Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Space Between - final paper proposal

Throughout the course of the semester we have explored a number of gaps, engaging with questions of being on and off the grid, mapped and unmapped. I would like to focus on the gray area between those opposites, the space between hyperconnectivity and anonymity. What exists in this gap? Says Tsing of physical gaps: "Gaps are zones of erasure and incomprehensibility." (195) They are the spaces between civilization and the wild, ignored because they cannot be comprehended or mapped.

I would like to think through this idea of the gap, both as it exists as a physical space "left behind the advancing wave of history," and as a cognitive space where a disruption takes place and there is a break in the flow of a network. In both cases there is a disruption of flow. A promise is broken. What happens in that moment of waiting, in that space between now and then, as you sit watching the spinning rainbow circle or the never-ending hourglass turn? What happens in that moment between simultanaeity and linearity, between possibility and mobilization, as you angrily stare at the notification on your cell phone stating "NO SERVICE"?

Drawing from Tsing, Berlant, and Ahmed, I would like to explore the idea of the gap and interrogate what occurs in the imagination from such a pause. Instead of focusing entirely on theory, I would like to look at a local instance of perceived and actual broken promises. Specifically, I will examine Obama's presidency, viewing it as a site of conjuring that asked the American people to see a world that didn't exist. My hope is not to insult or glorify his presidency, but rather look at it critically as it exists within a climate of messianic politics. His campaign offered hope, simultaneously introducing and utilizing the messianic promise which has permeated America's national consciousness. What was the ideological framework from which these promises operated? What work does promise do, and what happens when those promises fail? What becomes relevant in such a gap where the individual's faith is stranded between herself, the collective, and the object upon which she originally placed her faith? And, as the campaign was a key component to the democratic process as it is performed in America, what can be said about the theoretical possibilities of such a moment of pause? More broadly, what happens in that moment of contemplation between denial and acceptance, between optimism and discouraging realities, between theory and practice? Here it will be relevant to include Ranciere and his discussion of the democratic process as creating a space between. I would like to explore Obama's presidency and its implications for the American democratic process, as well as question the ways in which his campaign existed as a zone of erasure and embodied a sense of postmodern confusion, even as it called upon and channeled that emotion. In an ideological sense, what was disrupted? What was disrupted both in the existence of his campaign as an unconventional candidate, and in the promises that he offered, failed to follow through on, and succeeded to accomplish? What are the ways in which his campaign and presidency perhaps produced and furthered gaps in the networks that exist within American politics, and what can be said of this?

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