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DismantlingsWords against Machines in the American Long Seventies$
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Matt Tierney

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501746413

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501746413.001.0001

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(p.139) Chapter 7 Thanatopography

Matt Tierney

Cornell University Press

This chapter describes thanatopography as the drawing of a map of death, not the writing of a death. When new technologies respatialize the world, thanatopography teaches that they do so not because they construct a communicative network but instead because they build and distribute sites of machinic killing. In discussing Norbert Wiener's insistence on seeing the planet as a world of Belsen and Hiroshima, thanatopography pares back the presumed connection between technology and humanity, exposing something quite frightening underneath the network. A vision of the world that presumes no common similarities among people and peoples is a vertiginous vision that must see shared connections among extant technologies, not only telecommunication and computation but also war, racism, and dehumanizing labor. Communal responsibility and mutual obligation survive amid such technologies as ethical codes that negotiate difference rather than attempting to transcend it. But they also require a reckoning with very real legacies of twentieth-century machines. In place of the smooth-functioning global network, thanatopography offers a spatio-temporal figuration of mass death.

Keywords:   thanatopography, machinic killing, Norbert Wiener, racism, dehumanizing labor, ethical code, machine, mass death

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