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Spotlight

18 October 2018
Xenofeminism: Alienation and Accelerationism

Ana Llurba

In the eighties, emerging cyberfeminist trends began to give way to the first theoretical tools for decolonising the instrumentalisation of science and technology. Several female feminist theoreticians imploded the idea of androgyny and male dominance in these fields. Among the most outstanding, Donna Haraway, Judy Wajman, Sadie Plant and the VNS Matrix collective conceived a utopia in which the decolonisation of science and technology could be envisaged as favourable for the emancipation of women and other marginal identities historically distinguished by difference.

As in other feminisms and post-colonialisms, the question of identity is one of the key themes in cyberfeminism. However, the vertigo of the great issues of modernism, such as the acceleration of capitalist progress, is also addressed by its contemporary epigones such as xenofeminism. Published in 2015, Xenofeminism. A Politics for Alienation is a polyphonic manifesto created by the Laboria Cuboniks collective, a group of six cyberfeminist activists who live in different latitudes and met at the Emancipation as Navigation conference organised at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt summer school in Berlin in July 2014.

Characterised by the typical programmatic features of manifestos, this was a textual artefact with subheadings that call readers to action through active verbs (Interrupt, Carry, Load, Overflow). Xenofeminism adopts the Greek prefix ‘xeno’ (popularised in the Alien film franchise to describe non-human species as xenomorphic) which means foreign, foreigner, and in an original way makes it converge with the Marxist theory of alienation:

‘XF seizes alienation as an impetus to generate new worlds. We are all alienated — but have we ever been otherwise? It is through, and not despite, our alienated condition that we can free ourselves from the muck of immediacy. Freedom is not a given — and it’s certainly not given by anything “natural”. The construction of freedom involves not less but more alienation; alienation is the labour of freedom’s construction. Nothing should be accepted as fixed, permanent, or “given” — neither material conditions nor social forms. XF mutates, navigates and probes every horizon.’

As Donna Haraway did with the cyborg, xenofeminism supports the alien (the other, the foreign, the foreigner, the non-human) and alienation (the worker transformed into a commodity) as both a myth and a tool. Unlike Haraway, however, it considers the parody, irony and performance characterising postmodernism as rhetorical strategies and a political way of positioning itself as a new rationalism. This is how it claims what it considers the orphaned legacy of modernism, affirming that the belief that reason or rationality is ‘by nature’ a patriarchal enterprise would be to concede defeat. Moreover, xenofeminism criticises contemporary left-wing movements for entrenching themselves in the struggles of collectives on the margins of the system, for retreating into the small resistances against globalised capitalism: ‘We take politics that exclusively valorize the local in the guise of subverting currents of global abstraction, to be insufficient. To secede from or disavow capitalist machinery will not make it disappear.’

At this point, xenofeminism coincides with the ‘Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics’ (2013) signed by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, in which they suggested that ‘the only radical political response to capitalism is not to protest, disrupt or critique… but to accelerate its uprooting, alienating, decoding, abstractive tendencies.’ So, left-wing accelerationism sustains that instead of decreasing them, speeding up the destructive dynamics of capitalism is to understand that modernism is a transformative force, not a sentence. Each in their own way, the two trends – xenofeminism and accelerationism – appeal to the collapse of the system, emphasising its contradictions through a rationalist, globalist, anti-racist, anti-hierarchical and, of course, transfeminist politics.

Ana is fascinated to dive into books and movies, to approach with caution those tentacles that lie in the depths and to return to count what she has seen. She studied Literary Theory and Comparative Literature at the UAB. She is currently working in publishing, collaborating with some magazines and fanzines and coordinating the Honolulu Books project.

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