Zine Workshop: Being Human under Technocapitalism

Last week we ran a pilot event in the Creative Posthumanism project, specially for the postgraduate research (PhD) community at Winchester School of Art (WSA). The event was facilitated by me and Noriko Suzuki-Bosco, an artist, artist’s book-maker, and fellow bibliophile who has also worked with me on several previous zine workshops. The theme? ‘Being Human under Technocapitalism’.

The plan was to create something collaboratively, using the creative process to think differently about topics we might historically have only considered academically or through critical writing. The exact format of the zine was decided on the day, once we could see how many participants we had and could discuss what everyone felt comfortable with. In the end we had a nice small group of around six people, which meant we could all speak to each other and work together around the same table.

In the first part of the session we introduced participants to the process of making an individual zine, including the work of folding and cutting the paper and the types of things you might have as topics or content. We also introduced them to the materials we had assembled: magazines, patches, bits of washi tape, stickers, and other decorations.

We also sent participants a few quotes from work on this topic in advance to serve as prompts, and we had printed copies of these texts at the workshop as well for them to cut up:

1. Unquestionably, the last 40 years have witnessed a profound shift in the trajectory of capitalist development. Concepts such as globalization (Poulantzas 1975: 49), post-Fordism (Amin 1994) neoliberalism (Helleiner 1994), transnational capitalist class (Robinson 2004), and even a global state (Shaw 2000) have been developed in response, and treated as emergent from within the preceding configuration of global capitalism. While the global financial crisis of 2007 onwards may be said to have called a halt to the neoliberal experiment, or at least arrested its development (Lippit 2010: 69), there remains the question of where do we go from here. Are there any clues as regards the next prolonged configuration emerging from the wreckage of neoliberalism?

Keaney, M. (2012) Book Review: Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism. Review of Radical Political Economics. [Online] 44 (4), 512–516 (p. 512).

2. “Human bodies” and “human subjects” do not preexist as such; nor are they mere end products. “Humans” are neither pure cause nor pure effect but part of the world in its open‐ended becoming.

Matter, like meaning, is not an individually articulated or static entity. Matter is not little bits of nature, or a blank slate, surface, or site passively awaiting signification; nor is it an uncontested ground for scientific, feminist, or Marxist theories. Matter is not a support, location, referent, or source of sustainability for discourse. Matter is not immutable or passive. It does not require the mark of an external force like culture or history to complete it. Matter is always already an ongoing historicity.

Barad, K. (2003) Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. [Online] 28 (3), 801–831 (p. 821).

3. For us humans, the flow and flush of waters sustain our own bodies, but also connect them to other bodies, to other worlds beyond our human selves. Indeed, bodies of water undo the idea that bodies are necessarily or only human. The bodies from which we siphon and into which we pour ourselves are certainly other human bodies (a kissable lover, a blood transfused stranger, a nursing infant), but they are just as likely a sea, a cistern, an underground reservoir of once-was-rain. Our watery relations within (or more accurately: as) a more-than-human hydrocommons thus present a challenge to anthropocentrism, and the privileging of the human as the sole or primary site of embodiment. Referring to the always hybrid assemblage of matters that constitutes watery embodiment, we might say that we have never been (only) human (Braidotti 2013: 1; Haraway 1985, 2008). This is not to forsake our inescapable humanness, but to suggest that the human is always also more-than-human. Our wateriness verifies this, both materially and conceptually.

Neimanis, Astrida (2016) Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology, London: Bloomsbury Academic, p.2

Some participants played with and cut up these texts for their own mini-zines, which they took home with them at the end of the day. One participant even did a collage in response to Astrida Neimanis’ Bodies of Water, which was later liked by Neimanis herself on Twitter:

In the second part of the workshop Noriko and I made a start on a big shared zine, adding a few images and the quotes from our prompt document. The others quickly joined in and by the end of the two-hour session the work had evolved and grown in really exciting and sometimes unexpected ways. Throughout we were in conversation with each other: sometimes about the practical work of the zine-making itself, sometimes about the theory, but mostly just about each other and our lives beyond the workshop. The time passed very quickly, and despite the amount of critical work that went into the making it did not feel much like work at all. In the end we all left feeling encouraged and re-energised.

Noriko and I will be digitising the full zine later this summer—it is too large to just run through the scanner in its entirety! More soon, but in the meantime here are some images from the day and the zine close-up:

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You can read more about the event timings and physical details on its Eventbrite page. And if you liked the look of this event and would like to join us for the next one, you can register here for ‘Scrapbooking the Wasteland—A Posthumanist Terror Management Theory Toolkit’ on Wednesday, 1st June 2-4pm BST.


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