NECRO-TEMPORALITIES // Micro-Death, Necropolitics and the Technological Anomalous

Sabeen Chaudhry

Macabéa for now is adrift in chaos like the door swinging in an infinite wind. — Clarice Lispector, Hour of the Star1

A duration that is infinitely slackened and relaxed places its moments outside one another; one must have disappeared when the other appears. What they lose in tension they gain in extension. So that, at each moment, everything tends to be spread out into an instantaneous, indefinitely divisible continuum, which will not prolong itself into the next instant, but will pass away, only to be reborn in the following instant, in a flicker or shiver that constantly begins again. — Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism2

More intimate, lurid, and leisurely forms of cruelty appear. — Achille Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics,’ Public Culture3

Clarice Lispector’s final novel, Hour of the Star, follows Macabéa, a poverty-stricken and over-worked typist who lives in the harbour-side slums of Rio de Janeiro. At the end of the novel, Macabéa dies. A final human death where she is hit by a Mercedes, and her heart eventually stops beating. But the narrator tells us that he himself has died many times ‘symbolically ... just to experience the resurrection,’ and that when Macabéa dies, he too has ‘just died with the girl.’ Although not the type of conventional human final-death like Macabéa’s at the end, the narrator’s multiple deaths are not symbolic either, but rather affective deaths of a sort... Also, we can’t help but wonder whether Macabéa herself dies when she is hit by that car, or whether – a little earlier that day when she is told by a fortune teller that she will find true love and great wealth – she does not die a more profound death, a more intense one. One that even partially seeps into her consciousness as an end of sorts, but also a beginning. Perhaps the summation of numerous micro-deaths and births that have been accumulating throughout the novel. The more obvious ones as first times: – getting a boyfriend (albeit an obnoxious one), wearing red lipstick, taking a day off work, singing, visiting a fortune teller. Alterations of selfhood that go unnoticed by Macabéa herself. Inhuman micro-deaths that drip like the ‘droplets of time’ that she imagines when listening to the ‘tic-tac’ of the ‘Clock Radio’ channel that she loves so much. Micro-deaths that drip drip drip and, in that swell of intense death-before-death, eventually overflow the chronologically-ordered and labour-orientated time that previously set a beat to her estranged selfhood. When Macabéa emerges from the fortune teller’s apartment, she is incalculably altered and feels as though she has just begun to live. The hour is dusk, but this is not a time as we know it, being instead ‘stained with blood and almost black gold,’ a ‘richness of atmosphere;’ it is ‘the hour of no one.’ An old iteration of Macabéa has died and a new, bewildered but hopeful one, steps out into a different time altogether. Or as a different time altogether.4

It is clear that the human is a category that is real in a sense, but that no one can actually completely occupy. We are not entirely human, but oscillate between human and non-human, such that we are inhuman. This is particularly exemplified by our participation in multiple human and non-human temporalities; by our skewed trajectories into death or virtuality, and back out into so-called life or actuality – the syncopated rhythms of inhumanity.

In Bergsonism, Deleuze’s exploration/re-construction of Henri Bergson’s work, he describes each thing, whether human or non-human, as possessing its own ‘duration,’5 which is ‘a rhythm,’ or ‘a way of being in time,’6 – a temporality of sorts.7 He remarks that, ‘my own duration, such as I live it ... serves to reveal other durations that beat to other rhythms.’ Furthermore, duration ‘differs in kind not only from other things, but first and foremost from itself,’8 as it ‘divides up and does so constantly.’ It is this process of constant division that renders it a ‘multiplicity,’ and means that from any one moment to the next, we differ from ourselves.9

This is further complexified if we consider the inhuman itself as a multiplicity consisting of numerous ‘dimensions’ that each possess their own durations or temporalities. Indeed, Deleuze and Guattari describe a multiplicity as being defined, not by features of form or comprehension, but instead by ‘the number of dimensions it has.’ Hence, a becoming-as-change-in-number of dimensions constitutes a fundamental change in the nature of the multiplicity.10 On this granular dimensional or hyper-individuative scale, we can occupy different temporal territories or zones simultaneously. The body becomes the site where personal/human temporalities meet impersonal/non-human temporalities and become interstitial inhuman temporal zones. It is a singular locus where these temporal zones converge and interact, morphing, constantly forming new temporal zones that correspond to Deleuze & Guattari’s ‘blocks of becoming’ in which, a dimension, a becoming is ‘taken up in another becoming ... which coexists, forms a block with the first.’11

Each temporality precipitates and is precipitated by the dimension when it becomes with another – it is a dimension of the dimension, a facet or a rhythm that is inseparable from it, within the temporal zone of the mutual exchange. You could say, the actualisation of the dimension, its activity or presence in the so-called present, is the very birth of the temporality in which it plays, which is also to say, the temporality that it is. But this temporality can also reach, both backward and forward, into death.

With our relentless becomings as inhumans, where the multiple temporalities of which we consist move between temporal zones, dividing and multiplying (as Deleuze points out) as they encounter others; death pervades life.12 In the constant micro-deaths of our temporalities, they pass into virtuality and are re-actualized as altered, born anew as other to themselves. In a certain sense, this process constitutes a kind of mundane ontological masochism, where the inhuman wills or desires its own death over and over again; with each aspect – death or becoming-virtual and (re-)birth or becoming-actual – being a function of the other. (In other words, to become another iteration, the old one must pass out of ‘existence’, where ‘existence’ is understood as actuality in the present. The previous iteration however, is still real but becomes purely virtual.) But this is not a ‘primary masochism’ in the Spielreinian/Freudian sense where we are said, in part, to desire that conventional human final-death; nor is it a tussle between this death instinct (Thanatos) and a life instinct (Eros).13 Instead, it is a non-conscious desire for micro-death as a necessary shedding; of old skins, old guts, old wor(l)ds, old feels, to make way for new life. It is a deep urge for profound change, change that is also entirely mundane.

These death-birth rhythms propel us into an ever-leaving/arriving present, and are us, but partially evade our knowledge. Their entirety escapes consciousness, to leave us with only crumbs for clues as to how we move – always chasing ourselves but always lagging behind. The inhuman sings life with polyvocality, one melody a dirge and another a birth song (amongst others). The catholic tenet that life equates to suffering is not entirely untrue, but this suffering is primarily non-conscious, an ontological necessity that only sometimes takes on a psychological tenor. Like Macabéa, we must die to live.

Furthermore, it could be said that this has nothing to do with God as an anthropomorphic individual, a bearded white man in the sky (as ‘he’ is often characterized) but everything to do with God construed, in a somewhat pantheistic manner, as immanent totality. In other words, every thing in its individuated singularity but also everything in its intraconnected oneness. Up until this point, we have accepted that durations differ in kind, which enables us (and the universe in general) to properly consist of multiple simultaneous durations. This makes of duration a kind of complex quantum time. However, there is another side to duration, which makes of it a continuous rush of time; ‘a single, universal and impersonal Time.’14 Deleuze explains that Bergson’s pluralism that pertains to ‘a coexistence of completely different rhythms, of durations that are really distinct, hence a radical multiplicity of Time,’ is not incompatible with a kind of monism, where ‘there is only a single time, a single duration, in which everything would participate, including our consciousnesses, including living beings, including the whole material world.’15 This is because, according to Deleuze, Bergson’s differences in kind can be ultimately understood to be differences in degree or in quantity (though I will not elaborate on the Deleuzian demonstration of this here).16 He usefully deduces: ‘There is only one time (monism), although there is an infinity of actual fluxes (generalized pluralism) that necessarily participate in the same virtual whole (limited pluralism).’ This ‘virtual whole’ of duration, ‘encompasses and is actualized’ in these individual ‘fluxes,’ which are distinct ‘actual rhythms [my italics]’/temporalities. Indeed, he remarks, ‘we see the fluxes each time, with their differences in kind, communicating a single and identical Time, which is, as it were, their condition.’ Duration itself is a ‘virtual multiplicity,’ that consists of virtual durations that see their actual counterpart in fluxes. It is this very fact, that durations are virtual, that implies a single time. Deleuze states that: ‘The Bergsonian theory of simultaneity thus tends to confirm the conception of duration as the virtual coexistence of all the degrees of a single and identical time.’17

The import for the inhuman is that a real part of us lingers always in pure duration, in the virtual, these other words for death, and our virtual necro-cache consists of previous dimensions, iterations, selves but also those yet to be actualized. Indeed it is the case that we always have ‘one foot in the grave.’ But even more pertinently, it is death then, that is confirmed as the necessary condition for life, that which ‘encompasses and is actualized’ in life.18

The pact with the ‘Anomalous’ constitutes the superlative moment of masochism of the non-conscious desire of the inhuman to be (re-)initiated into the cult of micro-death that has everything to do with ‘life’ as immanent constant transmutation.19 According to Deleuze and Guattari, this Anomalous is the ‘borderline’ of a multiplicity, and also ‘the precondition for the alliance necessary to becoming,’ the alliance required for a multiplicity to cross over into another. An alliance with or involving the Anomalous is a ‘threshold’ passed, an open door to becoming. Furthermore, it is always the Anomalous that ‘deterritorializes’ most ardently, ‘that carries the transformations of becoming or crossing of multiplicities always farther down the line of flight.’20 Returning to Hour of the Star, it could be said that for Macabéa, the fortune teller occupies the function of the Anomalous, mediating and catalysing Macabéa’s climactic becoming, dragging her toward that crescendo of a death that comes before her conventional human death. Indeed, Deleuze and Guattari state: ‘All so-called initiatory journeys include these thresholds and doors where becoming itself becomes, and where one changes becoming depending on the “hour” of the world, the circles of hell, or the stages of a journey.’21

As we are being propelled into the Post-Anthropocene, there is a particular kind of Anomalous that looms large, casting an invisible shadow over and within us. This is the technological Anomalous that transforms multiplicities in a manner that appears sometimes to work against us and at other times, to extend our intensive capabilities further. Indeed, technological mediation accelerates complexification, introducing unknown dimensions that add to and re-order the dimensions of the inhuman multiplicity into ever more complex configurations. The technological Anomalous mediates inhuman rhythms, sometimes catalysing or at other times reducing the rate of change in relation to encounters with other dimensions i.e. becomings or micro-deaths/births. This occurs either as direct interaction of a dimension with a technological dimension, or indirectly through interaction with another dimension that is also interacting with a technological dimension – either way, it constitutes becoming part of a multiplicity that is technologically mediated; that is to say all multiplicities now in some way or another. Whether technological dimensions accelerate or decelerate rates of change of a multiplicity (of its death and becoming another multiplicity altogether), they frequently appear to do so as the Anomalous element. That with the most intensity – the most quickening or the most slowing. The inhuman that we previously acknowledged as traversed by different temporal zones, is actually the post-inhuman, traversed by different techno-temporal zones; or in other words, it is a cumulative temporal process of intrawoven techno-temporalities that extend beyond the human body.

In considering that micro-death is necessary for micro-birth – being two sides of the same coin that is becoming – biopolitical governmental policies and neoliberal rationales are necessarily necropolitical, and ‘biopower’ is consequently necropower. In his formulation of the concept, Foucault refers to ‘biopolitics’ as a political mode of governance ‘focused on the species body, the body imbued with the mechanics of life and serving as the basis of the biological processes.’ It is biopolitics that coordinates the supervision of populations via ‘an entire series of interventions and regulatory controls,’ that seek ‘to administer, optimize, and multiply’ life. Biopower then, is the translation of biopolitics into practice, the effectuation of the ‘interventions’ and ‘controls,’ wherein life-sustaining processes are put in place and life is ordered, societies are hierarchized and both individual bodies and populations are subjugated and controlled. Indeed, biopower conserves and utilizes life to put it to work, it ‘distributes the living in the domain of value and utility,’ and establishes a ‘norm’– for bodies, their temporalities and trajectories; for the rhythms of entire populations, which it regulates and constantly attempts to normalize.22 Furthermore, in outlining the genealogy of biopolitics, Foucault remarks:

Racism took shape at this point (racism in its modern, ‘biologizing,’ statist form): it was then that a whole politics of settlement (peuplement), family, marriage, education, social hierarchization, and property, accompanied by a long series of permanent interventions at the level of the body, conduct, health, and everyday life, received their colour and their justification from the mythical concern with protecting the purity of the blood and ensuring the triumph of the race.23

But what of necropower? In his formulation of biopolitics and biopower, Foucault discusses their relation to death. He states that ‘massacres have become vital’ in the form of wars that are not fought for the sake of a specific individual sovereign as they were in the past, but rather, for the entire population ‘in the name of life necessity,’ or survival. He continues: ‘The power to expose a whole population to death is the underside of the power to guarantee an individual’s continued existence.’ He clarifies that, ‘the ancient right to take life or let live was replaced by a power to foster life or disallow it to the point of death.’ To an extent, this could be construed as an opposition of biopower to the necropower of old in that for the latter, power was predominantly exercised through the threat of death, whereas in the case of biopower, power is exercised through ‘the calculated management of life.’ However, despite claiming that power is now ‘situated and exercised at the level of life,’ it appears, that for Foucault’s concepts of biopolitics and biopower, death is still relevant in two respects. It is either a ‘counterpart’ to life, that is sometimes necessary to inflict or expose a population to in order to ultimately sustain life; or it is something that is not directly inflicted in one fell swoop, but rather by consequence of withdrawing or disallowing life. Though, despite this continued relevance, for Foucault, death has become secondary to life.24

In his formulation of ‘necropolitics,’ Achille Mbembe explicitly presents ‘politics as the work of death,’ and sovereignty as an expression of ‘the right to kill,’25 arguing that Foucault’s concepts of biopolitics and biopower are ‘insufficient to account for contemporary forms of subjugation of life to the power of death,’ or ‘necropower.’26 Of particular interest to us are three strands of Mbembe’s exploration. Firstly Mbembe, taking his cue from Bataille, establishes the primacy of death; where ‘life exists only in bursts and in exchange with death.’ (As we have discussed previously, and in Deleuzo-Bergsonian terms; darting fluxes actualized from virtual duration.) Mbembe understands death to be both the ‘source and the ... condition of life,’ that appears to obliterate but is instead ‘a power of proliferation.’27

Secondly, he describes extensively, the manner in which necropower is expressed to create ‘death-worlds’ where ‘vast populations are subjected to conditions of life conferring upon them the status of living dead.’28 Linking the politics of race to necropolitics, he goes further than Foucault (for whom racism is a means of expression of biopower – hierarchization and the putting to death of the Other in the name of the life of the population29) to suggest that necropower confers upon the racialized body, the status of ‘a shadow.’ Specifically in the case of slavery, Mbembe states that the losses of home, rights over one’s own body and political status are concurrent with ‘absolute domination, natal alienation, and social death (expulsion from humanity altogether).’ Furthermore, slaves were often kept somatically somewhere between death and life, ‘in a state of injury, in a phantom-like world of horrors and intense cruelty and profanity.’ According to Mbembe, life for slaves was ‘a form of death-in-life [my italics].’ However, importantly, he tells us that slaves possessed alternative modes of experiencing ‘time, work and self,’ perhaps, we could say, harnessing the generative capacities of a constant partial submersion in death.30 It could be argued that these supposedly ‘sub-human’ slaves whom the proponents of necropower attempted to prevent from participating in supposedly human culture (and also subsequent non-slave generations), have actually made an unrivalled contribution to Western, and indeed global, culture by means of a complex multiplicitous inhumanity functioning at the nexus of life and death, subjugation and resistance, imposed labour-orientated time and alternative temporality; navigating the immense pain of being forcibly othered but also affirming another kind of otherness that somehow escapes the clutches of necropower.

Mbembe also extends his analysis of the relations between race and necropolitics to various instances of colonial occupation, where the colonized are relegated to ‘a third zone between subjecthood and objecthood,’ a subject being that which possesses life and an object being that which is devoid of it. This relegation to a third zone is with regards to numerous aspects; not only are the colonized ontologically relegated, but also spatially, socio-politically, culturally, economically and so on.31 Again, as in the case of slavery, colonial occupation utilizes various necropolitical techniques to render the colonized as less-than-human. This conception of sub-humanity is premised on a particular Western colonial paradigm of ‘humanity,’ with all its complex and nefarious history, that places colonized peoples at the border, straddling a line they did not draw, with one foot within the territory of humanity and the other outside. This paradigm is also one that assigns and rates humanity along a linear scale with non-human at one end and human at the other, where people are placed in ascending order according to increasing levels of supposed characteristics of humanity. However, it is the inhumanity of slaves and colonized peoples (and actually all of us to a lesser or greater extent) that places them, on the one hand between human and non-human within this scale, but also outside this scale on the basis of unqualifiable difference that surpasses categories of human, non-human and so on.

Finally, throughout his consideration of necropolitics, Mbembe charts its evolution with changing technologies that not only facilitate but also inform methods of exertion of necropower. Indeed, Friedrich Kittler laid bare the extent to which the material composition, structure and subsequent mechanical action of technologies form and shape the cultural, social and political.32 According to Mbembe, the Holocaust arose from the coupling of colonial imperialism with ‘the serialization of technical mechanisms for putting people to death.’ Thinking with Enzo Traverso, he remarks that the gas chambers were

the culmination of a long process of dehumanizing and industrializing death, one of the original features of which was to integrate instrumental rationality with the productive and administrative rationality of the modern Western world (the factory, the bureaucracy, the prison, the army). Having become mechanized, serialized execution was transformed into a purely technical, impersonal, silent, and rapid procedure.33

Mbembe also speaks of the technologies of imperialism that defined each stage of its teleological progression, from the gunboat to colonial railroads. Later, he turns to the Israeli occupation of Palestine with its ‘high-tech tools of late-modern terror,’ where even the skies are occupied with technological precision tools for policing – ‘sensors aboard unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), aerial reconnaissance jets, early warning Hawkeye planes, assault helicopters, an Earth-observation satellite.’ Addressing contemporary warfare, Mbembe goes on to posit a ‘military-technological revolution that has multiplied the capacity for destruction in unprecedented ways.’34

Returning to biopolitics, it is obviously apparent that it facilitates capitalism in that ‘the latter would not have been possible without the controlled insertion of bodies into the machinery of production and the adjustment of the phenomena of population to economic processes.’ Pertinently for our consideration of technocapitalism, Foucault refers to the ‘knowledge-power’ amassed and deployed via biopower, noting that it is knowledge of ‘the phenomena peculiar to the life of the human species’ that has enabled the control and modification of our life processes. He remarks: ‘One would have to speak of biopower to designate what brought life and its mechanisms into the realm of explicit calculations and made knowledge-power an agent of transformation of human life.’35 Extending this consideration of ‘knowledge-power’ to necropolitics, Mbembe notes that in contemporary warfare, ‘cyber-intelligence’ plays a crucial role in the exertion of necropower.36 Indeed, the speed of arrival, action and withdrawal that contemporary technologies facilitate (often a kind of invisibility) within the context of war, are intricately enmeshed in the relation between necropolitics and the current era of ‘global mobility.’ Mbembe states that instead of ‘the sedentary [colonial] nations or the “conquer-and-annex” territorial wars of modernity,’ this new globalized warfare is nomadic in character. It is not the sole reserve of states and their governments, but consists instead of a ‘heteronymous organization of territorial rights and claims’ that are ‘incomplete’, ‘inextricably superimposed and tangled,’ whose histories and territories overlap and morph. In the case of this contemporary type of nomadic warfare, boundary lines warp and it becomes ever more difficult to distinguish between what constitutes an inside and what is clearly outside (in numerous respects).37 Writing in 2003, Mbembe looks to Africa for examples,38 but in recent years, we need only look to the Islamic State as an obvious one, albeit one that has its own differing complexities. What is of particular interest here, is the dispersion of necropower, and its conspiratorial (under)currents that connect those that appear to be enemies in strange rhythms that are partially concealed.

In fact, this type of contemporary nomadic warfare, not only occurs openly but also on a subterranean level, as a kind of cold warfare endowed by various technologies, with the same crucial interconnected features – the dispersal of power, the speed/invisibility/opacity of action, the use of information as knowledge-power, and the warping of boundaries. This is to say that the reorganization of power such that it is not only wielded solely by states, does not just extend to militias, terrorist organizations and so on, but also corporations. This is intimately connected to the flourishing of information and communication technologies that themselves disperse micro-power amongst individuals, but simultaneously concentrate them at the source – the technocapitalist corporation itself. During the past decade, platform-based businesses have rapidly established monopolous powers that give something of an illusion of control of one’s life through the permission of ambivalent micro-powers to their userships.39 For instance, Instagram permits the curation of one’s online identity, enabling the rise of ‘influencers’ with large followings, that appear to be able to carve a career from advertising revenues and so on, presenting an illusory control over one’s online image and the labour one carries out. The fallacy of ‘being one’s own boss,’ while your personal data (along with that of all other users) is being collected, sold, mined, weaponized, utilized for your own subjugation in multiple ways. In the capture, recording and processing of this bio-data as lucrative ‘big data,’ we are given machinic legibility, informationalized in a manner that fixes but renders opaque to ourselves, dimensions of each person as multiplicity and also the bio/necropolitical consequences of this machinic knowledge of us.

There is of course, an intimate, haptic element to this interaction-cum-transmission of information in its occurrence most often, as the touching of smart screens that belong to devices that we constantly carry on our person. Indeed Mbembe remarks that, ‘technologies of destruction have become more tactile,’ and also that ‘more intimate, lurid, and leisurely forms of cruelty’ have appeared.40 Rosi Braidotti comments on the ‘complex relationship to death [that] has emerged in the technologically mediated universe we inhabit: one in which the link between the flesh and the machine is symbiotic.’ She notes that ‘the new practices of “life” mobilize not only generative forces, but also new and subtler degrees of extinction.’41 Here we re-join our earlier lines of thought regarding the technological Anomalous and the post-inhuman as constituted by multiple shifting dimensions or temporalities bound to the technologies of our time. It becomes apparent that, the dimensions that comprise us, their rhythmic micro-deaths/births, and therefore our morphing subjectivities, are being ventriloquized by the forces of technocapital in a number of more subtle, intimate, proliferating ways. This ventriloquist is both faceless and non-localized, and at the same time has many changing faces that occupy and move between multiple discernable localities. In one sense an ‘all-too-human’ story of control and subjugation, but the technological Anomalous exceeds the human in that it is not just instrumental to the human telos of wealth/power accumulation; it also has its own opaque non-human rationales that evade human epistemological capture. That is to say, we don’t and actually can’t fully understand what’s going on, yet affectively, (either directly or indirectly) no post-inhuman dimension remains untouched.

Returning here to Deleuze’s conception of life as constant transmutation that goes beyond individual human life alone, Rosi Braidotti puts forth an ‘affirmative politics’ of life that takes this Deleuzian account as its basis. Braidotti’s altered concept of biopolitics encompasses both post- and in-human dimensions, and the complexities of difference – regarding class, race, gender and so on. In positing ‘hybrid social identities and the new modes of multiple belonging they enact,’ she acknowledges our multi-dimensionality, foregrounding our propensities to occupy different zones simultaneously. However, Braidotti remarks that ‘death is overrated,’ wishing to move away from what she regards as an oft-considered ‘metaphysics of finitude’ in her consideration of life. Despite her Deleuzian position and despite admitting the ‘relentless generative powers of death,’ it appears that Braidotti falls prey to the same error as Foucault in not properly acknowledging the primacy of death (the virtual, duration), death as the necessary condition for actual individual life, but also death as another means of conceptualising that immanent ontogenetic life.42 Hence, we must refine Braidotti’s position by accepting this primacy of death and looking to the micro-deaths that we previously discussed, those rhythmic flittings of the dimensions that comprise us. It is our very composition as multiplicities whose dimensions die constantly and come back anew that enable this life-as-change to flow through us whilst also maintaining individual human life (up until the point of conventional death).

Furthermore, it is precisely these dimensions that undermine ‘wholeness’ but simultaneously operate within and constitute the ‘whole’ of the multiplicity, that provide some aspect of subversion of the pulsations of technocapitalist necropower from within. Eugene Thacker demonstrates how this might be possible in his resurrection and examination of the analogy of the ‘body politic.’ The are numerous subtleties and differences in conceptions of the body politic, but Thacker describes it generally as

a response to the challenge of thinking about political order (as a living, vital order). It is formally based on an analogy between the body natural and the body politic (through a narrative stressing unity, hierarchy, and vitalism). This formal relation is historically expressed in terms of political theology ... And, despite this formal coherence, it is also a concept defined through its failure (that is, its internal tensions and corporeal variations).43

In taking its lead from the ‘body natural,’ in a similar manner to which this biological body ‘is open to disease, decomposition, and decay,’ so too is the body politic. It must constantly grapple with the threat of its own dissolution, the disobedience of its parts. Indeed, similarly to the body natural, Thacker notes that ‘the greatest threats to the body politic come from within.’ However, according to Thacker, due to the incomplete correlation of the body politic to the living body natural in that the former persists even after life, health and the vital; the body politic is always existent instead ‘in relation to the corpse.’ Hence he refers to the study of this corpse-body politic relation as ‘“necrology,”’ where ‘this thing-that-remains becomes at once that which the body politic concept struggles against, and that which provides a promise of a more perfect, resurrected body.’44 However, regarding our conception of multi-dimensional micro-deaths in life, this opposition between the body natural and the corpse is mitigated. Indeed, Thacker goes on to elaborate that it is specifically the multiplicitous nature of the body politic that is its greatest threat, that which ‘plagues’ it with the perpetual potential for dissolution, whilst also constituting it. In any case, it is not as simple a case as for or against, but perhaps instead, of sly subversion from within. Additionally, it is the body politic as multiplicity that collapses the boundary between the analogy of the body politic and the bodies of the people, which are themselves multiplicities that constitute it, shifting the body politic out of the realm of the figurative and into that of the living (or dying). Furthermore, similarly to Mbembe, Thacker suggests a conjoining of sovereignty and multiplicity in the ‘cultural expression of the living dead,’ who are both within and outside life vs. death ontological and political order, and who can mass together as one or break apart as many. Thacker remarks: ‘Perhaps it is the conjunction between life and multiplicity, between something that decomposes and yet is living, that is the crux of the body politic concept.’45

And so, something of a conclusion in the form of some questions: in our existence as post-inhuman multiplicity, do some of our techno-temporal dimensions involve that unknown aspect of the technological Anomalous that manages somehow to evade the conjunction with capitalism of the very technology of which it is a part? (That conjunction that seems to seize the ‘whole.’) In other words, does some part of us persist unscathed? Is this possible only through a fatal necro-temporal tumbling into duration i.e. by the micro-death inflicted by this becoming with the aspect of the technological Anomalous that resists? Of course, it could be argued that it is this death (but here, in life) that is the very going-beyond the control of technocapitalist dis/order. After all, both Foucault and Mbembe have argued that suicide – speaking death to power – in certain circumstances, constitutes a form of resistance. Mbembe even goes so far as to tell us that ‘death and freedom are irrevocably interwoven’ and that ‘in death the future is collapsed into the present,’46 - a nod to duration perhaps.

Finally, I will give the last word to Lispector’s Macabéa. Macabéa whose multitudes begin at subservience to power and order, but which we feel becoming more and more disobedient as the novel progresses – forward in time in one sense, but also with her temporalities beginning to curl, then slalom and then ping in unpredictable directions, into death and out again, transformed. Macabéa whose ‘lasciviousness’ we feel shimmering out of sight (sensual excess against, but within, productivity). Macabéa who steals a cookie for the first time in her life, not a logical undertaking to fulfil a debt owed (the girl to whom the cookie belonged stole Maca’s boyfriend) but because she is overcome by saccharine delight and wants to exceed herself with sugar. Macabéa who eventually skips work to visit the fortune teller. Macabéa who then dies that profound death of maximum intensity. Macabéa who dies that final human death shortly after, and at the moment of fading utters:

‘As for the future.’47

  1. Clarice Lispector, Hour of the Star, trans. Benjamin Moser (London: Penguin, 2014), 73-74. 

  2. Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (New York: Zone Books, 1991), 86-87. 

  3. Achille Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics,’ trans. Libby Meintjes, Public Culture 15.1 (2003): 11-40, (19). 

  4. Lispector, Hour of the Star

  5. The concept of ‘duration’ was initially coined by Henri Bergson, however it is Deleuze that fully advances it out of the realm of the internal or psychological (claiming that it should not be interpreted as such, despite Bergson’s psychological terminology), to consider it explicitly within the context of the ontological. See Deleuze, Bergsonism, 48-72. 

  6. Deleuze, Bergsonism, 32. 

  7. You will notice my use of the term temporality rather than duration in certain instances. The reason for this might become clearer further on, when we find that duration specifically pertains to the virtual. Hence, at this point I am using temporality when a reference to the actual is required or implied, but this is interchangeable with flux as we will later learn. 

  8. Deleuze, Bergsonism, 32. 

  9. Ibid., 42. 

  10. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), 290; also see 286. 

  11. Ibid., 278. 

  12. Deleuze, Bergsonism, 42. 

  13. See Sabina Spielrein, ‘Destruction as the Cause of Coming Into Being,’ Journal of Analytical Psychology 39.2 (1994): 155–186, where Spielrein originally conceives of this drive toward death. This was later appropriated and extensively extrapolated by Freud; for example, see Sigmund Freud, ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ in On Metapsychology (Middlesex 1987). 

  14. Deleuze, Bergsonism, 80. 

  15. Ibid., 78. 

  16. Ibid., 73-74. 

  17. Ibid., 82-85. In Bergsonism, we can see the antecedent thinking for Deleuze and Guattari’s planes of immanence and transcendence (amongst other concepts). For discussion of these planes, see Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 309-317, as one example. 

  18. Deleuze, Bergsonism, 82. 

  19. For discussion of this Deleuzian conception of life, see Gilles Deleuze, ‘Immanence: A Life’ in Pure Immanence: Essays on A Life, trans. Anne Boyman (New York: Zone Books, 2005), 25-33. I have italicized instances of my use of this type of life, contra [unitalicized] life, the latter pertaining to biological life. 

  20. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 291. 

  21. Ibid., 290. 

  22. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Random House, Inc., 1978), 139-144. 

  23. Ibid., 149. 

  24. Ibid., 137-140. 

  25. Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics,’ Public Culture, 16. 

  26. Ibid., 39-40. 

  27. Ibid., 15. 

  28. Ibid., 40. 

  29. Ibid., 17. 

  30. Ibid., 21-22. 

  31. Ibid., 26. 

  32. See both: Friedrich Kittler, Literature, Media, Information Systems (Oxon; New York: Routledge, 2012); and Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1999). 

  33. Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics,’ Public Culture, 18. 

  34. Ibid., 25-30. 

  35. Foucault, The History of Sexuality, 140-143. 

  36. Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics,’ Public Culture, 30. 

  37. Ibid., 31-32. 

  38. Ibid., 32-35. 

  39. For a pertinent and concise analysis of platform capitalism, see Nick Srnicek, Platform Capitalism (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2017). 

  40. Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics,’ Public Culture. See pages 34 and 19 respectively – I have taken these two quotes out of context but this suits our purposes. 

  41. Rosi Braidotti, ‘Bio-Power and Necro-Politics: Reflections on An Ethics of Sustainability,’ Springerin, Issue 2, 2007, https://www.springerin.at/en/2007/2/biomacht-und-nekro-politik/

  42. Ibid. 

  43. Eugene Thacker, ‘Necrologies; or, the Death of the Body Politic’ in Beyond Biopolitics: Essays on the Governance of Life and Death, eds. Patricia Ticineto Clough and Craig Willse (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2011): 139-162, (147). 

  44. Ibid., 148-151. 

  45. Ibid., 152-158. 

  46. Ibid., 37; 38. 

  47. Lispector, Hour of the Star, 75

Sabeen Chaudhry is a writer and theorist based in London. She is currently undertaking a PhD at Kingston University, researching ‘millennial’ love and contemporary media technologies. Her fictional writing has been published in SALT Magazine and The Institute of Queer Ecology’s multi-format publication, Common Survival amongst others. She also has an article on 'ghosting' forthcoming in Chiasma and another on Scott Walker's (sonic) geopoetics forthcoming in the Journal for Cultural Research.