subject with reference to their principles. This is in contrast to moderates on r/nudism and social progressives on r/naturism who often argue that the status quo vis-à-vis nudity is fine, and that those who push for social change (the existence of a non-arduous option of nudity in public, the legalization and/or decriminalization of nudity in public, broad social acceptance of a “right to nudity” and/or the basic inoffensiveness and banality of naked human bodies, etc.) are extremists who do nudists as a whole a disservice. Never mind that not all nudists can afford the resort and nakation lifestyle, and some will never be able to!

There is a much bigger problem with the Pro-Legalists. It's that they—that is, a large proportion of the most active users of r/makenuditylegal—are basically kooks and cranks.

I’m not going to get into all the details of it, but we’re talking transphobia, Trumpism, and vacuous freedom talk steeped in an intense form of capitalist realism.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s not exactly fine, but it shouldn’t be a big problem in and of itself. Transphobia, Trumpism (and other forms of reactionary right-wing nationalism), Reddit, climate change, and so on are examples of bigger problems we should be more worried about than we are. Except, there’s one thing... At this time, there is no other space on Reddit—no other space on the “Front Page of the Internet”—for people to discuss the political project of improving options for nudity in the embodied world, except among the cranks.

There is no real welcoming environment for a discussion of tactics, and the ethics of those tactics, on r/nudism. Sometimes the discussion in r/naturism goes in that direction, but not often. Discussions of activism—whether blustering calls to actions, considered strategic proposals, or discussions of historical episodes (which are often poorly documented)—aren’t really on the table on these subreddits. Only on r/makenuditylegal, alongside bad political opinions and somehow even worse image macros, is there actually some good faith discussion about this stuff. Kooks and cranks are absolutely a part of those discussions and often leading those discussions, and that overall sucks, but these discussions still have value to me, an anarchist who wants to be able to talk about this stuff. Because, well, I’m not seeing it many other places.

But r/makenuditylegal is also sufficiently unfit for purpose—if not, at times, dangerously out of touch—that I feel, personally, something better needs to supplant it as the only “political” nudist and/or naturist subreddit that's worth a damn (and sorry, r/anarcho_naturism, but you were never gonna cut it).

It sucks that any energy at all is going to be spent on doing this on Reddit, but I think it has to be this way, at least right now, in the summer of 2022.

So long as Reddit remains the ultimate clearinghouse of information about nudism in English—chiefly in the form of r/nudism and a few lesser subreddits, including the more explicitly political r/makenuditylegal—then I don’t really know what other platform can provide something that the masses (in North America and/or other countries) can use easily enough. And at least Reddit is, ostensibly, about link sharing, e.g. information sharing.

Thus I have made a new subreddit, r/naktiv. (If you want to be a moderator, just let me know.) The name is a portmanteau of two German adjectives, nackt and aktiv, the meanings of which I expect are obvious enough.

It is dedicated to (discussion of) activism—not just spectacular street activism, though probably including some of that—that is aimed at articulating the virtues of nudism as well as realizing more nudity-optional spaces and defending that option where it already exists. Some discussion of adjacent topics (such as the tactical deployment of nudity in other forms of activism) will be allowed, but the goal is to stay overall on topic, and especially to avoid getting bogged down in topics that make up the majority of text posts on the other major nudism-themed subreddits, namely the resort and nakation lifestyle and a litany of newbie and/or adolescent concerns about bodies, social etiquette, etc.

There is no singular, sloganistic demand to unify r/naktiv; basically, anyone can post about anything that is relevant to the topic. However, to the extent that the aggregate conduct of the community that uses r/naktiv has some bearing on how much others will want to use the subreddit and/or how others will perceive the “position” it upholds, then it does make sense to speak of a few practical rules. The most important, I think, is that an account’s post history matters.

Far too often, I click on an account that has posted on r/nudism, r/naturism, r/makenuditylegal, r/nudistmemes, or some other nudism-related subreddit, and what I find is a long post history that in large parts consists of posts on subreddits like [r]preggoporn or [r]hairypussy (I won’t put in the hyperlinks for these ones). Additionally, I sometimes find pretty straightforward bigotry—not just opinions that I disagree with, but rude, insulting, and thoroughly contemptuous comments about entire groups of people. Other stuff is simply embarrassing or perplexing. I am sure the anti-underwearist position (which argues that underwear has no purpose, something that is manifestly untrue) has some merit, but this is actually weird stuff that reveals a manifest unseriousness about the cause.

Accounts that are too horny, or too gross (especially in cases where people are being transgressive for the sake of being transgressive), will be excluded from r/naktiv. No doubt this will drastically reduce the number of accounts that can post on this subreddit, but I believe that will be to the good. Quality over quantity.

To be sure, Reddit is part of the problem, I think. For this reason, I have also set up a mirror community on Lemmy, a Reddit-like forum software built on the ActivityPub protocol. The reader may wish to consult my (dated, imperfect) first post on the fediverse—that is, on interoperable web services using ActivityPub—from last year. Suffice it to say, however, that having a Lemmy community provides redundancy (there will still be a forum even if Reddit bans/quarantines the subreddit or the Reddit servers themselves simply go offline). Lemmy also allows users to better control their own experiences, and to know, within reason, that their data probably isn’t being mined for someone else’s profit.

I have chosen to use the general purpose Lemmy instance because I like the rules and, given Finland’s generally better approach to issues around nudity when compared to North America, it seems to me that a Scandy ambience could be a suitable substrate to help give rise to an appealing “naktiv aesthetic”.

Aesthetic, and the related matter of message discipline, are part of being serious. So is a commitment to working with other people who don’t share all manner of ideological presuppositions—but within reason, because certain bigoted beliefs, for instance, sabotage “movement building” of any kind, and risk a repetition of German nudists’ experiences in the 1930s. “First they came for [...] and I did not speak out...”

Being serious also means learning over time. It is not really my place to say, in theory, when a debate about the utility of certain tactics or the merits of a certain strategic approach is actually closed, but I believe that some things ought to be off the table. We cannot remain forever at a 101 level of discussion. In fact, discussion for its own sake, without any connection to real world projects big or small, might best be avoided—unless people are really going to try and inspire others with their imaginations.

Anyway, check it out, either on Reddit or on Lemmy.


from nrg


Hello all. Excited to announce our next meeting will be taking place some time at the end of July, possibly on the 17th at 4PM. It may get rescheduled so check back here for updates (you will probably be doing this anyway.) Which brings us to the reading, or rather, the topic, of Daoism. Rather than a strict curriculum of texts the idea is for you to dive into the topic and bring any treasures you may find to the meeting. There are some jumping off points linked in the riseup pad below (please add other things you find and wish to share under the Tao section), but feel free to find your own way through these ideas, and bring it to our discussion.


from nrg

It's seems some of us have been grabbed by that strange gravity again.
On Friday June 24th at 4PM PT join us to chat about resuming the reading group. Bring some suggestions for readings if you've got them, but no pressure of course. Reach out to someone who would know for the Jitsi link.


from zisbnoc

Eclipse of the Black Moon

by Okty Budiati

For some reason, I read the measurement boundary at displacement for an unknown space. My death is a tragedy that is starting to create a way of life that will follow without an identity of its own. My own, most miserably, contributing to hopelessness in waiting. In my sorrowful of love, I am misinterpreted as anger. The silence has many reasons for my trust you never had. How to communicate at its best? I am speechless in any language to express my love for you by now.

I am a fair word without a heavenly voice. With malicious pleasure, the memory of hell Fortune, I might say, is unpredictable. So much reliance on passion, self-broken The wind blows, which keeps the heart warm. A romantically dark, secretly melancholy flower To follow the crack of evening with quiet day-steps My soul's affairs are unfulfilled feelings. All these blurry reflections of unknown emotions sparkle. Immortality of tomorrow's fate... Tears slipped before all fears clouded over wasted grief.

A collapsed imagination, essentially plundering the heart of a soul. I am no longer a unified individual taking on an understandable situation. A fantasy within that is logically comparable to every stage of life, unnoticed tears. What is survival in the meantime, when life is the primal fall of a human? In all forms of communication, the negation of love goes too far, and it's fatally. To this inadequately stated discussion, bleakness said, “Stop all of the nonsense. I've become passive.” For a hungry soul, no more sun will shine.

Where were they laid as the natural limits, essentially? Let me learn a little more about the verification of your language. I have no right to speak because there is no order outside of my humanity. This process results in the dynamics of susceptible instability. You've decided to avoid the promises you've made. I'm insulting my life as an error curse.

When you create the belief that I am a broken mirror now because I have a second chance at a new beginning in error, a circle of mirrors will never be smooth. There's nothing to read here. I'm just a piece of debris. I will never be repaired but will take the pieces as my path before the end of my breathing journey. I will never have the courage to argue with a statement as I sit here in the solitude of the city-space and wonder how complex it is to love you individually. You made my image as it is and I accept it exhaustively.

I will never have any power to liberate myself anymore.

Since all our intimacy shakes your trust, see my heart from afar where I am alive with the poetry of sadness in tears. I am a black bile who always loves you without full sun shine and sparkling stars anymore. I am the expression of death of a tragedy caused by words. Let me go as the dust beautifully, be only I, an eclipse of a black moon.


from zisbnoc

The Self-Body Between Dogma and Blinded Humanism

by Corpus Cantopen

Most people think unconsciously about “accepting” others as they want, and this action becomes a habit of truth and reality about acceptance. They think about what others should be in their ideal minds. When we try to express our needs, they tend to change the subject of the conversation or use the order words “you should not,” or “you should do this,” as they think but not based on others' needs. They never even question others in their communication with, “What do you need?” or “How can I help your needs?” which exacerbates our emotions, makes us feel insecure, and raises questions about the meaning of love and mutuality with others.

It has been my concern for years about the term “dogma” and how it works on the brain to stimulate any possible chemical in our blood and turn on our moods. So, my question is, what is dogma? How does dogma become the absolute meaning of life, to understand life's path, to defend the beyond minds? Or, is there any detail on how these counter-minds just became the boomerang? Rather than seeing and learning what happened behind the conditions of time, we are lost.

Through random and complex patterns from history and philosophical books, I have tried to understand how many eras changed the meaning of dogma for different situations. Basically, it is about a tragedy to undermine it as healing to rebuild. However, it was made unbearable by circumstances, and the only final conclusion was a lack of meaning and purpose following into the next era. Is it the same with humans that “a year has done with their jobs”? I choose to answer it that life beyond time is our challenge to the mind's work.

That is, thoughts exist on the spectrum of a big mechanism inside of our body. As an example, now that people wish to be alive and survive extremely well between gradations, death has become a rejected idea. Then, how to defend this condition while the dogma is to be the opposite in real life? An expression of the body based on depth psychology is an acknowledgement of the need to learn and accept how cognition is another practice in the details to restart the brain's work into kinetics. Before all this happens in the self-body, it is transferred into others as a mutual mechanism.

We say aloud that our biggest enemy is technology. How often do we see that our self-body is the basis of learning? How do we see that, basically, our body is the technology itself? These questions are the most important to me personally, to be explored, while most people prefer to believe and hate reality, then see things as concrete borders unconsciously. We tend to agree with what we like and reject what we don’t like, and these thoughts directly turn into actions for others. It is the unblocking of our minds from personal setbacks as our solution to failure to complete its practical strategies in daily life as a belief. Again, a dogma and rejecting the reality of the body that works based on experiences.

By knocking on the door of dogma in order to develop mental resilience through individual practice at present, repeating the dogmas is an opportunity to improve the ability to deal with what sense of the body works as science-based exercises to understand humans' emotions and needs. Our greatest life boomerang is the self-body at confidence and resilience, effectively dealing with the free, who are too obsessed with freedom of the self in a personal way but not with others' freedom. In the end, to me, being human is a dogma in itself. What is human? A bunch of feelings and emotions.

The importance of life is how to see and feel secure in any situation at heart, and how love is about action as a meaning in every circumstance, in every pain and tragedy of the present. Listening to others is listening to myself too. I call it “acceptance.” Body tools and techniques are simply perfect dogmas about complexity and unity, as patterns to be broken and rebuilt.


from zisbnoc

A Shattered Glass

by Okty Budiati

The day begins with heavy rain and the silence of a cup of black coffee. Yet, the sound of the violin played in solitude perfectly, in simple attitude and in action. Words turned into memory to demonstrate to me how the heart is never fluid but always intense while the mind remains in confusion. This might already have been maintained as an idea. Whatever it was, a thunder frame is ready to erupt in the present moment by seeing the impossible in order to free the valuable ones. Is there an individualist with ethics?

An individual of position and authority is well aware of the attitude proclaiming his importance. It is a man's great pleasure to be very obedient to his ambition. Meanwhile, the rumbling in the voice of a woman's heart is outrageously minor at heart, and let fly far above the clouds. The grey solid that appeared belonged to a rift of coral between the mountains and the seas, like our exclusiveness of the unnamed by his.

To attribute nothing to finding enrichment in our experiences, a different convenience and gratification, is to acknowledge an emptiness. However, aching loneliness disappears into a fundamental transformation as a cumulative process of existential. If there is a desire in order to experience the self, there is no longer freedom from substance. In materialistic minds, people tend to push each other to make a change. Someone has been dreaming of a revolution in the environment. But, does an individual desire evolution for themselves? I doubt.

Lamenting the absence of words. ... by the waiting stream patiently Despite being divided in half, The heart of longing is in sight. turned into a vase ready to break. It is flourishing in parts of nowhere. I saw the beauty in the far scene. Hope is only a great breakdown.

Something not automatically given as respect is earned is an imperative game for most people. A certain value in principles always asks for each principle to be more important. A heart, like pure reason, keeps outsiders out of specific details obtained through various means. Controlling the mind intuitively becomes the key in many mutual relationships.

It is always a matter of emotion. The story is biased and soothing. Thus, too much of a somber increase. This, another sorrow as a living future, to ensure peaceful sleep during torment.

Basically, interacting respectfully not only creates heart-listening. Everyone deserves to be heard, even if there is disagreement with views or opinions. Consider that being well-treated is something important. The one who matters the most is learning how to take action out of life knowledge radically, instead of action based on social judgements.

The evening turned into the dark of the blue. We have changed already because of the disruptions and violations that held things together. To avoid togetherness, great distance is a serious matter as we are emotionally fragile. Deep within the despair, there is a shattered glass formed by the dark tears, as if the rain would never stop, freezing another night alone.

Night waits for a phantom illuminated by the soul. On the moon's windless surface, no dust. Hopelessly to the edge of uselessness... I have taken all the sorrow of one lonely heart. As a result, all the wishers in the glistening pond Wasted beyond the grassy dunes that filled the sky. I am darkened into a teardrop and flared. Perhaps the most intimate of recreational rhythms, These mournful stars slowly dried out the pain. A flame in silken drawn shades of the voyage. Another mist blows in, forgetting about me... I do not belong to the storm clouds.


from zisbnoc

The Limbic Cellular Mechanism

by HP_r1s.5N-33o:TROzz77

I In an Actually Limitless World, My Throat is Bleeding

Another discovery is expanding my knowledge of the interplay between logic and emotions as a living being. As I processed memories in order to respond appropriately, I held the cares and needs to the rarest of emotions. How should I maintain my emotional and temporal balance? In my emotional memory related to covering and protection between my past and present and further back to the unknown past, such a limbic cellular. Am I a robot? This question turned me into an anti-machine and anti-electrical years ago.

My question was, a very long time ago, why are other people too busy labeling us instead of reading themselves and labeling themselves? This note will start all the ridiculous dogma that has been embedded since we were in the womb until we are born in the world as “is a process life represented by enlightenment or refusal of our life?” I'll stick with Peter L. Wilson, or Hakim Bey (as I prefer to call him).

I started reading Peter Lamborn Wilson or Hakim Bey's writing, one of the individualist anarchist writers, as a counterweight in aligning my body-experiential knowledge as my language of arts with my references to literacy journals I've read and kept as memorization of the brain, which often clashed with my search. Boredom literature, as I said, is indeed still imprisoned by academic literacy.

“It is frequently stated that we anarchists “believe humans are fundamentally good”” (as did the Chinese sage Mencius). [“Anarchist Religion”?—Peter L. Wilson, 2009] However, any variation of dogma that causes a question or creates a new follower must be a blinded red-flag sheep into the disbelief of “birth-exist-die” about themselves, or, in other words, how to keep capitalism surviving as an authoritarian system, totally.

How progressive our repressive consciousness has become since the complexities of the 1950s, an era of alienation! As it is now, the term “spook” is becoming a new “ism.” Again, the individual becomes materialism as the body is the dogma that the body has not yet finished exploring. What a boring idea, circling around like a guinea pig. This prompted me to reread what I had missed during my previous explorations as paths, a way of life.

This note certainly makes me re-read Max Stirner for his thoughts on “Art and Religion” in a more distant era. Where did he say that: “Religion itself is without genius. There is no religious genius, and no one would be permitted to distinguish between the talented and the untalented in religion”. [“Art and Religion”—Max Stirner, Rheinische Zeitung, 1842]

For me, Peter provides a new alternative view of seeing the past as a process of social registration in a society that will continue to change. As it has been written, “any liberatory belief system, even the most libertarian (or libertine), can be flipped 180 degrees into a rigid dogma — even anarchism (as witness the case of the late Murray Bookchin). Conversely, even within the most religious of religions the natural human desire for freedom can carve out secret spaces of resistance (as witness the Brethren of the Free Spirit, or certain dervish sects)”.

Here, he did not mention any specific religion but tended to open the gates of a new era to move on, as we understand it as the new wave of cinema without tension and regrets. C’est la vie.

-[to be continued to chapter II]


from zisbnoc

Is the Psychosomatic Phenomenon Inexorably Subject? “when I thrive over the free will perversion manifested in life to cause and caress; I confirm intuitively that it is libertine”

by Corpus Cantopen

If I could reach these minds rationally, I had to make a decision like the wind. Despite my fear of speaking out loud; Who could be emotionally wrapped? I barely considered the consequences.

By then, the moods had discharged by chance, triggering a burst of connectivity. However, these behaviors continued like a journey from one pattern to another unknown. It feels like a sharp wave, while silent, becomes measurable by the body. This exercise based on the anatomy of the body has generated personal expectations.

In transferring support of emotions indirectly, these behaviors are controlled by any consequences. The achievement in threat behavior has been affected by massive exposure to aversive situations. The emotional reactions without relief are not extinguished, but burnt at superiority. That is the so-called nature of humans. A never-ending curse with the most tragically human consequences.

An assumption provided the situation with the ability to cage each other. It's like the object in many images. It becomes tactical readiness through every intersection naturally. Meanwhile, most humans are afraid of change and then emotionally overwhelmed by qualification. Furthermore, how should I work through the mind with the brain? Would humans enjoy being motivated by a reset? I doubt.

However, inanimate substances and descent have been modified in many ways, including me as part of human anatomy, from the confusion of its genomic mutations to environmental adaptation and production as a common ancestor. I faced the most complex part of the labyrinth of the soul; what is an ancestor? Is this term needed for a correct interpretation as a new wave?

What nonsense, deception, and frivolity!

At most, it would be a radical addiction, defined as extreme behavior within the context of great suffering as a social phenomenon. I never returned this immoral fake rebel as per cultural beliefs, but to adequately satiate the desires of the flesh, this body belongs to you freely. What is built into the infamous acronym as many clamor for legitimacy? My enlightened life is cut off. Eat me!!

For all intents and purposes, when it is at its most? Tragically, vulnerable species! This is the ultimate confusion... There is no sun anywhere... I'm reaping the benefits of being absolved of responsibility for suicide; a reimagining of lost narratives

I begged to be alive and had no faith in anything within my rejected path of many indwellings. No culture but body language, anatomically. My trashed body is a terror to the spooks. I no longer care about the lands and seas. Maybe soon the destruction of the sky will be complete. Please close the curtain without any shadows. All cures were false promises and wasted, and this turned out to be the beginning of a great capital of naked pillars.

Inexplicably, while expressing distrobe, these memories are created to reproduce an intriguing causation: a living simple-cell organism is formed and linked to such a ridiculous, obsolete design in disarray. Blackout


from Staring Into the Abyss

Some Initial Thoughts on the Concept of Revolution: A Review of Specters of Revolt

For the last little bit of time I have been working through some thoughts on the concept of revolution. These are still very much in formation, and will probably be the subject of at least part of a book I plan on working on starting this fall. In doing research for the text I came across a text called Specters of Revolt, by Richard Gilman-Opalsky, and had some thoughts that seemed worth sharing, even as nothing more than an opening salvo in this discussion.


Before diving into the critiques I have of the text I want to discuss the concept of critique itself. There is a tendency for intellectuals, theorists, academics, and people engaged in political theory to approach critique as a sort of eliminationism. By this I mean that critique has become a sort of competition, with critique itself being portrayed as some sort of invalidation of a certain body of thought. This is an absurd view.

On an epistemic level we have to think through what reading, and by extension critique, really is. For us to make the argument that there is a right reading of a text, a correct reading, we have to make a series of highly problematic assumptions. We would need to assume that the text always remains the same in all moments, that it is engaged ahistorically by ahistorical readers that are somehow immune to the dynamics of whatever present they occupy in any given moment. We would also need to assume that all readers are the same; if there is to be a singular right way to read a text there would need to be a common epistemic basis for that reading that would have to be rigidly the same. We would also need to assume that words have objective meanings, and that we all engage with and understand language in exactly the same way. In other words, to claim that there is a right or correct reading of a text is to also assert an entire universe grounded in sameness and determinism.

I want to take a different view, one in which the correctness of reading and concept is secondary, one in which we can dispense with the arrogant assumptions of the true and universal. This view derives from discussions of the act of writing and reading that we will find in Archive Fever, by Derrida, or The Infinite Conversation, by Blanchot. In these texts the act of writing is portrayed as an act. By this I mean that writing is viewed as an event which has contingent effects in particular moments, rather than as the production of a static object that would exist outside of history. The text itself exists in a static, archival, form, which marks the product of a particular series of interpretive moments recorded by a writer. The reader, though, does not enter the text in the same way as the writer, and the writer will not enter the text the same way when they become editor or reader themselves. We encounter text, we engage with it. The text converges with the particularity of our existences and understandings to generate some sort of conceptual outcome.

As such, the concept of critique, for it to be useful, needs to occur in a way that centers around the usefulness of ideas and the theoretical space opened by a specific discourse. As Deleuze writes in his text on Nietzsche:

“Critique is not a re-action of re-sentiment but the active expression of an active mode of existence; attack and not revenge, the natural aggression of a way of being, the divine wickedness without which perfection could not be imagined” (3).

The act of critique is an act of opening, of challenging the singlarity of an understanding to create the possibility of conceptual movement, conceptual reformation, the possibility of presenting the concept in a different light, in a different context, with different results. Therefore, the primary question of critique is not whether we destroy the text we are analyzing; this understanding relies on the assumptions outlined above. Rather, critique functions as an act of destruction and appropriation, a process of borrowing ideas, utilizing theoretical movements, and functionally taking what is useful in the process of attempting to create a series of conceptual possibilities. It is a form of thought that very much exists within life, in all of its chaotic particularity, and in the service of launching attacks to eliminate impediments to the possibilities of that existence. It is revolt.

The existence of critique as revolt, as an opening of possibilities without some prescribed moment of reconcretization (some end of revolt), becomes a core concept in the thoughts I am recording here. We see a similar dynamic play itself out through this text, where the tendencies toward definitionalism and certainty, of concretizing objects of thought and presenting them as analogous to the world, collide with the chaotic contingency of any given moment. In this instance the object of analysis is the concept of revolution, the attempt to define the concept, and the problems latent in that attempt. But, as we will see, it is the framing of the question itself that generates a certain type of problematic in the text, a problematic that points not to issues in the text, but to issues in the entire conceptualization of what revolution is, and whether the category is even useful anymore (or ever was).

Setting the Stage

Initially I had picked this text up in order to explore the discussion of the concept of revolution contained within. As I stated above, this concept, as currently understood, functions as a form of sungularizing historicism. By this I mean that the concept of revolution is in itself something that is singular, and as such, a concept that posits a spatio-temporality with very specific characteristics. We can see this singularity in construction of the very concept itself through the medium of naming a historical moment. The strings of events that we term revolutions are often the result of some deeply complex, often misunderstood, motivations and historical dynamics that construct these events with specific contours. These contours do not spread across space equally, with conflict finding points of greater, lesser, or different concentrations and expressions.

The packaging of this complex series of historical events, which will never be replicated to the degree that our actions have effects that shape the future, points to two core problems with this formulation. Firstly, this reality of revolution, that it is a complex series of historical events summarized within the confines of a singular object, gives us some insight into the process of historicism and its role in the construction of ideology. Ideological constructs function, on a practical level, by taking their epistemic claims to universal truth and then utilizing a pseudo-analysis grounded in the ideological reflection in events, the aura of ideology in the event itself. In this construct there is an implicit assertion that two moves are possible; that moments can be subsumed into historical objects and that these historical objects are somehow comparable across time, even just as an expression of ideology. Without the concept of revolution forming the foundations of this singularization of complex events then conceptual universes, such as Leninism, that rely on this universalization of historical condition, this claim that strategy, for example, exists independent of the strategic context and functions based on this comparability of historical events.

This singularization of historical events mirrors all other processes of historicism, and in this way is not unique. Nor is it unique on the level of grouping a series of historically particular dynamics, freezing them, and reducing them down to their lowest common denominator, while asserting that the common denominator is a thing to begin with. In both of these ways the concept of revolution mirrors our coding of other events. We can take World War II as an example. It was a complex series of events, with highly localized dynamics, which were subsumed within a broader global power struggle, which was in itself inscribed with the urgencies of intervening in genocide. In no two places did the war manifest in the same ways, and in no two places were these events isolated from all other dynamics occurring during that time. So, while the category of World War II may be useful in the discussion of these events, allowing us to make sense of them, in itself the concept of World War II does not express the moments that are subsumed in that concept, it only expresses the contours of the concept that is used to organize these events, defining them by something outside of themselves.

In the coding of specific events as revolution there is a dual move being made. In this first move the events that comprise what will be termed “a revolution” will need to be grouped together under this category. This is where problems like historical revisionism arise, and why there are different Stalinist and Trotskyist histories of the Russian Revolution; there was disagreement over what events counted as part of the revolution and which were not. It is at this location in which rewritings of the coding of events, the determination of what is defined by the category, allows for these events to be coded ideologically, and often in ways that eliminate ethical complications, failures, and mistakes, reducing this “history” to another tool of propaganda and ideological distortion. Secondly, in performing this act of coding a series of events, now grouped under the heading of revolution, are separated from all other events. In this grouping of specific events into the categorical heading of revolution, often with these other events being considered “counter-revolutionary”, a sort of hermetically sealed grouping is created, with boundaries marking it as separate from its outside. This framing completely divorces any notion of “revolution” from its historical conditions of possibility, and constructs it as a specific historical object that can be understood as such. The second move is to then take this categorical definition of events, and exalt it as a specific object that is able to be understood in some sort of true way. It is only from here that one can be said to be studying revolutions, or that one can say that they understand some ahistorical truth about revolutions; all tankies rely on this construct.

These conditions of possibility, historical coding and exalting the category, not only form the foundations for “bad” understandings of revolution. Rather, they form the foundations for all understandings of the concept of revolution, and is implied simply by naming the events and then placing them at the center of political discourses, making the construct of revolution a core political question. It is really from this point that this text departs, that it finds its launching point. In some ways there is a sense in which this is a text that speaks from a specific location. It is a location marked by the activist norms of the 1990s (there are lots of references to the Zapatistas and the anti-globalization movement, and a lot of the same categories), and one in which the concept of revolution still comes to form a core political category. This is a tension that marks the entire text, one in which the critique of the concept of revolution almost crests into a core analysis of the concept itself, bringing the concept itself into the realm of critique, only to get trapped in its terms, turned backwards, and collapsing into paradox at numerous points. But, to see where these moments are able to be identified, we should step through the text, which is definitely worth a read for those interested in this concept specifically.

As with any text there are any number of threads that run through the narrative. In this case there is a narrative on the concept of revolution or revolt (for Opalsky revolts grow into revolutions), but also narratives centered around concepts like culture jamming (note the 1990s reference point), concepts of notions of the future, concepts of desire, notions of struggle and conflict without struggle, as well as any of a number of small ruminations on specific thinkers or texts, all of which are interesting. As with any complex text there is always a bit of arificiality in attempting to separate one thread from the others, to break it away from its weaving into other threads, but that is exactly what we will be doing here. These other narratives, whether they focus on concepts of desire or notions of the future, are all departing from a concept of revolution, which Opalsky attempts to challenge and render more fluid without dispensing with the idea. This tension, between recognizing issues with the concept but not dispensing with it, permeates the entire text, and sets epistemic conditions that create problems as the text proceeds.

Revolution: The Formation of a Concept

A core point in the text, which emerges in the Introduction and carries through the forst couple of pieces, is that revolt exists as a subtext to history, an almost invisible force with its own ontological and epistemic structures; this is a significant claim. In embracing this claim we are directly arguing against the understanding of revolt as a formal category visible in the abstract, outside of history, as a legible force mobilized intentionally. If we think through the concept of revolution, or the notion of revolt, in relation to political activity, a clear assumption becomes clear; namely, the assumption that successful organizing is something that can be objectively managed, and that it always results in achieving some sort of mobilization of revolt. This understanding, which is core to much of the arrogance of political organizing culture, heavily relies on the idea that revolt is an object that can be understood and mobilized regardless of its relationship to events; a wholly despatialized, ahistorical understanding of revolt.

The problems that characterize this move, and this replicates throughout the text, becomes clear almost immediately however. In the very next conceptual move there is an injunction to determine or define what revolt can be, just to do so with more open categories than the deterministic lens inherited from Leninism. This conceptual-material fusionism, this claim that we can understand revolt in the conceptual, and that this will impact the material, prioritizes the categorization, making its definition imperative for the contextualization of the rest of the argument. In other words, revolt and revolution become objects of analysis in this narrative, rather than namings of events, and as such they must be set aside from history in the very act of their definition. One is not defining actual events named revolts, one is defining a category of revolt and then attemptoing to shape events based on this understanding, and as such, the revolt itself becomes removed from its particularity, and begins to exist only to the degree that events can be subsumed within the definition.

To illustrate this move we can look at the ways that the concept of desire is used in the Beyond Struggle essay. The concept of desire is mobilized in this piece to be a counter-point to the concept of struggle, with the injunction being that we should not struggle but act from desire. Let us look beyond the fact that one can desire struggle, or the ways in which this injunction ignores actual hardships, risks, and stakes. Rather, here, I want to focus on the conceptual pre-conditions for this discussion to emerge to begin with. For us to make the claim that desire should become some fundamental motivating force of revolt we need to make two claims. The first claim is that something like desire or revolt can be made into conceptual objects without fundamentally destroying the dynamism that gives these concepts meaning. In naming these concepts as concepts, as conceptual constructions that persist over time, the material particularity of their manifestation as desire or conflict is erased and replaced with a staid and static definition of the concept. Secondly, we then need to posit that the construction of a narrative of conceptual connection between these terms not only speaks directly of the world (which, again, presumes a static world) but is also something that can directly manifest in the world in the terms of its conceptual construction. That is to say, that this architecture presumes that these static categories in themselves are manifested in the world in their static and ahistorical generalism, and that the movements of these concepts then come to define the world.

In another example, this time around pages 80-89, we can begin to see the impact of this sort of thinking. In this section there is a discussion of power as an organic material possibility latent in existence itself. This would imply that the term power, in the spirit of Foucault, is being used to name an active series of dynamics that cannot be subsumed in the term power. Now, if we were to take this position that open categories, like power, or categories that name activity, like revolt, are not able to be defined, and don't speak directly of the world, then the entire attempt here, to define a concept of revolution that does not have the same deficiencies as in the past, would completely collapse in the impossibility of defining actual acts grouped under headings of revolt or revolution. In this discussion of power the discourse itself begins with this clear discussion of the microscopic and organic manifestations of dynamics grouped under the term power, but this then immediately solidifies in the discussion of scale.. Gilman-Opalsky argues that, though capital operates in locality, it is actually “large”, to use his term, and requires revolt at the same scale.

OK, let's investigate this claim. To make the argument that capital operates at “large” scale is to make the argument that capital itself operates across space and time, giving it a body all of its own. This is clearly the attempt of capital, to construct a universe of meaning that operates as the condition of possibility for existence, but this is not something that we can speak of singularly if we want to discuss actions as something that has effects. If actions have effects, then any following moment is going to be directly the result of the dynamics of this present, and as such, no present moment ever repeats. These moments are also not singular across space, with different dynamics functioning within the same moment in different spaces. So, to say that capital is “large” is to say that the local actions that actually comprise economic activity are, in themselves, driven by something outside of themselves in a direct way that defines the actions in actuality. This does not mean, as I would claim, that capital is a structure of meaning imposed through policing, which would involve local decisions and actions. Rather, to claim this scale of capital is to argue that there is something that exceeds the moment materially, an actual transcendental force, that directly defines these acts as capital, and as separate from other “non-capital” acts.

In making this move capital ceases to be an attempt at organizing logistics and imposing limits on the possibilities of existence through police force, in which interventions are fundamentally bound up with this microscopicness, and begins to become a category that defines some actions that are grouped together across time and space, opposing some “large” scale “system” which is also devoid of locality or temporality. In doing so both capital and revolt are abstracted from their occurrence, from the time and space of the events coded in these ways, thrown into a conceptual comparison which is, in turn, then supposed to speak directly of reality; it is a strange, but very very common, conceptual construction when viewed through this lens. The centrality of the category does not fuse the concept of revolt with some dynamic structuring of theory in the midst of conflictual events. Rather, we experience the inverse, the wholesale obliteration of possibility in the static conceptualization of a singular categorical “system” which is meant to be confronted by some generalized revolt. In this arrangement, the world itself disappears and we enter into a whollly conceptual discourse on some idea of revolution against some idea of a “system”.

It is only from this disappearance of life that concepts like revolution, thought as a singular event, can be said to be understood in their entirety by some sort of privileged revolutionary subject, such as the technician in Leninism. So, even though the text itself later returns to a sort of molecularity, this baggage of the assertion of a conceptually singular capital, unified across time and space, leads Gilman-Opalsky to speak of the “micropolitical”, conflict which occurs in the time and space of actual activity, as a politics of failure due to the inability to defeat “systems”. In this claim the concept of “large”, namely non-particular and singular across time and space, is taken as a given category for all analysis, with all other analyses departing from different categories “failing”, due to not addressing a construct, the “system”, which is seen increasingly as an un-useful artifice. The imposition of this analytic framework also imposes an entire conceptual reality in which systems actually exist, in which there are things that are singular and persist in this form across time and space, which then asserts a conceptual reality in which singular concepts of revolution make sense. But, outside of that framing, which I would argue is impossible to actually support conceptually, this assertion of the massification of activity and the removal of the act from its time and space makes no sense. The result is a conceptual tautology, where the assertion of “large” systems necessitates the existence of “large” revolutions, which in turn presumes an entire organizational and ontological model rooted in massification and modernism.

Within the text there is an attempt to address this paradox, which is not unnoticed, around page 92. In this discussion the concept of culmination is raised, as some point in which there is a convergence between the micropolitical and the “large” mass scale of revolution, in this conceptualization. On the one hand, this approach does allow us to displace the question of the act onto the plane of effect, and thus onto the material plane. By placing the culmination of actions at the pinnacle of analysis, and rendering that culmination through the effects of actions, discourses around some essence of the act, or some true act, are eliminated in favor of a discourse that should be grounded in the moment. But, on the other hand, while this is occurring there is a countervailing tendency pulling in the other direction. At the moment that the point of culmination is placed at the center of the discourse on the political all particular acts are subsumed into this culmination, and the nuanced temporality and particular material conditions of the acts grouped into the category of a revolution is condensed into this singular moment of culmination. In other words, rather than seeing acts that exist in light of their particular time and space, the act is said to exist in this form, but only to the degree that it fulfills the condition of possibility of leading to a culmination. As such, the culmination then takes the place of the ahistorical object and becomes the point of orientation in which all action is judged, preserving the singularity of the point of focus, whether we call it culmination or revolution.

There are many other places where these dynamics emerge, but I think this demonstrates the point. Core to this text is a venture that I see frequently in thinkers both of this era, and also within academia. There is a tendency within that world to want to speak of the political within the terms common to those discourses, which were heavily influenced by Leninist reductionism and the simplicity of categorical thinking, while problematizing the limitations of the original articulations of these categories. What results, however, is a discourse in which categories become more open, but also migrate into the center of all narratives, as a condition of possibility for all other thought around the subject. These dynamics typified the New Left, and informed its inability to break from authoritarianism, as well as the more activist left of the late 1990s and early 2000s, which often operated based on simplistic and absolutist categories, often collapsing into purism discourses. What is often not embraced, however, is the impossibility of these discourses, regardless of how nuanced the terms, actually speaking of life, in its temporal and spatial nuances and particularities. There is a hesitancy to speak of philosophy itself, and its impossibility, and as a result, there is often a tendency to adopt terms which imply epistemic and ontological frameworks that undermine the point that one is trying to make. In this case Gilman-Opalsky does a wonderful job of problematizing the very ontology of the concept of revolution, only to then reconstruct some concept of a politically singular moment and call it something else. We can do better than this.

Writing the Indiscernible

This is the section of an essay where I am supposed to outline some new amazing concept that is supposed to solve all of our conceptual problems. I don't have anything like that for you all, and in some ways the very structure of that type of articulation prevents the critique that is being leveraged here; to imply some singular solution is to assert the singularity of the problem which is to assert the singularity of circumstance. On some level we need to abandon the concept of the solution in its entirety, rendering some sort of recommendation counter-productive here.

The real difficulty, and this is the element of this discussion that I am working through currently, and have been working through for a while, is how one speaks possibility, conflict, contingency, and so on. Philosophy in many ways is trapped by the contours of concepts themselves. By this I do not mean that there are deficiencies in specific concepts. Rather, that the entire construction of the concept implies a universe in which singular terms can name singular ideas which wholly and completely express singular categories of objects that are all thought to be the same. Marx discusses this in Chapter 1 of Capital, where he discusses commodities, but we can use a simpler example. When we name something, lets say capitalism for example, we are naming that thing singularly, as something that persists across time and space, and then naming things in relation to that concept. In the context of capitalism, which we discussed above, the term capitalism implies a singularity to the operations of capital. In taking this ontological lens on, one is subsequently eliminating the particular actions that are grouped under capitalism, as material moments, and replacing them with their reflection in this category, tying them to some commonality and not to the material particularity of the moment that occurs. As such, when we discuss resistance to capitalism, therefore, that discourse tends to focus on some asserted necessity of mass resistance, which then facilitates specific political categories and forms.

We have to admit that the revolutionary project, as conceived of in this singular form deriving from the American and French revolutions, has been an abject failure. There is a widely held perspective that revolutions lead to disaster and the mass death of political opponents, and there is every good reason to think that this is true. The end result of this perception is that political imagination is horrendously constrained. And, no, falling into genocide denial and apologetics, like the tankies have done, is not a way to solve this problem. Rather we have to completely rethink political action in the full light of the failures of revolution, and do so with a willingness to abandon the concept, and its notions of space and time, its asserted ontological universe, and its epistemic assertions.

What needs to be thought is a way to speak of action while undermining the singularity of the discourse at the moment of its articulation. It is a similar problem that arises when one attempts to discuss concepts of the self, or notions of social dynamics, or the movement of atoms. It is an attempt to speak that which resist being spoken, to discuss the unleashing of possibilities without defining those possibilities, to embrace a politics in which the future remains open, and in which we are not attempting to impose definitions of life.

This task is something I am very much working through. Some elements of working through this can be seen in Army of Ghosts, but there is a lot of work to do. I very likely have an upcoming book project for this summer, focused on some reflections from the uprising and what that can teach us about the deficiencies of activism. But, once that project is complete this is the next task, to take this critique, expand it, and build a narrative around attempting to map some openings, without mapping out the paths to and from those openings.


from Dice Game

Notes On Musical Order

Siren Song:

This is the one song everyone would like to learn The song that is irresistible

The song that forces men to leap overboard in squadrons Even though they see the beached skulls

The song nobody knows because anyone who has heard it is dead And the others can’t remember

Shall I tell you the secret? And if I do, will you get me out of this bird suit?

I don’t enjoy it here squatting on this island Looking picturesque and mythical

With these two feathery maniacs, I don’t enjoy singing this trio, fatal and valuable

I will tell the secret to you, to you, only to you Come closer

This song is a cry for help: Help me! Only you, only you can, you are unique At last

Alas it is a boring song But it works every time

Western Music

Music produced in Europe as well as those musics derived from the European ancient times to present day:

“Moses was instructed by God to make two trumpets. They were to be made of hammered, or beaten, silver. The priests used them to announce many events associated with the temple and various festivals. Trumpets and horns were blown to call people to worship and to signal momentous events. Harps and lyres were plucked and strummed to pacify royalty.”

Ancient civilizations entered historical times with a flourishing musical culture. That the earliest writers explained it in terms of legend and myth, strongly suggests the remote beginnings of the “art” of sound. Among the speculations about its origin, the more plausible are that it began as a primitive form of communication, that it grew out of a device to expedite communal labour, or that it originated as a powerful adjunct to religious ceremonies. While such theories must necessarily remain speculative it is clear, despite the prehistoric musical artifacts found in central Europe, that the cradle of Western music was the Fertile Crescent cupping the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. There the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Hebrew nations, among others, evolved political, social cultures that were absorbed by the conquering Greeks and, in turn, by the Romans, who introduced elements of that Mediterranean music to much of western Europe.

In all of these early cultures the social functions of music were essentially the same, since their climate, geographic location, cultural pace, and mutual influences produced many more social similarities than differences. The primary function of music was apparently religious, ranging from heightening the effect of magic, to ennobling liturgies. The other musical occasions depicted in both pictures and written accounts were equally functional: stirring incitements to military zeal, soothing accompaniments to communal or solitary labour, heightening aids to dramatic spectacles, and enlivening backgrounds to social gatherings that involved either singing or dancing or both. In every case musical sounds were an adjunct to song, and/or bodily movement: dance, march, game, and work. To support its fundamental role in society, an intricate scientific rationale of music evolved, encompassing tuning, instruments, modes (melodic formulas based on certain scales), and rhythms.

19th Century Music Industry

In the mid-nineteenth century, printed sheet music was the music industries primary product. Publishers marketed songs for use 1.) by the growing number of private piano owners 2.) by touring musical reviews. [Blackface] Minstrelsy was the most popular form of live entertainment in the US through much of the 19th century, and companies became celebrity through touring established theatre circuits. Their endorsement of a song would often result in the popularization of a certain sheet of music.

When the phonograph came to be in 1877, few initially imagined it would be used primarily for music. Yet by the 1890s, “nickel-in-the-slot” talking machines reached urban arcades, introducing the US to mechanically reproduced music. Companies controlled the patents to compelling phonograph technologies, and Thomas Edison controlled his wax cylinder playback technology (licensing it to the fledging Columbia Phonograph Company, thus introducing the first talking machines designed for home use in 1896). By this time, the competing gramophone disk machines and records made by Emile Berliner had already been distributed.

Firms raced to establish their technology as the consumer standard throughout the US – ‘Victors Talking Machine Company’ eventually came out on top by focusing on the home consumer, creating celebrity recording artists, and expanding globally. In 1919, the ‘Radio Corporation of America’ (RCA) was founded and began to market millions of consumer targeted radios – phonograph companies soon began advertising the new medium. In 1929, RCA acquired Victor & the phonograph, and the radio industries continued to increase their ties. Recording artists demanded compensation for the broadcast of their material through organizations such as the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).

During The Great Depression record sales plummeted from 150 million in 1929 to 10 million in 1933, and the industry was again comprised of a few powerhouse corporations. ASCAP, overseeing royalty collection for the vast majority of published music, continued to demand for radio broadcasts. In 1941, they forbade radio stations to play the music they represented. Their rival, Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), offered stations its collection of music that had not been accepted by ASCAP. The result was a wave of decentralization within the industry.

Throughout the music industries postwar expansion, musicians organized in attempt to protect their rights and promote their careers. But presumably, unions failed, only garnering rights for their members (including closed shops and union pay scales in established theater circuits, symphony orchestras, society dance networks, and recording studios), losing employment to new technologies and garnering higher royalty rates for record sales.

Music & Trance:

Music in its Relations to Emotional, Communal, and Shamanic Trances:

The role of the music is much less to produce the trance than to create conditions favorable to its onset, to regularize its form, and to ensure that instead of being a merely individual, unpredictable, and uncontrollable phenomenon, it becomes, on the contrary, predictable, controlled, and at the service of the group.

Music in its Relations to [musical] Possession Trance:

Although it is conceivable that a subject can enter into trance without music, it is inconceivable that a subject could experience the trance itself without music. Let us say that, in possession, music is the condition of the trance experience. This is so for a few reasons. First, because possession trance is a change of identity, because that change of identity has no meaning for the subject unless his new identity is recognized by [others], because it is the music that signals it, because this new identity must be manifested. Provided, then, that it is not absolutely fleeting (I am thinking of Malkam Ayyahu's trances, described by Leiris, which often lasted no more than an instant, just long enough to express it with a gesture, word, pose), provided that it has duration, this trance, which is the experience of another identity, has an absolute need for music in order to continue to exist, since it is music that, through its identificatory character, maintains the illusion and that, enables it to be manifested.

The major function of music thus seems to be maintaining the trance, rather in the way an electric current will maintain the vibration of a tuning fork if tuned to the same pitch frequency. Here, however, music is not just physically (on a purely motor level) “in tune” with trance. It is even more “in tune” on the psychological level, since its action consists in putting the individual experiencing his transitory identity “in phase” with the group that is recognizing this identity, or imposing it upon him.

A Brief look at “Music as a Weapon” By CrimethInc:

To dissect for a moment, yet another absolutely horrendous CrimethInc article, let us take a brief look at the preface from “Music as a Weapon: When Punk Was a Recruiting Ground for Anarchy”:

“There are countless reasons not to tie the fate of a revolutionary movement to the fortunes of a music scene. Coming into anarchism via punk, people tended to approach anarchist activity in the same way they would participate in a youth sub-culture. This contributed to an anarchist milieu characterized by consumerism rather than initiative, a focus on identity rather than dynamic change, activities limited to leisure time of the participants, ideological conflicts that boil down to disputes over taste, and an orientation towards youth that made the movement largely irrelevant upon the onset of adulthood… Yet during the decades of global reaction that followed the 1960s, the punk underground was one of the chief catalysts of the renaissance of anarchism. Were it not for punk, anti-capitalists in many parts of the world might still be choosing between stale brands of authoritarian socialism… Granted, the average punk show was as dominated by patriarchy as a college classroom. All the hierarchies, economics, and power dynamics of capitalist society were present in microcosm. And anarchism was not the only seed that utilized this soapbox: countless ideologies competed in the punk milieu, from Neo-Nazism to Christianity and Krishna “consciousness.”

Whilst one might find the off-statement to be true, CrimethInc fails to provide any incite as to why these hierarchies were able to incubate. They fail to acknowledge or even question what it is about the organizational aspect of their anarchism that allows for such eurocentric reflections to fester. They continue the entirety of the piece in constant vacillation. Somehow at times even gushing over how: “all of this makes it that much more striking that anarchist ideas fared so well!... We can attribute this success to structural factors”, and that music and punk “offer a rare model for organizing the affairs of a network, and community defense mechanisms”:

“...punk helped keep anarchist ideas alive between the 1970s and the 21st century in the same way that monasteries preserved science and literature through the Dark Ages... Although the demands and influence of the capitalist economy recreated the same power imbalances and materialism that punks had hoped to escape – limiting the punk critique of capitalism to a variant of the liberal maxim “buy local” – but the anticapitalist DIY underground displayed a remarkable resilience! In a cycle that became familiar, each generation expanded until profit driven record labels skimmed the most popular apolitical bands off the top, setting the stage for a return to grassroots independence and experimentation. So the punk scene provided the music industry a free testing and development site for new bands and trends.”

Elemental Black Metal

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix outlines what they term Transcendental Black Metal in their manifesto of the same name included in the collection, Hideous Gnosis: Black Metal Theory Symposium 1. Although I appreciate the philosophical effort (even more so the musical output of Liturgy), Id like to make use of their framework to provide a third alternative. The metaphysics of Elemental Black Metal appeals more to me than the apocalyptic humanism they prescribe, or the Hyperborean nihilism they seek to move beyond.


ELEMENTAL According to Susanna Lindberg, the elementals are “abstract ways of articulating the materiality of being.” Elemental nature is unthinkable (beyond human thought), primordial (always ever there), and chthonic (found in the realm of the underworld). It is beyond the sensible or rational. It is “the absence of transcendental ground” existing as already available images. To Emmanuel Levinas, it is the it when it rains, il y a. It is indeterminate, opaque, and an absence that makes presence possible.

CONTINGENCY Contingency is a potential force, and the force of potential. It is unexpected and not destined. It is an unintended consequence. It foils teleologies and disrupts ecologies even as it erupts from them. It is a senseless reshuffling of the cards. To humans, it is felt as looming cosmic catastrophe. It undoes worlds. It is nihilism to humans, but not something (or a nothing) one can be for.

FORGETTING Creative forgetting is unlearning mastery, as Bayo Akomolafe puts it. This could be also considered unthinking. This is what Friedrich Nietzsche describes as the child stage in Thus Spoke Zarathustra: approaching the world anew having shed the burden of the camel and the ressentiment of the lion. It is what Laozi describes as the uncarved block: the capacity to become. It is not a rejection of the past, but an awareness that the past has yet to come.

DRONE Drone is an enveloping, pulsating resonance. In metal, it is exemplified generally by much of the work of bands Earth and Sunn O))) of Cascadia, and Boris and Corrupted of Japan's urban epicenters. It is exemplified specifically by the track Tanggalkan Di Dunia (Undo The World) by the band Senyawa of Jogjakarta. The blackest of drone metal best accompanies Eugene Thacker's notion of cosmic pessimism. More than listened to, drone is felt.

EARTHLY (SUBTERRANEAN) Elemental metal is earthly, but more specifically subterranean. It lies beneath bogs and marshes, and is buried under sand in windswept deserts. It forms underground caverns and deep sea trenches. It moves through mycelia and magma flows. It is of the underworld: connecting the living and the dead, and blurring the line between them. It is known by humans for its opacity.

GETTING LOST The outcome of becoming lost is unknown. Losing oneself is impure, and resists preservation. It is breaking free from the fixed continuity of self and time, not through external transcendence, but passionate corporeality: a reckoning with the soul, followed by grotesque laughter.

ENTANGLEMENT According to Carlo Rovelli, entanglement is predicated upon three aspects: granularity, indeterminacy, and relationality. An entangled understanding unmasks time for what it is: a relation between human perception and the cosmos. The cosmos is composed of indeterminate becomings in relation to each other, rather than finite or infinite being.

DIFFUSION Diffusion is a withdrawal from incapacitating concentrations. It is an exit strategy. It is fluid, dissolvable, and becoming illegible. It is fleeing to the forest or going underground. It is fugitivity.


from Dice Game

Music & Trance

Music in its Relations to Emotional, Communal, and Shamanic Trances:

“The role of the music is much less to produce the trance than to create conditions favorable to its onset, to regularize its form, and to ensure that instead of being a merely individual, unpredictable, and uncontrollable phenomenon, it becomes, on the contrary, predictable, controlled, and at the service of the group...”

Music in its Relations to [musical] Possession Trance:

“Although it is conceivable that a subject can enter into trance without music, it is inconceivable that a subject could experience the trance itself without music. Let us say that, in possession, music is the condition of the trance experience. This is so for a few reasons. First, because possession trance is a change of identity, because that change of identity has no meaning for the subject unless his new identity is recognized by [others], because it is the music that signals it, because this new identity must be manifested. Provided, then, that it is not absolutely fleeting (I am thinking of Malkam Ayyahu's trances, described by Leiris, which often lasted no more than an instant, just long enough to express it with a gesture, word, pose), provided that it has duration, this trance, which is the experience of another identity, has an absolute need for music in order to continue to exist, since it is music that, through its identificatory character, maintains the illusion and that, enables it to be manifested.

The major function of music thus seems to be maintaining the trance, rather in the way an electric current will maintain the vibration of a tuning fork if tuned to the same pitch frequency. Here, however, music is not just physically (on a purely motor level) “in tune” with trance. It is even more “in tune” on the psychological level, since its action consists in putting the individual experiencing his transitory identity “in phase” with the group that is recognizing this identity, or imposing it upon him.”