My research is animated by an interest in untangling the link between the racial and technological order in American politics; or, between the technological use of matter, energy and information and the technological use of some human beings. I study race as the global condition of humanity’s internal speciation opened by the material event of trans-Atlantic slavery and as the historically specific structure conditioning the reduction of some racialized humans to things. I investigate how this reduction underwrites the use of racialized others for the material benefit of white lives, and how it entails a notion of white subjecthood that is confirmed by its use and possession of the world of things—both human and non-human.
On the “new-world” plantation—where my investigation begins—this relationship was clear: under a regime of unspeakable violence, black slaves were rendered as prothetics of the (white) Master’s will; they were treated like human machines whose forced labor sped-up commodity production and wealth accumulation. I argue that in response to resistance, slave revolts, and, eventually, the abolition of slavery, the plantation’s mode of accumulation was reconfigured, expanded, and refined by technological developments (such as industrialization, the supply-line, and the artificial computer) that helped smooth the transition from slavery by globalizing the racial order. My research traces the unfolding of this racial-technological matrix from the nineteenth century to the present.
I investigate the marriage of physics and technology—thermodynamics’ heat-engine industrialization, information’s computers, and data science’s “intelligent” algorithms—alongside evolutions to the racial order’s use of human beings—as heat engines, information machines, or productive algorithms. In short, I argue that the logic of each technology’s law-authorized ordering (of matter, energy, information, or data) is animated by the racial order’s imagination of how “un-improved” or “non-productive” bodies should be put to use.