Of all animals a savage man is the most singular, the least known, and the most difficult to describe; and so little are we qualified to distinguish the gifts of nature from what is acquired by education, art, and imitation, that it would not be surprising to find we had totally mistaken the picture of a savage, although it were presented to us in its real colours and with its natural features.
L'homme sauvage est […] de tous les animaux le plus singulier, le moins connu, et le plus difficile à décrire, mais nous distinguons si peu ce que la nature seule nous a donné de ce que l'éducation, l'art et l'exemple nous ont communiqué, ou nous le confondons si bien, qu'il ne serait pas étonnant que nous nous méconnussions totalement au portrait d'un sauvage, s'il nous était présenté avec les vraies couleurs et les seuls traits naturels qui doivent en faire le caractère.
In volume two of The Beast and the Sovereign, the second year of these seminars, Derrida turns to Robinson Crusoe as one of his two main intertexts; the other is Heidegger's 1929–30 lectures The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude (Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik. Welt– Endlichkeit– Einsamkeit, first published in 1975). Returning to questions raised via Hobbes and Rousseau in Chapter 2, this chapter will consider the question of men, such as the American ‘savages and cannibals’ in Robinson Crusoe, with a range of intertexts from Maubert de Gouvest to Jules Verne and Cixous. The cannibals in Robinson Crusoe are a community, or at least a collectivity with common purpose, albeit portrayed as ‘inhuman’. The indigenous peoples of the New World can also be represented as ‘outside the law’, men ‘in the wild’– sometimes figured as wolves, the antithesis of both the obedient dog and the lamb (a potential victim, requiring ‘protection’) in La Fontaine's Fables. The savage can also be represented as free and natural in a positive sense– an inspiration to throw off the shackles of tyranny– however, he is not a citizen.
Slavery is the establishment of a right founded on force which renders one man property to another man, who is absolute master of his life, his goods, and his liberty.
L'esclavage est l'établissement d'un droit fondé sur la force, lequel droit rend un homme tellement propre à un autre homme, qu'il est le maître absolu de sa vie, de ses biens, et de sa liberté.
Slavery is not only a humiliating state for those who suffer it, but for humanity itself which is degraded by it […] nothing in the world can render slavery legitimate.
L'esclavage n'est pas seulement un état humiliant pour celui que le subit, mais pour l'humanité même qui est dégradée […] rien au monde ne peut rendre l'esclavage légitime.
In the last chapter, I focused on Derrida's analysis of Robinson Crusoe, which shows the savage converted by homo economicus, as Marx sees him, into Crusoe's man Friday, a servant. The wild wolf, established as a parallel to the savage in Defoe's imagined battle of the Pyrenees, is translated into Crusoe's much-loved domestic dog, both worker and companion. Lurking in the background to the servant is the man-thing (res) or living property, that is to say, the slave considered as equivalent to the master's cattle (a term which shares a root with chattel and capital) or other animals. Frederick Douglass, one of the most famous African-American abolitionists and a former slave, laments in his autobiography: ‘The dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!’ referring explicitly to the bestialisation of men who are enslaved. If you wish to cite examples of comparisons or links between slaves and animals then there are millions of possibilities, accepting and approving as well as horrified, or analytical, throughout the very long historical and very wide geographical range of slavery. Two Enlightenment abolitionists and former slaves, living in England at the time of writing their autobiographies, literalise the ‘metaphor’ in their description of their fear that their captors would eat them (as if they were animals) shortly after they have been kidnapped from their homes in present-day Ghana and Nigeria respectively.
As soon as you speak of loving there he is.
[…] In what way is the wolf lovable? It is not the wolf species that we love, it is not the wolf. It is a wolf, a particular wolf, a wolf-but, a surprise-wolf.
Dès qu'on parle d'aimer il est là.
[…] Par où le loup est-il aimable? Ce n'est pas la race des loups que nous aimons, ce n'est pas le loup. Il s'agit d'un loup, un certain loup, un loupmais, un loup-surprise.
The question of gender and sexual difference will cross all the others.
La question du genre (gender) et de la différence sexuelle traversera toutes les autres.
The first sentence or phrase of Derrida's seminar series on The Beast and the Sovereign, which formed the core of the last chapter, is quite remarkable: ‘La… le’. This untranslatable couple of syllables, which might sound like a stutter, an inauspicious start, is initially translated into English as ‘Feminine… masculine’ with the French original in square brackets, which gets much closer to the connoted meaning (drawing attention to the gender of ‘la bête et le souverain’) than the sound or the literal meaning which might be rendered ‘the… the’. That rendition would lose not only the point but the subtle shift in the repeated sound– not a tuneful ‘la… la’ or a standard repeated definite article where the masculine prevails ‘le… le’, but ‘la… le’, so close and yet so different in this particular language. The dreaded gender mistake, failing to get the difference right, can be a point of terror for many Anglophone students of French, or even Anglophone teachers of French. English masks sexual difference at certain points where French reveals it (the sexed object), and vice versa (the sexed possessive); it also leans towards an objectification of the animal as ‘it’ where French can only ever render ‘it’ as ‘il’ or ‘elle’, he or she since there is no uniquely neuter pronoun in that language. The language in which Derrida is speaking also permits another stutter, sounding like ‘eh, eh’, which relates to the homophony in French between the conjunction ‘and’ (et) and the copulative ‘is’ (est).
[This book] was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic account of the natural history of the island, but I made a grave mistake by introducing my family into the book in the first few pages. Having got themselves on paper, they then proceeded to establish themselves and invite various friends to share the chapters. It was only with the greatest difficulty, and by exercising considerable cunning, that I managed to retain a few pages here and there which I could devote exclusively to animals. (Gerald Durrell, ‘The Speech for the Defence’, in My Family and Other Animals)
The frontier or abyss– and animals as good to think
This book will examine Jacques Derrida's contribution to a longstanding philosophical and political debate around defining the human with and against the animal, and thus constructing the nature of ‘man’ (a term used advisedly) in a way that has typically evoked a significant division, if not an abyss, between human beings and other animals, often with devastating consequences both for animals and for those presented, or, to some extent at least, perceived as, animals in human form. For however secure a frontier seems to be, it can always be breached for better or worse. My title, calked on a light comic autofiction that typically sees human beings as animal types and the life of various other animals as equally fascinating in its diversity, refers to ‘Derrida and other animals’. The ‘other’ implies that Derrida is an animal and one of many animals who will be the subject. A stronger sense of ‘other’, common in theoretical discourse, would suggest that animals are the other to the man. This book will operate in between those two senses of ‘other’, paying close attention to Derrida's analysis of the shifting borders erected around the human in attempts by numerous thinkers at different points in history to make it a more homogeneous category, as well as of counter-attempts to disturb that homogeneity. The most obvious boundary for the category of the human is that with the animal, yet it is as difficult to define ‘the animal’ as it is ‘man’.
Introduction: The Beast and the Sovereign and lycological intertexts
In this chapter I shall set off from the posthumous publication of Derrida's 2001–2 seminars, The Beast and the Sovereign volume 1, to follow the figure of the wolf, particularly the genealogy of the key phrase ‘lupus est homo homini’ (usually translated as ‘man is a wolf to man’) and its various mongrel offspring. Derrida cites a range of classical and Early Modern authors, circling, perhaps doggedly, around Plato, Plautus, Plutarch, La Fontaine, Hobbes and Rousseau amongst others, explicit intertexts and interlocutors for him. For Derrida, while there exists an extensive political bestiary (including the fox and the lion), it is the wolf who is pre-eminently both sovereign and beast in political discourse. The wolf thus makes us think about a certain characterisation of man, man's self-definition, and how this impacts on possible constructions of community (social existence), of a just or unjust society (the social pact), and ultimately the state (polis). I should note again that I shall echo the he/man language of the sources I am using because it allows the reader to look for the ambiguity or tension between man as human being and man as male, which is often critical to, for example, Rousseau's writing and his reception, and indeed to that of many other philosophers of the time, and even today. Chapter 3 will focus explicitly on sexual difference, women and wolves. Through the different treatments of the wolf, and of wolfish man, I shall briefly track the questions of the representation of the savage, and tyranny and enslavement, in these authors; these will be pursued further in Chapters 4 and 5 respectively. This will include worrying at the notorious voracious appetite of the wolf– and the way in which the shift from brute hunger (the need to survive) to perfectible taste (choice and distinction) is depicted as quintessentially human in a number of authors. I shall conclude with man's relation to the animal wolf, and a first pass at the politics of what we eat. The wolf is the undomesticated, free animal par excellence, in spite of (or relative to) the physical similarity between wolves and dogs, domesticated par excellence, trained to obey their master's law.
Things are not so simple. In truth, they are less simple than ever. As always when sexual differences are in play. (Incidentally, I'll venture to say to all those who– often in the press, as you know– speak ironically of people who, like me for example, are fond of issuing warning, saying, ‘Things are not so simple,’ those to whom irony comes easily when they are faced with this systematic warning, I believe it's primarily because they want to hide from themselves, forget or deny something to do with sexual differences. There's always a clandestine debate raging about sexual differences.)
Les choses ne sont pas si simples. Elles sont en vérité moins simples que jamais. Comme toujours quand il y va des différences sexuelles. (D'ailleurs, je me risquerai à dire que tous ceux qui, souvent dans la presse, vous le savez, ironisent contre ceux qui, comme moi par exemple, ont coutume de mettre en garde en disant ‘Les choses ne sont pas si simples’, ceux qui ironisent facilement contre cette mise en garde systématique, je crois, c'est mon hypothèse, qu'ils voudraient d'abord se masquer, oublier ou dénier quelque chose des différences sexuelles. C'est toujours un débat clandestin qui fait rage au sujet des différences sexuelles.)
Derrida's key reference in volume 2 of The Beast and the Sovereign, alongside Defoe, is Heidegger– who pursues the line of Aristotle and Descartes in establishing a very sharp demarcation, indeed a gulf, between man and other animals. Heidegger is also frequently evoked by Derrida in a number of different texts (notably Geschlecht I and II) for his evasion of sexual difference. Heidegger opposes truly human poetic creativity to mechanical technology which, for him, has something of the repetitive and mindless animal about it. This is rather different from the way in which the term ‘technology’ is deployed by many other philosophers today or by ethnographers or archaeologists. Whether particular technologies or technological advances are admired or deplored by different thinkers, most consider their definition of technology as integral to the hominisation of man.
Through their dogs, people like me are tied to indigenous sovereignty rights, ranching, economic and ecological survival, radical reform of the meat-industrial complex, racial justice, the consequences of war and migration, and the institutions of technocultures. It's about, in Heen Verrans's words, ‘getting on together.’
The tyranny of human over nonhuman animals […] has caused and today is still causing an amount of pain and suffering that can only be compared with that which resulted from the centuries of tyranny by white humans over black humans.
Our time is afraid of losing, and afraid of losing itself. But one can write only by losing oneself, by going astray, just as one can love only at the risk of losing oneself and of losing.
Blindness, textual and historical
Derrida's writing invites the pursuit of its own blind spot (as his ‘leur propre tache aveugle’ is usually translated), as he locates these in systems of writing and reading. I do not even want to begin to dream of my own particular spots, stains or patches of misreading. However, my plan was to supplement Derrida's extraordinary thinking of the animot in at least two ways: the first would be by opening up his long eighteenth century (if such a thing exists, as he would say) to writings from and about the New World of that epoch concerning two more figures outside the law, the savage and the slave. Not only figures but historical individuals and peoples who cannot even be comfortably located in the past, much as, in the world of UN Declarations of Human Rights, it should have been the case. The second supplement (with no intention of making this secondary) is that of expanding his thinking of sexual difference to incorporate women writers writing on or across the animal-human borderline.
The metaphysical opposition between man and animal is largely used to define man, typically flattering the self and his semblables, sometimes with the benefit of excluding lesser men from the category of brother.
Aura Satz's technological art engages with mediated realities and historical pasts that are somehow still present. She completed her PhD in 2002 at the Slade School of Fine Art. Satz's work has been featured in various galleries and festivals in the UK and internationally, from FACT (Liverpool) to Tate and Whitechapel Gallery in London, the Victoria and Albert Museum to the Barbican as well as ICA, and internationally for example at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Switzerland. In 2014–15 she was a Leverhulme Artist-in- Residence at the University of Southampton (the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Department of Music and the John Hansard Gallery) and an artist in residence at Chelsea College of Art, and she also teaches at the Royal College of Art.
Her various installation, audiovisual and performance projects have been able to summon a condition or environment in which one experiences the parallel existence of pasts and presents. Often through historical source work and engaging with past technological ideas, Satz creates poetic imaginaries of technologies, bodies and sonic realities. Indeed, sound technologies are one key theme that runs through a lot of her work, but in a way that engages with the wider vibratory aspects of nature that often become exposed through technological ways of making vibrations and waves visible. She was part of London Science Museum's ‘Oramics to Electronica’ project (2011) on the female inventor Daphne Oram's 1950s synthesiser. Sound visualisation comes out in projects such as Vocal Flame(2012) and the In and Out of Synchfilmic performance (2012). Cultural techniques of synchronisation are exposed in that specific piece and in others, including Joan the Woman – with Voicethat was exhibited in 2013. Her interest in the history of automata is most visible in Automamusic(2008) and Automatic Ensemble(2009), a mixture of old and new automata that engage with surrealist and spiritualist ideas and explorations of automatic writing. Besides the agency of machines, the ‘auto-’ in the automata, Satz however is always meticulously aware of the human body as a vibratory ‘medium’ in itself. This body as medium is always, also, recognised as a gendered one, resulting in her historical excavations into specific moments of media history that result in a poetic and empowering relation to women that is often excluded from many projects and historical narratives.
This chapter will consider nuclear futurity and long-term radioactive half-life and decay as timescales of continuity that are figured in eerie and apocalyptic ways not only in fictions that engage with nuclear anxiety during the Cold War (I will use Elizabeth Bowen and Samuel Beckett as case studies) but also in the engineering projects that deal with the inconceivably long aftermath risks in deep underground nuclear waste disposal. In particular, I will be comparing Gunther Anders’ 1962 ‘Theses for an Atomic Age’ with late-1980s Nirex reports into the suitability of storing highly radioactive waste in deep boreholes, and using other pairings of literary/cultural speculation with actual storage facility technologies to explore the deep time of nuclear waste continuities beyond the Cold War. The chapter will fi rst explore the bunker mentality of the high Cold War, using Virilio's Bunker Archaeologyas well as anecdotal evidence proving the relation between family nuclear shelters and the underground systems of the nuclear state. This entombed refuge technology is set against the work of geologist J. Laurence Kulp, who developed radioactive isotope dating of extremely ancient rock formations, and in doing so stumbled on the radioactive effect of the tests in the nuclear South- West, which led to the crucial Project Sunshine which uncovered the dangers of fallout linked to tests at proving grounds and in the atmosphere. Project Sunshine not only effectively led to the Test Ban Treaty of 1963, but also consolidated in the public imagination the link between deep geological time, radioactivity and underground secret tomb/refuge systems. These connections can be traced in two 1964 texts: Beckett's ‘All Strange Away’, which features a tight tomb space where the human is figured as waste, and Bowen's The Little Girls, which features an obsessive burying of expressive objects as a time capsule speaking to a deep future time. The texts are drawn into the force field, then, of later Cold War debates about how to deal with radioactive waste from the nuclear industry, specifically Swedish research that used deep-time geological comparisons to illustrate what might happen to the buried world of nuclear waste repositories in the equally deep futurity of half-life timescales.
Contemporary attempts to find patterns in data, ranging from the now mundane technologies of touchscreen gesture recognition through to mammoth infrastructure-heavy practices of deep learning conducted by major business, scientific and government actors to find cats (Markoff 2012), the Higgs boson, credit card fraud or terrorists, rely on a group of algorithms intensively developed during the 1950–1960s in physics, engineering and psychology. Whether we designate them as pattern recognition, data mining or machine learning (all terms that first came into play during the 1950s), the standard account enunciated by proponents (and opponents) of these techniques is that they uncover patterns in data that cannot appear directly to the human eye, either because there are too many items for anyone to look at, or because the patterns are too subtly woven through in the data.
In the contemporary narratives of their efficacy and indeed necessity, the spectrum of differences accommodated under the rubric of pattern is striking. Pattern here is understood to encompass language, images, measurements and traces of many different kinds. Pattern finding techniques – although that term is problematic because it suggests skilled hands doing something; I will refer to them as operations– diagram a strikingly new kind of continuum or field which accommodates seemingly very different things – terrorists, fundamental particles, photographs, market transactions, utterances and gestures – more or less uniformly.
What counts as pattern finding today, I will suggest, can be better understood by taking into account the transformations in simulating, optimising and above all classifyingassociated with different uses of computers taking shape in the mid-twentieth century. Despite their often somewhat ahistorical invocations, the patterns recognised in pattern recognition have a historically concrete specificity. From the plethora of operations in current use, three diagrams developed in the Cold War era operate in contemporary modes of pattern finding:
1. Monte Carlo simulation as a way of shaping fl ows of random numbers to explore irregular probability distributions;
2. convex optimisationsor finding maximum- or minimum-value numerical solutions to systems of equations as a way of classifying things;
3. recursive partitioningalgorithms that reorder differences according to clustering and sparsity in data.
The operations expressed in these diagrams took shape in different places – nuclear physics, control systems engineering and psychology – but soon moved across boundaries between academic disciplines, and between domains such as universities, industry, the military and government.
The Ephemeral SIGINT
The persistence of the signal marks an ephemeral yet material continuity of the Cold War. The war of signals, signal interception, spy stations, cryptology and signal intelligence had intensified since the start of World War I. Wireless cryptography became one focal point of national security during the war; national territories were guarded in signal space too, localised in concrete sites such as Tuckerton, New Jersey, or Nayville, New York, telegraph stations, owned by the German Telefunken. For obvious reasons, it was taken into American control during the war years when suspicions of German military interests over the traffic that fl owed through the 500-foot aerial towers became stronger (see Wythoff 2014).
Thousands of code-breakers and radio interceptors – primarily Europeans – worked towards analyses of what was being said and to what ends, and how the obvious message could be altered with only an addition of an extra gap in patterns of Morse code. In ciphers, the persistence of the word ‘ṣifr’ in Arabic (and also Turkish), meaning ‘zero’, is a reminder of how marking ‘nothing’ becomes essential for coded messaging. The contemporary-seeming ‘nothingness’ of wireless communications that does not allow much in terms of perception of the signals crossing space between enddevices is encased in a longer history of the mathematical nothingness that stands as a key reference point for a media archaeology of the cryptographic world that we sometimes bluntly call in more popular terms ‘digital culture’.
Cryptography was still limited in the early wireless days, a different situation than with the arrival of World War II some twentyfive years later. Cryptography itself of course has a longer history in written forms spanning centuries. But techniques of data analysis were even more strongly tied to the use of machines as ways to process intelligence gathered, signals intercepted. Some years later, with the advent of the Cold War, the situation had changed to one characteristic of any modern technological data situation: dealing with information that was ‘often trivial in quality and overwhelming in quantity’ (Ferris 2010: 167). The air and transmission waves were full of signals anyway, which made even the identification of code from everyday nonsense a task in itself. From the forefront of the hot wars, agencies specialising in this technological epistemology of signals moved to increasingly secret organisations of media analysis.
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