The Anarchy of Objects II:

Instructor: Levi Bryant Module: 2 of 2 Date & Time: Sundays, June 21, 28, July 5 & 12 5:00 PM - 7:30 PM EST

Since the revolutionary work of Immanuel Kant, Continental philosophy has been dominated by the idealist or correlationist paradigms wherein it is argued that mind structures and constitutes reality. In 20th century Continental philosophy, this correlationist turn has been manifested in the thesis that it is language, signs, discourses, or narratives that structure reality. This thesis has also harbored the emancipatory promise of liberating people from oppressive conditions through a critique and deconstruction of various discourses and symbolic systems that structure social relations.

Through the disclosure that forms of subjectivity and identity are not intrinsic properties of persons but are social constructions, these identities and power-relations are revealed to be contingent, and it becomes possible to build new forms of subjectivity, identity, and social relations. Such is the political import of the work of Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, and those influenced by Lacan. The emancipatory achievements of the semiotic turn are not to be underestimated nor minimized; however, they have obscured another form of power, non-discursive power, that arises from materiality as such. Power issues not simply from signification and how we signify, but also how the world of objects about us is organized.

Through a reading of Bryant’s Onto-Cartograhy: An Ontology of Machines and Media, this seminar explores both the being of material objects and how they contribute to the organization of social relations through technologies, infrastructure, living beings, and features of geography. Over the course of the Spring seminar, students will be introduced to the ontology of machines, relations between machines, and how they influence the form that societies take. The seminar will explore machinic ontology, adopting a functionalist perspective that argues all beings, regardless of whether or not they are fabricated by humans, are machines, and will investigate nonhuman, animal, mineral, technological, institutional, and semiotic machines. Special emphasis will be placed on how worlds are structured and the ways in which power functions within these different worlds. Students will learn techniques for mapping worlds so as to better devise strategies of resistance and escape from oppressive formations.

Each seminar session will consist of lectures over the material assigned that week, as well as class discussion. Students are expected to participate in class with contributions of their own in the form of questions and observations. They are required to attend all four sessions of the online seminar. Over the course of the week there will also be message board discussions in regards to the material. Students taking the course for credit will write a 3000-3500 word essay, applying the concepts drawn from the assigned readings in the analysis of how a region of the social world is structured.

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