Biology is not destiny

A conversation with thinker Helen Hester around xenofeminism, a gender technomaterialist proposal that aims to offer tools for a collectively construction of a new post-capitalist world.

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Toni Navarro

11 March 2019
Helen HesterHelen Hester | Illustration by de José Antonio Soria | CC-BY

In 2015, a manifesto signed anonymously by kaupunkiopas.comoria Cuboniks damaged right into the contemporary arguments roughly sex and sexuality through a proposal adjusted to our times of technological acceleration and also massive complexity. Its title was Xenofeminism: a national politics for alienation, and also it ended via a solid statement: “if nature is unjust, readjust nature!”. Behind this message was a collective created by archaeologists, artists, programmers, philosophers… One of the members of this group is Helen Hester, who freshly publimelted a book entitled Xenofeminism (Polity Press, 2018), in which she presents her individual breakthroughs following some of her very own lines of research study, such as digital modern technologies, social remanufacturing and post-job-related politics.

The Xenofeminist Manifesto was released more than 3 years earlier and also now you have published a book, which you specify as “your very own variant of xenofeminism” — to which territories were you interested in taking the proposal? In the situation of remanufacturing, for instance, it is not an worry that is explicitly addressed in the manifesto, and yet it constitutes the guiding thread of your essay.

The manifesto represents a distillation of multiple lines of inquiry, arising from six various civilization from six different disciplinary backgrounds and areas of interemainder. As an outcome, certain directions are gestured in the direction of yet not rigorously gone after. In part, this more gestural character is a result of (or, at leastern, appropriate to) the manifesto form. Much of what I lay out in Xenofeminism is lurking in tbelow, in an abbreviated, embryonic means. The initially mention of pregnancy and also child-rearing plants up practically automatically, for instance, in 0x01, but just as the the majority of fleeting aside. This is one factor why the message deserve to feel thick — because it’s packed via monographs masquerading as slogans. The various other 5 members of kaupunkiopas.comoria Cuboniks might quickly compose book-size researches from their own perspectives and positionalities. I hope they will!

In the introduction you also say that xenofeminism is a “polysemic project”, the outcome of “colkaupunkiopas.comorative work-related based upon difference”, and you refer to the negotiation process between your miscellaneous positions as “one of the a lot of satisfying and also illuminating elements”. Beyond the diversity of disciplines and also interests of each of the members, what have actually been the main points of discrepancy?

Yes, component of the distillation procedure I pointed out above involved comprehensive negotiation. We began through a type of sifting or panning via our miscellaneous perspectives to discover mutual ground – to number out how to jointly produce somepoint to which we all felt we could subscribe. It additionally involved challenging each other on key points, being open to revising our commitments wright here proper, figuring out what (and also just how much) we could be willing to let go off in order to write together under a shared pseudonym.

From my perspective, tbelow are two significant numbers for xenofeminism that can be believed of as totemic of ideological fault lines within the project– Shulamith Firestone on the one hand and Sadie Plant on the various other. These 2 are not easy bedfellows. One emphasises hegemony, the various other insurgency; one concentprices on the sovepower subject, the other on the sheat, and also so on – programme vs. eruption, construction vs. generative damage, regulate vs. escape. These are some of the conflicts that find expression within xenofeminism. Both tendencies are important, I think, though they show up to be at odds through each other, and also recurrent a resource of perspectival stress and anxiety within the manifesto. This is one reason why the mesopolitical concerns be so necessary in my very own ekaupunkiopas.comoration of XF – it is a method of mediating in between the collective’s investments in Firestonian counter-hegemony and Plantian spread, decentralized insurrection. An emphasis on political transits – on transitioning in between various scales of reasoning and also action – is advantageous below, though it does not reduce all the tensions by any kind of implies. We have to learn to accept a degree of openness, messiness, and also dispute as a probably inescapable by-product of colkaupunkiopas.comorative thinking.

kaupunkiopas.comoria Cuboniks was formed in a summer college wbelow you came up via the idea of answering a question: “What would an accelerationist feminism be like?”. You share some points like the orientation in the direction of the future or the vindication of universality, however your vision is quite critical. What elements of accelerationism execute you discover useful and which are problematic or hostile to women?

What initially struck me around the disputes bordering left accelerationism was that they referenced a very specific collection of thinkers, and also this produced a rather skewed ancestry. This genealogy exerted a shaping influence upon the way in which ideas were being framed and received. Feminist philosophers of science and also technology too often showed up to be side-lined or omitted from the discussion, despite a set of mutual commitments and ambitions. For all its noticeable cosmopolitanism, accelerationism’s frame of recommendation was actually fairly parochial.

I didn’t want to disapprove accelerationism outbest, as I observed (and proceed to see) somepoint interesting and helpful in its attempt to reckon via the fact that any type of sort of better future need to of requirement be assembled from the rotten, toxic social order we currently inhabit. However, it seemed essential to flag up the myriad points at which accelerationist politics intersect through (and are indebted to) feminist thinkers – to reinsert a different set of voices into the narratives being spun about that specific political minute.

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In enhancement to accelerationism, xenofeminism is regarded various other philosophical activities connected to the so-dubbed speculative revolve (speculative realism, object-oriented ontology …), which accounts for the increase of realist and also materialist positions after having occupied a marginal location in viewpoint. What are the reasons for this emergence of materialist modes of analysis? Are various other viewpoints such as constructivism, which had been hegemonic in sex concept, no longer useful?

I think we have to be fairly mindful not to roll Speculative Realism, OOO, brand-new materialism, accelerationism, and so on into a single packet of modern philosophies. These activities might share particular personnel – world choose Ray Brassier and Nick Srnicek are linked with both SR and also accelerationism, for example, Graham Harguy with SR and OOO, and so on – but tright here are ongoing tensions and also problems between these positions. Too often people merge these tendencies into one phantasmatic object of critique; loose meanings allow human being to build their own enemies. I don’t think this is sufficiently rigorous, or especially valuable as soon as it pertains to advancing the disputes.

That being shelp, at the broadest level, there is some widespread ground in between somepoint prefer SR and XF (an emphasis on achievable understanding as a basis for activity, for example, and also a resistance to “mind amounts to world” correlationism). In XF, this especially manifests itself as an interest in biological materialism — a perspective attentive to the organic stratum of embopassed away reality, which acknowledges that various bodies might have various capacities and vulnerabilities. Underpinning our biological materialism, however, is the anti-naturalist assertion that simply bereason something is “real” doesn’t expect that it is instantly resolved or immutable; the physical body itself have the right to be made topic to a particular level of manipulation. This is not to disapprove or weaken theories that seek to unpack discursive and textual elements of identity; we acunderstanding that social concepts play a significant duty in understandings of embodiment. Rather, XF chooses to emphasize the fact that biology, also, is mutable and also a potential room of emancipatory gender political interventions. As I put it in the book, biology is not destiny, bereason biology itself can be technologically transdeveloped, and also have to be transdeveloped in the pursuit of reabundant justice and the progressive transdevelopment of sex. But aobtain, any kind of crossover here is only at the most general level — so basic regarding possibly represent an unvaluable allude of comparichild.

You enrol in a details feminist family tree — cyberfeminism, technofeminism… — as “Haraway’s disobedient daughters”. In your job-related, tbelow is an attempt to dialogue with previous generations of feminist thinkers, as you execute in the book by bridging the activity for women’s health and wellness in the 70s and also modern trans* activism, trying to emphasize in some prevalent interests and also preventing this widespreview tendency to geneprice departments. How vital is to you the exreadjust in between various curleas and also generations of feminists?

Intergenerational solidarity is extremely important to me. The metaphor of waves as a method whereby to structure or periodize feminist politics (as in, “First Wave”, “Second Wave”, etc.) has actually been rightly critiqued on the basis that it promotes the reduction of a complicated towel of ideregarding an easy to digest narrative; anomalous perspectives or voices that don’t easily fit right into this narrative get puburned aside and foracquired. This principle of waves additionally appears to suggest succeeding motions within feminism – separate, unique tendencies that arise to subsume and also supersede what has come before. Of course, the reality is that each historic moment contains a multitude of feminisms which bleed into and throughout one another; specific approaches, techniques, or ideas reach throughout different contexts and also are taken up in new or different methods.

That being sassist, it is still necessary to recognise differences across time and across perspectives — change deserve to happen! — and to critically reflect upon the work of those who came prior to us. This is just how finding out starts. It is also, I think, the most comradely method to earlier work-related, in that it recognises that the debates and also concepts are still crucial, still alive. This connects through among my desired methodologies: repurposing. In the book, I talk about repurposing in terms of innovation — about taking a device and also turning it versus its original objectives, deploying it for brand-new ends. It’s about finding novel or unexpected avenues within artefacts or devices that could not have actually been designed via one’s very own exact requirements in mind. But repurposing can go beyond specific modern technologies to represent a more general sort of reparative method, one that looks for what is useful in (for example) intellectual motions or previous activist legacies that may not specifically correspond with one’s very own position.

Although xenofeminism is fundamentally a sex politics, it has ramifications past this area (in the field of environmentalism or anti-speciesism, for example). Economic problems are additionally addressed: you claim the require for “an economic situation that liberates reabundant work <…> while structure models of familiarity complimentary from the deadening grind of wage kaupunkiopas.comour”. Is xenofeminism inseparable from post-capitalism?

Aside from the odd hyperstitional glimmer, full xenofeminism is mostly impossible under capitalism. Thus, XF and post-capitalism are carefully attached. Both are ideologies to, and also calls for, an alien future; both take points which have (till exceptionally recently) been assumed to be immutable and insisted that they deserve to be made subject to thorough-going adjust. The principle of post-capitalism does not necessarily imply a blueprint, either; as a term, it is devoid of also the fairly nebulous signification connected through “communism”, “socialism”, or “anarchism”. It is to some degree a cypher or a placeholder for the not-yet – for a distinction that might be arising, but which still has actually some means to go prior to arrival, and also which cannot be reliably predicted or pinned dvery own in development (a xeno-futurity, if you will). Something will come after capitalism – quite maybe somepoint worse. Certainly, it will certainly be worse if we remajor quiescent in the confront of climate crisis and also eco-friendly catastrophe. We must fight for the sort of successor system we actually desire, and collectively build the content of a truly emancipatory post-capitalism. XF intends to sell devices for this struggle, and something of a provisional horizon for determining what could be worth struggling for.