Enemies of The New: Transhumanism, Blackness, and Fleshless Imaginaries
Daniels, Jalen Tyler
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CitationDaniels, Jalen Tyler. 2021. Enemies of The New: Transhumanism, Blackness, and Fleshless Imaginaries. Bachelor's thesis, Harvard College.
AbstractIn a careful exegesis of transhumanism’s leading philosophical and sociopolitical figures (e.g., Max More, Peter Thiel), Daniels shows how deeply (if confusedly) transhumanist discourse imagines itself as pursuing Nietzsche’s exhortation to courageously recreate oneself as übermensch. For them, technological innovation augurs an overcoming of the allegedly “entropic” problems of the broader society, including not just mortality and suffering, but even the archaic dilemma of the “race” idea. In a tour-de-force chapter of morally serious and subtle critical race theory, Daniels takes seriously the possibility that transhumanism and its “fleshless” ideals might resolve the difficulties that confront most efforts at defending post-racialism as ideal or politics, breaking through the problems of epidermalization and fixed signification that theorists from Alexis de Tocqueville to Frantz Fanon have argued make racialization so resilient. Yet, despite this self-conceit as the harbingers of transcendent (and post-racial) progress, Daniels powerfully unmasks – through a brilliant close reading of the Black Mirror episode, “The Black Museum” – how transhumanist discourse can nevertheless replicate the underlying necropolitical power dynamics and racialized conceptual underpinnings of the Humanism it claims to repudiate: the fixed idea of “Man” (the White, Bioeconomic male subject) as The Human. In this vein, transhumanism recodifies and amplifies Man’s violent power structure under the seductive name of the ‘new.’ The transhumanist imaginary does not escape flesh but creates new flesh—new Blackness—upon which Man’s carnalities are projected. In other words, the transhumanist failure to transcend stems from transhumanism’s refusal to interrogate how its animating aversion to suffering, fragility, humiliation, and death/finitude compel projections of these horrors onto the reliable Other of “Black” flesh and Blackness that it inherits from much older discourses of the Human. In transhumanism, Man (as an epistemological project) refuses to die. To conclude her pathbreaking project, Daniels offers an original and pointed argument in favor of a new humanism, one which “hold[s] onto the transhumanist values of unfixity, endless possibility, and limitlessness, but actively place[s] meaning back into Human suffering.” This meaning, Daniels argues, in a cascading series of readings of W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Mayra Rivera, Cornel West, and Nietzsche, is best rediscovered via an embrace (a “leaning” into) those Black theorizations (folk and formal) of suffering and struggle that confront death forthrightly. Precisely at the site of Man’s symbolic negation, therefore, Daniels argues we discover death not as something to be extinguished, but as the dynamic force that undergirds all transformative possibility and overcoming for human beings collectively. By foregrounding Man’s negation as our critical vantage point, death and suffering come to serve as the catalytic forces towards revolutionary transcendence.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37371466
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