Jazz Thoughts

Practical listening

To 6. Perspectives.

7. Affine resonance

Reproduction has long been the basic stakes of biopolitics [1]: Social reproduction rests on biological reproduction, which rests on relations of male & female activity [2], including affinity for sexual combination. So heteronormativity & e.g. restrictions on birth control have been imposed as basic tools to manage & increase population, and thus production.[3] Let me propose a (quasi-)planar image [4]: One might think of almost a crystal lattice, where the points are separated by space [5] that can accommodate a capacitor-like charge of sexual difference-affinity between them.[6] Traditionally, such a plane might be segmented, as affinity groups [7] might well be more specific than gender alone: Even today [8], one's sexual affinity group is likely to be far smaller than an entire identified gender.[9] If one considers the "affinity lattice" then, sexual relations other than those of heteronormativity would correspond to different, transverse vectors (or capacitances), and such a wider field of relation can be conceived as introducing bunching & warping into the plane (as "other" relations come to be prioritized at some points): Indeed, one might imagine more a fabric than a lattice, with the warp & woof of male & female action [10] already yielding a three-dimensional quality, further knotted by non-normative affine relations.[11] Such a "plane" is thus always already queer in this sense, and its supposed flatness is only (constantly re-)imposed (by hierarchy), and specifically for reasons of legibility & control: The hierarch occupies a transcendent position, i.e. above the plane, and demands that it be fully legible (from there) in its regularity.[14] Now let's consider time: Such a plane of sexual affinity corresponds largely (but not entirely [15]) to a single generation, and so one can consider successive planes via filiation, such that (at least under patriarchy) hierarchy follows (the direction of) filiation.[16] (In other words, the filiative, like the transcendent, is "perpendicular" to the affine plane.) Prioritizing filiation has thus yielded a particular sort of hierarchy — or vice versa. Notions of filiative inheritance (i.e. of wealth [17]) then mesh neatly with more recent notions of genetic inheritance: One can thus observe that modern biological science has largely been conceived as filiative.[18] (Moreover, typology basically proceeds via filiation as well.[19]) Perhaps to clarify the image, and hopefully to clarify the stakes [20], I want to interrogate a concrete & contemporary economic situation: Social Security [22] was similarly conceived via dual, affine relations, in this case between those "working" (& so paying into the system), and those receiving benefits: Such flows should align, without accumulation.[23] In other words, beyond some people changing from one situation to the other, there is no temporal component to this construction: The flows are to align in each temporal slice (pay period), with one paying or receiving based on one's relative position. But since our concepts of hierarchy (& indeed exploitation) are based on filiation, i.e. bathed in temporal sequence [24], what do those who are obsessed with (intensifying) hierarchy want to do? They want to introduce a temporal, filiative component [25], such that revenue streams are personal & accumulate over time! (In other words, they prefer individual flows that no longer align: Each is supposedly to be dependent only on itself.) Whereas the intent to isolate & steal from the public is troubling enough [26], I particularly want to emphasize the re-filiation implied.[27] And after that digression, I want to return to the notion of resonance & action at a distance: As a "plane" of affinity twists & folds, as it resists external legibility [29] via its own relational complexity, are there similar positions (one might think again of the lattice) that act in concert, yet without direct relation?[30] I'll call this resonance, and one might imagine plateaus of intensity [31], kaleidoscopes of affinity, inductance, etc. One might further imagine various tangents & trajectories, even dissociation via resonance.[32] In any case, our "plane" is no longer so flat or so legible.[33]

Traditionally, speaking of affines, one would speak of (marriage [34]) exchange & competition, i.e. the so-called brother-in-law competition [35]: Not only might "stealing women" [36] figure this competition, but in some societies, theft extends to life more broadly: Reciprocity applies only recursively, and not necessarily in direct (or parallel) relation, to all that one consumes.[37] Food then becomes the most basic affine relation?[38] One does want one's (potential) food to grow....[39] Consumption reinforces the embeddedness of the affine plane [40], with its various interrelations, as well as the distances that can inhere in (generalized) reciprocity — a recursive reciprocity "closed" only by the reality that, at some point, one will surely die & might be eaten oneself.[41] (There is thus not even "affective equality" to these relations, unless one speaks broadly of life & death.[43] One might otherwise inquire concerning affective exchange....[44]) Where is the line between reciprocity & exploitation [45], then, but in affine relation?[46,47] Is reciprocity even a basic mode?[48] In a gift economy [50], cause & agency might be split, such that one doesn't actually relate to the other — such that results might be said to evince causes [51], and passivity itself becomes coercive.[52] (One might characterize such a situation, per the previous section, as a coincidence of ethic & ontology [53], as itself rhythm or resonance.[54]) So is there exchange without reciprocity? What is exchanged in the gift?[55] One might consider a basic exchange of perspectives [56]: Perspectives might never become reciprocal [57], even as affective exchange itself increasingly conditions social relations.[58] Yet perspectives thus proliferate, forging a situation akin to a hall of mirrors. Such a vision suggests (at least to us in the interior) not only exotic objects [59,60], but extremes [61]: Extremes bring violence, perhaps are by their nature violent.[62] Is violence something other than an absence of moderation then? (What is a moderate gift?[63]) Might it be a performance of legibility?[64] Violence does forge relation & reroute attention — and does so in everyday life via eating, etc.[66,67] We are all stealing, as the Amazonians would say, and it's that or die: Toward what sort of politics does or might such a perspective move us?[68] We are far from a plane [69], so what now?

Within the postmodern interior, many people believe that we have a more sophisticated relation to violence: Rather than let it permeate our lives [70], we keep it in its place — but what place? Leaving aside the whole "police" concept [71], I want to focus again on sports: Is this not our contemporary, stylized "brother-in-law competition," and for that matter, not known for "stealing women?" Hence sports might be said to invoke or validate concepts of mastery.[72] Such concepts increasingly overflow the actual competition: As the great repressed of modernity, chance (or fortune) irrupts in sports gambling: Sports presents an endless series of tangible public outcomes [74], something our society craves to master.[75] Gambling thus moves beyond affinity with teams or athletes [76], into a system of reckoning [77] & prophecy.[78] Moreover, this is another meta-performance [79], conversion of audiences from spectators to performers themselves: Affinity with teams or athletes — and the affective exchange of watching is already a clearly separate activity from playing [80] — is refocused toward a different perspective, a different affinity group, i.e. fellow audience members.[81] Is gambling amongst audience members then a kind of mutuality? Does it forge a kind of co- or inter-listening?[82] What of attunement in this mode?[83] Whereas gambling also recasts audience member as performer, the subject-object equivocation of (laughter via) comedy is much more immediate [84]: In the "comedy-sex-sports nexus of play" (per the previous section), comedy is not sports: Its outcome in laughter can be tangible & public enough, but whereas gambling outcomes serve to make legible (& commensurable) [85], comedic outcomes equivocate & personalize.[87] The latter might still involve a (professional) performer [88] & audience, and might even involve violence, but that violence is not staged — isolated — as separate via the performance.[89] One might say that comedy retains the (subject-object) equivocation of use [91], whereas the sporting event is just that... a staged event.[92] Such evental listening then helps us to hear (or see) the glory [93,94] that covers the contradictory "gap" of modernity, even as (these) events themselves serve to stylize, obscure & potentially unsituate [95] their inevitable (per the previous paragraph [97]) constituent violence.

So if (specifically) evental violence continues to unsituate us [98], how might we find a home? First, the (affine) plane (of immanence) is always already queer [99]: Unsituation is thus only a tendency (albeit constant, and involving various enfoldings) invoked by (demands for legibility from) contemporary governmentality. If home (per the previous section) is a/the index of family relations [102], then what is a/the ecology of a broad, familiar hospitality?[104] How is its constituent violence [105] modulated or inflected (or indeed, sometimes obscured) by aesthetic economy?[106,107] Might aesthetics become a/the ground for debating dissonance in sensation & values?[108] How about in biology?[109] Is aesthetic appreciation not itself resonant [110], and indicative of affinity? (Might beauty & justice mutually equivocate?[112,114]) Let us consider (aesthetic) affine resonance, then, as a different sort of non-othering: Are "planes" segmented? How?[117] In what are we embedded [118], versus what functions externally [119] relative to the affine plane? (Despite the reductionist allure of the opening image, the world is certainly not so small as to be confined to a "planar" interior.[120]) Further per the opening, how might one act in concert, perhaps across segments, but without direct relation?[124] (Theoretical activity will remain unlikely to cultivate actual desire, but might it gather stakeholders?[126]) Such an emergent politics cannot rely on the legibility of transcendence (or universalism) [127]: Rather it must interrogate aesthetic affinity within its plane. (Hence an emphasis on immanence.) In a crossing of perspectives [128], resonance is then more than "mere" affinity [129]: Resonance involves (forging) an affine ecology that moves beyond or rather transverse to (hierarchically) filiative thought & so transverse to filiative science, i.e. toward queer science.[130]

  1. In a world with increasingly more emphasis on robotic labor, one might wonder if biopolitics itself is undergoing a massive change: Are we still to be valued (by hierarchy) for our labor, or simply mined for our biology? (This section might thus be seen to ask more about where we have been than where we are going. The former is also, often, relevant to the latter.)

  2. According to the dialectic of childbirth (as in the previous section), one might say that the relation is proven by the result.

  3. It is no coincidence that issues of reproductive choice, sometimes framed around e.g. "witchcraft," became so political in the early modern period: Increasing labor was increasing production. (Moreover, scapegoating & distraction remain potent tools of control, such that biopolitical management continues to involve the spectacle.)

  4. Such an image recalls that opening Hierarchy as rupture: Whereas there it was a string (one dimension) being folded, here it is a plane (two dimensions) being warped & thickened.

  5. So, once again, I'm adopting imagery that suggests isolated subject positions. Beyond a disclaimer toward expository convenience, I want to suggest that such "points" are not "whole people" at all, but rather reductions (yes, still reductions) to sexual inclinations.

  6. Thus, per the previous section, I want to resist collapsing sexual domains: Differences remain, including under queer conditions. (So I speak instead of legibility & warping — the latter seemingly already queer enough.)

  7. Traditional affinity group, as I put it above, refers to the subject of "marriage exchange" in anthropology.

  8. Helms suggests that modernity comes to merge affinity into consanguinity, meaning e.g. that separate moieties are not generally maintained. There has become, in other words, a sense that some sort of (in this case, genetic) closeness — but not too much closeness — is important. (One can trace such an attitude to those of aristocratic, and then bourgeois, marriage alliance. So this shift was instituted in order to strengthen hierarchy, and only after the latter had become established.)

  9. To be as clear as possible, I am talking about the group of people to whom one is sexually attracted — pace what that might mean contextually. (If one is speaking of traditional norms, this is more properly the group of people among whom one might marry.)

  10. Melanesians consider this "warp & woof" to be at an acute angle that they characterize via the bent elbow.

  11. Continuing the self-criticism reflected again in [5], in this context, I might note Jullien's remark that all appearance is transverse & without origin.[12] (In other words, one might say that concepts of normativity can emerge only from a prior — or simply different — field. They are not themselves original in any sense.[13])

  12. One might further note that transversality can itself be rather sensual, perhaps even to the point of suggesting synaesthesia as the basic sense of sense. (Keeping the nonequilibrium mood, Skafish notes that structure, in the Levi-Strauss sense, is itself transformation, via myths as shifting bundles of concepts.)

  13. Let me also remind the reader of the caution from the previous section about conflating origin & prior: One can imagine a series of prior planes according to the imagery introduced here, but there is no origin posited. They simply fade into memory. (One might also suggest that legibility is only ever momentary legibility, which is why it needs to be constantly imposed.)

  14. Transcendent legibility, of course, facilitates arbitrary personal choice, rather than the entanglement of planar relations. (This is also the sense in which the superstructure or superego forges libidinal economy. One might call it the circular logic of glory.)

  15. Even considering only those relations that (might) produce children (per [2]), and I certainly do not intend to reduce sexual affinity to such relations alone, cross-generational activity is far from unknown, and is even typical of some societies. (In the sense I've sketched here, then, successive temporal planes might yet intertwine. Indeed, "generations" are never so neat, and might best be imagined as folding into each other at "distant" edges of their planes, distance in turn depending on perspective.)

  16. In other words, when the hierarch looks down upon one plane of affinity, he is (or was) already embedded in another (prior) plane.

  17. Perhaps I should emphasize that not all societies, including some very elaborate & hierarchical societies, have prioritized (or even allowed) inherited wealth. (Examples from Braudel are the Ottomans & Chinese.)

  18. Indeed, while I've noted that the Western dialectic is itself based on biology, Donna Jones further suggests that a figure as prominent as Nietzsche is basically an apologist for biology. (Vitalism, as critique of a set of filiative evolutionary concepts, then asks not only what is life, but what are sex & reproduction. Queer theory thus moves explicitly beyond the Western dialectic.)

  19. Typology mimics the structure of a family tree. Thus a critique of typology is, to some degree, inherently a queer critique. (One can observe, for instance, that per Aristotle, typology proceeds from the general to the specific, concepts brought to biology in genus & species, such that hierarchical legibility is prioritized. If one wants to proceed with a critique via Western sources, and so attempt to avoid issues of appropriation, I might suggest drawing a pseudo-Mohist non-typology from Avicenna & Suarez....)

  20. Considering Amazonian (& related) anthropology, one might characterize the becoming-queer of affine relations (vs. blood relations) as a specifically American issue [21], a fundamental American difference from European thought. (One might even suggest on this basis that the Americas are the rightful home of queer theory.)

  21. For instance, one might also contrast traditional marriage alliance concerns (as noted parenthetically in [8]) prioritizing personal-family accumulation over generations, and so thoroughly concerned with specifically filiative issues of ability, i.e. those abilities that are conducive to hoarding wealth, with a queer-disability nexus emerging from affinity (which is embedded in one plane). Such an affine nexus might be disconnected from (social?) reproduction per se. (One might then ask of an American notion of ability, as distinct from the modern European notion with which those of us in the interior are actually more familiar.)

  22. This example refers specifically to twentieth century & then contemporary USA.

  23. There remains a need to be able to "float" these monetary streams, i.e. account for momentary non-alignment, cycles etc., but overall, they should align at any particular moment.

  24. Such temporal sequences then collide, i.e. are involuted via the stratification machine — as discussed in Remède de Fortune. (Does the stratification machine also produce envy? The latter requires collision.)

  25. Such a biological conception of money was already abhorrent to the medieval Christian church: They called it usury.

  26. If revenue streams accumulate, rather than being canceled out via reciprocal payments at any given moment, then they are available as "pools" of wealth to steal. (This is called "privatization" by the usual thieves: It means public resources going into their private hands.) It's as simple as that in many ways. So this sort of "private account" is very lucrative for the financial industry. Moreover, it provides an in-built scapegoating logic to be directed at anyone (i.e. everyone who isn't themselves positioned to steal) whose wealth is skimmed in this fashion: They are obviously deficient (perhaps as suggested by [21]), and deserve what they get! (As noted many times, the latter is Protestant logic.)

  27. One should certainly ask regarding deemphasizing filiation: What does this do to children? Considering that we already treat children relatively poorly in our society, this is an important question that I do not want to dismiss. That said, however, in many ways, this is only another reason to interrogate our reliance on filiative concepts, considering that they have not yielded a general priority on children.[28] (I appreciate Haraway's recent slogan on this issue: Make kin, not babies. She further notes that a "differing" concept of kin goes on to interrogate for whom one is responsible, and channeling Strathern, that it matters how kin generate kin. So let's specifically insist that a renewed, queer focus on affine relations also interrogate such responsibility & such mattering.) Moreover, prioritizing children in general would become much simpler if one needn't distinguish them according to filiative concepts....

  28. Returning to some previous concerns, one might interrogate queering family in terms of demands for participation (beyond "identity of choice," the latter perhaps without family). What are some other vectors for participation, if one problematizes filiative concepts? (Where might the trans-bundles of e.g. [12] apply then?)

  29. Such external legibility may be contrasted to legibility within the plane, i.e. between affines themselves. (Such a contrast is often noted by the young.) Such internal legibility is immanent, and does not generally travel over great distances (as opposed to a transcendent view).

  30. One might contrast a notion of action at a distance with a "conspiracy theory," i.e. positing a secret plan, i.e. actual interaction. Resonance, in this sense, does not involve such actual interaction, but "merely" similar motivation, as shaped by one's similar relative position in the plane. (For instance, one might act similarly to someone based on sharing affinity toward something else, not necessarily toward each other.)

  31. Beyond the obvious reference to Deleuze & Guattari, Massumi emphasizes such notions as intensity itself being of value (always already aesthetic surplus), and that an increased quantity can yield a change in quality: Thus a field of relations may be reconfigured at its margins (which may become thresholds).

  32. In other words, whereas resonance implies alignment, its heightened energy might yield non-alignment, line of flight. (One might even think of borderline personality, again recalling Hierarchy as rupture, as a resonance phenomenon.)

  33. Thus queer theory might be opposed to legibility per se. (So it diverges from knowing the words, and might in turn be said to resist disciplinarity.)

  34. In terms of previous sections, one can think of marriage itself as an exchange of perspectives or of attention.... (It might involve gifts, reciprocity, etc.)

  35. I thus invoke Amazonia (and its former extension into the Caribbean) again, and the conceptual discussions of Viveiros de Castro (to which I add those of Strathern regarding economy) in particular.

  36. On this point, Strathern suggests that gender transformation itself (generally) registers movement (and therefore legibility). In other words, theft creates the woman.

  37. In the terms of Viveiros de Castro, drawing on many others, exchange is not opposed (in the sense of distinct) to production, then, but is rather the production of society. (Thus consumption can become production.)

  38. Eating something or someone is not how we would usually conceive of reciprocity, but what is related & exchanged in eating? What is its beginning & end?

  39. So one is allied with one's food? (Viveiros de Castro suggests that alliance is the becoming-other proper to kinship — but this alliance may be asymmetric.)

  40. One might favor Agamben's notion of "use" over that of consumption here. (He also asks us to think politics beyond relation & potential beyond non-acting — to think the anarchy internal to power. Perhaps affine resonance will help with such thinking....)

  41. Beyond (more?) obvious dangers [42], if one includes worms, microbes, etc. (and one should!), then one will surely be eaten.

  42. Besides large mammals, consider other dangerous creatures that might be in a particular ecosystem, such as poisonous snakes & spiders or various parasites — not to mention microorganisms. (Viruses then become imperceptible. Per the previous section, one might further note how unfamiliarity itself remains a forge, as opposed to the familiarity of use per se.) How might such lurking death condition thought? It makes for a heightened sense of embeddedness.

  43. Viveiros de Castro writes of "equivocation" — as opposed to univocality — as the limit condition of social relation: Various differences touch (at some interface), but might not relate.

  44. Per the opening discursus, affective exchange might also be termed attention exchange (including per [34]). How might such exchange be measured, if not subjectively? (Would a quantitative measure mean anything, per [31], absent a subjective quality?)

  45. Strathern contrasts exploitation with "enchainment," a basic sense of (non-reciprocal) relation that I often figure as embeddedness.

  46. So what of hierarchy among affine relations themselves? Such a situation further troubles the (supposed) dual of reciprocity & exploitation. (This suggests more equivocation per [43].)

  47. One might also contrast historical, imperial approaches to colonial intermarriage. (Which is more or less exploitative? What about over time? Such approaches obviously figure filiation, and so hierarchy.)

  48. Indeed Lacan had already figured reciprocity as impossible within many structures [49], (for him) yielding desire for law. (One might conclude that such desire is only available to those who have known law.)

  49. Speaking of (modern) principles of influence, under what conditions is consistency possible? (Let's separate consistency from legibility in this case, although these two notions do overlap.) Was vitalism (per [18]) itself a critique of consistency, and in that case, is there actually a non-racist, vitalist position? (For Jones, life itself becomes "proto-subject" only after the subject, such that it has retained a liberal core.)

  50. (These observations are largely via Strathern.)

  51. One might say (analogously to [36]) that only a counter-act makes an act legible.

  52. So are recent explorations of the radicality of non-demands attempts to channel Melanesian forms of influence? (Perhaps tangentially to this topic, Massumi cautions that concepts of "freedom" are always already tied to mind-body duality in liberal society.) Probably not consciously....

  53. In other words, per [37], a relation emerges into the ontic only via its "ethical" (i.e. social) (re-)production.

  54. Per the concerns of the previous section, then, resonance might move us beyond a politics of discrete entities (e.g. via "use" & anarchy, per [40]). Of course, such notions have already been traced via the concept of assemblage (most extensively by DeLanda).

  55. Those of us accustomed to a commodity economy might be inclined to look at "the gift" itself, the properties of the material object, as the "item" being exchanged. However, a more basic exchange occurs at the level of affective relations (at least in part per [44]).

  56. Counter to the consummation of [34], an "exchange" of perspectives might yet leave one with nothing more than equivocating difference, fear, etc. No alignment is actually posited.

  57. As Strathern suggests, positions do not necessarily arise with respect to each other. Indeed, it might require a great circuit in order to "close" reciprocity across a series of affective exchanges. (Thus Viveiros de Castro characterizes the perceptual distance involved in such a cycle via recursivity, such that its closure is never actually confirmed. One might say that the closure is only transcendental, and so never occurs from the perspective of any actual person involved.)

  58. Also per [37] then, it is the relations — and not the material facts of supposed "property ownership" — that determine society.

  59. What of a "piece of art" as itself an exotic object? Is it so different from the talisman? (The modern commodity fetish already suggests magic. Are cargo cults actually mistaken about such things? Again, think affinity versus filiation....)

  60. As Lacan says, the cut is made in the formation of the subject itself: Sloterdijk cautions that reality comes to mean objectivity, which rushes in only after subjectivity is established. (So what of the exotic subject? Perhaps we need to look in the mirror for that....)

  61. For all of our (presumed) feelings of caution regarding cannibals & their (affinity-based) perspectives, is it not fair to say that moderation itself is already adrift in the postmodern world? (On this, Jullien reminds that touching extremes does not really let one know them. Perhaps one must be them.) Perhaps the real question is then whether such extremes (contra funhouse mirrors) are real. How might one feel their reality?

  62. I should probably disclaim immediately any coincident relation between violence & nature per se. (One might say that nature, that exotic Western object, is as loving as it is violent.) I should probably also disclaim any necessary relation between mirrors & violence, but maybe that's the same disclaimer....

  63. Again per [55], one must think beyond the supposed "commodity value" of a gift, to the basic rupture it might invoke (although perhaps initiated somewhere else), and in turn, to the relations it might subsequently engender or confirm.

  64. One might suggest, in other words, that epistemic violence is the most basic (somehow necessary?[65]) kind of violence.

  65. For instance, people must know what (is safe) to eat.

  66. I remind the reader of the violence embedded in e.g. a field of corn, particularly by the time part of it travels to one's table to eat. (One might think of the species affected by designating the field itself, the pesticides, the genetics of corn, the fuel involved, etc. etc.)

  67. So then, how might one construct a non-contractual, non-dialectic concept of exchange, exchange that is neither rational nor a synthesis of the gift? The circle (or circulation) of life is violent, and so is its exchange: Is it giving? (One might also ponder how to better reveal the exchanges that are already occurring, but are obscured.)

  68. I note that the Amazonians have shown no sign whatsoever of actually annihilating each other, and until recently (and only under imperial pressure), little sign of destroying their environment. So let's not jump to conclusions of selfishness, unless it's a healthy selfishness.

  69. And in the sense of [10], we've sprouted many elbows.

  70. Of course, this notion that we have banished violence to only a few places where it "belongs" is illusory at best. It actually irrupts into many lives often. (Moreover, according to the terms of the previous paragraph, satisfying basic material needs can be figured as inherently violent. Repression of this fact then leads to "random" irruptions.)

  71. Military (including imperial) actions by the interior are framed as police actions too, so this is of a piece.

  72. Achievement in sports is usually associated specifically with physical mastery, but this is an artifact of mind-body dualism. It's better conceived as overall mastery, like playing music, etc. This might actually make it seem more relevant to sex. (That athletes attract sexual partners is then a commonplace notion of our society, based on notions of mastery.[73]) However, note that Nietzsche had already observed the absurdity of a modern concept of virtue that basically reduces to doing something faster than someone else.

  73. I have been refiguring such sexual selection more broadly via aesthetics, which can in turn (and often does) invoke further concepts of mastery.

  74. For supposedly empirical moderns, such outcomes (per [2]) become the only truths. That sports are played in public brings an additional feeling of closure & certainty to the outcome — despite that controversy abounds. This sort of closure, lack of uncertainty, is also something people crave in our society: Gambling mediates the certain & uncertain very tightly, as e.g. a single throw of a die can convert a bet into an outcome. And it can be done again & again.

  75. Many people believe that we live in a society that is based on merit, such that mastery (of anything) serves to elevate or confirm social standing. In this case, involving an audience as it does, such mastery also involves consumption, thus possession (of that mastery), i.e. it invokes the epistemic violence of legibility. (Gambling thus makes legible.)

  76. Given the vagaries of players changing teams, teams changing cities, teams changing owners, etc., Jerry Seinfeld famously observed that sports "fans" are rooting for laundry. (These days, teams regularly change their outfits too!) Gambling can base its own kind of fandom on a series of small, specific outcomes, such that one needn't worry about teams or players changing over longer periods. Moreover, the increasing ubiquity of "fantasy teams" (and the more explicit gambling form of "daily fantasy sports") trains its audience (customers) to behave not like athletes, but like owners: Random people sitting at their computers identifying with billionaire team owners... this is a wonderful outcome for hierarchy (and so these innovations have been supported enthusiastically by the professional sports industry).

  77. Per [74] & [75], the many small outcomes in sports — and so-called "prop bets" can involve all manner of minutia within a contest — provide many means of distinguishing people. (One might compare to anthropological observations regarding tiny differences between twins as definitional for social difference, the smaller the better.) For people desperate to define themselves, this is a great opportunity.

  78. And indeed prophecy irrupts yet again, and in public: An entire chorus might be picking for or against an outcome. (One might compare to the far more mediated aspects, in terms of how they are communicated anyway, of e.g. Wall Street "prophecy." Similar commoditization, i.e. of "derivative securities" — via abstraction, as usual — is now moving into so-called daily fantasy sports. What differences remain between a public security & a sporting bet? They are increasingly blurred.)

  79. I don't want to insist on which activity is more "meta." Is it really more basic to engage in stylized competitions, according to strange rules, in vast stadiums designed for large audiences than it is to bet on an outcome? (So this is a matter of perspective: One might say that the need to gamble produced sports.)

  80. Indeed, audience members who attempt to cross the boundary between audience & athlete are often treated quite harshly. (Is this one of the greatest sins of a spectacle society?)

  81. Such a focus toward fellow audience members involves different mirroring (in the "seeing is doing" sense): Presumably one has already dissociated oneself from doing what the athletes do. (Such differing identifications might be described as kinds of resonance, which can differ according to perspective during the same activity.)

  82. People with bets on a game might pay attention to far different aspects than people who don't — but these might be the same aspects, that much more intensely the same, for those who share the same (or opposite) bet.

  83. Attunement to physical activity itself obviously forges a different "style of subject" than does attunement to gambling (per [81]). Is this another kind of conscious choice? How does such a difference in attunement go on to figure improvisation? (Commodity gamblers can only make bets that are actually offered. Although random individual audience members could enact wagers amongst themselves on the fly, is such behavior now being suppressed by commercial gambling sites? Sports themselves, meanwhile, regularly require improvisation.)

  84. Such an observation should not be taken to suggest that sports gamblers (and audiences more generally) do not have intense & sometimes rapidly changing affective responses. Rather, such responses are not equivocating.

  85. Gambling might thus be termed a performance of legibility (as suggested already in [75]).[86] (Similarly, sports itself might be said to make the body known. In this, spectator sports are basically pornographic.)

  86. Taylor suggests similarly that the "world making" quality of performance articulates between being & knowing (which, to my thinking, leaves aside the question of mediation per se).

  87. In other words, there is no separation between word & event in the narrative performance of comedic laughter: One can attempt to repeat the same performance with the same comedic script (often words), but this is unlikely to actually work (i.e. be as funny) for the same audience — and perhaps not for a different audience. The narrative cannot be abstracted from the event: "You had to be there." (In contrast, particularly because of gambling, sports narrative is extracted in quasi-definitive form. Excitement over a particular, surprising play disappears in favor of a list of outcomes, although some sports fans will continue to disagree with that reduction.)

  88. Comedy is, not coincidentally, another arena in which mastery is associated with sexual success.

  89. In other words, one might suggest that sports & comedy modulate violence, and therefore sexual selection, differently.[90]

  90. One might further suggest that BDSM modulates violence yet differently — in a queer way. (The affine plane is also the plane of use.)

  91. Note that e.g. Horkheimer (per Jones) observes similar (& analogous to e.g. [86]) subject-object equivocation in the role of labor.

  92. One can presumably play sports oneself, absent such staging. (One can even gamble....)

  93. Seeing glory, of course, usually involves (by design) not seeing what it covers. (One might say the same regarding fashion, or indeed Eden. On this point, Agamben suggests that rendering glory inoperative brings one closer to the divine. Here we are very far from sports & gambling, though, which are very operative.)

  94. The glory of sports also merges with exemplarity via the star, individual athlete. (And exemplarity is frequently problematized by the human qualities of such stars....)

  95. Given media saturation, and the drive to diversify outcomes via (commoditized) gambling, one might say that the resulting split (in role, between spectator & gambling actor [96]) leaves violence everywhere & nowhere. (The latter leaves it free to increase without mediation.) In other words, means to actually resist violence are retained only by an aspect of the person that is no longer functional under such a split. In this sort of ecology of violent consumption, what becomes of momentary possibilities & momentary integrity then? They vanish into designated outcomes....

  96. Specifically, it is the lack of equivocation, the general (thirst for) legibility of gambling fandom, that segments it so severely, and leaves it both based upon & unable to confront violence. (In other words, the generic of sports spectatorship becomes a generic of violence via this intense mediation.)

  97. In other words, if violence enforces a kind of epistemic legibility (per [64]), how does one make the violence itself legible?

  98. Hence my question (of section 5) concerning unsituated listening: Asking how we might hear what is obscured suggests hearing from another perspective, somehow. (Such a scene involves another ecology of consumption & production, complete with quasi-transcendental forces acting relentlessly to enforce an illusory separation between those domains — contra [37].) Such a shift in perspective might suggest momentary possibility, per [95], but what of momentary integrity? It is shattered by artificial staging. How does it, or how might we, shift the primal scene (of listening) accordingly?

  99. One can thus ask regarding affine versus filial morality: How might such a contrast shift moral aporia (per the terms of Morality as aporia)? What, then, is queer morality?[100,101]

  100. Such a question is open-ended, and I do not (want or) intend to give anything resembling a definitive answer, but one obvious consideration is countering genetic determinism. Moreover, remaining in the affine plane, how might one conceptualize relative (or relational) versus absolute? Is there any absolute? So what of e.g. relative wealth (even absent inherited wealth per [17])?

  101. One might further inquire regarding an affine biology, per the concerns of [18]: Does ecology not reintroduce the affine to biology? (Please do take a moment to ponder this question.)

  102. Note that e.g. Helms suggests that domesticity, via the "house" or band [103], is more basic than the self: It is the basic unit of social reproduction, to echo the opening statements of the present section. (Moreover, per Strathern, and echoing Haraway's slogan cited in [27], filial descent & affine kinship might be very different, as mediated by domesticity-home.)

  103. Regarding my own musical practice, the notion of band is doubly significant, in that musical relations & interactions differ in solos, duos, trios, quartets, etc. The latter become non-unitary modes of being in the world, perhaps even improvisatory, and so can come to suggest something other than binary logic.

  104. And what of unfamiliar hospitality? How might we feel at home with that? (Perhaps this is the better question, pace [42].)

  105. I repeat the basic message that eating is always violent, making violence utterly unavoidable: Even refusing to eat will likely lead to violence against something or someone, if not against other aspects of the self.

  106. One might suggest that the motives & constraints of Melanesia produce just such an aesthetic economy of violence. (Please let all three of those words mingle for a bit, equivocate. I know I keep saying that....)

  107. Aesthetic production — art as inoperative (per [93]) or unproductive — is sometimes posited as a direct counter to economic production. Might it actually be its real enactment, its enchantment? (The commodity fetish, per [59], is surely enchanted.) I might ask again, what is an economy for?

  108. So one might speak of agonistic aesthetics.... (We are far from "de gustibus..." logic here.)

  109. Does an aesthetic biology evoke the queer morality of [99]? (Just how aesthetic or queer are zoos, for instance?)

  110. One might even speak of generating aesthetic surplus (via resonance [111]), per [31]. (In calling aesthetics "first philosophy," Harman insists that relations do not exhaust objects: I would tend to express this as that we will never know every relation involved.) Such a surplus then tends toward...?

  111. Of course, this notion of resonance is (also) intended to invoke the sonic organization of space & affect via music.

  112. Beauty is seductive, i.e. inherently related to sexual selection. (Continuing to equivocate, Wagner suggests that "real beauty is lethal.") But how has "beauty" circumscribed aesthetics? Is it any more real than glory? (Perhaps whatever lies behind glory is lethal: Hence the vengeful god?[113])

  113. Thus, once again, note that "deities" emerge together with "society" (in this case, exemplified by glory) and not ahead of or behind it (temporally speaking, in contrast to what is conceptually obscured — which might itself be time).

  114. In discussing the strangeness of the (Western) idea of the beautiful, Jullien observes that the essence of beauty might be the equal sign: Such an observation marks the narcissism of Western society (particularly as it continues to emphasize fascist, aesthetic triumph). Such a lethal aspect (pace [112]) to beauty, is further interrogated by Wagner via the notion of symbols that stand for themselves: Such a notion opposes itself to Western concepts of chains of signification [115], and moreover marks the equivocal — and in turn inversion of foreground & background, i.e. the kernel of comedy for Wagner. (Maybe the reader can see Coyote from here.[116])

  115. If no one can actually be their own label (per Jullien again), what does it say for the reflexive-identity principle of Western logic? (I have already criticized the law of the excluded middle many times elsewhere, including in ongoing fashion via various further implications: Critique of logic per se permeates this work.) Perhaps this postulate, at the very beginning of formal logic, is our most outrageous belief.

  116. Seeing Coyote is one thing, but then where is justice...? (Equivocating beauty....)

  117. As one increasingly prominent example, under neoliberal logic, "multiculturalism" has become not simply an operative principle for segmentation, but a generator of its own commodity value: Such differences (per se) become "assets" to be mined or harvested (as part of the generalized arbitrage frenzy that I've noted previously). De la Cadena goes on to note that such logic removes an incentive to educate or even service indigenous groups beyond their function in (commercial, of course) tourism.

  118. One might also think of ecologies that function within larger ecologies (i.e. in niches): What about economies that function within larger economies? (Harney & Moten take up this topic, in different terms, via the undercommons. Given the tendency, if not demand, for collision by the neoliberal economy & its stratification machine per [24], such sub-economies tend to articulate in very specific & inflexible ways, even if their internal operation is fluid.)

  119. As noted already in [29], immanent legibility cannot proceed over great distance — at least not absent resonance. (So what does distance mean on an affine plane?) Thus a demand for legibility becomes always already a demand for transcendence.

  120. For instance, in calling for a "cosmopolitics," Stengers (via De la Cadena [121]) is acknowledging (the desirability of) continuing segmentation within an "ecology of practices." I take this as a (welcome) figure of horizontalism [122], as opposed to top-down imposition of world unity.[123]

  121. Together with Viveiros de Castro, De la Cadena also notes (not so unlike [86], but explicitly challenging mediation) that (Kantian) critique has generally demanded epistemological responses to (even) ontological questions. (This fact reprises Sloterdijk's caution from [60].)

  122. Jameson takes a troubling position on such horizontalism — and I might further substitute federalism, at least within its USA-specific context — although given imposed articulation (noted in [118]), segmented planes can never truly be separate. So some sort of unity remains an issue, at least at interfaces (or folds) between planes. One might prefer to ask, from that perspective, what top-level policies are conducive to local self-determination.

  123. The univocal is opposed to the equivocal, the latter where nothing ever completely aligns. (One must also note the sense of "voice" in these terms. Voices multiply.) Per Wallerstein, we are likely more accustomed to hearing critiques of "universalism" instead.

  124. This is basically a question invoking grass roots politics: Imperialism cannot be solved by top-down approaches (pace the concerns of [122]), so we need many (per [123]) bottom-up approaches. Yet these cannot coordinate, at least not closely, or they will no longer be themselves (i.e. fully embedded)... they are to meet again only after a great distance (per [119]), one might say. (In other words, communities must insist on their own needs, and not be compelled by externally imposed ideology. The latter is contrasted with the, perhaps indirectly impinging, needs of neighboring communities.) Moreover, a real end to imperialism cannot possibly be initiated or consummated by the interior: This much should be crystal clear.[125]

  125. So in its most minimal sense, at least for those in the interior, the question of resonance becomes, to a significant degree, how not to hinder others. (Obviously "good intentions" have proven inadequate to even this minimal task.) In other words, the interior might become a vessel resonating to something else. Is such a situation any less "discrete" then, per the concerns of [54]? (Perhaps one must revisit the primal scene, per [98]... is there an affine scene? How might it become unstaged?)

  126. Theoretical questions regarding the mere existence of stakeholders abound, as already suggested by [121]. (This is another arena in which abolishing abstraction might be welcome. Further to that, I'll briefly note the irritation of De la Cadena's informants regarding the notion that "their" earth being is a spirit: "Can't you see it," they ask? Who is actually being empirical?)

  127. Surplus aesthetic resonance (per [110]) is itself neither legible nor universal.... (This is not the sort of "surplus" one can hoard. It is constantly escaping.)

  128. Perspectives frequently cross, might themselves be transverse, but (per [57]) do not necessarily relate, at least not directly.

  129. Resonance might suggest (direct) affinity, but it might also be more diffuse, suggesting (per [30]) a common (indirect) affinity or even a (queer) vector of differing affinities.... (Such uncertainty is part of its power.) More than simply diffuse, then, resonance might become its own momentum. (Clouds encompass.)

  130. Perhaps we can move beyond Nietzsche then (per [18], and pace [72]), and his influential but not-yet-queer version of science (i.e. knowledge). That his famous piece was inspired in part by medieval music is, I guess, appropriate for this space. (Call it affine resonance....)


Todd M. McComb
13 December 2016

To 8. Legibility, spectrality, machines....