David Rieder and Matthew Levy
3, No. 1, Fall 2000
About the Authors
Table of Contents
For several reasons, the allusion to two-faced Janus on the front cover seems an appropriate figure for this issue. For one, the issue was developed during the rise and fall of the Y2K frenzy. As the god of gates and doorways, beginnings and endings, Janus symbolizes change and transition, two themes inextricably associated with this "millenium issue."
Furthermore, like many projects characterized as post-something, there is an indebtedness to the past in the act of looking forward. To borrow a term from N. Katherine Hayles, Janus' two faces evoke the skeumorphic logic of our digital lives. Change comes so quickly, from where would we draw the rhetorical means to represent it? We have no recourse but to appropriate inherited images and rhetorical structures, like the file folders represented on the desktop of a computer, which are no less useful for being inappropriate. The technologized two-faced Janus at the gateway to this issue underscores the debt to the past owed of every forward-looking gesture.
Finally, Janus recalls a nonlinear cultural logic often repressed in our Western philosophical tradition, a logic which allows for eruptions and emergences. According to Ovid, Janus was known as Chaos when the four elements (air, fire, water, and earth) were still a formless mass. As the elements separated, Chaos took the form of Janus, but her two faces continue to represent the confusion of her original state.
Techno-Janus does not proceed by way of identification, non-contradiction, and the excluded middle. As Victor Vitanza argues in Negation, Subjectivity, and the History of Rhetoric, "There are a number of ways of thinking about identification. The one that I'm against is by way of the negative. You see, I, instead, identify with the third man/woman, or the excluded middles" (21). Vitanza cites Donna Haraway, from her "A Manifesto for Cyborgs":
Cyborg politics insist[s] on noise and advocate[s] pollution, rejoicing in the illegitimate fusions of animal and machine. These are the couplings that make Man and Woman so problematic, subverting the structure of desire, the force imagined to generate language and gender, and so subverting the structure and modes of reproduction of Western identity, of nature and culture, of mirror and eye, slave and master, body and mind.
Vitanza concludes, "So, I'm very interested in excluded thirds (or middles, or muddles). . . . I search for third subject positions-that-would-not-be positions" (22).
So are the writers in this issue.
The muddled face of our techno-Janus expresses the potentialities that digital technologies make manifest today. As Nick Land outlines in an article entitled "Circuitries," digital technologies are "irreducible to the traditional political conception of power based on a dyadic master/slave relation." And as described by thinkers as different as Kevin Kelly and Gregory Ulmer, digital technologies epitomized by the logic of the network necessitate a new way of thinking about the economy, nature, and even disciplinary knowledge. Our new approaches hope to be Janus-like third positions that rejoice in these 'illegitimate fusions.'
With all of this in mind, a post-digital issue requires the study of a wide range of topics in order to resist the binary trap of disciplinary identities positioned "before" or "after" the impact of the computer. Yet, in line with Vitanza, Haraway, and Land, we favor a disciplinary approach that is unafraid to engage in "cybernautic drift," Land's phrase for the schizoid desire these soft technologies make available to us.
For some, a call for post-disciplinarity will be read as a call for interdisciplinarity. We are aware of Stanley Fishıs take on interdisciplinarity in Professional Correctness. Fish observes that dismay at specialization and the fragmentation of knowledge motivates most calls for interdisciplinarity, which rest on the assumption that the constraints imposed by disciplines could be overcome. Fish reminds us that disciplinary restraints are not merely responsible for what we canıt see, but enable whatever we do.
The positing of an extra-disciplinary place from which we can pick and choose from the disciplines depends on a faith in a nonspecific generalized language game or some common human capacity of Reason that can override the competing claims that emerge from the contingencies of situatedness. We hold with Fish that there is no metalanguage and there is no abstract Reason capable of neutrally adjudicating between interests.
Nevertheless, disciplines stretch, morph break off and found new directions. If Fish is right that disciplinarity is inescapable in the academy, then we advocate a multiverse of single-member disciplines. At one point or another, every article/project in this issue partakes of the chaotic spirit of Janus, as they reevaluate our past projections of digitality and imagine a post-digital future. In the spirit of techno-Janus, we hope that you, too, will enjoy this issue of Enculturation.
Fish, Stanley. Professional Correctness: Literary Studies and Political Change. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995.
Land, Nick. "Circuitries." Deleuze & the Transcendental Unconscious. Ed. Joan Broadhurst. Warwick, UK:PLI, 1992. 217-235.
Vitanza, Victor. Negation, Subjectivity, and the History of Rhetoric. NY: State University of New York Press, 1996.
Copyright İ Enculturation 2000
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