Expanding Mind: Interview with Erik Davis

July 12, 2017

I was very pleased to have been invited to speak to Erik Davis, author of the hugely inspiring book TechnGnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information, for his Expanding Mind podcast. The interview can be found here.

It was nice to be drawn on some of the ideas that led to my interest in Haiti as a particular locus for Euro-American fears and fantasies about the negative consequences of African spirituality and religion in the Americas, and their sublimation into popular horror genres. Most of the theoretical influences that shaped my early understanding of the zombie figure and “voodoo terror'” in popular culture are conspicuously absent from Undead Uprising, which was written primarily for an audience interested in the political-historical roots of these spectacular tropes, rather than one versed in the sophisticated convolutions of contemporary critical  and cultural theory.

Among the less formally “theoretical”, though certainly more influential ideas informing the Undead Uprising, was William Burroughs’ notion of ‘control’, which Erik quickly spotted in the configuration of zombies and somnambulists as remotely-controlled agents-without-autonomy. If we took Burroughs’ idea of ‘control’ and ran it, along with the complementary concepts of ‘autonomy’ and ‘agency’, via the psychoanalytic theories of Freud, Lacan, Klein, Deleuze and Guattari, through Situationism and the Frankfurt School, and back through Marx and Nietzsche, to Hegel and Kant, you would probably have a good overview of the theoretical substratum of the book. Perhaps some day, this too will be unearthed.

Here’s Burrough’s essay The Limits of Control  (originally published in Semiotext(e): Schizo-Culture, vol. III, no. 2, 1978) as a taster:

‘It is highly questionable whether a human organism could survive complete control. There would be nothing there. No persons there. Life is will, motivation and the workers would no longer be alive, perhaps literally.’

 

 

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