Date of Degree

9-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor(s)

Patricia Ticineto Clough

Subject Categories

American Studies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Politics and Social Change | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Sociology | Theory, Knowledge and Science

Keywords

knowledge society, the human, other-than-human, subjectivity, the prison nation, twenty-first-century media and technology

Abstract

The social production of hegemonic knowledge has historically been legitimized in relation to the sanctioned status of the ‘Human’.[1] Beginning with the American Prison Industrial Complex and what sociologist Beth E. Richie conceptualizes as the “prison nation,” I will show the ‘human’ as a contingent and composite status appearing along a spectrum of Flesh, Body, and ‘Human’ (Flesh-Body-‘Human’) statuses and subjectivity.

Bringing this ‘Human’ continuum into conversation with twenty-first-century media, (micro)computational technologies, and contemporary knowledge and social economies, I expand the notion, reach, and scale of the American “prison nation.” Following Mark Hansen’s treatment of twenty-first-century digital media, I posit that the contemporary, technologically mediated and “datafied” prison nation,[2] like digital media, performs a further displacement of the ‘Human’ as “the privileged arbiter of experience.”[3] This displacement has various effects which I explore in terms of what I call a techno-apotheosis in the advent of techno-gods. I propose that subjectivity is affected and should be rethought in terms of networked assemblages of subject positions and thing positions, or ‘human’ selves and thing selves.[4] With this, a technologically mediated and transnationally competitive economy of the ‘Human’ emerges. (Re)produced as it is circulated through social institutions of neoliberal, law-and-order governance, this globalizing ‘Human’ economy situates each social entity—human and other-than-human, organic and inorganic, material and immaterial—within relational, networked, epistemological and ontological continua operational as the twenty-first-century “datafied” “prison nation.”

[1] Throughout, I am deploying Brian Massumi’s conceptualization of the “social” as an articulation of the cofunctioning of the cultural, political and economic, and which, following Gilles Deleuze among others, includes human and nonhuman, organic and inorganic, material and immaterial entities and processes as efficacious actants within these enmeshed spheres.

[2] For Patricia Ticineto Clough and Mark Hansen “datafication” refers to the full digital landscape of data analysis and computation the scale and capacity of which is unprecedented. This digital landscape includes ‘big-data’, data mining, tracking, surveillance, capture, and affect-based ‘predictive’, anticipatory, biometric, and environmental measure and modulation at unprecedented scales of molecular and molar ‘visibility’ and ‘sense-ability’.

[3] See Mark Hansen’s work, Feed-Forward: On the Future of Twenty-First-Century Media (Hansen 50-52).

[4] For a rich engagement with thingness see Patricia Ticineto Clough’s forthcoming Introduction to The User Unconscious, which picks up and expands Sue Grand’s work on trauma and split subjectivity in “Unsexed and Ungendered Bodies: The Violated Self,” 2003.

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