At the website The Occulture, Rebekah Sheldon examines the occult elements of the propaganda deployed by the US “alt-right.” Rather than treating the occult as a realm of dark freedom, this propaganda, writes Sheldon, is “a rearguard attempt to capture the force of the black circuit and bind it back to mechanisms of command and control.” In contrast, Sheldon offers a queer occult guided by what she terms “XENO as method.” Read an excerpt from the piece below. (Sheldon’s essay “Queer Universal” appeared in the May 2016 issue of e-flux journal.)
I’ve been stuck on this question. It is, after all, quite a moment to be interested in the occult(ure), when even the U.S. Democratic nominee for the presidency finds herself responding to the meme magicians of the white right. XENO forms one part of the name of Nick Land’s neoreactionary blog; it’s one appellation of The Occulture; and it is the name the feminist collective Laboria Cuboniks gives to its manifesto. In this matrix of reference, XENO appears side-by-side with hyperstition, techno-culture, Cthulhu, and the occult; they travel together. Meme magic works by invocation, image dissemination, and gematria. When Hillary Clinton’s team took to their webpage to explain the racist implications of Pepe the Frog in the Deplorables meme circulated by DJT Jr. on Twitter, they cited the hyperstitional character of Pepe’s reclamation by fascists.
“We basically mixed Pepe in with Nazi propaganda,” wrote an anonymous source quoted in the story. “We built that association.”
The story didn’t describe the further occult association of Pepe with Kek, a frog-headed Egyptian deity of chaos and darkness. A hyperstition in its own right, the Pepe-Kek connection further sediments the anti-Semitism of the original by aligning Kek with the denial of the enslavement of the Israelites in ancient Egypt. In this yet further twist, Kek repudiates the Passover story as itself an elaborate hyperstition designed to discredit the Old Gods of polytheism.
So what’s a fat, queer, half-jewish, antiracist, anticapitalist feminist theorist to do with her project on queer magic now that the whole boodle has been taken over by neofascists? This is obviously not anywhere close to the most pressing question of this political moment. But it is mine.
That’s more or less why I’ve been thinking about xeno- as method. To open to the outside, to work what is itself trans-obdurate, as method, is always also to welcome chaos and darkness. Chaos and darkness, though very often used as empty signifiers of defiant resistance, can be given quite precise specifications in this context, and ones that have little to do with the sort of masculinism that takes the autonomy of the willing individual as its ideal. XENO as method implies a horizon of action that cannot be determined at the outset. It is dark in the sense that it operates without the assurance of full knowledge and it is chaotic because it presumes that the force of the other is always wholly other.
The hateful, supremacist joke of Pepe-Kek meme magic is just another in a long succession of patriarchal projects aimed at controlling the outside, strapping down its meaning, and dictating its future.
Image of Xenophorid shell via deepseanews.com.