Conclusion Part Three: Postanarchism and the Digital

Does this mean that a postanarchist literary theory is best suited to study digital poetics? I am hesitant to go this far. But, what it does mean is that postanarchism is a political and literary theory bound to its sociohistorical context, and in this way it must embrace the digital in a way that Hakim Bey could never have envisioned when he coined the term decades ago. Embracing the digital elements of digital humanities, a postanarchist literary theory uses the radical potentials of the digital in order to break open the distinction between it and the classical or traditional anarchists that the term was originally meant to usurp. Just as Saint Schmidt argues in his essay, “Postanarchism is not what you think it is: The Role of Postanarchist Theory After the Backlash,” such a distinction is not only unhelpful, but it runs counter to the postanarchist desire to replace epistemological and ontological binarisms with openness and commonality. He writes,

I … do not believe that it is desirable or even possible to pigeonhole unique individuals into two distinctly labelled boxes, namely ‘classical anarchist’ or ‘traditionalist’ and ‘postanarchist’… [T]he postanarchist attitude is characterized by the endless interrogation of the reality of these very boxes. (np)

If, as Schmidt argues, postanarchism is predicated on “the assumption that power is a pervasive, multinodal, phenomenon which is both creative and destructive in its operation” (np), as I tend to agree, then the digital offers postanarchism a way to address and appropriate power in a way that works against its potentially destructive capacities and towards its more creative ones. It is this assumption that leads me, in my conceptual coda, to side with the implied politics of a work like the tapeworm foundry and to move away from the exclusionary politics of a work like Eunoia.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that digital humanities and digital poetics are inherently postanarchist, or even inherently political. As Matthew K. Gold points out in “The Digital Humanities Moment,” the introduction to the highly influential Debates in the Digital Humanities, “fault lines have emerged within the DH community between those who use new digital tools to aid in relatively traditional scholarly projects and those who believe that DH is most powerful as a disruptive political force that has the potential to reshape fundamental aspects of academic practice” (np). While it is clear from the form and the politics behind my project that I side with this latter group, I have no interest in designating my work as effective digital humanities in a way that other projects that appear to be much more traditional are not. Instead, I would like to argue first that any digital intervention into humanities scholarship—a historically and culturally print-dominated medium—has the potential to be disruptive, but it need not be. But, more importantly for my project, I would also like to argue somewhat controversially that all postanarchist projects must in some form or another pay attention to the potentials of the digitally networked world to create many and multiple temporary autonomous zones and to connect disparate and unique individuals into a common in which all voices can be accessed. This is not to suggest that the internet is an anarchist utopia where all humans are created and treated equally (such a statement would be so egregiously false that the internet itself would stand up to oppose it), but rather that postanarchism must insist on creating moments of digital scholarship in which moments of radical freedom and relative autonomy can erupt more easily and more accessibly thanks to the connective potentials of the digital.

One thought on “Conclusion Part Three: Postanarchism and the Digital

  1. “And now, the end is near….”

    When you write that “…the digital offers postanarchism a way to address and appropriate power in a way that works against its potentially destructive capacities and towards its more creative ones,” could you briefly summarize how postanarchism offers this address and appropriation? A phrase is probably satisfactory here.

    And a closing question: have you explicitly defined what you specifically mean by “digital,” “digital humanities,” and (perhaps especially) “digital scholarship”? I know these are terms that have been thoroughly discussed over the past 10+ years, but I can’t recall if you’ve defined them somewhere in relation to your project. It’s quite possible you have (my memory, poor at the best of times, is further addled today from lack of sleep due to driving around a baby at 1am, desperately hoping he would fall asleep); if you have, that’s fine–but I wonder if that’s a section you need either to add to your introduction or else highlight more explicitly, now that it seems more central to your project?


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