Issue Thirteen: The Outside

William Latham

With this, the thirteenth issue of the CMA journal, we wish to create a collection of works that explore, enact, and externalize an Outside: a beyond of various contemporary modes of enclosure and ensnarement.

Some of the particular ensnarements probed in this issue include the touristic gentrification of Cairo, the impending transition of Hong Kong to a single system of governance, and the ecological devastation wrought by human hands.

The Outside, as conceived here, names the desire for escape from interconnected systems and norms that entrap thought and alienate action. It names the utopic horizon that might be found upon achieving such an escape, a place beyond the cultural forms that confine liberatory consciousness and forestall liberation itself.

At one level, the outside names an escape from the condition of the highly media-infused, city-dwelling subject. Being always in the know requires being constrained within a system of isolated insularities, from echo-chambers and pre-selective algorithms to the siloing of academic and political discourses. Byung-Chul Han labels this condition “the terror of the Same,” that effects all areas of life today: “One travels everywhere yet does not experience anything” (“The Terror of the Same” 3). Genuine experience, which etymologically requires an encounter with exteriority — going ‘out of’ a familiar and pre-accounted for world — is becoming increasingly difficult.

On a broader level, the Outside names an escape from the colonizing capital melting pot of which we are all ingredients. What might it mean to step out, to digress, to disinvest from this system whose clutches extend so globally? For Frederic Jameson, contemporary capitalism has become so complex that imagining the edge of its “unifying and totalising force” is impossible (“Cognitive Mapping” 348).

Yet, the idea of a utopic horizon beyond such limits remains provocative. As Deleuze insists “there is always one side through which [a social formation] escapes, undoes itself” (“Two Regimes of Madness” 15). At the edge or a given confinement system, if one can find it, there is always the call "to be carried off elsewhere, the beyond” (15).

The works collated here enact, complicate, and deconstruct various notions of this Outside:

One work, a review of Christopher K. Ho's installation CX 889 — which recreates sections of Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport in the centre of Vancouver downtown — destabilizes the very orientation of inside/outside, and escape/ensnarement, suggesting that navigating these boundaries requires unusual strategies.

In another work, Diane Wong surveys Afrofuturism, and cultural production in the African diaspora, proposing that the spatial question of locating an outside need be responded to with a fractured temporal answer. The essay suggests that an outside of the world's current trajectory toward ecological devastation might only be conceivable through summoning discontinuous temporalities — as though time is once again out of joint.

On the nature-culture debate, Leila Armstrong’s essay investigates how we might need to undo the very modes of thought that install humans outside of nature, in order to imagine something beyond the existing violent relationship between humans and nature understood as mere resource.

With these, and other works, this issue envisions how spaces of liberatory exile can be discovered and cultivated.

Works Cited

Deleuze, Gilles. “Two Regimes of Madness,” Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975-1995, MIT Press, 2006, pp. 11–16.

Han, Byung-Chal. “The Terror of the Same.” The Expulsion of the Other: Society, Perception and Communication Today, Polity Press, 2018, pp. 1–9.

Jameson, Frederic. “Cognitive Mapping.” Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, University of Illinois, 1988, pp. 347–357.

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