Date of Degree
Art Practice | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Psychiatry and Psychology | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies
white supremacy, paranoia, prodrome, imagination, mystery
What follows is a feminist, decolonial experiment to map the un/settling circulation of paranoia – how it is done, what it does, what it could do – within contemporary conditions of US white supremacy. Drawing on participant observation, interviewing, scientific artifacts, reflexive journaling, and a public art project, I enter white supremacy through a burgeoning form of pre-emptive psy to capture ‘the prodrome’ – a stage-cum-population-cum-figure at the center of a transnational program of research to identify and intervene on ‘pre-psychosis’. I argue that this nascent, contested, and accelerating movement is enacting a contemporary transition from societies of ‘discipline’ to those of ‘control’, from the ‘molehill’ to the ‘serpent’. I describe how nets are cast to capture potential prodromes who are then assembled by borderguards as perhaps psychotic, held in prodromal custody through the threat of psychosis, and searched for indicators of their impending illness. All protected by a common sense that is stuck together with trust and compassion, these four cogs allow the prodromal movement to feed itself with its own risk factors. Further, they outline the workings of a ‘molar assemblage’ driven by paranoia – a dis-ease of white supremacy emerging from a colonial desire-to-know entangled with a fear of ‘regressing’. I thus suggest that the prodromal movement can be thought of as a ‘state machine of capture’ that works as a checkpoint of psycurity – an ‘abstract machine’ that directs paranoia to hide as reasonable suspicion, predict the future, brand threatening bodies, and grow through fear. Paranoia, then, makes up the undulating coils of a neocolonial security state. Recognizing that this itself is a ‘paranoid reading’ of contemporary conditions, I then undertake a ‘reparative reading’ of psycurity by staging an encounter between the prodrome and Coatlicue – the earliest of the Mesoamerican Earth goddesses, also known as The Lady of the Serpent Skirt. Reclaiming the etymological roots of paranoia as a sense of something beside-the-mind, this encounter directs attention to the colonial milieu in which these roots – that is, paranoia’s more-than-human potential – was and is darkened and divided by a Science that claims an unadulterated access to the Truth. In response, I place a psychometric ancestor of the prodrome (Magical Ideation) into an artistic adventure (Missed Connections) to experiment with ‘re-turning’ its radical potential. Asking what might happen if we treated the prodrome as more-than-human and therefore with practices of participation, listening, and mystery, Missed Connections decomposes the prodrome, shape-shifting pre-emptive psy into a craft of space-making. Overall doing a method that can best be described as a magical ideation that witnesses our participatory relation with the world, welcomes otherworldly encounters, and experiments with imagination, this project sheds the skin of Psychology – in the singular and with a capital ‘P’ – finding soulful studies of ‘psykhe’ underneath. I end with an Epilogue that considers how the preceding chapters have changed the shape of white supremacy, widening our response/ability for the present political moment. No longer a problem of aberrant individuals (whether fascist leaders or the mentally ill) so much as a collective paranoia that works as a war on imagination, I suggest that white supremacy might be interrupted by a protest of participation, listening, and mystery. By orienting us to immanence, such space-making would foretell not predict, mobilizing a struggle of yearning not paranoia.
Liebert, Rachel J., "Becoming Serpent: Mapping Coils of Paranoia in a Neocolonial Security State" (2016). CUNY Academic Works.
Art Practice Commons, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Commons, Psychiatry and Psychology Commons, Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies Commons