“Chthulu plays no role for me” (at Viewpoint magazine)

Head’s-up: the brilliant Marxists at Viewpoint magazine published my essay on Donna Haraway. It’s received a hell of a lot of eyeball traffic and even prompted an email from the great DH herself, so, in light of all this engagement, there are likely to be further developments, refinements or perhaps retractions of this critique! Stay tuned. 

I remain for reading Haraway against Haraway. For all her chastisement of “bitter cynicism”, and for all her talk of mud and piss and worms, the chanting goddess who has displaced the earlier cyborg, at least in the pages of Staying with the Trouble, is too much of a clean-living misanthrope – and above all, too much of a pessimist – to be a comrade. Meanwhile, her neglected (if not disavowed) framework of cyborgicity becomes a more and more potent heuristic for thinking class composition and embodying its struggles every day. Cyborgs for Earthly Survival! was the slogan Haraway submitted to Socialist Review. That spirit still lives in the interstices of Staying with the Trouble. Part of our task is indeed “not to forget the stink in the air from the burning of the witches, not to forget the murders of human and nonhuman beings in the Great Catastrophes named the Plantationocene, Anthropocene, Capitalocene”. Part of it is, indeed, to “move through memory to represencing;” to grow capable of response; to become kin; and to “stay with” trouble. But the main thing is to make an altogether bigger kind of trouble.

Exciting times…


This essay of mine was published at The New Inquiry two months ago. Better late than never to log it on my blog, right? It’s called AMNIOTECHNICS, which is the name of the concept I’d like to explore in a book.

Amniotechnics is the art of holding and caring even while being ripped into, at the same time as being held. It is protecting water and protecting people from water. I want a generalized praxis of this, which doesn’t forget the importance of holding mothers and thwarted mothers and, yes, even wannabe “single fathers,” afloat in the juice; breathing but hydrated; well-watered but dry. I hope it is possible even for fantasists of ectogenetic progeny, like Frankenstein, who have dreamed of a birth unsullied by a womb, to become capable amniotechnicians in time. Their worldviews may not hold water, but I think they too have to be held. It is possible for any of us to learn that it is the holders—not the delusional “authors,” self-replicators and “patenters”—who truly people the world. “Water management” may sound unexciting, but I suspect it contains the secrets to the kinmaking practices of the future.


If this grabs you, go read the rest of it over at TNI, email or tweet at me with your thoughts and criticisms, and watch this space for a longer version.

On the Future Genealogy of the Date

On the Future Genealogy of the Date

I’m extremely excited to be published in Blindfield journal, in response to their CfP on “housework”, & thrilled to have worked with such a great team of editors. My article on Moira Weigel’s new book, and dating as emotional labour, is now up!

By Sophie Lewis

What would the most thrilling and intimate moments in our collective social reproduction feel like in the cities of our dreams? It is far harder to answer this than to identify the lack in what we’ve currently got. Most people currently live for, in large part, the joy of flourishing in communion with their love-mates. Yet there is a dimension of burdensome labor to the process of tracking down those ‘other halves’ – as they are still called – just as there is work in the process of making a life with them, not least creating the home within which love can be tended. What one can think of, then, as the housework of finding and cultivating sweethearts is today more private and individualized than ever. At the same time, a certain forced collectivization of living has lately been imposed on more and more of us…

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linking the issues in the struggle for reproductive justice

whether the end-product of any given uterine activity is a cancer, a miscarriage, a termination or a live newborn infant, the very best of technological assistance should – clearly – be freely available to all.


re-blogging from movements@manchester:

Should we be doing more to link the issues in the struggle for reproductive justice? 

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Who will stop Roosh V from being murdered “in a private room”?


UPDATE Thursday 4th February; Valizadeh has publicly called off all of the global Return of Kings meetings he organised for this Saturday. Some of them may, of course, still be going ahead at the re-scheduled secret locations of which only long-time supporter-members have been apprised (plus, of course, some possible infiltrators who found a way around the ‘protocol’ and managed to pass themselves off as veteran creeps). But who cares? Recruitment has definitely been blocked. This is great news. Note, the meetings were originally intended to be self-importantly club-like, not secret, but a global feminist response first forced them “underground” (lol) and then terrified an overwhelmed, panicking Roosh V (who could not guarantee his followers’ safety) to call the whole thing off. So this is a victory for antifascist counter-mobilisation. The cynical agency-denying hot-takes about this that have been published e.g. at Vice by Matt Broomfield (joke’s on us, he played us! Roosh was just in it for the money!) are simply wrong, and don’t understand how social movements work. Media attention might boost book sales but doesn’t strengthen movements. Victories do.

The proposed meet-up of pro-rape a.k.a. “mens’ rights” activists all over the world on February 6th February 2016 is an attempt by ‘pick-up artist’ Daryush Valizadeh, or Roosh V,  to use his minor personality cult to boost a global right-libertarian antifeminist movement. Valizadeh’s call is for a ‘return of kings‘, but his platform is not even “just” for re-instating the formal attributes of historic white male absolute sovereignty over a sex-class whose members could be owned and controlled as chattel. He is for the Ayn Rand fantasy of capitalism, and he is for a kind of fascism: all real men are rapists, in his worldview, and should be empowered to be so; people on welfare should be dead; real men should ‘marry off’ their daughters very very young, so as (no irony detectable here) to protect them from other men’s violation. Etcetera etcetera.

A child could instinctively fill in the rest of the Roosh V agenda because – guess what – it’s not an iconoclastic or a subversive or even a particularly egregious take on gender. Rather, his brand aggressively repackages an everyday ressentiment-fueled hegemonic logic we encounter at every level of life in capitalist heteropatriarchies, from courts to cuts to blowback against campus consent classes. At the same time, his fascoid proposals resonate within Pegida, Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Donald Trump camp. So I think there’s a case to be made that Roosh V’s Return of Kings launch deserves a response of the same calibre received by the extremely bloody January fascist mobilisation in Dover, UK, thanks to the excellent counter-mobilisation efforts of (primarily) the Anti-Fascist Network (AFN). This involved a “barrage of bricks”.

Valizadeh is a person who thinks that he has been historically emasculated and oppressed by feminism and that one example of this is the social requirement that he wash his clothes and “wipe [his] ass thoroughly”. So it’s legitimate to ask: why bother with him? Well, Valizadeh’s stated rationale for legalizing rape is obscene, sociopathic, but it (sort of) expresses a core fantasy associated with private property under neoliberalism. That’s something about it I think might be worth people dwelling on for a second. I don’t want to link to it so I’m going to paraphrase: rape, he says, should be legalized on private property, so that (a) women, to avoid rape, will learn how to, er, never go into the private properties of men they don’t trust; and (b) women, if they’re ever being dragged towards the lair of a predator, will put up a massive fight while still within earshot of the public sphere, thus guaranteeing that someone (law enforcement) is guaranteed to intervene.

It’s a jolly old bad faith attempt to disguise the view that women should be raped as much as possible as a policy suggestion for minimizing rape. Such doublethink is in itself nothing out of the ordinary in a world full of wars for peace, jails for justice, and forced evictions for prosperity. While, obviously, everything fundamental about that position is wrong, he recognizes the truth (from the wrong side) that the state disempowers women; that it does not keep women safe from sexual violence. That Roosh’s modest proposal hinges entirely on the state-backed shibboleth of private property is merely one of the inherent banal contradictions in American libertarianism.

But it does something other than paradoxical piss-taking and gas-lighting, too: it re-casts the ‘private’ and domestic sphere in a very neoliberal way as a gender-neutral unit for the individual. In this imaginary, homes are isolating venues for a myth of rugged individual autonomy, rather than one of the key sites in which women generally cohabit with others as they reproduce the world with their care work. In reality, of course, women and children are by default, more than by consent, in close proximity to men within buildings because, for one thing, the latter two categories begin life inside the very entrails of the former. 

In Rooshworld, every man has his own man-pad. (Maybe women, whose ownership of private property isn’t envisioned, do live collectively – presumably all together in a moated sorority house. It’s unclear.) So, even though Roosh probably employs several cleaners, who are probably women of colour, he doesn’t try to re-affirm an elementary sub-component of the capitalist economy, the private home, as the precinct of a patriarch under whom a gendered subordinate’s (invisible) labour of social reproduction takes place (cleaning, cooking, raising kids, comforting/fucking the husband…). Instead, he implicitly re-genders or rather de-genders private space purely as a surface for consumption (of snacks, of “holes”…). The author of the Bang series envisions the domain of his most unfettered freedom from women to be his own (hopefully flammable) privately owned home address, because of his ability to erase women’s humanity completely within that domain. He models, for the men who follow him, a lonely, angry ‘neomasculinist’ king in his castle (which must be very good for the service economy).

But his suggestion that, if we want to avoid violence, we abstain completely from entering men’s private property, isn’t a bad utopian demand, at the end of the day. (I also support the related male separatists MGTOW – Men Going Their Own Way – for this reason.)

In many ways Return of Kings is mere backlash, a tantrum-like symptom of an old-school man’s world in terminal decline. In others, however, it operates as a neoliberal gamer’s innovation that combines feudal and fascist-futurist elements and poses a pretty credible threat to the already vulnerable and precarious victims of economically-enabled domestic violence (see Sisters Uncut). RoK believe themselves (of course) to be censored and persecuted; Valizadeh has issued a protocol for taking the 100+ meetings on Saturday underground. So: cis-het passing men, this is your opportunity to earn your cookies by transferring the labour of fighting male supremacy onto your own shoulders for a minute. Sign up and infiltrate the meetings. Organise for maximum impact. Consult and get directions from your local feminist group protesting the meeting, but do the difficult work yourselves. Go undercover. Smash, disrupt, expose the pro-rape movement.

Knowledge of Roosh V’s minions congregating in my city on Saturday successfully spurred me to want to add these points to the excellent deluge of analysis combating them in print: notably Katie Baker and Eleanor Robertson. I started this post thinking I would keep it shorter even than it’s become. So let me end here. I would like to know what Valizadeh thinks he consents to when he voluntarily enters a private room with his class enemy (me, for example). And, given his desire to legalize violence in ‘private’ space, would he waive the right to the kind of rights and state protections white people (especially) enjoy against murder? If not legal, is it wrong to murder Roosh V in a private room?

Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor

Late last year, Society & Space (affiliated with Antipode Journal) published an essay I wrote on Kalindi Vora’s book Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor (University of Minnesota Press, 2015). It is archived here at Radical Antipode. (My thanks to the excellent editor Andy Kent.)

Kalindi Vora, Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015. ISBN: 9780816693948 (cloth); ISBN: 9780816693962 (paper).


The last two paragraphs of my essay:

“How is a fetus produced?” (p.41)–and how should it be? Babies, insofar as they take the form of commodities, do not command the same political freight as isolated organs, or computer programming, or the affects of personal telephonic support. Yet the practice of transferring embryos and entire pregnancies to settings where “life” is cheap (the better to nurture the lives that are extracted there) forces us to reckon with a workplace politics of gestation which necessarily points beyond surrogacy as an “exception”, towards the work of so-called natural gestation (see Lewis 2015). Meanwhile, to come at denaturalizing the matter from a different angle: the development of methods of mitochondrial splicing now promises the possibility of increasing, beyond two, the number of a baby’s direct genetic parents. It is more pertinent than ever before, then, to further weaponize gene biologist’s Richard Lewontin’s already political claims that “DNA is not self-reproducing…it makes nothing…and organisms are not determined by it” (quoted on p.41).

Within this struggle for a liberatory mode of reproduction, it may not always be strategic to argue that care-based livelihoods are comprised of “labour” rather than something else (“vital energy”, “biology”) in order to win victories. In surrogacy, gestators may develop their challenges to “the assumption that the end product is a form of contract-protected property belonging to the originators of intention and DNA” (p.41) in different vocabularies. The Indian open-source programmers in Chapter 3 of Life Support had a collective notion of authorship at the same time as “the desire to keep the fruits of their labour ‘at home’” (p.101); as such, it would be interesting to inquire into possible analogous desires on the part of Indian gestational surrogates vis-à-vis the newborns they hand away; desires that may already have helped shape the 2015 ruling against private transnational “outsourcing” in their domain. What is “home”? How can we remake this world as a life-support for all its inhabitants? Might a demand to keep the strange fruits of hi-tech gestational labour “at home” articulate favourably with Haraway’s (2015) call to “make kin, not babies”?

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(Why We Can’t) Let the Machines Do It: A Response to Inventing the Future

Source: (Why We Can’t) Let the Machines Do It: A Response to Inventing the Future


Head’s up: the excellent blog The Disorder of Things is currently hosting a symposium on the new book by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, Inventing the Future.

I co-wrote (with the wonderful David M Bell from the University of Nottingham) an essay that responds to the book:

“(Why We Can’t) Let the Machines Do It: A Response to Inventing the Future”.

While you’re there, definitely also read the other, prior post that the symposium posted, which focuses on the ecological angle more exclusively. (“Postcapitalist Ecology: a comment on Inventing the Future“.) It is from a fellow member of the Out of the Woods writing collective (Joseph Kay) and it is fantastic.

Oh, and finally, weigh in – and watch this space. Conversations are happening on social media about the strengths and limits of ‘automationist’ anti-work. Out of the Woods will be posting a separate head’s-up and introduction to the two perspectives it helped produce on the type of analysis Srnicek and Williams offer.