AtHQ: transversality – Luciana Parisi

Attack the Headquarters – this is Luciana’s presentation from after the break on the first session of AtHQ.

Luciana Parisi – AtHQ: transversality

When one thinks of attacking the headquarters, one assumes, especially in the context of the geneaological history of Cultural Studies, that a critical point has been reached in the formation of the Cultural Studies entity who thinks of itself as having a core and a periphery. Now one may wish to discuss if this model of core- periphery is actually in place here or whether this model stems from the institutional stratification of cultural studies, whose propositions for practice-based research, uniting theory with the every day as well as make of the every day a political, aesthetic, economical investigation of structures of power, have actually become sites of production for maintaining and renewing structures of power. I am referring for example to the institutional and disciplinary pressure that has smoothened the edges of cultural studies through the simplification of ideas, the ready made application of concepts, the formats of practices organized around the categories and the positions of an empirical structure of knowledge. In a sense the space of thought and for thought in Cultural Studies has become repressed by a common sense appeal to the pro-active machine of cultural and creative capital whose apparatuses of capture have become intrinsic to research and to institutions of knowledge where what rules is a pre-emptive set of initiative, creativity, and innovation prefabricated for specific outputs – conferences, publications, research projects, as well as artistic productions, and all sorts of public and community implementations, translating science into art for instance.

In this context Cultural Studies has created itself as a credible discipline – a sort of minor sister compared to her older sisters, above all sociology, philosophy and economics- sustained by the capacity of becoming capitalised in its theoretical-practices experimentation. Yet what has been left behind in its euphoria to become a dominant – grown up – entity, relying on its original practice-based theory, is precisely the praxis of speculative thought, by which I mean the praxis of devicing techniques for thought concerned with building unrealistic or otherwise called hyperstitional – or also fabulation– conditions, able to insert cuts, gaps, break downs in the smooth operational flow of info-knowledge of cybernetic capitalism. Cultural Studies indeed has a special relation with such smooth info-control to the extent that it has embraced the information revolution with its critical investment in the study of media and communication and most recently its analysis of social software, data mining, info surveillance and info economies, as well as of interactive and responsive media environments. And yet what Cultural Studies has come to ignore are precisely the metaphysical conditions of thought and knowledge, which have become all absorbed by the empirical practices of socio-cultural communication.

Nevertheless by establishing itself as a discipline Cultural Studies could not help by being surrounded by a world of peripheral, marginal or minoritarian praxis of thought where the transversal connection between high and low culture, abstract and concrete practices, speculations and pragmatics have proliferated beneath the cynical façade of a dominant enterprise of cultural analysis sustained by disciplinary categories of political identity. If attack the head quarters can be, amongst other things, a way to explore such transversality then a gesture of attack does not concern Cultural Studies in its UK or International fashions but exactly the contrary. Rather such gesture concerns cultural studies as trans-disciplinary and trans-local, trans-international or even the trans-planetary empiricism. Here an attack will be not a provocation intended as a resistance against the Centre of CS but an invite towards minoritarian praxis of thought, which are neither located outside nor inside the Centre, but are exactly to be acknowledged as lateral or parallel practices of a radical empiricism. This means that such praxis is not strictly speaking a practice, or even an application of thought, but more itself a thought-process equipped with abstract and concrete capacities of intervention, a speculative pragmatics.

From this standpoint, such minoritarian praxis are not there to become simply co-opted by a centre for the capitalization of culture and creative thought, but exactly remain a lateral praxis autonomous from the parameters of the disciplinary and interdiscipinary bifurcation of theory and practice reflected in the structural institutionalization of Cultural Studies. A minoritarian praxis is defined not by a dominant-dominated model. It is not to be confused with the figure/identity of the marginalized. Minoritarian thought is not a question of scale or dimension. It is a matter of concern, of when and how certain unforeseen conditions become relevant to certain occasions, of the extent to which certain events – one could call them revolutions meaning changing the evolutions of things – come to mark the end of a state of affair and the break down or irreversible dis-function of a causal chain of effects.

The autonomy of minoritarian praxis however is not simply given. It needs to be constructed and yet not completely: one will have to acknowledge that the praxis of thought is not equivalent to the intentional mind of the human species. Indeed we know that intentions are also to be found in non-human entities-actors such as animals and machines. This is to say that praxis of thought is infinite. However, from an ethical point of view, the conditions for the autonomy of a minoritarian praxis are constantly to be constructed, but not simply from inside the institution. In other words, for a minoritarian thought of cultural studies to exist it is not sufficient to build a space – a ivory tower, a happy island – inside the institution, inevitably coming to accommodate or innovate the profile of the institution/discipline incorporating such thought by turning it into the marginalised category.

A way of constructing such conditions could be helped by the adoption of a viral logistics, where the institution and the discipline become a host for the invasion of unrealistic techniques of change in the protocol of research activities. For this logistics to acquire duration beyond the temporality of the one off event that can well be accommodated in self-nominated “cutting-edge” institutions and disciplines, it needs to exfoliate the tough skin of institutionalised research inside out spreading the praxis of thought across any research environment, making all spaces, including cities, and planets an opportunity for thought to become speculatively pragmatic, practically unreal. Such spreading can occur by all means of fabulation or fictional reality by devicing techniques of writing, programming, visualising, sounding, architecting, performing, as well as by techniques-agents of community connections, carriers and catalyzers of societies to come. One problem however remains for me: how to discriminate between the infinite praxis of thought, that is how the evaluation of the many praxis of thought can occur across the singular qualities of distinct research environment, which level of speculative praxis becomes a matter of concern and to what extent a praxis needs to declare its finitude, termination when its values have expired.

Thus two questions remain important to me as a speculative researcher in the minoritarian field of cultural studies:

How to invite minoritarian praxis of thought in, which also means out to infiltrate protocols of research activities beyond the protocols set by the alliance between the institution and cultural and creative capital?

How to device techniques of evaluation (of praxis of thought) that endure across fields of aesthetic and cultural expressions which at once maintain a plethora of contrasts and nonetheless together build a parallel and transversal nexus autonomous from the correlational platforms of research activities approved by the institution?

To these questions two suggestions may be here worth considering:

The infiltration of minoritarian praxis can occur through tactics of camouflage or indirect action, which may imply modes of parasiting the disciplinary structure of research and their forms of interdisciplinary modular organization of theory-practice. This implies not simply an instrumentalization of the institution/discipline but a way to expose research to its indeterminate metaphysical conditions. This means not simply translating concepts across fields of study, challenging logic with poetics, as for example occurs in the application of scientific concepts to artistic expression. Rather what I specifically mean by indirect tactics of camouflage is to devise techniques of translogical operations within each and any field of research whereby each discipline becomes a society of praxis with an aesthetic, a philosophy, a politics, a culture, an economics proper to the complex architecture of its speculative activities. This implies turning a discipline into an ecology of practices, as Stengers would put it.

A suggestion as to how to device enduring – or connecting – techniques of evaluation across fields of research, composed of the transversal alliance between worlds of thought which are not simply subsumed to or co-opted by the institutional research and its symbiotic relation with creative and cultural capital, may entail to take seriously the discontinuities in the praxis of thought, the contrasts of its colours, the infinity and complexity of its shades. Evaluation here does not coincide with matching of codes or rules with behaviours and functions. Evaluation rather needs to include the surplus value of each coding research activity as intrinsic to the very nature of code organization. A margin, threshold or minoritarian surplus value of code then can be taken to set the criteria for the endurance or connection of a speculative pragmatics across research societies. This aims not simply at liberating thought from control, but to deflect the direct repressive pressure upon the existence of unrealistic conditions of thought, inflecting such repression towards the construction of impossible logics and towards the destruction of those logics that have accomplished their epochal value. This also means to be ready to declare dead the logic of your political shelter and to learn how to swim again in an open sea of unrealistic conditions.

Luciana Parisi

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