Thursday, May 31, 2012


Hakim Bey: Repopulating the Temporary Autonomous Zone
Author: Simon Sellars

From: Journal for the Study of Radicalism
Volume 4, Number 2, Fall 2010
pp. 83-108 | 10.1353/jsr.2010.0007

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Project MUSE - Journal for the Study of Radicalism - Hakim Bey: Repopulating the Temporary Autonomous Zone Browse > History > Journal for the Study of Radicalism > Volume 4, Number 2, Fall 2010 Download PDF Hakim Bey:Repopulating the Temporary Autonomous Zone Simon SellarsRMIT University, Melbourne, Australia The poet and essayist Peter Lamborn Wilson is widely known for his anarchist manifesto "The Temporary Autonomous Zone" (TAZ), developed across a series of essays written from 1981 to 1988 and published in collected form in 1991 as T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism. The essays were attributed to "Hakim Bey," Wilson's infamous pseudonym, and the writing itself was a potent brew of mysticism, historical narratives, autonomous Marxist politics, and French critical theory. The overall aim was to highlight indeterminate zones within late capitalism, everyday occurrences that refuse, whether by accident or design, to be incorporated into dominant narratives. This enabled The TAZ to become an extraordinarily influential (and divisive) text in anarchist circles, and in various pop cultural movements. But has that moment passed? Can the concept hold any meaning for observers in the early twenty-first century? This essay will argue that, although the cultural capital of the TAZ has undoubtedly become degraded through overuse, the circumstances of its cultural reception are indeed worth returning to and remembering. Repopulating the TAZ can reward us now (as it did at inception) with valuable insight into the perceived role of critically engaged literature and philosophy as an activator of political potential, illumining a debate regarding the supposed (in)compatibility of leftist theory and politics that continues today. The TAZ and cyberculture: "Life in the trenches" The TAZ may have remained a fringe work if it wasn't for cyberculture, where it proved to be among the more resilient memes in alternative art and culture from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The original electronic networks that became the prototype for today's commercial Internet were developed in the 1980s, a development of the first interconnected computer channels produced in the 1960s for U.S. military purposes. As François Cusset summarizes: "These networks embodied, for some, a space for resistance, a social dead zone, a territory that was still imperceptible, in whose shelter they could build a new community and undermine the ruling powers . . . the first groups of hackers emerged [and formed,] in Bruce Sterling's words, a veritable 'digital underground.'" In cyberculture's incandescent popcult moment, the gritty noir futures of cyberpunk science fiction, built upon the template forged by the ascending reputations of novelists William Gibson and Sterling, and extrapolated from present-day technological developments, were cited as metaphoric portrayals of a real world in thrall to the nascent Internet and to the implications for mediated life it held. Cyberphile magazines like Mondo 2000 (and later, Wired and 21C) spliced cyberpunk attitude with digital culture's bleeding edge, carrying advertisements for dial-up modems, cd-roms, and pixel art software in between articles and interviews exploring every facet of cyberculture: from body modification to the emergent politics of the net, from new strains of cyberpunk fiction and rave music to the "bumper sticker libertarianism" leaking from cyberculture's startling new cachet. Fermented within this heady "frontier" atmosphere, manifestos were abundant. John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation drew up "A Declaration for the Independence of Cyberspace," demanding that the net—"the new home of Mind"—be forever self-governing, forever free from corporate and governmental restriction. Douglas Rushkoff produced a book-length vérité document of "life in the trenches of cyberspace" (or "Cyberia"), where "cyberians" "believe the age upon...