Vita

Ty is an assistant professor of literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Falling somewhere between F and Z, M. received a phD in critical theory and English from the University of California, Berkeley.

At the moment, M. is in search of a critical language for abiding with the remainders left behind by the production of Human supremacy.  The manuscript in progress thinks most closely with Walter Benjamin, Frantz Fanon, Beverly Buchanan, Sylvia Wynter, and Hortense Spillers.  The study considers how race gets encoded in various conceptions of ‘objecthood’ and ‘environment’—and draws out practices of refusing domination that do not look toward being human as an aspirational horizon.  Picking up from the refrain of Fats Waller’s take on ‘A Porter’s Love-Song to a Chambermaid,’ whose lyrics go, ‘I will be your dustpan / if you’ll be my broom,’ part of this research also asks what happens—and what has already happened—when you love something you shouldn’t.

Recent publications include essays about abstraction, anti-blackness, and the monochrome in the visual arts; rust; taoism and what it yields for dialectical thought; why it’s hard to talk about illegible and non-teleological manifestations of social resistance; Benjamin’s elliptical remarks on the violence of the border; migration, particularly the pretense that states have a receptive limit for whom they can take in; photography and the geopolitics of waste; financial derivatives; and Beckett’s televisual plays.

Canto for the Supernumeraries
Affiliated Project 2020-21

Supernumerary is the name given to those players in the opera who do not sing.  In the archive, these unvoiced presences pass through a carousel of generic roles: courtesan, spearholder, Jew number 12, refugee without name.  Sometimes referred to as ‘moving furniture,’ supernumeraries are the largely mute but animated landscape from which song rises, and yet they are not quite assimilable to the mise-en-scéne.  Shuttling in the limbo between agent and prop, their bodies are choreographed so as to be seen but never heard.  Those within the industry call them ‘supers’ for short.

In its broader usage, the supernumerary, which derives from the Latin supernumerarius—or,  ‘being beyond, over, or beside number’—carries the following semantic valences: what is beyond a regular amount; what’s extra or left over; an employee associated with, but without formal belonging to a company; and in biology, an extra part of the body that is not supposed to be there (doctors speak, for instance, of supernumerary teeth, fingers, nipples, fins, petals, and bones).

Canto for the Supernumeraries will attend to these various senses of surplus and uncertain belonging.   An extended exercise in listening to historically enforced silence, the project inquires into the forms thought that might emerge in solidarity with those whose gestures—for structural reasons—cannot accede to the full powers of articulation.  Through their shuffling voicelessness, the supers incite consideration of the non-production of speech—neither as a deficiency of sovereignty nor as a pathology—but instead from the perspective of an inhabitant of the scarcity of sound.

When History Merges into Setting:
Walter Benjamin and the Decreation of Human Sovereignty

ICI Project 2018-20

This monograph turns to the writings of Walter Benjamin with the hope of renewing a critical language for addressing the philosophical pre-conditions of ecological and racialized violence. The project explores how Benjamin re-theorizes notions of objecthood and environment so as to disarticulate both from the primacy of (European) human sovereignty.  From his early writings on the philosophy of language through his unfinished work on the Parisian arcades (and in the softness for the fairytale that permeated the whole of his thought), Benjamin, Ty argues, finds his way toward a critical practice founded on radical solidarity with all that is abjected from the category of the human.

In doing so, he disarticulates the ontological designation of what is inhuman from the production of a sphere in which (colonial) violation is legitimized. And further, he reimagines the object-world otherwise than as the wasted byproduct of human subjectivity’s accomplishment or as a chain to be cast off on the way to realized political subjectivity.