Contemporary geopolitics as curated by the United States is in a permanent beta phase. Neuro-torture, algorithmic warfare, drones strikes, cybernetic nation-building are not means or ends but tests. Can a polis be engineered? Can the human operating system be reformatted? Can violence be modulated until legally invisible while all the more lethal? Each incursion, each new actor or actant, new terrains from brains to transatlantic cables, all find themselves part of a grand experiment. Over the course of this seminar we will explore how classically Realist concepts of order and national interest have been subtly displaced by subterranean violence entrepreneurs that populate the transversal battlefield of security politics. Doomsayers like Paul Virilio, Lewis Mumford, and Martin Heidegger who foretold a kind of terminal and self-annihilating velocity of security’s technological saturation are today being shown to have been optimists. Security doesn’t know totality or finality: it bleeds, mutates, and reforms. Furthermore the peril of biopolitics seems now almost romantic. The care and concern for life’s productivity is increasingly subsumed by plasticity—forming and reforming without regard to the telos of productivity, division, or normative order. There are of course orders in our geoplastic age but they are almost unrecognizable as such when so many are directly invested in the intensifying failure of publically-stated strategic ends. In an attempt to confront the particular differences that mark our historical moment we will explore thinkers and practices that organize violence and pain beyond the limits of identity and mortality. We are witnessing creative and horrifying experiments in the affirmative production of dying that also deprive those targeted, in some cases whole population, from the relief of death. The horror of security politics is not tragic. Tragedy redeems. The horror of contemporary security politics is precisely that there is no relief, no reason, no victory, no defeats, no exit. Throughout this seminar, therefore, we will explore the problem of life and identity in the age of sustainable warfare.
The seminar will be composed of four two and a half hour sessions, each of which will be split between a lecture between half an hour and an hour in length and a group discussion covering the remaining time. Readings will be set for each week, and students will be expected to write 400 words on some aspect of the week’s topic in advance. This will be posted to the Google Classroom page for everyone to read and comment upon as they wish, providing some preliminary threads for the group discussion. The final assessment will consist of a 2500 word essay on a topic agreed upon with the instructor in advance.