Thinking through Opacity

Édouard Glissant and Cybernetics

Opacity is the focal point of my thesis. It is, to be precise, the point of entry, passage, departure, and re-entry the life work of Édouard Glissant, some of whose concepts, and this is one important segment of the thesis, in my opinion call for a coupling with cybernetic thought.

Opacity will serve to argue that the histories and epistemologies, and therefore materialities, of how we make sense of and understand media (and) technology are closely intertwined with the histories and epistemologies of – hereby echoing Glissant – how we relate to each other and ourselves. This, at first, does not seem to be a radical claim, for media (and) technology are known to become evident where they intermediate, namely mediate two things in order for them to carry out their differentialities. These media, of course, not only tend to remain uncertain, undetermined, and obscure. In fact, they have to be. The histories and epistemologies of relating to each other and Relation (as in how Glissant would use the term) call into the arena the question of (the nature of) understanding and suggest the negotiation of identities. So, this above-mentioned sense making shall for example include such constructs and concepts as race and blackness.

The argument I want to make is not merely concerning analogical references – say, the prevalence of the master/slave terminology in the language of informatics and engineering until today, or the reading and understanding of the black body as a (pre-)capitalist technology, as capital and/or commodity form. The argument rather links Glissants oeuvre comprised of his poetics and poetic knowledge, his understanding of and play with language, and of revolutionary concepts such as Creolization, Relation and opacity to a cybernetic epistemology, to computational knowledge and realities and to contemporary politics.


Nelly Y. Pinkrah