In The Posthuman, Rosi Braidotti complains about critical thought ‘after the great explosion of theoretical creativity of the 1970s and 1980s’: it was as if ‘we had entered a zombified landscape of repetition without difference’, she writes. And no doubt poststructuralist theory did in certain hands become another orthodoxy. Yet given the amount of emphasis currently being placed on monistic, realist, object-oriented and materialist ontologies in what is being perceived as the ‘cutting-edge’ critical thought of today, it is hard not to wonder: are we in danger of embarking on another journey into theoretical orthodoxy?
Sharing the frustration of Braidotti and others with the decline of so much post-Marxism, deconstruction and psychoanalysis into mere repetition without difference, Culture Machine has indeed over the years published essays and issues on various aspects of monism, realism and materialism. Nevertheless, in an effort to ensure the journal avoids succumbing to a zombified future by doing just more of the same, we have decided to celebrate Culture Machine’s 15th anniversary by transferring much of its editorial oversight to scholars located in Mexico – a place with which we have developed a number of academic and artistic collaborations over the years.
Of course this may appear as a rather strange move to some, especially in these conservative times, when both academics and journals are under pressure to garner indicators of esteem from people based in nations at the so-called ‘centre’ of the global academic publishing networks (e.g. the US, UK, France). Yet by placing this bet on Mexico, we are endeavouring to force the Culture Machine journal into inventing a different, unorthodox future for itself that is at once both singular and unpredictable.
As a way of beginning the process of reinvention, for this 15th anniversary issue of the journal we have invited a number of scholars, writers, activists and artists from Latin America to provide us with a series of contaminating mediations of Culture Machine and its history. The issue is therefore designed to constitute something of a critical retrospective, both offering new contributions and inviting the readers to revisit some of our earlier work. We want to stress that our goal in extending this invitation to non-Anglo collaborators is not simply to place more emphasis on contemporary critical and cultural thought emerging from the so-called margins – places in which, as the journal’s new editor, Gabriela Méndez Cota, makes clear in her introduction to this issue, people ‘have traditionally been treated as objects of knowledge rather than subjects of active theoretical investigation’.
It is not merely a case of inviting the so-called ‘Other’ (who is, of course, never fully other) to the party. If it were, there would be too much of a risk of merely repeating and maintaining the very system of representation and centre/periphery model our approach to the geopolitics of knowledge is ostensibly designed to challenge. Besides, there is no guarantee that, just because a particular thinker is located geographically outside the global west and north, they will not inhabit its landscape of theoretical orthodoxy. Nor is the global south without zombified theory of its own. This is why we are suggesting any such relation is better thought in terms of contaminating mediation: because of the extent to which each is capable of transforming the other, potentially beyond all recognition.
We can therefore perhaps see these thinkers from Mexico and other locations in Latin America as offering the gift of their work, understanding, language and translation to English-speaking readers of Culture Machine all over the world. For this particular issue, the Spanish-speaking writers have all made their texts available in English, in recognition of the present readership of the journal – but also in recognition of the fact that a number of scholars based in the Spanish-speaking world are already part of the mainstream discourses and debates in the global west and north, precisely because so many of them are able to navigate comfortably between different languages and different academic conventions. (The willingness and ability to do so is unfortunately not always reciprocated, we are ashamed to admit.)
However, this is only a first step for us. The intention for future issues is to invite increasing numbers of non-Anglo collaborators to participate in Culture Machine, in English and in Spanish (and hopefully in other languages too later on), and in this way join with those in the English-speaking world in helping to generate a more distributed, decentered, multi-polar academic gift economy for the production, publication and dissemination of contemporary theory.
The Culture Machine Editorial Collective