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Claire Colebrook “Hypo-Hyper-Hapto-Neuro-Mysticism”

December 29, 2013 Leave a comment

Colebrook, Claire 2013. Hypo-Hyper-Hapto-Neuro-Mysticism. Parresia 18: 1-10.

The fact that we are increasingly abandoning thought (as intellection) is proclaimed as a redemption from Cartesianism, logic, disembodied abstraction and the delusion of mind. Just as thinking ought to confront its destructive and dichotomousrelation to the earth, theories of embodied, embedded and affective mindfulness proliferate. (2)

Here [example of Avatar], we approach a first definition of the complex I want to explore today: theory today is tending towards a form of mysticism insofar as it appeals to direct intuition or immediate contact and literal proximity; there is a privilege accorded to the felt rather than stated (to affect and touch over concept and system). (2)

But the paradigm is primarily neural, for what “the brain” has come to figure, after the “decade of the brain,” is not a command centre or ghost in the machine but a plastic, evolving network that comes into being not by imposing code but by being ever more responsive, more connected and more dynamic. This neuro-mania is a form of hyper-haptocentrism precisely because it is touch—body to body and from the body to itself—that overcomes the distance and difficulty of thinking. At the same time this complex is also a hypo-haptocentrism precisely because touch is best thought of (as in the neural network) notas one part to another part, or one thing to another thing, but as a mutually proliferating and multiply connected whole, in which there are not so much parts that touch, but a web of touch from which one might discern relatively stable tendencies. (2)

Haptocentrism. For Derrida, however, touch, proximity and affect have been mobilized as figures that enable a tradition of the metaphysics of presence. Indeed, the very reason or logocentrism that would supposedly be circumvented by embodiment and haptics, establishes itself as a form of self-contact without distance or mediation. (3)

One can use the term “metaphysics of presence” to indicate that across a series of competing claims and traditions a certain ideal of knowing and truth promises to overcome the risks and contingencies of irreducible gaps by some means of a self in touch with itself. Knowledge and experience more generally are properly and normatively defined in terms of the value of proximity (a value that is not one value among others, but the axiom through which all value can be thought). If there is such a thing as reason it is because the thinking subject can intuit directly, without distance or disturbance that which would remain the same through time, and also be true for any subject whatever. (3)

For touch is not the self-presence of reason, but—as in Merleau Ponty’s flesh, or Jean-Luc Nancy’s sense, or Deleuze’s affect—what is posited as the generative givenness from which all logics emerge and which cannot be fully known, mastered or rendered present to thought. It seems as though thought abandons its claim to be able to coincide with itself in a presence of self-touch. (3)

All of Derrida’s work can be considered as a deconstruction of proximity: the condition for something being near to itself and touching itself is that there be distance. (4)

Hyper-haptocentrism. Here, Derrida situates phenomenology’s supposed radicalism, and Nancy’s seeming departure from a metaphysics of self-commanding reason, within haptocentrism. It is now not reason that bypasses the body in order to be self-affecting, for the body possesses its own self-sensing awareness. This self-touching also—attractively—never reifies into a formalized system but becomes nothing more than ongoing self-revelation. Philosophy’s autonomy and self-coinciding principle of logocentrism is at once displaced by modes of affection that occur beyond consciousness in the narrow sense, and yet it is this self-sensing, affective, touching power of flesh, life and world that yields a hyper-haptocentrism. The world now senses itself: this is at once a displacement of the humanprivilege of auto-affection, but it is also a continued valorization of proximity. Nothing is left untouched. The world touches itself, senses itself, and is brought to its own presence, in a phrase that is summed up by Derrida as not only hypo-haptocentrism but “absolute realism”. (4)

Touch has this genuinely ethical value not when it is one body or thing making contact with another body or thing, but when contact is communal, mutual, and disclosive of a certain pre-given ground of life, love, spirit or feeling from which our individual bodies are only temporarily (if at all) detached. (4)

To offer touch is to give oneself more than one had, by giving away. Touch might appear, at least metaphorically, as the ethical concept par excellence: the power of touch signals both the capacity to reach towards what is not oneself, and to be open to what is not oneself (to be touched). (5)

We might say that “man” (the figure of self-affecting, self-constituting and self-present reason) is no longer the privileged figure of presence that calls out to be displaced: for it is now life, the world, cosmos or Gaia that is always already in touch with itself. I would suggest that it is no longer resistant or counter-normative to privilege process, dynamism, interconnectedness, embodiment, affect and de-centered auto-poetic systems over distinct and logically oriented individuals. We have shifted from human or rational haptocentrism, in which knowledge and the good are grounded on a privileged locus of auto-affection—a reason that touches itself, or a subject that presents to itself—to hyperhaptocentrism, in which everything is in touch with everything else. There is one grand network of proximity and mutual, dynamic inter-affective touch. (6)

The brain, formerly and mistakenly perceived as a computer, is now—we are constantly reminded—not a central command centre, but a responsive, adaptive, distributed, dynamic, affective and embodied system. This new neural paradigm was articulated in the works of Maturana and Varela, who tellingly also referred to Buddhism’s model of an ego-less consciousness that is nothing other than its relation to the world. (6)

Hyper-hapto-neuro-mysticism. Mysticism does not approach what is other than itself discursively but passes to direct contact, but this contact is not one in which the self has mastery. The self does not impose its logic on what is other for the sake of knowledge, but is transformed by the encounter. Latour’s account of the affective and embodied nature of knowledge avoids mysticism by stressing the notion of articulation: the body becomes what it is by being affected, just as the world that affects the body takes on its layers of difference through the complex encounters it enables: the world is different, and differentiated, according to the multiple approaches it offers. (7)

On the one hand there can be no ethics without touch: the isolated body that is sufficient unto itself, without relation, and without the tendency or capacity to be affected could not be said to be a living being. (This much is already explicit in Latour’s work on the body and his insistence on the power to be affected.) But ethics is also, necessarily, a question of distance, and “letting be.” Touch and relations in general are required precisely because the other person or other living being is different, and one cannot assume in advance any right or imperative to touch. (7)

There is always some subsumption and reduction of the other, and just as Derrida insists that there is no such thing as a non-violent relation—for all relations must to some extent reduce the pure distance of ethics—we can begin to conclude that there is also no such thing as proper touch. Recognizing the other as otherreduces the other’s absolute separation. And yet for all this supreme difficulty of touch, touch has come to be regarded not so much as cure but as the sign that there has never had been any problem at all. The idea that the world, others, knowledge, feeling and even one’s own self might be different and untouchable has been diagnosed as a modern ill—a problem of the wrong way of thinking—that simply needs to be recognized as a false problem. (7)

We live by touch and yet can never—as living beings—either achieve or avoid the contamination of touch. Touch is required for any achievement of the proper, and yet there is no proper touch. It is symptomatic that precisely when the impossible question of touch ought to be posed—when we are dealing increasingly with the violence and intrusion of touch (both human to human, and human to non-human)—that we present touch as salvation and cure, rather than the impossible predicament that can never be silenced. (9)

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Todd May “Humanism and Solidarity”

December 29, 2013 Leave a comment

May, Todd 2013. Humanism and Solidarity. Parresia 18: 11-21.

Ultimately, I will claim that a-humanism has its limits, and that much of what we would like to promote under the banner of politics will require an inescapably humanist approach. (13)

While our specific intellectual skills may differ from one another, we are all equally capable of using those skills to communicate, to discuss, to make decisions, to take account of the world around us, and to act on the basis of all this. The presupposition of the equality of intelligence is the starting point for all politics. (15)

Equality, in challenging hierarchies, does not seek to offer another, better social partitioning than the one that is the object of challenge. To engage in politics is not to commend one police order as better than another. It is to challenge the concept of partitioning itself. The presupposition of equality does not work by offering a stabilizing set of equal roles for everyone to play; it works by undermining the hierarchies inherent in the very idea of a stabilizing set of roles. (16)

Moreover, a collective subject requires more than simply that ability. It requires co-ordinated actions with others on the basis of the expression of that ability. In order to be a member of a collective subject in political action in Rancière’s sense, I must be able to presuppose the equality of another and act alongside that other out of that presupposition. This does not require that I reflectively recognize myself as having that ability or as expressing it in my contribution to collective action. Recall that for Rancière the presupposition of equality in a political action is often “discerned,” not consciously claimed. Nevertheless, beings capable of political action through solidarity must be able to act in a mutual fashion out of that presupposition in order to form the collective subject that solidarity requires. (17)

Political solidarity is the coming together of disparate elements in a horizontal way, an assemblage in the term Deleuze uses and Bennett borrows, that gives rise to an emergent state of the system—a collective political movement. (17)

However, if we turn away from the structural similarities between solidarity and a-humanism, we see an aspect of solidarity that seems to push it into the humanist camp, namely the requirement that participants in a solidarity movement be able to presuppose the equality of others and act in a co-ordinated fashion out of that presupposition. (17)

On the one hand, if we embrace the distributive paradigm for politics, we can accord certain elements or aspects of the environment or certain non-human animals a type of justice. The cost of this is that of losing the perspective and insights that contemporary a-humanism lends us, to violate the horizontal structural approach it commends, and to engage in all of the problems that have been cited for distributive approaches to justice. On the other hand, if we embrace an approach roughly of the type Rancière recommends, we gain on a variety of political fronts but cannot realize at the level of political solidarity the horizontality contemporary a-humanism seeks. Political solidarity must yield, at some point, to a more distributive approach. While Williams may be mistaken in claiming that the only moral question in relation to other animals is how to treat them, he would not be mistaken in thinking it an important one. (19-20)

Nancy Luxon “Ethics and Subjectivity”

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Luxon, Nancy 2008. Ethics and Subjectivity: Practices of Self-Governance in the Late Lectures of Michel Foucault. Political Theory 36(3), 377-402.

Solitary individuals are not to be taken as starting points; the relations that bind them to one another are. In such a context, individuals are quite literally what they do; they achieve constancy and ethical excellence not by attaining an ideal, but by cultivating a “disposition to steadiness” in an uneasy context lacking in absolute values. (380)

Rather than a “knowing subject,” produced in reference to a defined body of knowledge and some external order, the “expressive subject” draws on the structural dynamics of parrhesiastic relationships to give ethopoetic content to her actions. Rather than being urged “dare to know,” individuals are encouraged to “dare to act.” (380)

In its crudest formulation, Foucault’s intellectual trajectory is away from a philosophic investigation of the humanist subject and towards the conditions of political possibility. (382)

While Kant’s relationships to priests, doctors, and books are consistently glossed as ones of dependency, Foucault finds in parrhesia a resource for rethinking the interpretive education offered by the “messy middle” of those personal relationships as-yet unstructured by their endpoint and not predefined by their beginnings. Such relationships potentially offer a context in which the past can be problematized, the future left unforeclosed, and the present always ready-at-hand; they also provide a structure for the reconsideration of ethical obligations and responsibility; and they accomplish both of these tasks without recourse to the private terms of taste. (384)

His goal is to offer not an ethics of absolute values, but a set of expressive practices independent of any appeal to the absolute values offered by nature, religion, tradition, sexual identity, or the human. Foucault’s turn towards expressivity in his late lectures is in many ways a return to his initial concern for those structures that sustain significance, meaning, and expression. (385)

The appeal of parrhesia lies in its consistent focus on the present and the immediate (alternately, le présent, le réel, and l’actualité). Less a problem of epistemological uncertainty, the shakiness addressed by parrhesia is an inability to orient and steady oneself through one’s relations to oneself, to others, and to truth-telling. (387)

Different from confessional technologies, parrhesiastic techniques teach student two capacities: they teach an individual to set his standard of value and then begin the patient labor of moving between this standard and the world-at-hand. Relations to himself and to others provide both a context of immediacy and one for the recognition and sustenance of these values through a community, but without the creation of a universal ethical code to be internalized as conscience. (389)

Motivated by curiosity and resolve rather than desire, parrhesiastic accounts of oneself narrate an interaction not an experience, compose a public site of judgment not a character, and leave postponed the finality of their endings. (390)

Renunciation and desire simply return individuals to the unsteady longing to be other than what they are. Paradoxically, the daily adjustments of parrhesia result in a greater steadiness both in thought and action. Requiring individuals to be otherwise is to unsettle them without educating them to the techniques by which they might regain their balance. As a political program, then, its effects will be fleeting, as individuals are unable to situate themselves in these new ideals or to feel invested in the relations—to themselves, to others, to truth—that sustain it. (397)

This distinction draws attention to a fundamental difference between the activity of ethical self-governance and political governance. Where ethical self-governance is governed by norms of harmony, equilibrium, and steadiness, the norms constituting political governance are different. The daily rough-and-tumble of politics rests on norms of dissent and contestation; in choosing their leaders, debating political programs, and distributing resources, citizens argue and inveigh. Politics relies on the contestation of those collective practices that might facilitate the internalization of cultural norms and values, and unfolds through the contest of claims. Where the art of self-governance takes as its goal a steadiness of disposition and a harmony of words and deeds, modern political governance relies on an artful interruption of cultural attitudes and actions. While parrhesia contributes an ethical steadiness to those who participate in such debates, its personal relationships cannot be scaled so as to characterize politics. Differently from what is often inferred in accounts of a Foucaultian politics of resistance, transgression is not the only possible mode of action, and critique does not automatically entail resistance. Indeed the irreducibility of ethical relationships to a single subjectivity and the insistence on modes of responsiveness would seem to extend to parrhesiastic politics. (398)

Michel Foucault “Fearless Speech”

December 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Foucault, Michel 2001. Fearless Speech. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).

1. The Word Parrhesia

The one who uses parrhesia, the parrhesiastes, is someone who says everything he has in mind: he does not hide anything, but opens his heart and mind completely to other people through his discourse. […] And he does this by avoiding any kind of rhetorical form which would veil what he thinks. (12)

There are two types of parrhesia which we must distinguish. First, there is a pejorative sense of the word not very far from „chattering”, and which consists in saying any- or everything one has in mind without qualification. This pejorative sense occurs in Plato, for example, as a characterization of the bad democratic constitution where everyone has the right ti address his fellow citizens and to tell them everything – even the most stupid and dangerous things for the city. (13)

To my mind, the parrhesiastes says what is true because he knows that it is true because it really is true. The parrhesiastes is not only sincere and says what is his opinion, but his opinion is also the truth. (14)

For the Greeks, however, the coincidence between belief and truth does not take place in a (mental) experience, but in a verbal activity, namely, parrhesia. It appears that parrhesia, in this Greek sense, can no longer occur in our modern epistemological framework. (14)

If there is a kind of „proof” of the sincerity of the parrhesiastes, it is his courage. (15)

So you see, the parrhesiastes is someone who takes a risk. Of course, this risk is not always a risk of life. […] Parrhesia, then, is linked to courage in the face of danger: it demands the courage to speak the truth in spite of some danger. And in its extreme form, telling the truth takes place in the „game” of life or death. It is because the parrhesiastes must take a risk in speaking the truth that the king or tyrant generally cannot use parrhesia; for he risks nothing. (16)

But the parrhesiastes primarily chooses a specific relationship to himself: he prefers himself as a truth-treller rather than as a living being who is false to himself. (17)

For in parrhesia the danger always comes from the fact that the said truth is capable of hurting or angering the interlocutor. (17)

So you see, the function of parrhesia is not to demonstrate the truth of someone else, but has the function of criticism: criticism of the interlocutor or of the speaker himself. (17)

Parrhesia is a form of criticism, either towards another or towards oneself, but always in a situation where the speaker or confessor is in a position of inferiority with respect to the interlocutor. […] The parrhesia comes from „below”, as it were, and is directed towards „above”. (18)

This is not to imply, however, that anyone can use parrhesia. For although there is a text in Euripides where a servant uses parrhesia, most of the time the use of parrhesia requires that the parrhesiastes know his own genealogy, his own status; i.e., usually one must first be a male citizen to speak the truth as a parrhesiastes. (18)

[…] in parrhesia, telling the truth is regarded as duty. The orator who speaks the truth to those who cannot accept his truth, for instance, and who may be axiled, or punished in some way, is free to keep silent. No one forces him to speak, but he feels that it is his duty to do so. […] Parrhesia is thus related to freedom and to duty. (19)

More precisely, parrhesia is a verbal acitivity in which a speaker expresses his personal relationship to truth, and risks his life because he recognizes truth-telling as a duty to improve or help other people (as well as himself). (19)

The continuous long speech is a rhetorical or sophistical device, whereas the dialogue through questions and answers is typical for parrhesia, i.e., dialogue is a major technique for playing the parrhesiastic game. (20)

Athenian democracy was defined very explicitly as a constitution (politeia) in which people enjoyed demokratia, isegoria (the equal right of speech), isonomia (the equal participation of all citizens in the exercise of power), and parrhesia. Parrhesia, which is a requisite for public speech, takes place between citizens as individuals, and also between citizens construed as an assembly. Moreover, the agora is the place where parrhesia appears. (22)

D.M. Carter “Citizen Attribute, Negative Right”

December 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Carter, D.M. 2004. Citizen Attribute, Negative Right: A Conceptual Difference Between Ancient and Modern Ideas of Freedom of Speech. – Ineke Sluiter; Ralph M. Rosen (eds). Free Speech in Classical Antiquity. Boston; Leiden: Brill, 197-219.

Under modern democracies, freedoms are conceived of as negative rights, and these include a right to Freedom of Speech. The Athenians, on the other hand, while they conceived of political freedom in terms very close to a negative right, thought of free speech as something very different: a characteristic of citizens, an attribute, which was a sort of side effect of their political enfranchisement. (198)

Isêgoria appears earlier in the literature. Its meaning differs from parrhêsia with respect both to the context in which it was often used, and to its meaning: it was a term more likely to be used in a political context, and it held connotations more of equality than freedom. It could be political in meaning as well as context, in that it could be used synonymously with democracy: this is the case in its earliest use, at Herodotus 5.78. Parrhêsia, on the other hand, is the word writers in a non-political context are more likely to choose and, I shall argue, represented more a by-product of democracy than democracy itself. (199)

If isêgoria primarily suggests equality of speech, usually in a political context, parrhêsia is a term, more closely connected with ideas of freedom, that can be used equally of social and political discourse. This freedom can be both a good and a bad thing, either a desirable privilege (as it is often in Euripides and Demosthenes—see below) or something likely to cause offense. (201)

The pejorative sense of parrhêsia can be explained to some extent if we consider the composition of the word: literally, to speak with parrhêsia is to say everything, which might mean everything, good and bad. (201)

Isêgoria meant the equal opportunity to speak that one had under democracy: the most formal, as well as the most obvious, expression of this came, ideologically if not actually, in the Assembly. Parrhêsia meant a tendency to say everything, uninhibited by any fear. This might be the fear—no longer present under democracy—of tyrannical authority (Athenian ideas of the effect of tyranny on free speech are discussed below); it might also be the fear of the usual rules of discourse that prevent shame for the speaker or offense for the listener. (202)

However, I am not aware of any accounts of historical tyrants restricting free speech. Why should such evidence be hard to find? Because, I would suggest, to speak with parrhêsia is to be freed from one’s own sense of fear: a tyrant sees little need actively to discourage free speech when his very person is discouraging enough. Crucially, the subjects of tyranny who in Plato’s imagination operate free speech are only the bravest (νδρικ1τατι), the ones who felt most confident to do so. Because parrhêsia is only an attribute, and not anyone’s right, it is not so much something a tyrant actively restricts, as something his subjects are indisposed to exercise. (211)

Parrhêsia under democracy, therefore, depended not on a freedom from censorship protected by law but on the confidence in giving one’s own opinion that came naturally with democratic citizenship. (214)

Since parrhêsia was a matter of confidence, not right, it was not confined to citizens, but could be adopted by others, simply as a result of residence in Athens. (215)

Frank Macke “Intrapersonal Communicology”

December 5, 2013 Leave a comment

Macke, Frank 2008. Intrapersonal Communicology: Reflection, Reflexivity, and Relational Consciousness in Embodied Subjectivity. Atlantic Journal of Communication 16: 122-148.

Communicology, having emerged from phenomenology, semiotics, and the classical rhetorical tradition, as well as systems theory, adopts a post-Cartesian approach to both language and consciousness (Lanigan, 1988, 1992). The notion of intersubjectivity, as explicated in both Husserlian and existential phenomenology, serves as a critical instrument in the correction of the Cartesian error regarding consciousness, body, and mind (Dillon, 1997, pp. 113–128). For communicology, neither “messages” nor “mind” are things. As such, a communicological approach to the event of intrapersonal communication will begin from the premise that the experience of a message is intersubjective and that it does not constitute independent data processed through the mechanism of mind. (124)

Interpersonal communication is marked by a relationship of two persons, group communication is marked by the presence of three or more persons, and cultural communication is marked by the presence of two or more groups. The concept of intrapersonal communication, however, is verified through a standard metaphysical judgment. For instance, none of us can remember what we were thinking the first time we uttered the word no, but we nevertheless can speak about this communicative moment as one in which we were able to imagine (or cognize, if you will) an alternative to the reality given to us in the social parameters of our young experience. (126)

It is not that the event of communication is always—or even mostly—pleasant; it is that the self-acknowledgment of one’s having communicated is simultaneously an affirmation of one’s fundamental attachment to a meaningful other and, hence, a meaningful world. To be in communication is etymologically consonant with being in communion, with feeling in common. (126)

The gap between thought and emotion is, in the case of intrapersonal communicology, capable of being understood as the distance felt between the inner, secreted subjectivity of the person impulsively seeking a secure attachment to the world and the social identity, the named persona of the visible Self. (127)

Again, it consists of at least two parts: a socially referenced, “named” object (the “me”) and the subjective, intentional, conative component (the “I”). The two parts exist in tension with one another. The “I” seeks its recognition in interaction—which is also to say that is seeks a difference in “me.” When we are infants, the “I” is phenomenally and pragmatically inseparable from the “me,” especially inasmuch as the capacity for recognizing the self as object cannot emerge until the completion of what Lacan has aptly termed the “mirror phase.” As we get older, the “I” takes on a critical role with respect to the signature of Self. With regard to the signature itself, neither the “I” nor the “me” can be cited as its fundamental author, but the “I” recognizes that the signature can be altered. (128)

For communicology, it is not axiomatic that “you cannot not communicate.” Information transfer does not automatically give birth to communicative experience. The experience of communication is not a mechanical or logically reductive matter of sign production and sign processing. Even though semiotic theory has participated heavily in the intellectual history of the human science of communicology, a strictly semiotic approach to the event of communicative experience will drain the event of all psychological significance. (132)

The phenomenology of embodied meaning is neither reducible to neurochemistry or biology nor a necessary function of any logic of symbolic forms. The phenomenology of the communicative moment reveals a sudden coincidence and novel combination of feeling and thought. Perhaps the word mistake expresses more than is necessary; in any case, the moment begins in an absence of certitude. It begins as speculation—or, better, as conjecture: literally, as something “thrown together.” (133)

Contact, in Jakobson’s thinking, is not something we “do” or “perform.” Contact is the human vulnerability of our being-at-all. Although the typical instances of phatic communion (such as “uh-huh,” “I see,” “go on”) illustrate the addressee’s participation in sustaining the life of the interaction, they also illustrate that an encounter could cease or mutate at any juncture. In moments of intrapersonal communication, the “I’s” relation to the “me,” having been sedimented in the context of perceptual habit, is ruptured. A way of seeing has been momentarily discontinued. A new way of sensing has begun. (136)

[…] “the human” is the fundamental experiential context in which communication and thinking can occur at all. Simply, “the human being” over and above its other mammalian traits is an attached creature. To the extent it gains its biological survival through means other than caring contact by adult members of its species, it ceases to be human to that very degree. Not just infants, but children up through their teens are tremendously dependent beings (Blos, 1962). The narrative context of selfhood through this period is, thus, always experienced in terms of an ego (and a “me”) recognized through an epistemology of discipline. (To wit: the “delinquent” is always a case of arrested development inasmuch as he or she is, by literal definition, “something left behind, left undone.”) When the “I” wanders into its own otherness, it defies its epistemology of stability via the logic of dependency. That into which it wanders is anxiety. (139)

Our being is an entirely relational being; it is experienced as a matter of flesh, and in saying that, what I am accentuating is that we are our connectedness: our contact and attachment. The wandering of the “I” is not animated by idle curiosities. The wandering of the “I” is motivated by appetite. Perception is an appropriative and consumptive act—one might say ouroboric—but an activity that entails “sensing-in” the world. Sensing-in, breathing, and expressing-out: The wandering “I” is a hungry “I.” (142)

Pramod K. Nayar “WikiLeaks, the New Informational Cultures, and Digital Parrhesia”

December 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Nayar, Pramod K. 2010. WikiLeaks, the New Information Cultures, and Digital Parrhesia. Economic and Political Weekly 45.52: 27-30.

Like CDC, WL also sees itself as deriving its moral and ethical stance from the UDHR (citing article 19 on its website), and thus locates itself in a global cultural apparatus: the universalmovement for Human and related Rights. (3)

The persecution of Assange – his dramatic arrest, the rape charges, the threats of extradition and possible assassination – makes for a very strange mix where thevirtual meets the flesh-and-blood: online activity whose validity and value are sworn to by the very real threat to the personof Julian Assange. Conversely, does eliminating the ‘body’ of Assange alter the virtual threat that the new culture of information represents? The answer is ‘no’, for we are in the age of an electronic civil society and information culture unlimited to bodies, geographies or national boundaries. (3)

We therefore must see WL’s collection of documents as the processesthat make up the world’s functioning. In a sense, WL directs us, for the first time, to the makingof the world order (or disorder). (4)

We are now in the era of the hyper-visible, by which I mean the excessive and repeated circulation of such images we were not intended to ever see. (5)

Scenes of war, classified documents that legitimised torture, secret parleys behind policy constitute what we might term a counter-archive. An archive has traditionally been a space where documents are stored and the rights of interpretation of these documents rest with a chosen few (known in classical times as ‘archons’). Here, in WL’s archives we have a database from which we, as readers, need to build narratives. […] Therefore, the archive of documents WL leaks must be, and can be, made to tell a story– about injustice, corruption, deprivation, suffering in anypart of the world – depending on our choice of frames of interpretation and wanderings through the corpus. (5)

What WL does is not to pinpoint blames for wrong-doing on X or Y. Rather, it gives us a glimpse of the institutional, state, organizational culturesthat made X or Y’s acts possible. (6)

What WL does is to locate a Lynndie England (the infamous prison warden at Abu Ghraib) within an American culture of war and a war effort that empowered such individuals. The individual soldiers only denote individual wrong-doing, but what we need to see is the connotation – which is the cultural apparatus of atrocity. (7)

If public space is the space for different people to tell their stories WL marks the arrival of such a space (we shall return to the nature and function of this electronic space in the last section). This is the main reason why it is fascinating to see how the USA, the so-called defender of free speech and therefore multiple stories, has suddenly decided that WL is not about free speech at all because it hurts ‘global’ interests (US commentators have even called for the death penalty to Bradley Manning). (7)

These seem to be two apparently contradictory points – about digital parrhesia being performed at risk to the truth-teller and contemporary condition where we cannot pinpoint a singletruth-teller. I propose a slightly different parrhesia, one that is less interested in the truthteller than in the culture of truth-telling. Digital cultures create a new communications culture, which generates a new community, the global civil society (we have seen this in the case of online supports, campaigns, humanitarian efforts in the wake of the tsunami, Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, protests against the WTO, etc), and the globalisation of conscience. WL is an embodiment of this new form of communications-leading-to-community, a digital parrhesia. At risk is digital space as parrhesiastic space. At risk is a new media cultural practice (Napster, Bit Torrent, Rapidshare, Creative Commons, Open Source Movement, Wikipedia, WikiLeaks), not the individual voice. At risk is the entire culture of information sharing, the agora of information. (10)