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Haunting and Plague: Covid-19 in a posthuman world

Themes: Covid19, threats to the body, haunting of abandoned public spaces, post- humanism

“In contamination, we find our ways of symbiotic survival and sustenance, our creativity and care – only through relations of transformation we can become, we can grow, we can learn. Contamination, however, is not a neutral state, and it cannot be controlled … Living within contamination is living within the omnipresence and inescapability of uncertainty. It is not a state of choice or control, but care.”  (Wołodźko 2018). “Embracing contamination is staying with the trouble, its anxiety, its uncertainty.” To be haunted by it.

Biocapitalism- the body as commodity

“Celebrating” essential workers while refusing the raise the minimum wage.

Access to testing and vaccinations-will our bodies be the metric for global movement?

Social class-Quarantining in the “second home” for the elite versus the rising rates of eviction, especially in communities of color.

In a posthuman context, who or what is determined as surplus?

Shelly’s Franksenstein speaks to Enlightenment science the way that hauntology might speak to AI now:

Both reveal the chasm between those with access and privilege within the mainframe bio- technical paradigm, and the labor of colonized and disenfranchised (surplus) persons … how we are all little more than body parts harvested for re-assemblage In a brave new world we are forced to create but will never live to see.

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein – “creature” as the doppelganger for the “human” and capital.

And the revenge (Haiven, 2020) of the monster and the hatred of the creator toward that which it has created represents the dominant racist patriarchal capitalist system which despises the “surplus” human capital its system has created (i.e. slavery)

The imagined fear of revenge for which the oppressor must “strike first” and destroy the fear, the haunting. And likewise, the creature wreaks vengeance on his “master.” 

“Haunting” of dying public spaces

In hauntology, the ghost plays a crucial role in this destabilization via its characteristic uncertainty. As Liz Roberts explains, a hauntological position ‘is one of deliberate indeterminacy, enforced hesitancy or uncertainty over presupposed givens and operations involving visibility and invisibility that constitute our reality’ (2012, 393). (Buser)

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

“AI is the Frankenstein’s creature for our century. It will eventually emerge – like a ghost from its machine – to destroy its makers and the whole of humanity.” (Haselby)

This surplus othering of human into spare parts, dead labor, or ghosts in the machine echo Derrida’s suggestion that “the ghost exists although we often do not see it”.   (Maccioni) Therein lies the haunting. In other words, the ghost is uncontrollable and ever-present. It has no concepts of space and time, but rather, appears whenever and wherever it may. In this sense, it is surely not dead, but rather, undead, immortal even. 

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