Alongside some new essays, talks and previously published works posted on Academia.eu (https://kcl.academia.edu/ElliotMason), here is a new piece about the queerness of bones. Yes, indeed – you’ve always thunk it, but never quite spunk it… the queerness of bones.
Autobiography of a Bone
In the approach, there is a resistance to the mercenary homogenization of every high street. Walking anywhere else in the city, everything is immediately recognizable as an attempt to produce profit from my presence. Being around, being anywhere, is to be violently assimilated into the reproduction machine. I have to somehow circulate, produce, distribute, and reproduce value all at once and so does everyone else. But the approach to the hospital is a break in that logic, although weak and ethically troubled. The ethics of my bruised bones.
It’s been hours since it happened and the pain is increasing. Wounds envelop the queerness of my bones. Something always felt resistant in their protection, their liminal place between the epidermalized ideologies of my skin that fit me into violent historical categories, and the reproductive force of my organs that are involved, somehow, in the reproduction machine. My organs consume, they eat plastic packaging from supermarkets and they are commodities in high need from institutions of healthcare. My organs make shit and piss and companies get public funding to treat it, to clean it up, to unclog drains and build long pipes and I’m sure there are millionaires somewhere who have made their money from erasing what my organs produce from the knowledge of me otherwise. And my skin is so fraught with imperial histories and the existential force of protection. The colour of my skin and its historical meaning cause the police to protect me, cause categories of death to exist outside of me.
But the bones are resident in between. I fell off my bike and cracked them against the handlebars, or a concrete Tottenham road, paving out of industries. I can’t remember which. The moment blurred. In the blur of my bones.
I saw history as a wound that positions the functions of my body, a history that turned me into a body for reproduction, for consumption on the high street. And now that wound is reaching into the queerness of my bones. It’s inside me.
Hospital and its paradoxical hospitality resist the mercenary homogenization of every commodified atom. Hospitality always says, Come in, but remember that the fact that I am inviting you in means I have something you don’t have. I don’t invite you in to something that is not mine. Hospitality is deeply mired in the logic of ownership. Whose is this? Can I come in?
In the hospital they say that bruised ribs cannot be treated. It’ll hurt for a while, and that’s it. This is just more support for the theory of the queerness of my bones. The institution’s logic does not extend beyond its own binary limits – the skin and the organs – to treat the mismanagement of a bone. My bony ribs are fugitive, creatures exceeding the normative laws of repair. Repair is insufficient to mend the fucked-up binary system of fixed or broken. Bruised is something else. Uninvited by the hospitality of repair.
All I ever wanted was inherent resistance to the law. An antilegal logic that inheres in me, that I can employ to conduct fugitive operations into the subterranean zone where the horrid logic of operative work no longer functions. All I wanted was to be a bruised rib in the queerness of my bones, a rib no doctor can hospitably fix.
It’s weird how little critical theory is able to think entirely outside the law. There’s always some lingering framework that suggests property ownership, capitalist expropriation, primitive accumulation and the mercenary homogenization of skin and organs. Whenever some pensive bourgie boy in fine tweeds twiddles European history, they’ve always got some residual legal force that just can’t be shaken. Where’s the queerness of your bruisy bones if you still trust the laws of epidermalized privilege and extractive piping for reproductive organs?
Fred Moten is one of the great rejecters of the law. Moten says that society premised on the positioning of individuals as abstract equivalents is a violent society. It is racism, and it is premised on the violent inclusion by exclusion of any non-conforming being. As an abstract equivalent each being must represent a universal form, and the ideal of that form is inevitably White, straight, able and male. All of those adjectival qualifications, though, have one euphemism: the body. The conforming being is a body. To be made into an individual body is to already be inside the law, to be seen, accounted for. In the accounts of society. On/in the books. To be in the accounting of law, which is to be indebted to this collection of bodied individuals called society (and by that, Moten specifies, is always meant European society).
It’s what comes before individuation – the turning of a being into an individual body, in necessary and unending debt to the society the individual creates and is created by – that interests Moten. The being that precedes its making in the law. The being is brought into the scientific focus of European study, deemed queer or conforming, Black or conforming, woman or conforming. That moment is the violent enforcement of assimilation in the duty to become an abstract equivalent, a representative of the commodity form. Before that it’s hard to know what’s going on.
But there is dissent that leads to that descent into the terrible beauty of what was, of what could be and will have always been a possibility that exists otherwise to the constraints of this ubiquitous European violence.
I take up Moten and I wonder if the queerness of my bones that can’t be fixed exists before the moment of originary violence that made us into reproductive bodies, that made this misery of capitalist supremacy. And Denise Ferreira da Silva knows that the queerness of bones needs to very resolutely affirm an opaque impossibility of being, a subjectivity between the skin and organs – outside of either’s logic – that cannot be captured by the law, that cannot be consumed by the homogenized practices of high streets and hospitality, rejecting totally any participation in the law. Law is moral violence, she says in her uninviting refusal to be engaged in the practice of bodies.
There’s so much transparency in the hospital. My body is brought under the light, data accumulated for the betterment of institutional praxes and incorporated into the practice of making bodies, separated neatly into profitable organs and skin that maintains historical divisions. There’s no room for the opacity of a bone, of a dark and shady bruise.
The law exists to maintain the productive and profitable function of the organs while clearing distinctions between producers by the skin. Labour is divided according to epidermalized functions examined in the spotlight of the hospital’s inviting transparency. Come, sit here under this light. Machines whirl and data is sold to my landlord, who can track the fugitive activities slightly registered beneath my skin a little clearer now.
Advocates of bruised ribs are slightly mad and they go by any name. I have no idea what to call them. Maybe they call themselves radicals, or are disguised as emancipation fighters. But in the bruising of my bones, in the momentary (illusion of) escape from mercenary homogenization in every person I ever meet, I began to believe, like a faithful bone, that the bruise between the violence of skin and organs would lead to this lovely place of study, of open being, called the undercommons, beneath and beyond all the logics of property. There are advocates of the darkened bruises, queerened boneses, bony queers and bruisy darkness. I don’t think they call themselves that but, mad and dizzy from painkillers and the beeping beat of data accumulation in the nighttime’s homogenization, I was sure I saw them somewhere.
This work references Fred Moten, The Universal Machine (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018), and Denise Ferreira da Silva, Towards a Global Idea of Race (London: University of Minnesota Press, 2007).