This notion of anthropological exodus is still very ambiguous, however, because its methods, hybridization and mutation, are themselves the very methods employed by imperial sovereignty. In the dark world of cyberpunk fiction, for example, the freedom of self-fashioning is often indistinguishable from the powers of an all-encompassing control. We certainly do need to change our bodies and ourselves, and in perhaps a much more radical way than the cyberpunk authors imagine. In our contemporary world, the now common aesthetic mutations of the body, such as piercings and tattoos, punk fashion and its various imitations, are all initial indications of this corporeal transformation, but in the end they do not hold a candle to the kind of radical mutation needed here. The will to be against really needs a body that is completely incapable of submitting to command. It needs a body that is incapable of adapting to family life, to factory discipline, to the regulations of a traditional sex life, and so forth. (If you find your body refusing these ‘‘normal’’ modes of life, don’t despair—realize your gift!)
A pioneer of “Afrofuturism,” bandleader Sun Ra emerged from a traditional swing scene in Alabama, touring the country in his teens as a member of his high school biology teacher’s big band. While attending Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, he had a out-of-body experience during which he was transported into outer space. As biographer John Szwed records him saying, “my whole body changed into something else. I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn.” While there, aliens with “little antenna on each ear. A little antenna on each eye” instructed him to drop out of college and speak through his music. And that’s just what he did, changing his name from Herman Blount and never looking back…
If there was no pre-existing and definite world without gender, then we cannot conceive of our struggle as being for a return to some pre-gendered whole. Rather we must conceive of our escape as the flight of domesticated beings into the wild. Not primitive or prelapsarian beings, we must become feral beings. We can understand queerness similarly. We aren’t naïve enough to project a positive or essential queerness into the unknown before civilisation. Instead, we conceive of our queerness negatively, as escape, refusal, and failure of gender. What we pursue then, is a feral queerness which bucks against all the apparatuses of constraint and subjection; a feral queer which appears as out of time, irrational, inappropriate, and wild. We won’t find this in anthropology, history, economics, or psychoanalysis. Instead we’ll employ magic, heresy, myth, and exegesis.
The Bronx-born photographer Lisa Leone began taking pictures of hip-hop artists she knew in her teens and twenties. Today, her work offers a look back at some of hip-hop’s biggest names when they were just getting their start.
If I am always constituted by norms that are not of my making, then I have to understand the ways that constitution takes place. The staging and structuring of affect and desire is clearly one way in which norms work their way into what feels most properly to belong to me. The fact that I am other to myself precisely at the place where I expect to be myself follows from the fact that the sociality of norms exceeds my inception and my demise, sustaining a temporal and spatial field of operation that exceeds my self-understanding.