By Josephine Wideman. This article originally appeared in Vector 288.
Samuel R. Delany’s 1975 novel Dhalgren is lengthy, hallucinatory, and at times unnavigable science fiction. Its form is as dense and as wavering as the urban landscape it depicts, where Delany’s protagonist, Kid, can wonder whether ‘there isn’t a chasm in front of me I’ve hallucinated into plain concrete.’1 Bellona – the fictional city where events take place – is a space ‘fixed in the layered landscape, red, brass, and blue, but […] distorted as distance itself,’ a place where ‘the real’ is ‘all masked by pale diffraction.’2 Although the scenery and scenarios of Bellona may be fictional, and perhaps even fantastic, they are also true representations of real experience. The unfixed landscape we live in becomes ‘fixed’ before us in Delany’s book. The distortions and diffractions by which it is fictionalised only increase its representational precision. The gaps in our experience, usually masked, are made visible. For although it takes an unusual form, we can recognise
this timeless city […] this spaceless preserve where any slippage can occur, these closing walls, laced with fire-escapes, gates, and crenellations are too unfixed to hold it in so that, from me as a moving node, it seems to spread, by flood and seepage, over the whole uneasy scape.3
In looking at Dhalgren, I have borrowed from the political theorist and sociologist Giovanni Arrighi in order to trace the presence and effects of capitalist accumulation in Delany’s fiction. Arrighi, in The Long Twentieth Century, describes the ‘interpretative scheme’ of capitalism as a ‘recurrent phenomena.’4 Drawing on work by the historian Fernand Braudel, Arrighi follows the Genoese, the Dutch, and the British cycles of accumulation to the current North American cycle. By examining past economic patterns and anomalies, he suggests that we may be able to gesture at the fate of our current cycle. Arrighi sets out to demonstrate that the rise and fall of these hegemonies, while never identical, tend to follow a set of stages that begin ‘to look familiar.’5 To make his argument, he proposes a new use for Marx’s ‘general formula of capital’:
Marx’s general formula of capital (MCM’) can therefore be interpreted as depicting not just the logic of individual capitalist investments, but also a recurrent pattern of historical capitalism as world system. The central aspect of this pattern is the alternation of epochs of material expansion (MC phases of capital accumulation) with phases of financial rebirth and expansion (CM’ phases).6
In Das Kapital, Marx initially proposes the formula CMC to theorise how capital functions. This theory begins with the assumption that people have needs and desires they can’t satisfy by themselves. Thus we create the commodities we know how to make (C), which are sold for money (M), which allows us to buy the commodities we want (C). As this cycle repeats, those who are skilled presumably accrue more value than others, being able to sell their commodities for a greater profit. This theory centres around the individual and his role in a capitalist system. But Marx then sets CMC aside in favour of another formula – the formula borrowed by Arrighi in The Long Twentieth Century – MCM’. In MCM’, circulation does not begin with the dissatisfied individual, but with capital itself. Money is invested (M) into the materials and labour necessary to produce a commodity (C), which is then sold for money (M). The difference between CMC and MCM’ is subtle but crucial. The first formula implies that capitalism recurs, and things are made and exchanged, in order to satisfy human desire and need. The second formula implies that money is in charge, that production and exchange are ultimately subservient to profit, and that money begets more money. For Marx, what drives capitalism is not only MCM, but MCM’ – the apostrophe signifying ‘prime’ – or the concept that money increases in value through circulation. The source of this additional, or ‘surplus’ value, is where capital really loses its lustre. This value is gained within labour – in the time spent on the creation and production of a commodity from raw material – and for Marx, its appropriation by capitalists is inherently exploitative.
Viewed alongside this rough sketch, Arrighi’s description of ‘historical capitalism’ becomes clearer. He sees Marx’s formula for the ‘logic of capitalist investments’ as recognisable on a larger scale. According to Arrighi, former hegemonic powers – the Genoese, the Dutch, and the British – each went through their own version of an MCM’ cycle, with an early phase focused on trade and production (MC) and a later phase focused on banking and finance (CM’). The MC phase of North American capital accumulation is, according to this model, placed in the Fordist-Keynesian growth period of the 1950s and 1960s, defined by its mass-production and the rise of consumer-culture. This MC phase was of greater ‘speed, scale, and scope’ in the US cycle than had been previously seen,7 and from the 1970s onward, has been rapidly followed by a CM’ phase of deregulation, privatisation, and financialisation.
The effects of this cycle are imprinted on the landscape. Delany’s Dhalgren, published in 1975, was constructed in the midst of these cyclical phases of North American hegemonic power. Published two years after the oil shocks of 1973, at the beginning of the second great depression of the US cycle of accumulation, the novel emerges at a time of ‘discontinuous change,’8 when it must navigate the shifting capitalist landscape.
More literally, the novel navigates the emerging landscapes of economic obsolescence – impoverished, de-industrialising, depopulating urban landscapes. The power of Wall Street grows as manpower is made redundant across industrial USA and iron oxidises along the Rust Belt, starting to create the kind of landscape which would later inspire Danny Brown’s 2011 release ‘Fields.’ The chorus of ‘Fields’ is a penetrating account of Detroit’s urban landscape – filled with gaps:
And where I live it was house, house, field Field, field, house Abandoned house, field, field.9
I want to explore how Dhalgren might be shaped by a vision of the cyclical nature of capitalist power, and how it deals with what is invisible, or only glimpsed sidelong, within this power. That is, how does Dhalgren confront the opacity of hegemonic structure, the ways in which capitalism obscures itself? And how does Dhalgren engage with the exploitative features of these cycles – features which Jason W. Moore describes as ‘processes and projects that reconfigure the relations of humanity-in-nature, within large and small geographies alike’?10 Put simply: how are economics writ onto North American landscapes and into the fiction that portrays them?
For Arrighi, the mid-Seventies marks a signal crisis of North American economic dominance. Just as Arrighi finds ‘it is not by chance that Braudel used the […] metaphor – “a sign of autumn” – to characterise financial expansions,’ I find it is not by chance that Delany opens with and repeats the phrase ‘to wound the autumnal city’11 throughout Dhalgren. In 1970s North America, the old order of capitalism is fading and the new order’s nature is not yet apparent. US economic orthodoxy is struggling to explain the simultaneous high levels of inflation and unemployment; Keynesian economics are on the decline, and libertarian economics are gaining influence. Meanwhile, the ‘Bretton Woods’ international monetary system – whereby all nations had a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar, and the US government promised to convert dollars into gold upon request – is in ruins, and international currencies are autumnally ‘free floating.’
Read against this background, a city which is ‘autumnal’ is marked as a post-industrial cityscape. Delany’s Bellona could be substituted for Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Harlem: any urban area with an industrial past that has been left impoverished, sucked dry of its harvest and vitality in the MC phase, and left bereft as the CM’ phase of financialisation begins. These are spaces with high rates of unemployment and urban layouts designed to segregate, places where value has been extracted from black communities which have been excluded from the wealth they have created. They are spaces in which crumbling and disintegration are the material signs of progress, where backwards movement becomes equivalent to forward progress, and where surplus has been found in exploitation of population and place.
Dhalgren, much like these urban landscapes, offers a plenitude of confusion and contradiction, both in time and in space. It begins with Kid, a Native American protagonist, entering city and is then being unable to leave, cyclically bound ‘to wound the autumnal city’… ‘come to’… ‘wound the autumnal city.’ Here the word ‘wound’ can signify ‘injury.’ Yet there is also another trace of cyclicality, if the verb is taken as signifying ‘to wind’ in the past tense. So this ‘wound’ is reminiscent of both the violent nature of capitalist accumulation and of its cyclical temporality. It suggests that Kid means harm and, simultaneously, it brings to mind the image of a clock which must be periodically ‘wound.’
Delany’s obscure and chaotic style refuses to conform to a traditional narrative form, mixing poetry and prose, changing scene and setting, rejecting linear temporality and any characteristic plot devices. The characters and their environment become alien, unpredictable; disoriented and disorienting. This urban space, rendered so strange and unmappable, is reflective of the economical ‘systemic chaos/turbulence’12 of the 70s and 80s. The effects of this turbulence are uncertain. It could be seen as a signal of the breakdown of US hegemony, or as a symptom of a ‘reconstitution of the system on new foundations.’ Likewise, methods of retaining economic power in this chaotic CM’ phase are conflicted, as the ‘system seems to be moving “forward” and “backward” at the same time.’13 Like the economic circumstance which surrounds it, Dhalgren is a plenitude of directional confusion and contradiction. Bellona is a city where the sun does not rise and set in a fixed direction – therefore there is no longer a set east and west – and there appears a second moon in the sky. The North American’s relation to time and space – or the epistemologies they are understood by – is altered. Beneath a sky like ‘burning metal,’14 Reverend Amy Tayler preaches of ‘God’s womb punched inside out and blazing with her blood’:
Being is a function of time, ey, Martin? Well, now, where does that get us? Now seems pretty specious to me … for it’s just a hole, a little hole on whose rim we’ve been allowed, for an eye’s blink, to perch, watching that flow, terrible for all of us, tragic for some of us, in which the future hisses through to heap the potter’s field of the past […] Was it a heart of fire, up there, today? Or just a dollop of what burns, squeezed out of the cosmic gut […]
Maybe it was our sun, hurtling by, on its way somewhere else; and all that’s left to us now is to grow colder and older, every day in every way, gracefully as possible. How long did this light last?
Oh, my poor, sick, doomed, and soon to be obliterated children, ask instead how long is the darkness that follows it!15
The Reverend draws upon an ancient rhetorical tradition; she reminds her congregation of the brevity of human existence and the inevitability of death, a sermon of memento mori, of carpe diem. Yet as she presents an idea of time as predictable, irreversible, and linear and thus fatal, her speech does not conform to a stable concept of the temporal. While it is typical to imagine time as flowing onward into the future, the Reverend seems to envision time as also flowing backwards, pouring into the unmarked graves of a potter’s field. Here past and future are not discrete, but interdependent.
Additionally, the day is not something to be seized as much as something which does not exist; the moment is a hole which time flows through. Circular imagery decorates this turbulent temporal flow in the ‘hole’ and its ‘rim,’ in the ‘eye,’ and perhaps even in the image of clay turning in the potter’s wheel, while the sun is not round but is a ‘dollop of what burns […] hurtling by.’ Forms and the abstractions by which we understand and measure them are uncertain and unsettled in their cyclicality.
So how are we to think through all this chaos and confusion? The theorist Fredric Jameson claims that ‘the city itself […] has deteriorated or disintegrated to a degree surely still inconceivable in the early years of the 20th century, let alone in the previous era.’16 He suggests that we might think about the cultural evolution of capitalism (and about capitalism itself) ‘dialectically, as catastrophe and progress all together.’17 In other words, we have to commit to contradictory positions; maybe we have to recognise capitalism as ‘the best thing that has ever happened to the human race, and the worst.’
Why must contradiction lie at the core of our thinking? The term ‘dialectical’ has meant many different things to many different Marxist thinkers. In this case, what seems relevant is that the world is too complex for straightforward formulas and facts. Our minds are not equipped for truth, perhaps precisely because it is singular truth that we usually seek. Every time we fully understand some urgent moral or political problem, we find we have left something forgotten or unsolved, or that our definitive answer contains its own antithesis. So we must rely on dialectical theory that is in constant motion, contradicting or ‘negating’ itself, approaching things in reversals of the flow of our thinking, seeking truth within the opposite of what we claim to know. This is demonstrated in Dhalgren, as Kid remembers a ‘math instructor’ at ‘Columbia.’
“A true proposition,” she had explained, rubbing chalky fingertips on one another, “implies only other true propositions. A false one can imply, well, anything, true, false, it doesn’t matter. Anything at all. Anything…”
As if the absurd gave her comfort, her perpetual tone of hysteria had softened momentarily.18
At the same time, it is not only because the world is messy and complicated that such dialectical thinking becomes necessary. It is also because the intellectual tools we are equipped with have evolved within a system – capitalism – that constantly generates misinformation and opacity, a system that must divide and mislead us in order to propagate itself; a world which generates ‘knowledge’ and expects belief without any real experience but only on the basis that it is named fact; a system within which dialogue such as this can occur:
“A thousand people are supposed to be here now. Used to be almost two million.”
“How do you know, I mean the population?”
“That’s what they publish in the paper.”19
Jameson also acknowledges that the demand to think dialectically is troubling. In fact, dialectical perspectives are potentially paralysing, ‘systematically obliterating possibilities of action under the impenetrable fog of historical inevitability.’20 Is this not the same feeling expressed in Delany’s science fiction as the Reverend speaks of ‘watching that flow, terrible for all of us, tragic for some of us’? The same doctrine of inevitability, of apocalypse, and of fluidity and chaos which is both liberating and immobilising?
Bellona is presented as a space of urban segregation, where ‘the poor people … and that pretty well means the black people – have never had very much,’ and now have ‘even less.’21 When Reverend Amy Tayler preaches, it is to black people; it is to them that she delivers her deterministic sermon. The chief protagonist, Kid, wanders the streets of Bellona and wonders whether the shape and the language of the city – the ‘line[s]’ of it – could be known by anyone from outside the urban space:
Anyone sensitive to language, living in this mess/miasma, must applaud it. Is there any line in it, however, that would be comprehensible outside city limits? Five were sitting on the steps. Two leaned against the wrecked car at the curb. Why am I surprised that most of them are black?22
There are levels of opacity in Delany’s Bellona. In this moment, Kid considers how opaque the city’s lines would seem to anyone looking at it without having directly lived it. As he ponders this, Kid’s own reactions seem strange to him. He sees black men leaning against a wrecked car and wonders why he is ‘surprised’ that they are mostly black. Understanding of the cultural lines and sensitivity to the language of the urban space is beyond Kid. This mingles with an image of immobilisation, as the five men who provoke his reaction are posed around a ‘wrecked car.’
In Bellona, cars are rarely mobile. The only vehicle movement which takes place is outside the city limits and on the highway, seen as Kid enters Bellona and when he fails in his attempt to leave. Cars drive past Kid only when characters such as Newboy leave Bellona, as ‘the car diminished between the grills of cable, hit the smoke, and sank like a weight on loose cotton.’23 Those who are permitted to leave Bellona are the privileged visitors of Mr. Calkins, publisher and editor of The Bellona Times. Their departures invoke imagery resonant with the exploitation at the roots of North American capitalist power, sinking on ‘loose cotton.’ The city does not provide such an exit for everyone. This is all too accurate in terms of North American geography and infrastructure, where getting around often depends on owning at least a little capital: your own car.
The first cars Kid sees on his entry into Bellona are creatures ‘squatted on skewed hubs, like frogs gone marvelously blind.’24 In Bellona, the motor car not only represents geographical immobility, but social and economic immobility:
the broken-down, decaying vehicles foreshadow the decline of the US automotive industry, the decline of paternalistic Fordism, and the decline of the consumerist dream of mass-produced abundance. The figures beside the car represent the black working class. These were the people who enabled an automobile industry, and who were fighting in the 1960s and 1970s – through groups such as the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement – for workplace safety and for a fairer share of the prosperity they created. Delany’s image foreshadows the firing of hundreds of thousands of workers, and the offshoring of production away from these class-conscious communities.
Jason Haslam writes insightfully of Bellona as ‘a metaphor for both the material existence of racial and class inequity […] and their erasure from the metanarrative of “American life”.’25 Bellona can be read as a surplus location: the region of appropriation and exploitation at the foundations of US economic dominance. It is a city specific to the cycle of accumulation under North American hegemony, an urban space which has been depleted of its energy and resources. In Delany’s novel, the effects of economic turbulence are not hidden. Bellona exists on the basis of such turbulence; it is defined by it. Its ‘streets seem to underpin all the capitals of the world,’ and simultaneously seem ‘an ugly mistake, with no relation to what I know as civilization, better obliterated than abandoned.’26 As a Native American protagonist, Kid is representative of the colonial violence at the origins of the USA. Arrighi considers an anomaly within the US cycle of accumulation: that this colonial violence has lingered within the very borders it established. Cycles of accumulation have often required the hegemonic state to plunder abroad, but US capitalism has also required the constant creation of frontiers within its frontiers. Colonial violence in the USA is also an ‘internal history,’ a kind of ‘territorialism “at home”.’27 The harvesting of the “four cheaps” – labour, food, energy, and raw materials – occurs both abroad and inside the North American city. Neighbourhoods are spatialised and divided in order for profit to be made.
Kid wonders: “Do you think a city can control the way the people live inside it? I mean, just the geography, the way the streets are laid out, the way the buildings are placed?”28 In North America, places have come to be defined by their economic function: Detroit, Michigan becomes the “Motor City”; Wilmington, North Carolina named the “Chemical Capital of the World”; Rockland, Maine known as the “Lobster Capital of the World”; Minneapolis, Minnesota as the “City of Flour and Sawdust”; and Tulsa, Oklahoma nicknamed the “Oil Capital of the World.” The deforested Portland, Oregon is “Stumptown”; Huntsville, Texas is the “Prison City”; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin is the “Brew City.” Places are nicknamed according to industrial use or post-industrial disuse, definitions which certainly have control over the lives of those who call those places home.
Another aspect of Arrighi’s theory which is perceptible in Dhalgren is that of the opaque layers of life, both above and below, which are present under capitalism. Again drawing on Marx and Braudel, Arrighi suggests that the sunlit ‘middle layer’ of the market economy is what is most easily seen, and therefore the focus of most historical social science and economic study. The layers less easily seen lie at the top and bottom. The ‘top layer’ is that of complex, mysterious capitalism – where power is presumed to be held – and the ‘bottom layer’ is the underside of accumulation, a realm of material life where the formalities of capitalism no longer apply, where everyday household labour and provisioning occurs, and exploitation takes place outside the law.
Both the arcane top layer and the everyday bottom layer become shadowy zones, zones d’opacité;29 ‘erasures’ which power the North American ‘metanarrative.’ The convoluted, opaque landscape of the ‘shrouded city, like something crusty under smoke’ that Kid navigates contains elements of this opaque lower zone of everyday life you cannot quite see clearly, ‘its streets stuck blind in it, its colors pearled and pasteled; so much distance […] implied in the limited sight.’30 Additionally, in Kid’s desire to find and get answers from those within the upper zone, the difficulties of accessing the top layer are demonstrated. He searches in vain for Mr. Calkins and for the monastery. Even once Kid is invited to the Calkins,’ what he desires most – ‘information’ about his host – is denied him by the ‘overdetermined matrix.’31 Kid finally reaches the monastery and speaks to Mr. Calkins, asking him, ‘is the Father a good man?’ while trying not to sound upset, wanting to know so he can ‘live here […] in Bellona.’
“You’re afraid that for want of one good man the city shall be struck down? You better look back across the train-tracks, boy. Apocalypse has come and gone. We’re just grubbing in the ashes. That simply isn’t our problem any more. If you wanted out, you should have thought about it a long time back.”32
Kid receives no answers; the opaque upper layer is not breached. He does not know if the Father is a good man or a bad man. His questions are openly denied answers. Bellona is defined as a post-apocalyptic city: a place of survival and not a place of industry, progress, and prosperity. Yet while it is post-apocalyptic, it is not postcapitalist. Rather, Bellona is representative of the exploited ecological surplus of urban space; no longer a frontier because it has been emptied of resources, left as the waste of a cycle of accumulation which it is bound to but does not benefit from. Bellona, like many other American cities, is named according to its use – after a Roman goddess of war – fitting for a place of empire, tumult, disorder, and violence which is frequently racialised and sexualised. This is an urban landscape which reflects cycles of capitalist accumulation in multiple senses. It is reflective in its chaotic instability, particularly when regarded in its mid-Seventies moment of publication.
It also reflects the cycle’s dependency on exploitation for value. It provides insight into the layers which constitute human life: the opacity which keeps answers hidden, keeps capital elusive, and keeps hegemonic power in place. A city where ‘time . . . leaks; sloshes backwards and forwards, turns
up and shows what’s on its . . . underside. Things shift.’33
Delany, in an interview, speaks of Dhalgren as a book which ‘confirms’ and ‘redeems’ experiences of unstable and disrupted city life.34 This is science fiction which elucidates the exploitation which lies in the middle of a ‘Megalithic Republic’ founded on territorialism and oppression, whose cycle of accumulation pockmarked it with many Bellonas as it moved through its extended phase of CM’
accumulation. Delany demonstrates what Donna Haraway claims, that ‘the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.’35 Bellona exists. It existed at the time of Dhalgren’s publishing and it exists today. If it is difficult to pin down Dhalgren as science fiction, it is perhaps because it is too real, too relevant. Dhalgren is a book which is aware of ‘the black market underside of this constant economy of misrecognition, this misery cognition.’36 Delany’s characters are bound to the cycle of the sporadic narrative just as we might perceive ourselves as bound to economic circumstance. In writing this science fiction, Delany is perhaps ‘trying to get with that undercommon sensuality, that radical occupied-elsewhere, that utopic commonunderground of this dystopia, the funked-up here and now.’37
Dhalgren is concerned with the fate of US hegemony, and with the uncertainty that capitalism has produced: the duality of its unsustainability and seeming inevitability. Bellona is a cityscape which has been devastated by the cycle of accumulation and taken off the map. It echoes postmodern anxieties expressed by Jameson as he suggests that we must find new methods of spatial and social mapping in order to navigate a land so affected by late capitalism and the culture produced by it. Dhalgren sits somewhere between dystopia and utopia; it refuses categorisation. Bellonas, not only in North America, but perhaps in every area of urban exploitation, become their own kind of ‘mess/miasma’ with unique languages and codes which offer glimpses of the underside of accumulation. While perhaps transparency at the top level of the economy is not finally possible, books such as this can help us reach a better understanding of the bottom economic level: the district of everyday material life, where neither free markets nor capitalist-monopolists rule, but where value is nevertheless often taken by force and where exploitation is felt.
By engaging with these urban complexities, Delany does not prophesy of what will come of late US capitalism, but gives insight into the complex historical and apocalyptic consciousness that has been cultivated. Those who read Dhalgren and who consider the power of economics in the world today, may identify with Kid, knowing that
It is not that I have no future. Rather it continually fragments on the insubstantial and indistinct ephemera of then. In the summer country, stitched with lightning, somehow, there is no way to conclude; but here, conclusion itself is superfluous.38
- Samuel Delany, Dhalgren (New York: Vintage, 2001) p.429.
- Ibid. p.426.
- Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 1994), xi.
- Ibid. p.4.
- Ibid. p.6.
- Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Time (London: Verso, 1994) p.307.
- Ibid. p.9.
- Danny Brown, ‘Fields,’ XXX (2011), Fool’s Gold Records (1:00).
- Jason Moore, ‘The End of Cheap Nature,’ Structures of the World Political Economy and the Future of Global Conflict and Cooperation, ed. Christian Suter and Christopher Chase-Dunn (LIT, 2014), p.286.
- Samuel Delany, Dhalgren (New York: Vintage, 2001), p.3.
- Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 1994), p.80.
- Ibid. p.80.
- Samuel Delany, Dhalgren (New York: Vintage, 2001), p.481.
- Ibid. p.525.
- Jameson, Frederic, Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1984), p.76.
- Ibid. p.86.
- Samuel Delany, Dhalgren (New York: Vintage, 2001), p.423. The math instructor is probably thinking of what, in formal logic, is sometimes known as the principle of explosion.
- Ibid. pp.22-23.
- Jameson, Frederic, Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1984), p.76.
- Samuel Delany, Dhalgren (New York: Vintage, 2001) p.663.
- Ibid. p.830.
- Ibid. p.425.
- Jason Haslam, ‘Memory’s Guilted Cage: Delany’s Dhalgren and Gibson’s Pattern Recogniton,’ English Studies in Canada 32.1 (2006), p.48.
- Ibid. p.83.
- Samuel Delany, Dhalgren (New York: Vintage, 2001), p.395.
- Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 1994), p.60.
- Samuel Delany, Dhalgren (New York: Vintage, 2001), p.279.
- Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 1994), p.24.
- Samuel Delany, Dhalgren (New York: Vintage, 2001), p.425.
- Ibid. p.715.
- Ibid. p.820.
- Ibid. p.462.
- ‘The Semiology of Silence,’ www.depauw.edu/sfs/interviews/delany42interview.htm [Last accessed: 03/01/2018]
- Donna Haraway, ‘A Cyborg Manifesto,’ The Haraway Reader (New York: Routledge, 2004), p.8.
- Ibid. p.51.
- Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (New York: Minor Compositions, 2013) p.5. The undercommons has to do with fighting the existing
system of oppression, while also recognising that being inside this system makes it almost impossible to know in detail what you want instead. In a 2012 interview with Stevphen Shukaitis, Harney suggests the undercommons is “a kind of way of being with others.” The undercommons also recognises that nothing can make up for the damage and loss that has already occurred. But it is a poetic term, as well as a theoretical term, and it is difficult to summarise: you need to read the book. In fact, since the undercommons also has a lot to do with conducting resistance stealthily, while putting up the appearance of a professional career (e.g. as an academic), maybe the term is deliberately mysterious. Perhaps anti-capitalist activism has learned a trick or two from capitalism?
- Samuel Delany, Dhalgren (New York: Vintage, 2001), p.236 and p.2025.