Science Fiction and Digital Technologies in Argentine and Brazilian Culture explores the use of science fiction, in particular the subgenre “cyberpunk,” in fictional texts produced since the last dictatorships to trace shifts in the nature and conception of power during a period of convulsive change in the region. Through close analysis of a range of novels and comic books, and engaging with theoretical debates concerning the many points of intersection between technology, culture and power, this book examines how writers and artists in Argentina and Brazil have explored new modes of connection and belonging made possible by digital technologies.
Chapter 1: Espiritismo Digital in Cyberfiction from Brazil
Chapter One explores the role of New Age spiritualism in postmodern science fiction from Brazil, a genre referred by critics as “Tupinipunk.” I look at the way a number of novels and short stories by Alfredo Sirkis and Fausto Fawcett, draw a parallel between neoliberal fantasies of disembodiment, enshrined in the cyberpunk trope of the digital transcendence of the body, and the concept of the immaterial body (the body traversed by electromagnetic flows) that was central to the espiritista sciences during the late nineteenth century in Brazil. The texts resituate cyberpunk’s preoccupation with New Age spirituality within Brazilian traditions of religious syncretism. The focus of the chapter is the dialogue that is staged within these texts between postmodern New Ageism, presented as a mode of affective training for the body in digital network culture, and its nineteenth century forebear espiritismo, a mode of affective capture for the ideology of positivism.
Chapter 2: Race and the Digital Body
In Chapter Two I confront two criticisms that have been leveled at the “Tupinipunk” texts in relation to their deployment of racial categories. The first criticism is that the novels rework the ideology of mestiçagem within the context of neoliberal globalization, an ideology that Idelber Avelar describes as the “Brazilian national ontology” forged during the Estado Novo. According to this argument, the novels articulate a kind of cyber-mestiçagem in which the logic of Brazilian national pluralism finds a new home in the “friction free” placeless space of cyberspace. The second criticism is that the ‘Tupinipunk’ texts repeat the primitivism of modernismo aesthetics, a primitivism that is echoed by the construction of race by US Cyberpunk. I argue that Sirkis and Fawcett are not the architects of cyber-mestiçagem that their critics imagine them to be, but rather critically framing the way that racial thought haunts digital culture.
Chapter 3: Cruz Diablo: Cyberspace as Neoliberal Frontier
Chapter Three examines the postmodern restaging of the Romantic trope of the frontier in relation to the digital technologies of the neoliberal period. I explore this aspect of what I call, borrowing Fred Botting’s term, “cyberomanticism” in relation to the science fiction novel Cruz diablo (1997) by the Argentine writer Eduardo Blaustein. By fusing the narrative tropes of cyberpunk with the gauchesca, the novel sets up a dialogue between the era of consolidation of the Argentine nation (the technologies and representational systems that achieved this consolidation) and the era of postdictatorship neoliberalism governed by cybernetic technologies and the logic of control. I focus my analysis on a series of echoes set up by the text between the space of the pampas as the constitutive outside of the nineteenth-century nation-state and cyberspace as the flexible placeless space and ever-receding frontier of the digital economy.
Chapter 4: Distributed Agency and Affect in Marcelo Cohen’s Casa de Ottro
Chapter Six examines the question of agency in postdictatorship culture in Argentina, in particular how agency is re-imagined as distributed through technological and affective networks. I focus on how this vision of distributed agency is staged and scrutinized in the work of the science fiction writer Marcelo Cohen, a novelist who has been described by Beatriz Sarlo as an important critic of neoliberal “post-politics” in Argentina. I argue that Casa de Ottro, his 2010 novel that is presented as the memoirs of a political adviser on the fictional island of Ushoda, stages a neoliberal crisis of political representation and articulates a solution to this crisis by proposing a model for rethinking agency in terms of distributed affect. I draw on the work of Gilles Deleuze, Brian Massumi and Jane Bennett to conclude that the novel, both at a narrative and structural level, functions a powerful model for thinking in terms of distributed agency.
Chapter 5: Memory and Affective Technologies in the Argentine Comic Book Series Cybersix
In Chapter Five I propose rethinking postdictatorship memory discourses in Argentina in terms of the shift, described by the French philosopher Berhard Stiegler, towards “mnemotechnological control.” My premise that the debates about the “postmemory” of “hijos de desaparecidos” in Argentina coincide with the processes, identified by Stielger, of the externalization and control of individual and collective memory in technological systems. The struggles to assert individual embodied memories in a time in which false memories are imposed by the state and the market are also attempts to contest or negotiate this shift towards a society of control. I argue that the comic book series Cybersix (1993-1999) is a key text in this ongoing memory debate. Its creators, Carlos Trillo and Carlos Meglia, present the technological externalization of memory as an opportunity to rethink social assemblages and the intermedial comic book medium as a tool with which to conceive of these assemblages.
Chapter 6: Prosthetic Memory and the Disruption of Affective Control in the Graphic Fiction of Lourenço Mutarelli
Chapter Six explores the theme of affective automation in the graphic fiction of the Brazilian writer and artist Lourenço Mutarelli. I examine the way that Mutarelli uses the comic book medium both as a technology of affective control and as a tool with which to critically frame and contest this control. The focus of the chapter is the connection made between technology and memory through the science fiction trope of what Alison Landsberg terms “prosthetic memory” in texts ranging from the Mundo Pet webcomics to the detective trilogy Diomedes. Mutarelli, I argue, uses the form of the comic book to intervene into the ways in which memory is exteriorized, and contest the technological automation of affective life. The comic book becomes a tool with which to produce not the comforting narratives of individual and collective identity but moments of affective indeterminacy and what Gilles Deleuze has termed affective “dis-individualization.”
Table of Contents
List of Figures (vii)
1. Espiritismo Digital in Cyberfiction from Brazil (31)
2. Race and the Digital Body (63)
3. Cruz diablo: Cyberspace as Frontier (97)
4. Distributed Agency in Marcelo Cohen’s Casa de Ottro (125)
5. Memory and Affective Technologies in the Argentine Comic Book Series Cybersix (153)
6. Prosthetic Memory and the Disruption of Affective Control in the Graphic Fiction of Lourenço Mutarelli (179)