Xenofeminist manifesto

http://www.laboriacuboniks.net/

Laboria Cuboniks

2015


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-=-=-=-= A POLITICS FOR ALIENATION =-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Laboria Cuboniks =-=-=-=




ZERO



0x00 Ours is a world in vertigo. It is a world that swarms with

technological mediation, interlacing our daily lives with abstraction,

virtuality, and complexity. XF constructs a feminism adapted to these

realities: a feminism of unprecedented cunning, scale, and vision; a future

in which the realization of gender justice and feminist emancipation

contribute to a universalist politics assembled from the needs of every

human, cutting across race, ability, economic standing, and geographical

position. No more futureless repetition on the treadmill of capital, no more

submission to the drudgery of labour, productive and reproductive alike, no

more reification of the given masked as critique. Our future requires

depetrification. XF is not a bid for revolution, but a wager on the long

game of history, demanding imagination, dexterity and persistence.



0x01 XF seizes alienation as an impetus to generate new worlds. We are all

alienated -- but have we ever been otherwise? It is through, and not

despite, our alienated condition that we can free ourselves from the muck of

immediacy. Freedom is not a given -- and it's certainly not given by anything

'natural'. The construction of freedom involves not less but more

alienation; alienation is the labour of freedom's construction. Nothing

should be accepted as fixed, permanent, or 'given' -- neither material

conditions nor social forms. XF mutates, navigates and probes every horizon.

Anyone who's been deemed 'unnatural' in the face of reigning biological

norms, anyone who's experienced injustices wrought in the name of natural

order, will realize that the glorification of 'nature' has nothing to offer

us -- the queer and trans among us, the differently-abled, as well as those who

have suffered discrimination due to pregnancy or duties connected to

child-rearing. XF is vehemently anti-naturalist. Essentialist naturalism

reeks of theology -- the sooner it is exorcised, the better.



0x02 Why is there so little explicit, organized effort to repurpose

technologies for progressive gender political ends? XF seeks to

strategically deploy existing technologies to re-engineer the world. Serious

risks are built into these tools; they are prone to imbalance, abuse, and

exploitation of the weak. Rather than pretending to risk nothing, XF

advocates the necessary assembly of techno-political interfaces responsive

to these risks. Technology isn't inherently progressive. Its uses are fused

with culture in a positive feedback loop that makes linear sequencing,

prediction, and absolute caution impossible. Technoscientific innovation

must be linked to a collective theoretical and political thinking in which

women, queers, and the gender non-conforming play an unparalleled role.



0x03 The real emancipatory potential of technology remains unrealized. Fed

by the market, its rapid growth is offset by bloat, and elegant innovation

is surrendered to the buyer, whose stagnant world it decorates. Beyond the

noisy clutter of commodified cruft, the ultimate task lies in engineering

technologies to combat unequal access to reproductive and pharmacological

tools, environmental cataclysm, economic instability, as well as dangerous

forms of unpaid/underpaid labour. Gender inequality still characterizes the

fields in which our technologies are conceived, built, and legislated for,

while female workers in electronics (to name just one industry) perform some

of the worst paid, monotonous and debilitating labour. Such injustice

demands structural, machinic and ideological correction.



0x04 Xenofeminism is a rationalism. To claim that reason or rationality is

'by nature' a patriarchal enterprise is to concede defeat. It is true that

the canonical 'history of thought' is dominated by men, and it is male hands

we see throttling existing institutions of science and technology. But this

is precisely why feminism must be a rationalism -- because of this miserable

imbalance, and not despite it. There is no 'feminine' rationality, nor is

there a 'masculine' one. Science is not an expression but a suspension of

gender. If today it is dominated by masculine egos, then it is at odds with

itself -- and this contradiction can be leveraged. Reason, like information,

wants to be free, and patriarchy cannot give it freedom. Rationalism must

itself be a feminism. XF marks the point where these claims intersect in a

two-way dependency. It names reason as an engine of feminist emancipation,

and declares the right of everyone to speak as no one in particular.



INTERRUPT



0x05 The excess of modesty in feminist agendas of recent decades is not

proportionate to the monstrous complexity of our reality, a reality

crosshatched with fibre-optic cables, radio and microwaves, oil and gas

pipelines, aerial and shipping routes, and the unrelenting, simultaneous

execution of millions of communication protocols with every passing

millisecond. Systematic thinking and structural analysis have largely fallen

by the wayside in favour of admirable, but insufficient struggles, bound to

fixed localities and fragmented insurrections. Whilst capitalism is

understood as a complex and ever-expanding totality, many would-be emancipat-

tory anti-capitalist projects remain profoundly fearful of transitioning to

the universal, resisting big-picture speculative politics by condemning them

as necessarily oppressive vectors. Such a false guarantee treats universals

as absolute, generating a debilitating disjuncture between the thing we seek

to depose and the strategies we advance to depose it.



0x06 Global complexity opens us to urgent cognitive and ethical demands.

These are Promethean responsibilities that cannot pass unaddressed. Much of

twenty-first century feminism -- from the remnants of postmodern identity

politics to large swathes of contemporary ecofeminism -- struggles to

adequately address these challenges in a manner capable of producing

substantial and enduring change. Xenofeminism endeavours to face up to these

obligations as collective agents capable of transitioning between multiple

levels of political, material and conceptual organization.



0x07 We are adamantly synthetic, unsatisfied by analysis alone. XF urges

constructive oscillation between description and prescription to mobilize

the recursive potential of contemporary technologies upon gender, sexuality

and disparities of power. Given that there are a range of gendered

challenges specifically relating to life in a digital age -- from sexual

harassment via social media, to doxxing, privacy, and the protection of

online images -- the situation requires a feminism at ease with computation.

Today, it is imperative that we develop an ideological infrastructure that

both supports and facilitates feminist interventions within connective,

networked elements of the contemporary world. Xenofeminism is about more

than digital self-defence and freedom from patriarchal networks. We want to

cultivate the exercise of positive freedom -- freedom-to rather than simply

freedom-from -- and urge feminists to equip themselves with the skills to

redeploy existing technologies and invent novel cognitive and material tools

in the service of common ends.



0x08 The radical opportunities afforded by developing (and alienating) forms

of technological mediation should no longer be put to use in the exclusive

interests of capital, which, by design, only benefits the few. There are

incessantly proliferating tools to be annexed, and although no one can claim

their comprehensive accessibility, digital tools have never been more widely

available or more sensitive to appropriation than they are today. This is

not an elision of the fact that a large amount of the world's poor is

adversely affected by the expanding technological industry (from factory

workers labouring under abominable conditions to the Ghanaian villages that

have become a repository for the e-waste of the global powers) but an

explicit acknowledgement of these conditions as a target for elimination.

Just as the invention of the stock market was also the invention of the

crash, Xenofeminism knows that technological innovation must equally

anticipate its systemic condition responsively.



TRAP



0x09 XF rejects illusion and melancholy as political inhibitors. Illusion,

as the blind presumption that the weak can prevail over the strong with no

strategic coordination, leads to unfulfilled promises and unmarshalled

drives. This is a politics that, in wanting so much, ends up building so

little. Without the labour of large-scale, collective social organisation,

declaring one's desire for global change is nothing more than wishful

thinking. On the other hand, melancholy -- so endemic to the left -- teaches

us that emancipation is an extinct species to be wept over and that blips of

negation are the best we can hope for. At its worst, such an attitude

generates nothing but political lassitude, and at its best, installs an

atmosphere of pervasive despair which too often degenerates into factionalism

and petty moralizing. The malady of melancholia only compounds political

inertia, and -- under the guise of being realistic -- relinquishes all

hope of calibrating the world otherwise. It is against such maladies that

XF innoculates.



0x0A We take politics that exclusively valorize the local in the guise of

subverting currents of global abstraction, to be insufficient. To secede

from or disavow capitalist machinery will not make it disappear. Likewise,

suggestions to pull the lever on the emergency brake of embedded velocities,

the call to slow down and scale back, is a possibility available only to the

few -- a violent particularity of exclusivity -- ultimately entailing catas-

trophe for the many. Refusing to think beyond the microcommunity, to foster

connections between fractured insurgencies, to consider how emancipatory

tactics can be scaled up for universal implementation, is to remain

satisfied with temporary and defensive gestures. XF is an affirmative

creature on the offensive, fiercely insisting on the possibility of

large-scale social change for all of our alien kin.



0x0B A sense of the world's volatility and artificiality seems to have faded

from contemporary queer and feminist politics, in favour of a plural but

static constellation of gender identities, in whose bleak light equations of

the good and the natural are stubbornly restored. While having (perhaps)

admirably expanded thresholds of 'tolerance', too often we are told to seek

solace in unfreedom, staking claims on being 'born' this way, as if offering

an excuse with nature's blessing. All the while, the heteronormative centre

chugs on. XF challenges this centrifugal referent, knowing full well that

sex and gender are exemplary of the fulcrum between norm and fact, between

freedom and compulsion. To tilt the fulcrum in the direction of nature is a

defensive concession at best, and a retreat from what makes trans and queer

politics more than just a lobby: that it is an arduous assertion of freedom

against an order that seemed immutable. Like every myth of the given, a

stable foundation is fabulated for a real world of chaos, violence, and

doubt. The 'given' is sequestered into the private realm as a certainty,

whilst retreating on fronts of public consequences. When the possibility of

transition became real and known, the tomb under Nature's shrine cracked,

and new histories -- bristling with futures -- escaped the old order of 'sex'.

The disciplinary grid of gender is in no small part an attempt to mend that

shattered foundation, and tame the lives that escaped it. The time has now

come to tear down this shrine entirely, and not bow down before it in a

piteous apology for what little autonomy has been won.



0x0C If 'cyberspace' once offered the promise of escaping the strictures of

essentialist identity categories, the climate of contemporary social media

has swung forcefully in the other direction, and has become a theatre where

these prostrations to identity are performed. With these curatorial

practices come puritanical rituals of moral maintenance, and these stages

are too often overrun with the disavowed pleasures of accusation, shaming,

and denunciation. Valuable platforms for connection, organization, and

skill-sharing become clogged with obstacles to productive debate positioned

as if they are debate. These puritanical politics of shame -- which fetishize

oppression as if it were a blessing, and cloud the waters in moralistic

frenzies -- leave us cold. We want neither clean hands nor beautiful souls,

neither virtue nor terror. We want superior forms of corruption.



0x0D What this shows is that the task of engineering platforms for social

emancipation and organization cannot ignore the cultural and semiotic

mutations these platforms afford. What requires reengineering are the

memetic parasites arousing and coordinating behaviours in ways occluded by

their hosts' self-image; failing this, memes like 'anonymity', 'ethics',

'social justice' and 'privilege-checking' host social dynamisms at odds with

the often-commendable intentions with which they're taken up. The task of

collective self-mastery requires a hyperstitional manipulation of desire's

puppet-strings, and deployment of semiotic operators over a terrain of

highly networked cultural systems. The will will always be corrupted by the

memes in which it traffics, but nothing prevents us from instrumentalizing

this fact, and calibrating it in view of the ends it desires.



PARITY



0x0E Xenofeminism is gender-abolitionist. 'Gender abolitionism' is not code

for the eradication of what are currently considered 'gendered' traits from

the human population. Under patriarchy, such a project could only spell

disaster -- the notion of what is 'gendered' sticks disproportionately to the

feminine. But even if this balance were redressed, we have no interest in

seeing the sexuate diversity of the world reduced. Let a hundred sexes

bloom! 'Gender abolitionism' is shorthand for the ambition to construct a

society where traits currently assembled under the rubric of gender, no

longer furnish a grid for the asymmetric operation of power. 'Race

abolitionism' expands into a similar formula -- that the struggle must continue

until currently racialized characteristics are no more a basis of

discrimination than than the color of one's eyes. Ultimately, every

emancipatory abolitionism must incline towards the horizon of class

abolitionism, since it is in capitalism where we encounter oppression in its

transparent, denaturalized form: you're not exploited or oppressed because

you are a wage labourer or poor; you are a labourer or poor because you are

exploited.



0x0F Xenofeminism understands that the viability of emancipatory

abolitionist projects -- the abolition of class, gender, and race -- hinges on a

profound reworking of the universal. The universal must be grasped as

generic, which is to say, intersectional. Intersectionality is not the

morcellation of collectives into a static fuzz of cross-referenced

identities, but a political orientation that slices through every

particular, refusing the crass pigeonholing of bodies. This is not a

universal that can be imposed from above, but built from the bottom up --

or, better, laterally, opening new lines of transit across an uneven

landscape. This non-absolute, generic universality must guard against the

facile tendency of conflation with bloated, unmarked particulars -- namely

Eurocentric universalism -- whereby the male is mistaken for the sexless, the

white for raceless, the cis for the real, and so on. Absent such a

universal, the abolition of class will remain a bourgeois fantasy, the

abolition of race will remain a tacit white-supremacism, and the abolition

of gender will remain a thinly veiled misogyny, even -- especially -- when

prosecuted by avowed feminists themselves. (The absurd and reckless

spectacle of so many self-proclaimed 'gender abolitionists'' campaign

against trans women is proof enough of this. )



0x10 From the postmoderns, we have learnt to burn the facades of the false

universal and dispel such confusions; from the moderns, we have learnt to

sift new universals from the ashes of the false. Xenofeminism seeks to

construct a coalitional politics, a politics without the infection of

purity. Wielding the universal requires thoughtful qualification and precise

self-reflection so as to become a ready-to-hand tool for multiple political

bodies and something that can be appropriated against the numerous

oppressions that transect with gender and sexuality. The universal is no

blueprint, and rather than dictate its uses in advance, we propose XF as a

platform. The very process of construction is therefore understood to be a

negentropic, iterative, and continual refashioning. Xenofeminism seeks to be

a mutable architecture that, like open source software, remains available

for perpetual modification and enhancement following the navigational

impulse of militant ethical reasoning. Open, however, does not mean

undirected. The most durable systems in the world owe their stability to the

way they train order to emerge as an 'invisible hand' from apparent

spontaneity; or exploit the inertia of investment and sedimentation. We

should not hesitate to learn from our adversaries or the successes and

failures of history. With this in mind, XF seeks ways to seed an order that

is equitable and just, injecting it into the geometry of freedoms these

platforms afford.



ADJUST



0x11 Our lot is cast with technoscience, where nothing is so sacred that it

cannot be reengineered and transformed so as to widen our aperture of

freedom, extending to gender and the human. To say that nothing is sacred,

that nothing is transcendent or protected from the will to know, to tinker

and to hack, is to say that nothing is supernatural. 'Nature' -- understood

here, as the unbounded arena of science -- is all there is. And so, in tearing

down melancholy and illusion; the unambitious and the non-scaleable; the

libidinized puritanism of certain online cultures, and Nature as an

un-remakeable given, we find that our normative anti-naturalism has pushed

us towards an unflinching ontological naturalism. There is nothing, we

claim, that cannot be studied scientifically and manipulated

technologically.



0x12 This does not mean that the distinction between the ontological and the

normative, between fact and value, is simply cut and dried. The vectors of

normative anti-naturalism and ontological naturalism span many ambivalent

battlefields. The project of untangling what ought to be from what is, of

dissociating freedom from fact, will from knowledge, is, indeed, an infinite

task. There are many lacunae where desire confronts us with the brutality of

fact, where beauty is indissociable from truth. Poetry, sex, technology and

pain are incandescent with this tension we have traced. But give up on the

task of revision, release the reins and slacken that tension, and these

filaments instantly dim.



CARRY



0x13 The potential of early, text-based internet culture for countering

repressive gender regimes, generating solidarity among marginalised groups,

and creating new spaces for experimentation that ignited cyberfeminism in

the nineties has clearly waned in the twenty-first century. The dominance of

the visual in today's online interfaces has reinstated familiar modes of

identity policing, power relations and gender norms in self-representation.

But this does not mean that cyberfeminist sensibilities belong to the past.

Sorting the subversive possibilities from the oppressive ones latent in

today's web requires a feminism sensitive to the insidious return of old

power structures, yet savvy enough to know how to exploit the potential.

Digital technologies are not separable from the material realities that

underwrite them; they are connected so that each can be used to alter the

other towards different ends. Rather than arguing for the primacy of the

virtual over the material, or the material over the virtual, xenofeminism

grasps points of power and powerlessness in both, to unfold this knowledge

as effective interventions in our jointly composed reality.



0x14 Intervention in more obviously material hegemonies is just as crucial

as intervention in digital and cultural ones. Changes to the built

environment harbour some of the most significant possibilities in the

reconfiguration of the horizons of women and queers. As the embodiment of

ideological constellations, the production of space and the decisions we

make for its organization are ultimately articulations about 'us' and

reciprocally, how a 'we' can be articulated. With the potential to

foreclose, restrict, or open up future social conditions, xenofeminists must

become attuned to the language of architecture as a vocabulary for

collective choreo-graphy -- the coordinated writing of space.



0x15 From the street to the home, domestic space too must not escape our

tentacles. So profoundly ingrained, domestic space has been deemed

impossible to disembed, where the home as norm has been conflated with home

as fact, as an un-remakeable given. Stultifying 'domestic realism' has no

home on our horizon. Let us set sights on augmented homes of shared

laboratories, of communal media and technical facilities. The home is ripe

for spatial transformation as an integral component in any process of

feminist futurity. But this cannot stop at the garden gates. We see too well

that reinventions of family structure and domestic life are currently only

possible at the cost of either withdrawing from the economic sphere -- the way

of the commune -- or bearing its burdens manyfold -- the way of the single parent.

If we want to break the inertia that has kept the moribund figure of the

nuclear family unit in place, which has stubbornly worked to isolate women

from the public sphere, and men from the lives of their children, while

penalizing those who stray from it, we must overhaul the material

infrastructure and break the economic cycles that lock it in place. The task

before us is twofold, and our vision necessarily stereoscopic: we must

engineer an economy that liberates reproductive labour and family life,

while building models of familiality free from the deadening grind of wage

labour.



0x16 From the home to the body, the articulation of a proactive politics for

biotechnical intervention and hormones presses. Hormones hack into gender

systems possessing political scope extending beyond the aesthetic

calibration of individual bodies. Thought structurally, the distribution of

hormones -- who or what this distribution prioritizes or pathologizes -- is of

paramount import. The rise of the internet and the hydra of black market

pharmacies it let loose -- together with a publicly accessible archive of

endocrinological knowhow -- was instrumental in wresting control of the

hormonal economy away from 'gatekeeping' institutions seeking to mitigate

threats to established distributions of the sexual. To trade in the rule of

bureaucrats for the market is, however, not a victory in itself. These tides

need to rise higher. We ask whether the idiom of 'gender hacking' is

extensible into a long-range strategy, a strategy for wetware akin to what

hacker culture has already done for software -- constructing an entire universe

of free and open source platforms that is the closest thing to a practicable

communism many of us have ever seen. Without the foolhardy endangerment of

lives, can we stitch together the embryonic promises held before us by

pharmaceutical 3D printing ('Reactionware'), grassroots telemedical abortion

clinics, gender hacktivist and DIY-HRT forums, and so on, to assemble a

platform for free and open source medicine?



0x17 From the global to the local, from the cloud to our bodies,

xenofeminism avows the responsibility in constructing new institutions of

technomaterialist hegemonic proportions. Like engineers who must conceive of

a total structure as well as the molecular parts from which it is

constructed, XF emphasises the importance of the mesopolitical sphere

against the limited effectiveness of local gestures, creation of autonomous

zones, and sheer horizontalism, just as it stands against transcendent, or

top-down impositions of values and norms. The mesopolitical arena of

xenofeminism's universalist ambitions comprehends itself as a mobile and

intricate network of transits between these polarities. As pragmatists, we

invite contamination as a mutational driver between such frontiers.



OVERFLOW



0x18 XF asserts that adapting our behaviour for an era of Promethean

complexity is a labour requiring patience, but a ferocious patience at odds

with 'waiting'. Calibrating a political hegemony or insurgent memeplex not

only implies the creation of material infra-structures to make the values it

articulates explicit, but places demands on us as subjects. How are we to

become hosts of this new world? How do we build a better semiotic

parasite -- one that arouses the desires we want to desire, that orchestrates

not an autophagic orgy of indignity or rage, but an emancipatory and

egalitarian community buttressed by new forms of unselfish solidarity and

collective self-mastery?



0x19 Is xenofeminism a programme? Not if this means anything so crude as a

recipe, or a single-purpose tool by which a determinate problem is solved.

We prefer to think like the schemer or lisper, who seeks to construct a new

language in which the problem at hand is immersed, so that solutions for it,

and for any number of related problems, might unfurl with ease. Xenofeminism

is a platform, an incipient ambition to construct a new language for sexual

politics -- a language that seizes its own methods as materials to be reworked,

and incrementally bootstraps itself into existence. We understand that the

problems we face are systemic and interlocking, and that any chance of

global success depends on infecting myriad skills and contexts with the

logic of XF. Ours is a transformation of seeping, directed subsumption

rather than rapid overthrow; it is a transformation of deliberate

construction, seeking to submerge the white-supremacist capitalist

patriarchy in a sea of procedures that soften its shell and dismantle its

defenses, so as to build a new world from the scraps.



0x1A Xenofeminism indexes the desire to construct an alien future with a

triumphant X on a mobile map. This X does not mark a destination. It is the

insertion of a topological-keyframe for the formation of a new logic. In

affirming a future untethered to the repetition of the present, we militate

for ampliative capacities, for spaces of freedom with a richer geometry than

the aisle, the assembly line, and the feed. We need new affordances of

perception and action unblinkered by naturalised identities. In the name of

feminism, 'Nature' shall no longer be a refuge of injustice, or a basis for

any political justification whatsoever!



If nature is unjust, change nature!


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