Matter’s (supposed) rawness obtrudes within a sensory field structured, perhaps, by semiosis (not always) but no less by performance — itself always already swathed in, sucked or debted into, arranging economies of sensation. So any particle’s transit may or may not come to rest or relative completion in a performative act. Acting assigns bodies, nonbodies, and monsters their ontological categories. Furrows of animacy — auditory surround or any group of persons around a scene — carve out, sometimes ritually but also virtually, those ranges of action. What is primary is sensation and what can be done with it among others
Under what conditions can communities formed in the crevices of a settler colonial system act as insurgent cells?
Were contingency synonymous with any spontaneous change, wouldn’t its valorization then only exemplify a logic of precarity – that is, wouldn’t contingency stand in for being on the brink of collapse, foreclosure, or eviction at any moment? And wouldn’t it signal an ideological demand for infinite plasticity – destructive not only because it deforms but because staying flexibly available for more hours (because you have to) sucks up all your time and squeezes out all your energy?
How do we abolish debt and the unfreedoms it enforces? Or rather how forget the debts sought by the governing rationality so it can extend credit? Simply abolishing debt doesn’t make sense if sociality (or Jodi Melamed’s “sociopoesis”) circulates through debts — but Stefano Harney and Fred Moten think more precisely about this than I am in The Undercommons (p. 66).
What if contingency were reducible neither to a logic of precarity nor to the at-any-moment flexibility it demands? If it could mean short soft accesses of another meanwhile (see Bliss Cua Lim on “occult national times”) – which won’t necessarily tear everything down in an instant but which could slip into another praxis evasive or unrecognizable enough to tear away from how austerity comes to administer sensation (planning to scrimp as though that were a horizon of desire) – or even the end of the world, “scattered, scattered eschaton” (Moten again, 118).
What does the ecstasy marked where an eschaton punctures you into collectivity do to the national meanwhile? Volatile mixtures brim up from around the supposed structural inertia of institutions and the comportments they want from you even on your off time.
Lobbed first in derision of a figure of queer hyperbole — the hypersensitive (endlessly wounded) and thus hyperdefensive (humorless, policing) but also hyperdramatic (complaining) claimant to a marginalized identity — “special snowflake” has curved back on its originators. On leftbook (and screenshots of e.g. the Glenn Beck fanpage) the term turns toward the critical exposure of self-absorptive white tears, of xenophobia as demand for safe space, and of racist diaperbabies “triggered” into losing their civility.
What does this insult presume? What is its force as insult? Calling someone a “special snowflake” antagonizes their presumed fragility, but why? And what does it mean to reverse the gesture?
An insufferable video on the “Millennials Question” can perhaps partially explain this. Motivational speaker / marketing consultant / would-be diagnostician Simon Sinek would characterize the snowflake as somebody who received too many participation trophies and now enjoys too much instant gratification to square their self-perceived singularity with the demands of a reality principle. Asserting singularity in this way comes to signal (affinity with) a social type (the entitled millennial) defined by petulance and inadequacy to typification.
Another video comes to mind too —
Somebody says “go get your diapies changed.” An echolalic turkey gobble noise jumps from the young person raising two middle fingers to the older trump supporters crowding in and screaming back the gobble noise. In a longer version of the video we learn that the young person started screaming to interrupt a speaker with a microphone and then gets drowned out by people shouting “USA!” x 3. Aggressive mock applause gets mirrored back while people shout hurray and sarcastically bellow “Oh yeah oh yeah.” The most legible sign says “SPEAK OPENLY DISAGREE HONESTLY PURSUE SOLIDARITY” and then, handwritten, simply “Trump.” Toward the end you can see the young person kind of bobbing up and down into a mortification dance where the absurdity of the confrontation somehow redeems the shame of not knowing what you’re doing or even exactly why. Everyone is filming everything.
I wonder if this captures the moment it became possible to use “special snowflake” to antagonize the fragility of those who feel threatened by left-liberal and radical counter-“policing.”
What is happening here? When does infantility act tactically?
Can the rhetoric of infantility (calling somebody else a baby) be thought on a continuum with infantility as reversion to prediscursive noise or the enactment of a shared shame dump where discourse must become formless (acting like a baby)?
Can “snowflake” not just reclaim but also re-weaponize (ascribed) hypersensitivity?
A partial bibliography could have you read the books Elaine Showalter mentions in this paragraph from the introduction to Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture (1997):
Americans also tend to feel defensive about hysterical disorders after the recent spate of accusations that this country is becoming a hysterical victim society. It’s a standing joke that Americans no longer view themselves as sinners struggling with the guilt of lust, avarice, or greed but rather as sick people addicted to sex, shopping, or sweets. Books like Charles Sykes’s A Nation of Victims (1992), Robert Hughes’s The Culture of Complaint (1993), Wendy Kaminer’s I’m Dysfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional (1993), and Alan Dershowitz’s The Abuse Excuse (1995) mock and denounce what they see as the twelve-step, self-help culture of contemporary America. Because many of these books have an ideological ax to grind, they seek political scapegoats and simple answers for a complex phenomenon. Pundits blame the recovery movement on Freud and psychoanalysis, changes in sexuality, or a collapse of American family values. These attacks are so sweeping and so vitriolic, so one-sided and so unfair, it’s no wonder patients, psychiatrists, and therapists feel threatened and panicky. In the Journal of Psychohistory, Nielltje Gedney, for example, charges that critics are after “the total annihilation of therapy and therapists.”
Also “Bart’s Inner Child,” S05.E07 of The Simpsons (first aired in 1993), work on the history / theory / practice of Montessori schools, screencaps in the facebook group “I am leabing dIS gronP,” and Sarah Schulman’s Conflict Is Not Abuse (2016). Apparently the term “special snowflake” has been traced (by Wikipedia) to Fight Club (1996) and the film version thereof (1999), and there’s probably something to be written about “edginess” as a genre of disaffected teen masculinity diffused from that. See too the fashion philosophy of “normcore” (as snowflake antidote), e.g. in this manifesto thing called Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom.
Aren’t there dissonances in an alt-right that can both lash out in murderous envy at “normies” (see Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies (2017)) and ally themselves with a perhaps broader based (or rather cross-generational) backlash against “snowflakes”?
Thinking forward very distantly, it would be fun but also probably unavoidably self-indulgent to write an archaeology of “ugh.” (See an earlier post on this page about “wow.”) Maybe, most immediately, in the contemporary use as text-affect interjecting messages with a mood spectrum oscillating between low-level disgust and sighing frustration / exhaustion / irritation, i.e. an attempt to make tone legible. Also, though, as it slides into bodily noise, e.g. when Edgar Allan Poe encrypts a cough as “‘Ugh ! ugh ugh!—ugh ugh ! ugh l—ugh ! ugh I ugh !— ugh ! ugh ! ugh !—ugh ! ugh ! ugh !'” The empirical question is then whether it “began” as bodily noise and only recently came to work the way it does now.
In a 1903 edition of the Baltimore American, you can find a proto-genocidal gesture that goes beyond the negligence of a system letting you die (like when Mike Pence as governor of Indiana waited over two months amidst mounting HIV diagnoses to authorize a needle exchange program for IV drug users). Here is the editorial fantasy that prefigures Nazi Germany’s Black Triangle:
“Will Wear Badges: Smokers of Opium Will Have Labels of Identification” Baltimore American 06-12-1903, p. 4 — http://bit.ly/2n0lss0
And here’s the article, first published in a May 16th, 1903 issue of American Medicine, that’s reproduced above (though it seems it may have been altered?):
Across publication events, it would seem, the item does undergo significant alterations — not least of which the paranoia-deflating deconstruction of the logic of the original in its republication. If the American Medicine original triply encloses the report (under “Foreign News,” by “General” proximity to happenings in Germany, and simply by the fact it takes place in Fukien, China), the Baltimore American reprint “smiles to think of a purely democratic government undertaking such a direct ordering of the lives of its rulers, the common citizen.” That is to say, it brings that classificatory drive to bear, lightly, on its fantasy of democracy. It does this by reducing the taxonomizing impulse to absurdity, by unfolding its “logical consistency.” According to the logic of badges, one would have to invent “insignia” for “users of cocaine, morphine, and alcohol” but then immediately also for “every sort of crime and evil habit.” Where this ends up is in an indefinitely particularizing taxonomy manifested in “crosses, buttons, pins, badges, ribbons and insignia galore,” each recording, Scarlet Letterlike, some “demerit” on the “breasts” of “fellow citizens.” By the end of the item, its critique of proto-eugenic forms of social administration turns out to ground itself in a white liberal abstraction of commonality in which every citizen is supposed to be equally vulnerable to the law. Jokingly, but with a clear investment, the item ends by imagining administrative and police apparatuses sweeping across and thereby leveling every “common citizen.” Once assembled together, “our drug-users, patent medicine guzzlers, our gamblers, senators, drinkers and our advertising doctors, the Eddyites, etc.” — “should all be properly badged!” A senator, in whom the rule of the citizen is supposed to have been reposed, would appear just as susceptible to profiling as the “drug-users” and “gamblers” he crowds in with and ambiguously shades into.
At the same time, in the American South, a “coke” epidemic (which should be assumed, throughout, to be synonymous with moral panic) was underway. Newspaper panic about black “degeneracy” in this instance helps to underline why it makes sense to construe the badge system as a eugenic project.
A form of surveillance actually implemented in the US (from what I can tell so far, badges weren’t) – pharmacy registers that recorded names, addresses, and reasons for acquiring drugs like cocaine and morphine.
I’ll leave it at that because I really just wanted to get down some notes on this startling documentary relay.
Abrogation is a refusal of the categories of an imperial culture, its aesthetic, its illusory standard of normative or “correct” usage, and its assumption of a traditional and fixed meaning “inscribed” in the words (Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back 38). …
Source: Typographic Abrogation
Just wanted to pull attention to this both bc it usefully gestures toward a proto-fascist context for the transmission of a typographic aesthetic and bc it has something to say about empire — but what does it mean to assert that the Futurists refused an imperial aesthetic? asking bc I don’t know much about them and don’t see where it’s coming from.
Also, wanted to add an image to the gallery. From Yone Noguchi’s The American Diary of a Japanese Girl (1902):
What’s interesting about this is not just that it recalls the form of Mallarme’s earlier poem, but also that its formal experiment was generated by a narrative enclosure: the narrator has torn up a kind of gossip column, “Things Seen in the Street,” but regrets it and so attempts to arrange the torn pieces back into what she acknowledges to be an illegibility. As if she were presciently acting out Tristan Tzara’s 1920 “To make a Dadaist Poem,” or, indeed, writing it, Miss Morning Glory (the narrator) tells how she plucked the scraps from her basket to form poetic “lines.” Maybe a line of transmission here?