An interesting and distressing post by my friend Z. on facebook:

As a member of the fucking third world, whatever I say, write, or publish about continental philosophy does not count because first and foremost I am supposed to talk about the fucking Islam and how it can be reformed according to fucking Western standards.

Situated in Turkey, he finds his voice perpetually stolen and usurped by the Continental tradition in which he works. On the one hand, he has a desperate and immediate need to think his own circumstances and situation; while on the other hand, he is only able to do so through Western proper names and sequences of enunciation due to how journals, conferences, and institutions in Continental philosophy are organized. Paraphrasing the Austrian philosopher and artist Elisabeth von Samsonov (right above), “we speak only through our ‘fathers’ in Continental philosophy.” Unless you are yourself a “father” (Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, Badiou, Deleuze, Foucault, etc.) or one of those rare “mothers” (Butler, Irigaray, Bradoitti, Haraway, etc.), you must speak, like the merchant in Dune’s spacing guild, through the microphone of the father. No enunciation is accepted without “As Foucault said…”, “As Derrida said…”, “As Deleuze said…”, etc. Thus, while we are told to move beyond the Oedipus, phallocentrism, and to work in a logic of difference, strangely we end up reproducing the very structure of Oedipus, phallocentrism, and identity! Due to the way in which Continental philosophy relates to the history of philosophy and fathers, it is animated by an inherent conservativism that seeks to reproduce the voice of the fathers and that severely restricts the possibility of other voices and problems.

This has very real world consequences professionally and intellectually for all of us working in the tradition of Continental philosophy, but is especially problematic with respect to race, gender, and ethnicity. Because of how these discourses are institutionally organized– and make no mistake, these institutions form what Morton calls a “hyperobject” –those that come from other sites of both geography and identity find their voices strangely stolen from them even as they strive to articulate their problems, world, issues, and so on. Our speech is only legitimate within this hyperobject if it is articulated through French and German fathers. Our capacity to pose our own questions, our own problems, and to articulate our own concepts is taken from us. The point here is not that we should abandon and ignore the tradition, but that there is a hegemony in how this system is set up from the get-go. This is part of what I have in mind when I talk about “phallusophy” rather than “philosophy”. Phallusophy is, in part, a form of thought organized around fathers (and please note I’m not saying that we should kill the fathers– as Freud taught us, the return even worse and more despotically then –but that we need a flatter, more egalitarian intellectual space; and here one should note that I have plenty of fathers of my own).

read on!

Within the framework of what I call “onto-cartography” (the topic of my next book), these are issues of geography. Hitherto Continental philosophy has been able to function in this way because of a material cartography and geography that has organized it. We often speak as if ideas travel throughout the world faster than the speed of light, such that we can ignore the distribution networks that allow one set of ideas, texts, and figures to dominate the field over others. As I like to say, relations are never given, they have to be built or forged. We speak as if it were persuasion and quality alone that determines what voices get to be the voices of fathers and what voices are subordinated to being those of sons repeating the father’s teachings. This ignores the fact that there’s always a material cartography that organizes these things and this cartography was only possible through the creation of certain networks that function as relay points for information and that subjectivize people in various ways. Until recently, the relay points organizing this cartography were the major Continental universities, certain key journals, and the major professional journals. Jobs, publications, and talks had to pass through all of these relay points just as travel from place to place– especially over seas –requires you to pass through certain key airports and cities even though you’d prefer not to. It has been these networks that have organized the nature of discourse and what it is possible to organize. Moreover, this network or hyperobject has also functioned to determine which information is passed on and which isn’t: What texts are reviewed, what events are publicized, what philosophical tendencies and schools are discussed, etc. In France, for example, it wasn’t as if people suddenly realized that they were wrong and that Hegel really was a great philosopher. A network involving universities, journals, conferences, PhD directors, and all the rest had to be forged to shift Hegel from a state of obscurity to a state of dominance (when Deleuze was doing his graduate work). This network has historically functioned as a great hyperobject domesticating all voices that pass through it, disciplining them, and regulating what is and is not articulable. Sometimes people make it through and become a father or mother, but more often than not their relegated to abandoning their voices, problems, concepts, and questions and transformed from being entities in their own right to elements in a larger-scale hyperobject that are consigned to autopoietically reproducing this larger-scale unit.

Things are, however, changing. With the new communications technologies, the key universities, conferences, and journals no longer occupy a position to structure the cartography of Continental thought in the way they once did. It now becomes possible to create a very different geography because we are able to form networks in ways that were not previously available to us. We have the means to form our own conferences, journals, publication houses, and collectives in a way that was never before possible. And as a consequence, we increasingly gain the power to pose our own questions, problems, and concepts. This happy work, in its turn, begins to rebound on the older network, exercising all sorts of pressure from PhD students angling to do something else, all sorts of pressure on the major conferences and their organizers, all sorts of pressure on the dominant journals. Increasingly the older institution and geography finds that it must respond and things gradually change. And indeed, what do we increasingly see? We see voices emerging from all over the place in the world where previously we could hear no voices because the older network or hyperobject filtered them all out. Increasingly we discover the possibility that we can have our own interests, that we can articulate our own questions and problems, that we can invent concepts. I do not wish to wax utopian about this. I am not making the claim that all that comes out of this network is of the same quality. Similarly, things are lost with any shift in media. Yet new possibilities for a post-Oedipal and therefore for a post-Continental philosophy are opening up. So to my friend Z. I would say own the affect of your outrage at the way your voice is stolen from you, at the way you are silenced, but use that outrage to become a mediator. Find ways to both build and construct networks and to forge a space, geography, or cartography where your voice can speak as your voice. Respect the “fathers” and draw from them what you must, but find a way of doing philosophy post-Oedipally and move beyond phallusophy. Place your voice out there in the material world and find ways to link it with other voices. One of my ardent hopes is that increasingly we see the death of “Anglo-American” and “Continental” philosophy as two nationalistic poles defining philosophy, and instead come to hear the voice of the girl, the South American, the Central American, the Eastern European, the Russian, those from throughout Africa, the Japanese, and so on. It is up to us to both build these networks or new hyperobjects and to cultivate them where we find them. If the world, as the abominable Friedman suggests, has truly become flat then let us take them at the world and make it flat.