Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, TechnoLogics

Review by Amit S. Rai

Gray Kochhar-Lindgren. TechnoLogics: Ghosts, The Incalculable, and the Suspension of Animation. Albany: SUNY Press, 2005.

[1] In Technologics, Gray Kochhar-Lindgren begins his psychoanalytically inflected study of the West's digital infosphere with the following truism: "The order of the alphabet, as well as the logos of chronos, is being transformed. These complications at the end of the line, which of course does not simply vanish, have implications for all of our categories of experience, including the very possibility of subjectivity and the generation of meaning for the future of what is coming to be called the 'posthuman'" (1).

[2] The posthuman (in the wake of such diverse critics as Katherine Hayles, Mark Hansen, Luciana Parisi, Brian Massumi, and Judith Halberstam) has emerged as a kind of catch-all phrase for (most often) subjectivity in the post-post-modern West. But only the West? I say immediately that, despite its failure to grasp the political and economic implications of ontological analyses of representation-in-technology, Gayatri Spivak's essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?" remains to this day an important starting point for an analysis of the post-human in a transnational frame. That frame would include minimally the flows of labor and services from the global South to the North (and back) as accumulation proceeds apace in both capital and life itself (affect). Without this crucial – one might even say determinative – framing, we would miss the full force of Spivak's question in the contexts of a globalizing infosphere.

[3] That having been said, Kochhar-Lindgren's treatment of both this globalizing condition and the questions that may respond effectively to it is nuanced and careful. His psychoanalytic project, "dependent as it [is] on the unconscious and its nonrepresentability as a thing-in-itself – and thus always dependent on a temporal detour of signification" (9), disrupts the wish of immortality and the overcoming of nature that drives the technologics. The nature of this logic is centrally one of disorienting linear temporality, where, following the later Jacques Derrida, perverse events and ironic reversals reconfigure all dichotomies and release the uncanny (15).

[4] The return-release of the uncanny, however, turns out to be an ancient ruse: the reconsolidation of the organic body: "As organic beings, we are being (retro)fitted by the essence of technology even as we fit all of nature to fit in with our demands for knowledge and resources" (19). The critique of the cyborg as prosthesis, that is as a quantitative multiplicity of technology added on to a human-organic substrate, has been definitively critiqued by, among others, Diane Currier and Luciana Parisi. Indeed, to think of machinic assemblages as pregiven misses the qualitative multiplicity (a self-differing continuum) that processes of assembling bodies and technologies imply.

[5] But this study falters in its insistence that the political implications of the posthuman condition can be addressed with an analysis that remains at the level of resemblance and its many aporias. Kochhar-Lindgren argues that [t]he ontology of the clear and the distinct, the fantasy of a purely rational methodology that will forever unveil the face and the body of the world, has given way to hauntology. And phenomenology, the sunstruck science of the appearance of appearances, must also, in the transepochality of the posthuman, be complemented by phantomenology, the (non)science of dusk and the night. Each formation has its temporality, and every temporality has its language" (200). Of course, given the heavy debt the author owes to Derrida, Lacan, and the phenomenological tradition, one should expect nothing less. But something decisive is being missed given that this aporetic critique remains largely a question of the future of consciousness hypostasized as language. The contemporary technologics of global capital, in fact, suggest that when our biological substrate becomes data (DNA, the global genome) and when data is made flesh (distributed self-organizing networks in dynamic interface with carbon-based life, pervasive but unequally accessible from North to global South), what is at stake is not the aporias of consciousness but the becomings of a transversally assembled body.

[6] It is in the emergence of these becomings, which capital is also investing in and with new technologies as it attempts to both goad and preempt emergence (of microbial life, population-risk, catastophe-security) – it is in these becomings that we must extract something that will have been known as the untimely.