“If something makes itself felt, known, from the zone of those of us said to be and have nothing, then the interrogation of what nothingness means is our urgent task. The nothingness of possibilities otherwise, of living the alternative.”
Ashon T. CrawleyBlackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility, (New York: Fordham University Press: 2017), 197.
The past is not always or yet past.
This issue of MICE, Ghost Intimacies, is enfolded in the complexity of haunting and of our relations. It asks time and again: who or what do we want to connect and remain connected with? On the one hand, it seeks to identify the many ways in which systems of oppression survive and haunt the lives of queer, Indigenous, and people of colour. It is beyond dispute that our present has inherited logics of servitude and individuation that continue to protect the institution of white supremacy. The routinization of violence against our bodies is a sharp reminder of the current state of coloniality we endure, here in Canada and elsewhere: an imminent and immanent relationship to police brutality, state violence, everyday racism, and to their monuments (prisons, first and foremost). Forced intimacies g/host or carry such hatred in their heart, sometimes beyond the strictures of time and space.
On the other hand, this issue summons alternative approaches to haunting, in ways that seek to overthrow the politics of disappearance, forgetfulness, and even hostility toward the dead, performed by racial capitalism. If the latter—grounded in exploitation, extraction, and the spectralization of “others”—is meant to deny the complexity of life, then how do we exit its oppressive regimes of visibility and linearity? For whiteness, by declaring itself the signifier of transparency and ownership, forestalls the advent of unanticipated temporalities, of ways of living and believing in the world that do not privilege time as teleology, in order to guarantee its coherence. Such is how the racial is construed, to negate movement and relationality to a phantasmatic other. It is the vibrational materiality of Indigenous, people of colour, and queer temporalities that is repressed in the service of producing (hetero-)normative life. That is how our communities (an emphasis on those of us affected by these processes of slow or violent death) are made ghostly.
In dissent, we ask: how can the force of haunting be unleashed effectively against the politics of disappearance and separation enacted by capitalism? How do we—“those of us said to be and have nothing”—practice intimacy under duress? How do we reckon with what neoliberalism has rendered ghostly? How do we stop being ghosts? And what would it mean to end a world that perpetually brutalizes intimacy in the interest of competitive individualism, and continues to impose its view by severing the social?
Perhaps what needs to be practiced, with absolutely no constraint, is a ritual that connects us beyond what we recognize as past or dead: a critique of the normative epistemologies and ontologies deciding—that is, quantifying—when and where attachments should begin and end. That the past is not always or yet past begs our critical attention. Which is why it becomes necessary to find other ways of remembering, that is, other ways of knowing (feeling) and relating, in order to live. The process of producing this issue of MICE—an attempt at materializing the feeling of ghost intimacies or a knowledge of another kind, thriving in non-linear time—is indebted to that necessity, that of caring for haunting as a decolonial methodology.
How do we practice care or concern? Under what conditions? Who do we share an experience with? How do we feel the unseen? How are we touched by what our current epistemological order deems untouchable? But also: how do we ward off separability and loneliness? How do we outstretch our hands and cut through individualism?Fred Moten, “Bobby Lee’s Hands,” Organize Your Own: The Politics and Poetics of Self-Determination Movements, December 5, 2016.How do we practice conviviality otherwise, which is about dismissing otherness and sameness altogether?
Throughout this issue the answers proliferate in ways that do not necessarily resolve the tension between the immediacy of intimacy and the elusiveness of haunting. In fact, the intention behind the title of this issue is to foreground how complex, sometimes hesitant, and otherworldly social life can be. Such imprecision is meant to cloud the clarity or discretion of capitalistic processes.
Inherent in the theme Ghost Intimacies is an irrepressible demand: how do we preserve intimacy away from competitive, predatory individualism?
With this issue we seek to address the social poiesis of alternative gatherings, fugitive reunions, or assemblages against the imposition of individuation. We’re interested in how intimacy blurs with joy, memory, and survival. Ghosts have not only their say but also their way in the making of an otherwise sociality: an outpouring of lifeways breaking with our norms of perceptions in order to connect with something else. When the frontier of knowledge is occupied by the living and the non-living, and the human and the non-human tangle, what sort of commerce or communication arises? In a mutual inhabitance we may find new habits of entanglement. That is why we must attend to the scope and the spectre of hospitality in the form of a question. Such indeterminate connection (to come) means that the definition of intimacy is and must remain open—so one can g/host as many forms and modes of existence as is spiritually possible.
An ethics of haunting demands attunement to what is there, but also out there, to the queer becoming of desire. That is why intimacy is not and should not be about scale: when consent (to the multiplicity of being) is denied, and its sociality severed, it becomes something of a private or personal order. The indefinition of presence—as more than here, now, and one—blurs the reach of intimacy. Like a dream that belongs to no one in particular—that no one claims—but rather operates as a longing for entanglement. No matter what the distance, two friends can co-operate through the entangling machine that is the dream. This oneiric stream summons an ethics of intimacy that exceeds (though it doesn’t exclude) proximity and likeness.
This issue is an affirmation of and a leaning into nonseparable life. It’s about being able to respond to modes of life that do not necessarily conform to the ocularcentrism and linearity of whiteness; being able to feel the presence of alternative temporalities in the flesh, to become vulnerable to the complexity of life and breath.
This is a demanding task, for it asks of us to upset certain habits. The journey of decolonization can take many shapes, comprising acts of unlearning, mourning, and healing. These processes agitate what is normally understood as “intimate,” “personal,” “social” or “political”—categories that have been subsumed by the individualist regime of neoliberalism—and destabilize mechanisms passed on by institutions such as art or the academy, thus enabling us to translate and to connect with what feels at once like a loss and a presence. In order to make contact with a sociality that has been made less than alive, we must do a type of work that welcomes unforeseen (new and ancient) connections, that allows us to realize that we are our ancestors. We are not alone. In order to allow for another kind of memory, one must allow multiple voices to emerge. How does one go about editing in this context?
The wide response to the call for this issue of MICE seemed to speak to a large-scale need for collective grief. We selected proposals that emanated from a space of intimacy with ghosts, but that also were inclined towards undoing spectralization through their very making. To connect with one’s ghost(s), and ghostliness, is necessarily done in a very specific (intimate) way (to the author) that unsettles comfort zones. Our role was to facilitate that process of materialization while also carving a space for the authors’ inventions to be read by (shared with) others, as part of an emerging sociality that does not rely on or refer to whiteness.
The editorial process was also about honouring the task of preserving and opening to connection, that which is not only an act of resistance but one of love. In attuning to the demands of our ghosts we build worlds overnight. Our memory no longer speaks of a loss only, but becomes a force. The result is a collection of poetic and informal essays, hybrid rituals, everyday futuristic fictions, alternative archival collages, media works, interviews, and a dream. Within them, you will find echoes, between them, and beyond them. Perhaps friendships, past and future. We hope that their works feel each other.
We cannot thank the authors enough for pushing through with us in the face of an inhabitual and delicate task. We are grateful to them and to the MICE collective for giving us the opportunity to pursue this intimate and vulnerable journey collectively. We hope that this issue will provide some additional tools for practicing love.
Let’s keep in touch!