W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture: Smaran Dayal

Di04Jul18:30Di20:00W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture: Smaran DayalCoercion and Autonomy in Samuel Delany's StarsVeranstaltungsartVortrag

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In the African American science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany’s novel, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (1984), we are presented with a speculative world in which a corporation on the planet of Rhyonon offers proletarian inhabitants a way to secure their material existence through a neurological operation called “Radical Anxiety Termination,” through which workers relinquish their psychic autonomy and “unhappiness” for food and shelter—but also permanent servitude. Whereas versions of this idea have found more recent treatments in Boots Riley’s film Sorry to Bother You (2018) and the Apple TV+ series Severance (2022–), Delany’s handling of it far predates both and takes the thought experiment farther. Delany, I argue, uses the speculative device of the “RAT procedure” to both highlight the continuities between slavery and indentured servitude, on the one hand, and between those forms of coerced labor and so-called “free” labor under capitalism more generally, on the other. The psychic enslavement we encounter in Stars also enables an exploration of the dangers of a more totalizing form of enslavement—one which aims at both corporeal and psychic subordination—as well as the ever-present possibility of resistance to domination, even under a system of psychic control. Delany’s science fiction continues to offer us productive ways to think through issues of labor, exploitation, historical continuities between forms of forced and coerced labor and allegedly “free” and/or “consensual” modes of laboring, as well as the possibilities of resistance, fugitivity, and autonomy under historical and contemporary conditions of racial capitalism.

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4. Juli 2023 18:30 - 20:00(GMT+02:00)

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