Chronopolitics and Queer Futurity in the Circuits of Dead Ringers
to be followed by
Ethnofuturism, Chronopolitics, and the Ethics of Time Travel
The general concern of this study revolves around the questions and problematics involved in outlining a politics of time. To navigate my sight across the political landscape of time, I shall deploy a cybernetic lens.
An early modern technology devoted to the establishment of a mechanism of control over temporal orders and time patterns, cybernetics was materially and intellectually supported by the U.S. military-industrial complex of the Second World War era. It has since continued a dynamic and transformative relationship with the political elements that shaped the ensuing decades of the Cold War and globalization.
An immediate feature of this chronotechnological means of warfare was, from early on, a differentiating regime of Othering, which dragged closer the previously configured “enemy other” (in a geopolitical sense) and, through reflexive chain reactions, interiorized its alien status into the body of the “enemy within” (which makes sense in chronopolitical terms). My engagements with chronopolitics, framed by cybernetics, will therefore follow embodied inflections of this practice of othering as well as embodiments of the Other/ed, which are, again most immediately and also broadly speaking, differentiated in sexual as well as racial terms.
This study chooses to follow the track of sexual differentiation (see below for the other track). Therefore, the political view and its technological framing will be each assisted by particular focal points: queerness and information technologies of late capitalism. The former will be articulated as a mode of gendered embodiment of an Other/ed chronotopic identity, while the latter will be argued to function as inhuman differentiators of chronotopic dis/embodiment—that is, initiating or assisting modifications in how the space and time of embodiment relate to each other.
As a double of cybernetics in itself, Dead Ringers, a 1988 film by David Cronenberg, serves this study as a major platform for summoning chronopolitical figures and tropes. The first chapter, accordingly, attempts to map a periodized history of cybernetics and its info-technological legacies on the narrative and transformative course of the film as well as its characters’ chronotopic states of mind and body. The second chapter prospects a queer reading of the “cybernetic double” in relation to the differentiating modes of spatiotemporalization as the film exhibits them. The inhuman, and its deathly pull, will be then introduced as a key interlocutor mediating between queerness and information technology. The third chapter will address the existing literature that has focused on homoerotic turns in Cronenberg’s curvaceous cinema. Building on its preceding arguments, it will discuss sexuality in pharmacopornographic embodiments and consider virtuality in the simulated circuits of third-order cybernetics. This chapter will be then almost exclusively centered around two paranoia-inflected conversations singled out from the film in order to further identify the queer streams of Dead Ringers with the temporal inflections of both machinic drives and symbolic registers for homosexuality. The concluding chapter proposes a particular sense of queer futurity through a theory of death informed by a stance of vitalist inhumanism. It follows the premises descended from arguments made earlier, and therefore attends to the future via a particular approach to chronopolitical engagement, one which draws on queerness, information technology, and their matters and functions of intertransmission. The propositions put forward in the conclusion, however, will also aim to champion the embodied matter of oil, and its leaking inhumanism, as the main role model for queer futurity in a post-cybernetic era. A main ingredient of dominant geopolitical debates, oil demands an engagement, however, with its chronopolitical valences. As mentioned earlier, by the time petroleum politics is discussed in terms of its chronotopic entities, queer futurity will have already been established as a matter of an inhuman politics of time. Another opening for queer futurity, therefore, will be defined in a move from metal to porphyrin, from the “machinic phylum” to “petropolitical undercurrents.”
Put differently, following the death-driven and machinic desires that lie at the core of a vitalist materialist strand of inhumanism, the chronopolitics of queer futurity will be imbued with the informatics of geo-intelligence, the oily vessels of earth’s neural networks, which lay foundations for an ethics of cosmic artificiality. The oiled-up and servile matter of queer chronopolitics, then, serves and is served by the ethical function of an artificial geo-intelligence, that is, another AGI.
For a makeshift bibliography click here.
>>> ETHNOFUTURISM, CHRONOPOLITICS, AND THE ETHICS OF TIME TRAVEL >>>
The more particularly racial and ethnic aspects of the cybernetic doubling and its chronopolitical practice of othering will be addressed in a sequel to the above study. There I will expand my discussion of Dead Ringers’ Siamese Twins to the transgender performativity of a Peking opera singer in M. Butterfly, another film by David Cronenberg from 1993, in order to articulate the modes in which ethnicity and race attend to the thought of the future. An inquiry into the matter of futurity, in this regard, will follow an overview of existing studies that help setting up an ethnofuturist discourse and, therefore, enable an interference with its ethicopolitical premises. This will include academic and artistic projects that have worked toward a sense of afrofuturism, sinofuturism and gulf futurism, among others.
Out of the many in a whole range of these political and cultural modes of ethnotemporality, whether already articulated or waiting to be (like the contingent indofuturism, persofuturism, austrofuturism, slavofuturism and so forth) here I would give the example of only one rather dark instance. To follow or prospect a chronopolitical (and not necessarily chronological) lineage in a rather simplified diagram, I shall begin with Nick Land’s formulation of Neoreaction (NRx) as a “time-crisis.” This rather peculiar brand of political ideology is closely associated with the Alt-Right movement whose stigma on the face of mainstream politics seems to be getting globally much thicker in the recent years. “It not only promotes drastic regression, but highly-advanced drastic regression. Like retrofuturism, paleomodernism, and cybergothic, the word ‘neoreaction’ compactly describes a time-twisted vector that spirals forwards into the past, and backwards into the future. It emerges, almost automatically, as the present is torn tidally apart—when the democratic-Keynesian politics of postponement-displacement exhausts itself, and the kicked-can runs out of road,” writes Land of NRx which “was a prophetic warning about the rise of the Alt-Right” (→).
The Iranian-American Jason Reza Jorjani, a faculty member at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and one of the three co-founders of AltRight.com, seems to have a clear vision of reactionary futurity, whose charge lies in the intensity of splices that push to hold such temporal anomalies together. He argues for the sociopolitical realities that should follow the alleged ties between his self-proclaimed “Aryan” origins, as a “native New Yorker of Persian and northern European descent,” and the promise of an “Iranian Renaissance” to be fulfilled in the future. For this, he works closely with a diasporic organization named after this messianic promise in order to bring about “a cultural revolution in Greater Iran on the basis of the pre-Islamic Persian heritage,” as well as certain social formations of sovereign power.
On 28 October 2016, a big crowd gathered in the city of Pasargade, in the Fars Province of Iran, where the Tomb of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BC), is located. This collective tribute, which did not seem to be the first of its kind, soon turned into a protest against the current Iranian regime and in support of its preceding monarchs, expressing a certain chronopolitical tendency inside the country that well corresponds to Jorjani’s neoreactionary vision of Iranian futurity.
This lineage simply manifests the necessity, if not urgency, of recuperating the sociopolitical visions of a burgeoning ethnofuturistic discourse away from sympathies with despotic supremacy and toward programs and strategies for a reinvented sense of chronocollectivity.