Dirty Bomb Culture: A Social Science Fiction

Abstract  for colloquium on Drone Culture, School of the Humanities, University of Lincoln, May 24th 2014:


This paper is a response to a call by Benjamin Noys  to rehabilitate a thinking of negativity against the affirmationalist impulse of contemporary continental theory (2012 ix). Following Noys (2012 172), I claim the recovery of negative critique is not only a theoretical issue, but is a practical problem requiring new forms of actually existing radical subjectivities to emerge. In an society where surveillance has become an increasingly effective dominant principle: ‘Drone Culture’, it is important that these new forms of radical subjectivity become invisible. I offer two devices through which invisibility might be achieved: as  form of ‘collective political agency’ (Noys 2012), and Social Science Fiction, a writerly technique which dissolves the identity of the author into the story they are writing about ( Neary 2003).

The Social Science Centre was established in 2011 by academics and students at Lincoln outside of any formal university structures as a critical response to the massive rise in student fees and the withdrawal of all public funding for teaching the arts, humanities and the social sciences in higher education.  The Social Science Centre is a cooperative that provides free public higher education, managed by the members of the Centre on principles of democracy and equality. This cooperative model for higher education challenges notions of academic professional identity. The Social Science Centre’s very existence provokes a negative critique of academic life: suggesting that substantive critical thought might no longer be possible inside an institution founded on the notions of student as consumer and pedagogy of debt. Contra the pedagogy of debt, I argue the Social Science Centre is grounded in a pedagogy of  hate, rather than  Paulo Freire’s ‘pedagogy of love’, against what the neoliberal model of higher education has become.

Social Science Fiction is  a writerly  form of experimental social science (Neary 2003). My version of social science fiction involves using literary techniques derived from modernist literature,e.g., montage, cut-ups and  interior monologue, to represent the complex nature of social reality in a textual form (Lodge 2011). A key feature of this technique is the way in which it allows the author to deal with issues of identity and non-identity that get beyond the limits of traditional academic writing to create a condition of invisibility.

The substantive issue of the paper is a critique of increasing militarised state violence: drone culture, through an exploration  of leftist political violence –  as a very particular form of negativity (e.g. divine violence, Benjamin, Thesis IX 1968; emancipatory violence Zizek  2009 174; guerilla warfare Guevara 1961)  –  to assess its claims for legitimacy in response to state terror. The writerly exercise  remembers the  activities of The Angry Brigade in the UK in the 1970s ( Vague 1997,  Carr 2010, The Angry Brigade 1985) and the Baader-Meinhof group in the two Germanies before re-unification ( Aust 2008, Smith 2009, Baudrillard 2001). The paper concludes by reviewing some strategies  that have  emerged as forms of resistance to the authoritarian violence of the capitalist state and the ‘violence of abstraction’ (Lefebvre 1991 306) : invisibility (Invisible Committee 2009), class suicide (Freire 1978  103-104), going underground (Nuttall 1968) and the Zapatistas’ war against oblivion (Ramirez 2008 36).


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The Angry Brigade (1985) Documents and Chronology 1967-1984: http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/various-authors-the-angry-brigade-documents-and-chronology-1967-1984, accessed 16th February 2014

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