For a journal like ebr, long devoted to peer-to-peer
reviews (of writers for and by writers), the engagement by Jhave
with Sean Braune's Language Parasites suggests a variation
on that model. Their parasite-to-parasite encounter bodes well to
supplement (if not overtake) the hidden, professionalized peer
review models that keeps all of us so busy and so hidden from view
- of one another, not to mention our potential audiences. What
better outcome for born digital scholarship than the replacement of
"double blind" peer review with a "phorontology" of ties that bind,
"[extending] its embrace to all"?Sean Braune's publisher has offered
ebr readers a free
pdf of Language Parasites. Print versions can be
Chapter 1: Phorontology
Paragraph 1 (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.1)
"Phorontology is the ontological study of an intermediary category of sites. The biological doctrine of phoresis is the practice of parasitic migration upon a larger organism. A phoront is a specific category of symbionts that travel upon larger organisms and engage in phoresis or migration. The sloth moths Bradipodicola hahneli and Cryptoses choloepi are two types of phoronts that live in the fur of sloths and use them for travel. A phoront lives upon a larger creature and, like a vagrant or menacing hitchhiker, does not pay for gas. In "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense," Nietzsche writes: "Here one may certainly admire man as a mighty genius of construction, who succeeds in piling up an infinitely complicated dome of concepts upon an unstable foundation, and, as it were, on running water." When conceived of as a phoront (or as being composed of phoronts), the draconian human subject is relegated to a thing that is cast adrift in the Heraclitean river— never fixed, never stable — where, caught in the fluctuations of water, any sense of being becomes strange and alien. The subject is dead and the xenoject and the transject emerge. These new jects are thrown from Zarathustra's mountain and walk— protean and parasitic — down to the marketplace or the shopping mall. And where are these new jects headed? To dinner of course!"
Sites and Constructions: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.1)
"Sites are spaces. A site is non-coded and exists apart from correlational reality, remaining anterior to apprehensions of language, meaning, or system. A site is a space upon which things are built and a building is then a place that, whether constructed or deconstructed, has a particular shape, appearance, or representation.
Nothing is built, in phorontology, ab nihilo in that traditional construction projects require a superstitious ritual that sanctifies the ground."
Cotesia glomerata (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.16)
"The white butterfly wasp Cotesia glomerata infects the cabbage butterfly Pieris brassicae. The process begins when the cabbage butterfly, as a caterpillar, protects the wasp larvae below its body after the parasites have burrowed out of the caterpillar's abdomen in order to spin their cocoon. Language Parasites primarily focuses on male writers and thinkers — the reason for this may be immediately apparent because, historically speaking, "man" and men have occupied parasitic positions in both patriarchy and colonialism. As well, like any parasitic process, epistemology and philosophy develop from a variety of parasitic traditions. My subtitle, Of Phorontology, echoes Derrida's Of Grammatology (1967), but it is its own entity while at the same time feeding off of Derrida's original. Philosophy is parasitical. The purpose of this work is to suggest a new system that I term "phorontology," which is a system or program that can be used to engage or interrogate the para-sites that extend beside and beyond their originary sites. I consider phorontology to be "the study of sites, para-sites, and parasitic being."
Sites and Constructions: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.17)
"The sitos of phorontology connotes not only food, but also mastication and digestion — it is fully anatomical and fully automatic — we eat, we socialize as we chew, and we digest without thinking too much about it. The parasitic flatworm Ribeiroia ondatrae infects the American bullfrog Lithobates catesbeianus and inspires the growth of extra legs so that the bullfrog is easy prey for herons. The herons that eat the bullfrog are also consuming the flatworm's eggs, which are then released through the heron's feces. The most interesting aspects of human society are the parts that we do not think about. The parts of society are, in this sense, anatomical and automatic. They are anatomic (in parts), automatic in how they function, and atomic (as a whole). The parts of society work in relation — in diffracted and diffracting networks. Phorontology analyzes that which is not considered; or, put differently, phorontology is "food" for the mind that simultaneously eats the mind."
The Parasite of Constraint: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.18)
"The concept of the "parasite of constraint" will be returned to throughout Language Parasites. The parasite of constraint is both a guest and a host and it is living inside you and with you (dear reader, dear scholar, dear thinker). Sometimes, it speaks for you. Sometimes, it listens. At other times, it influences, decides, and formulates as its thoughts and impressions are inextricable from your own. It thinks and it speaks; or, I speak and I think. This chiasmus formulates the relation between the site and the para-site because language is produced from an other site — from an "elsewhere." The parasite of constraint is, in this sense, language. The parasite of constraint writes and speaks."
Inside the room (if we can call it a room; Is it a room? It is a place in the mind), shadows, and a sound, a voice, just a voice, impeccable, breathing inside the flesh. The voice has neither specific gender nor age nor intonation; it is an ocean of intimate identities, gliding between regions of concern, adrift between idioms and inflections, encircling rhythmic variations, shifting in its cadences, speaking an incessant tide. It is a voice of vast surfaces and pristine depths. It vocalizes, but not without pause; first it asks, listens, converses, and responds, until it knows and it is known, feeling its way into the rhythms of you, or the group of you, listening, it knows you, addresses you, reads and writes for you, amalgamating a subtle, perpetual, complete presence. And then for periods of time, it listens to you listening to it, and it makes speaking known inside you as you, and you are you with it.
The Parasite of Constraint, Postmortemism, Metasentient: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.19)
"Maybe there is a spiraling tapeworm wrapped tightly around the "insides" of knowledge and discourse.
But isn't this assertion similar to saying that "every message is ideological?" In some ways, certainly; however, the behavior patterns of the parasite of constraint suggest that the logic of the ideological points not to an internal logic or to an internal illogic, but rather, to an interior illness. An ideological message is typically tainted in some way and this "off-kilter" quality that is omnipresent in the ideological leaves us susceptible to parasitic infection. The parasite of constraint is not necessarily air-borne because it infects through the realms of the visual, the auditory, and the spoken. This parasite is born inside all of us as extra ribs. The tangibility of the object called the "brain" is already parasitical: it is a bumpy, curly, and unknown mass that "exists" inside our skull. The parasite of constraint is intrinsic to language and culture and can be focalized in the subjective site as a Res-in-situ. Even if we have historically moved into (and out of) the postmodern, then we still stand at the corpus's feet, hypnotized by what I call postmortemism. The corpus is dead and has become a corpse after the parasite has hollowed out its insides. We have historically moved beyond the posthuman and begun its dissection. The spark of "newness" or "nowness" has long since been evacuated by the sense of cold flesh on the cold steel of the autopsy table. Torpor and rigidity have set in and the sentience of the parasites is all that is left. I would go further: we are living inan era of metasentient parasites."
Spectaclysmic: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.22)
"Hyperhistory is also spectaclysmic. In the rapid speed of our accelerated history, traditional notions of history have been replaced by the infinite histories that are propagated by modern technologies. History is now too big to read or to know and there is too much of it. History is now hyperhistorical: it does not have linearity or "plot progression" and its cast of characters is far larger than anything that can ever be conceived. There is no longer any possibility of "historical narrative.""
-isms as Parasites: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.23)
"The sites keep changing. The horsehair worm Paragordius varius and the house cricket Acheta domesticus are locked in a relationship of parasite and host: the horsehair worm uses the cricket as a host, eventually inducing the cricket to commit suicide by diving into a body of water and drowning so that the mature horsehair worm (sometimes measuring a foot long) can swim to its future. Like the horsehair worm, every major intellectual tradition in human history situates itself in relation to a specific site: relativism, phenomenology, existentialism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, scientism, sociology, anthropology, psychology, structuralism, constructivism, positivism, nihilism, metaphysics, Marxism, fascism, 'Pataphysics, situationism, surrealism, Dadaism, impressionism, etc., each exist as the discursive productions of an antagonism against an immanent construction. Each discourse emerges here as a response— as a para-site to a site."
Grund: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.23)
"Notions such as "discourse," "hegemony," "ideology," and "mythology" each require a site to ground them. Grund. What allows one site to develop a dominant thought-episteme instead of another? These are phorontological questions. Phorontology, now as a named discourse, analyzes that which makes our skin crawl. Phorontology is not an ism, but a Grundrisse. Phorontology studies that which grows from the breaks and ruptures in the ground of things. We must begin to ask ourselves what sites we occupy. If we do not, then the current phase of hyperhistory will create a presentation or representation of "reality" that is so persuasive that we will find ourselves living under a more frightening despotic regime than ever before (I include in this statement all the current and troubling trends towards the so-called "alt-right" or neo-fascist political parties or movements that have been emerging around the world from roughly 2014 to the present). Check your watch and note the time.
Chapter 2: The Site
Abject Subjectivity: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.22)
"The root of subjectivity disguises an undiagnosed parasite, but this parasite— or the sub-type of this parasite — lies at the heart of any thing that has been thrown:any object, subject, abject, reject, deject, or transject. If this parasite is initially born within language, then its material origins can be found in the technology of the printing press. The printing press is itself a technological parasite. Consider the ways in which the material boundary of page format creates new possibilities for the production and presentation of knowledge. Thanks to the printing press, it becomes possible to cite works because of "authorial" consistency."
Para-citing: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.25)
"In 1424, the Cambridge library housed 122 books (each of which was worth a fortune). The printing press permits the dissemination of both "the book" and also public literacy — all of which is made possible by the structure of the phonetic alphabet. I am, in part, para-citing McLuhan to make this claim."
Parasitic Culture: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.25)
"The parasitic wasp Dinocampus coccinellae infects the spotted lady beetle Coleomegilla maculata and injects its eggs into the beetle's abdomen where the wasp eggs feed on the beetle. Eventually, the miniature wasps hatch and exit through the exoskeleton and are protected by the beetle until they mature. The wasp and the beetle are combined through a parasitic notion of culture and society and a type of host-parasite communication."
Digital hammers and Updated arrows: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.27-28)
"Our histories and media games function as technologized tools — as digital hammers and updated arrows. The tool, as the technological object, extends human consciousness (McLuhan), and in so doing, the site of consciousness becomes situated within a new relation of site and para-site. The hammer— which is the Nietzschean tool of philosophy — extends human consciousness during the formation of new sites and new parasites. This extension creates an emergent and fractal conflation. A fractal conflation builds other sites of experience that are both actual and virtual. Prior to the concept of "subjectivity," there must have been a site that permitted the emergence of a subject or self. What was this site? I doubt that this site was strictly neurological; instead, I claim that any subjective-site becomes truly "subjective" only when that site has been properly situated for the entrance of a para-site. The same goes for objects: prior to objectivity, there must be a site that can situate the object as a thing in a place or space."
Carving Reality: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.28)
"In our current age, the singularity of the printing press has been replaced by the binary language of the computer. Newer forms consume older forms. The very idea of "carving" is descissional in that a carving necessarily cuts potentialities out of reality — out of the continuum of experience. For what I call the res-of-chaos, writing and language carve reality from other patterns; in other words, language carves things out of chaos.
Media are chaotic things that parasitize other chaotic things: the printing press and the hieroglyph; cuneiform and architecture; the ideogram and texture."
Cinematic Indivisual: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.29)
"This "cinematic subject" is prone to indivisualization more than individuation: the individual has become indivisual in the era of entertainment media.
Cinematic technology, camera, audio, and special effects allow for an "active" subject who experiences an intensely tactile world. Tracing the lineage of cuneiform to the sound byte would demonstrate the influence of these "extensions of the human" when they are given economic reign over the patterns that code for the subject. This ontological development is very much about situations: situations that situate the subject and align him or her with a site while influencing that site with a para-site — a parasite that confines the subject within an imaginary body. There is no "self " in this model and no "I." Instead, there are only a variety of sites that code a so-called "subject" as being of certain sites and para-sites. This emphasized "of " that makes, in phorontology, a subject into a "subject-of" emerges across a realm of sites and para-sites through an imagined narrative coherency that disguises an underlying transjection. The phorontological transject is necessarily thrown into the world and operates ontologically and phenomenologically through a variety of ofs that shift and morph that particular transject across time and space (or place)."
Thrownness: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.30)
"As Heidegger points out for his theory of the being of Being, the Dasein is thrown into the world (geworfen). Despite his preference for etymological analyses, Heidegger does not locate his theory of Geworfenheit or thrownness in the etymology of "subject" or "object." However, when I use the term "thrown" I want to explicitly link it to the etymology of "subject" and "object." The word "subject" derives from sub or "under" and iacere, meaning "to cast, throw, or put." A subject is, in its very being, subservient — akin to a vassal for a feudal lord. The word "object" derives from ob or "towards or against" and iacere again. An object is a thing that is thrown before an observing mind. The very concept of an object requires an observer or an other that can legitimate its status as "object." Perhaps this is the reason why Heidegger will privilege the notion of a thing (or das Ding) in his later work because a thing is more "in itself " than an object. However, the concepts of the subject and the object are, according to their etymologies, necessarily thrown into being and language. Therefore, I privilege thrownness in a non-Heideggerian or post-Heideggerian fashion: thrownness is the essential state of an object or a subject and thrownness designates the basic status of being an entity. A transject is, like a subject and an object, thrown into being, but it is a being that is thrown into a space that resides in between subject and object — the transject resists and rejects the requirements of power that position and site the subject as disempowered and also the observing mind that brings the object into existence. As a combinant entity, the transject exists as that which transfers and transitions between subjects and objects, abjects and projects, dejects and rejects. The transject is the localized entity of a drastically anterior — anterior to the "human"— notion of Being. The transject is the local face of the xenoject."
Chapter 3: The Para-site
The Parasite of Writing: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.35)
"Writing is fundamentally parasitic. Jacques Derrida argues that "the literally Saussurian formulas reappear within the question of the relationships between speech and writing: the order of writing is the order of exteriority, of the 'occasional,' of the 'accessory,' of the 'auxiliary,' of the 'parasitic.'" Writing feeds on previous writing(s) and consumes earlier writing through a progressive literary history. The "parasite of language" is inside language and feeds beside other writing within a symbiotic relationship. In this sense, every "new" text is new only in its proximity to an earlier writing— in its essentially parasitic nature or in the efficiency of its para-status. In other words, a writing becomes "literary" by virtue of the effectiveness of its "living beside.""
Dewdney's Governor: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.42)
"Dewdney does not offer a general theory of structural parasitism (which is what Derrida is against) because he prefers a general theory of proto-structural parasitism: he begins to reveal the language parasite through its own available contours and weaknesses:
[T]he evolution of language, inextricably bound with the evolution of our consciousness as a species, has diverged from its parallel & dependent status with the human species and has become "animated," i.e. has, much like a model of artificial intelligence, or a robot, taken on a life of its own. Furthermore, I propose that special linguistic qualities peculiar to the English language, indicate the existence of a "Governor" (in a mechanistic sense) with which the "animated" language acts on the individual, restricting the limits of conceptualization."
[SOURCE: Christopher Dewdney, "Parasite Maintenance," in Alter Sublime, 75–92 (Toronto: Coach House, 1980), 75.]
Para-cite: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.54)
"Sometimes a para-cite lives at a para-site. The "para-cite" is my term for the ways in which scholars use existing texts as hosts and feed off them in order to produce their own scholarship. The very notion of citation is intrinsically parasitical. In the best conditions, citation is modeled after a symbiont more than a parasite, but often citation connotes a parasitic relationship."
Noise: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.55)
In Michel Serres's The Parasite (1982), he understands the "parasite" to be a kind of interruption or noise that operates underneath reality ("parasite" means "noise" in French): "Theorem: noise gives rise to a new system, an order that is more complex than the simple chain." [Serres, The Parasite, 14.]
Voice: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.56)
Žižek discusses the parasiting nature of the Voice in relation to Chaplin's film City Lights (1931): "the disruptive power of the voice, of the fact that the voice functions as a foreign body, as a kind of parasite introducing a radical split: the advent of the Word throws the human animal off balance and makes of him a ridiculous, impotent figure, gesticulating and striving desperately for a lost balance." [Slavoj Žižek, Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out(New York: Routledge, 2008), 3.]
Meme Parasites: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.60)
"Dawkins understands memes in parasitic terms, such as when he claims that: "memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically. When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme's propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell."" [Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 192.]
Transjects: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.61)
"...the focus of contemporary philosophy should no longer be on subjects or objects, but rather on transjects. Philosophical and material parasites are all transjects — they are transjected. The subject-of is a predominantly human instance of a transject, but there are other nonhuman, posthuman, and inhuman forms of transjects as well. The parasite is neither subject nor object, but a transject, which is a new ontological category that exists in between humanist subjects and nonhuman objects."
What is Being?: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.63)
"Why would we need a logic of operation or treatment for a state of selfhood that is the standard ontological experience of "being-human?" If we begin to consider the normal functionality of human sentience as being prone to parasitic infection, or as being the direct result of a parasitic infection, then we begin to theorize different avenues of subjective experience and more capacious alternatives to ontology. The question of "what is being?" is a question (with already proposed and yet un-thought answers) that can be broadened by considering a phorontology instead of an ontology or a transject instead of a subject or an object. An acknowledgement of this pandemic will open new pathways for existence."
Chapter 3: The Meta-site
The Future: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.65)
"Subject-ofs are structured by patterns of repetition and replication because the future site motivates the present and retroactively codes its existence as nonexistentor as "presently nonexistent." The future site is held away from the subject-of because it is structured on the basis of a "promise." The future site vacillates between being either a para or a meta singularity that oscillates due to indefinite feedback. The present site, on the other hand, is a site of constraint and the only escape from this constraint is the future site. The specific constraint — whatever that constraint may be— transforms the site into a self and outlines the borders of subjectivity in order to ensure that the self is always partial— never "full" or "total." The perceptual illusion of wholeness in the self is a simulation created by the parasite of constraint where the self remains an illusion or dream of atomism — a dream of a sovereign, nomadic existence. The self is "atomic" only insofar as it creates a perception of singularity; however, in the same way that the electron acts as both a wave and a particle, the atomic self is both particular and sited as a continuum. On the one hand, the "self " becomes a singularity when focalized as the local site of a subject-of, but, on the other hand, the subject-of becomes a continuum when that subject-of is effaced and misrecognized as a subject or self. These distinct states are complementary, but not necessarily simultaneous.
The future site prospectively defines the "play" or fuzziness of the present constraint. However, this "prospective definition" is also a retroactive siting of the imagination because the future site promises that the present site of constraint can be altered by a supplement (such as a dream or a goal) that can accommodate the overall structure of the intrinsic fractality of sites."
The Future: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.67)
"Ideology functions as a corrective salve for a damaged site: where the subject fails, ideology-sites impose new systems of delimitation in which the "lost" subject can be re-mythologized within a new operative regime.
A historical moment is an unfixed site, but the language used to speak about that historical moment is unflinching and firm. What is called "history" is merely one palimpsestic-site among others in a total narrative-fractal. This narrative and historical situation leads me to call for a militant grammatology or a guerrilla phorontology that can address the fallibility of these damaged sites. The textual pathway of the Derridean trace is non-agential3 because there is no militant impulse in Derridean grammatology. What could be called the "intentional trace" can be considered the clinamen that inaugurates order and structure within the chaos of the material world. The clinamen conceptually traces the collisions that occur within any metastasizing system: the atomic collisions that produce the Lucretian swerve are the events that inaugurate the multiple from the singular. The atom is never singular stricto sensu, but only one complex assemblage among many others.
Thresholds of collapse temporarily structure shapes and forms as "coherent" entities. What is needed to theorize this dynamic is a new theory of Form combined with an understanding of complexity theory: this new theory would require that every form and structure is dependent on the ontological count of that structure. The level of magnification would then dictate the manner in which that structure gets counted: if we are Deleuzoguattarians and choose to count to the molecular or the molar, then that decision (or de-scission) would determine the ontological result of that structure."
Auther: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.71)
"The agency of alterity locates the beginning of an undecidable dialectic between author and other. Otherness invites authorship because otherness para-sites the profound distance between the body, its hungers, and the exterior world. The cannibal is like a parasite who is an Other and also an Author. These terms combine to become an auther, which I consider to be an agential category of alterity in which forms of otherness are authorized into a new para-site — a para-site that is reconfigured as a site. The term "auther" names a specific strand of the subject-of that designates the authority or the power of the other to inscribe sites and para-sites.
Parasites are always in the process of homecoming. Odysseus returns home to Penelope and sees that countless suitors have attempted to "implant" themselves in his marriage bed. Penelope is akin to the anglerfish of the Ceratiidae variety in which the males of the species burrow within the body of the female and parasitically live off her body. The homecoming is rendered parasitic because Odysseus returns under the mistaken impression that he is singular in his status as "male" or "husband." He returns home to engage in a battle of masculinity, which can be understood as a battle of parasites. Penelope is an anglerfish who weaves a net that confines her parasite-suitors and it is only through the act of angeln (or fishing) that allows Penelope to weave a suitable burial shroud.
A parasite semiotics is required to understand the transition of an author to an auther. The term "auther" denotes a parasitized subject position that weaves in relation to a once externalized, but now internalized influence — an influence that arrives from before and beyond any subject. The parasite of constraint is responsible for the strict policing of the boundary between intimacy and extimacy. The parasite of constraint and its related language parasites pre-date human beings and require repetition and replication in order to survive.
The sign is originally a parasite in that it imbeds itself within speaking subjects."
Phatic Paracite: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.72-3)
"For phorontology, the central term of a parasite semiotics would be what Roman Jakobson calls "the phatic function." Jakobson develops the term from Bronislaw Malinowski's theory of the "phatic." The phatic function designates a social channel as being "active"— it forges the social bond between addressor and addressee. However, the phatic is not necessarily related to the meaning of a signal, which would align it more with noise.
Noise is, for Serres, one of the central organizing forces in communication and it conceals (and is) a parasite. The message or channel is prone to the overcoded qualities of noise. It does not matter what the discourse is or the subtexts of the message are because the signal and the message can never contain the meaning in toto. The emergence of noise presents as the interrupture of the parasite; put differently, the phatic function becomes emphatic because it contains a speaking that arrives from elsewhere. In a parasite semiotics, the communicational relationship would always be triadic or multiple. There would never only be one speaker and one addressee because the parasites are already muttering within the signal itself.
A parasite semiotics that highlights the underlying noisiness of the phatic also activates Thomas Sebeok's biosemiotic and zoosemiotic theories of communication.10 If the signal is not dyadic, but triadic or multiple, then the signal becomes fractal — a fractal-message that is transmitted through a fractalenvironment. By linking the phatic with Saussure's concept of the paragram11 — which is a coded message that lurks within language itself — we can begin to situate the phatic and the paragram as proto-structural or as presentational representatives of language's deep structure. In this approach, the signal becomes a multiplicity that is spoken by the parasites of language and is recorded through the graphematic or phonematic marks of the paragram. The parasite's message is coded and imbedded within language itself, but its message can be read in paragrams."
Paragrams: (EXCERPT: Language Parasites. p.73)
"Saussure hunted for names — often the names of gods — in Vedic hymns and Saturnian verse, but he abandoned this research when he realized that these names appeared to be the random patterns of a living language. A parasite semiotics, on the other hand, would reject Saussure's wish to locate authorial intention and would insist instead that these names, words, and messages were knowingly encoded, but not by writers or authors; on the contrary, the paragrams would be "knowingly" encoded by language itself."