Dust, Oil, and Swarm-Selves: Re-Imagining Middle Eastern Subjectivity with Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia
For many years, the Middle East and its cultural and political contexts have been examined from solely Western epistemological standpoints, creating an orientalist view of the Middle East which fails to capture the complexity of identity and sentience formation in the region. Previous scholarship uses Western methodologies such as Jacques Lacan’s mirror stage to understand this development, providing an incomplete and essentialized explanation of identity formation. This paper uses Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia as the theoretical basis for exploration of the recurring “fragmented” identity motif in Middle Eastern science fiction/horror literature. Cyclonopedia does not claim that there is an “authentic” Middle East to be discovered, as this is also a form of orientalism; instead, it builds on Western thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Sigmund Freud, and Nick Land to form a creative hybrid methodology of Western and Eastern epistemologies called Hidden Writing. Negarestani’s methodology locates points of contention in the creative texts (Peter Watt’s “Malak”, Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) highlighting connections inter and intra-textually that emphasize the shortcomings of Western conceptions of identity formation, especially through the exploration of different forms of sentience across the texts. The growing technology of artificial intelligence and Negarestani’s development of Hidden Writing highlight different possible forms of sentience that push back against a solely Western anthropocentric view of sentience and subjectivity.
postcolonial studies, Middle Eastern literature, science fiction, horror, Frankenstein, critical theory, psychoanalysis, Middle East
Ali, R. (2020). Dust, Oil, and Swarm-Selves: Re-Imagining Middle Eastern Subjectivity with Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia (Unpublished undergraduate thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.