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Affective Alienation

May 25, 2020

Responding to restrictions in movement and assembly, two modalities seem to be emerging. There is a subversive anti-authoritarianism that follows the poetics of desire, resisting regulation of bodies and senses, opposing the normalizing impositions that isolates and pathologizes the other. It speed-rides the ambulance of death drive and zips through the traffic lights of a full scale biopolitical warfare that renders each crisis into an opportunity to expand the standardization of life and the extermination of the non-abiding life forms.  The other is a rugged individualism that follows the illogic of infinite exploitation of life in service of maximizing yields. This boundless liberalism discounts the life of others and counts them as impediments to a canned ideology of sameness; the nuclear family, the nation state, the consumer.

One ignores death. The other ignores life. One desires the other in all of its possible incomprehensible forms and accepts the self as an impermanent jumble of multiplicities, inconsistencies and contradictions. The other eradicates any form of life that differs and is differentiating and finds the self as a cohesive, immutable and stable entity.

While dialectically opposed theoretically and ideologically, they at times appear to align politically. If the current practices of isolation that are life-affirming as they protect the life of others limit the various manifestations of the spaceship of desires, these practices equally impede exploitation and ultimate eradication of the other.

For many of us exiled, migrant and displaced, social distancing is pre-pandemic. We have been communicating with loved ones from far away. Sometimes we stopped communicating all together because of the pain of separation. But we did not stop loving. Even when the emails, phone calls and letters became infrequent. We were isolated, poor, depressed, traumatized, excluded, injured and abused. The pandemic not only universalized [a form of] death but also estrangement. There is a planetary sense of loss of life, biological and social. The border is no longer imposed only on the colonized, the global south, the paperless. It is commonly and somewhat equally distributed among everyone, from anywhere. We are all together in exile.

The necropoliticical regime that counts life dispensable in the service of a discriminatory and inequitable economic system aims to deviate the poetics of desire to facilitate the extermination of the other –  the colored, the sick the differently abled, the destitute, cancerous, sterile, lame, leprous, anxious, depressed, neurotic, psychotic. The subversive death drive is recuperated to deny life to those who cannot self-exile. In turn, the life affirming bodies decode, reconfigure and rewire the desiring channels for an affective alienation that sustains the sequestered imaginary through words, images and (in)action. This might feel contradictory, but like Anzaldua’s mestiza, we find comfort in contradiction.

(for shahr.n)

 

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