Abstract: “The Apocalypse Archive: Reconsidering Nuclear Criticism”

Here is an abstract for a paper I will be delivering at the 2011 Society for Utopian Studies Conference, “Archiving Utopia–Utopia as Archive,” in State College, Pennsylvania. The conference goes from October 20-23.

The Apocalypse Archive: Reconsidering Nuclear Criticism

There has been a curious trend toward a reconsideration of the apocalyptic as a valid category for utopian possibility in some recent Marxist thought, perhaps best exemplified in the recent work of Slavoj Žižek. Responding to the economic crisis in First as Tragedy, Then as Farce,Žižek tells us that, “paradoxically, the only way to prevent the disaster is to accept it as inevitable.” It is precisely against such retrograde apocalypticism that this paper would like to propose the necessity for reconsidering nuclear criticism. Quite provocatively, in the founding document of this critical practice, Jacques Derrida informs us that nuclear war—and consequently any contemporary apocalyptic formulation—“is fabulously textual.” What this claim allows Derrida to explore is the literary archive’s relationship to disaster, that the archive is simultaneously the object of destruction as well as its agent. Though with the end of the Cold War nuclear criticism all but disappeared after 1993, I claim that, to think through the utopian possibilities contained within and around the archive, especially in light of the burgeoning new technologies of archivization attending the information age, we must take very seriously a return to a critical practice capable of not only watching over the archive of disaster—whether in terms of destruction or accumulation—but imagining the archive of possibility. It is precisely through a reconsideration of nuclear criticism as anti-eschatological, as against apocalypse in all its forms, rhetorical, messianic, or otherwise, that a path through and toward the utopian archive may be found.

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