DeShawn Dumas



Before offering an introduction to Afro-pessimism and the representational system that structures my abstractions, it is important to mention that other interests include the precarious autonomy of liberal individualism insofar as exploitation, domination and subjection inhabit the very vehicle of democratic rights and consumer entitlements.[8]

Although the term does not form anything as grandiose as a school of thought, and though the attitudes of Hortense Spillers, Saidiya Hartman, Jared Sexton, Orlando Patterson vary (as well as their acknowledgement of Frantz Fanon), the term Afro-pessimism neither infringes upon their individual differences nor overstates a shared set of assumptions.[9] Afro-pessimism, as Christina Sharpe succinctly summarized, “joins the works of those scholars who investigate the ongoing problem of Black exclusion from the social, political, and cultural belonging; our abjection from the realm of the human.”[10] Amongst other things, Afro-pessimism attempts to formulate a grammar that accounts for the economy of suffering immanent to being black within a universe sutured by anti-black solidarity via the world historical transformation that emerged with racial slavery. [11] On this view, Afro-pessimists assert the Middle Passage introduced a paradigmatic and irrevocable rupture into African being. The disavowed personhood of the captive (i.e., the incapacity to acquire a range of social, cultural, moral and legal powers characteristic of a subject),[12] not only transformed the African body into, what Hortense Spillers described as, “black flesh” but also placed this (incapacitated) flesh outside the narrative / redeemable structure of historical time and biographical relationality, be it communal culture or filial heritage.[13] To be sure, Afro-pessimist thought calls for the re-centering of racial slavery.[14] It is worth recounting Spillers’ description of this “fall” in full:

[With] the captive body: we lose any hint or suggestion of a dimension of ethics, of relatedness between human personality and its anatomical features…To that extent, the procedures adopted for the captive flesh demarcate a total objectification, as the entire captive community becomes a living laboratory…Even though the captive flesh/body has been ‘liberated,’ and no one need pretend…the quotation marks do not matter, dominant symbolic activity, the ruling episteme that releases the dynamics of naming and valuation, remains grounded in the originating metaphors of captivity and mutilation so that it is as if neither time nor history, nor historiography…shows movement, as the human subject is ‘murdered’ over and over again by the passions of a bloodless and anonymous archaism, showing itself in endless disguise.[15]   

 In making these comments Spillers outlines three fundamental antagonisms of Afro-pessimist thought: First, the violent “procedures adopted for the captive flesh,” bestowed the status of nonbeing to an entire population, converting black flesh into a symbol of exchange fit for any use whatsoever: sexual gratification, medical experimentation, punishment, domestic and manual labor. Second, this Janus-faced analytic concerns the idioms of power that not only initiated racial slavery but maintain, what Saidiya Hartman described as, “the afterlife of slavery ¾ skewed life chances, limited access to health and education, premature death, incarceration, and impoverishment.”[16] Thirdly, it begs the question: when the formerly excluded are belatedly conferred the universal rights and guarantees of liberal humanist society, do they encounter difficulty exercising these rights and garnering equal protection because they still represent subordinate embodiments of the Human?[17] Ultimately the implication is that the material and symbolic rupture that produced blackness as a species outside of time, also ensures the inability to transform or redeem blackness within the symbolic order of U.S. / global culture. In turn, the technologies deployed during the Middle Passage reenact, and recompose their horror on each succeeding generation of blacks.[18]

This violence, as Frank Wilderson described it, in Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms, “is both gratuitous (not contingent on transgressions against the hegemony of civil society) and structural (positioning Blacks ontologically outside of Humanity and civil society).”[19] Wilderson goes on to suggest the ontological status of Humanity is “wholly dependent on civil society’s repetition compulsion…through which civil society reenacts gratuitous violence on the Black ¾ [so] that civil society might know itself as the domain of Humans ¾ generation after generation.”[20] Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, puts a more emphatic point on it:  “‘the disaster ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact…’ …Transatlantic slavery was and is the disaster. The disaster of Black subjection was and is planned; terror is disaster and ‘terror has a history’ and it is deeply atemporal.”[21]

To be sure, this antagonistic assessment challenges the liberal Humanist discourse ¾ the rational democratization of society and the ever-expanding extension of institutionality ¾ that underpins the democratic state and the ethics of white civil society. Furthermore, Afro-pessimism challenges the explanatory power of the interpellated subject-positions offered by leftist academic discourses. “The flesh,” as Spillers’ once stated, “is the concentration of ‘ethnicity’ that contemporary critical discourses neither acknowledge nor discourse away.”[22] Building on this observation, Wilderson contends, “Humanist discourse can only think a subject’s relation to violence as a contingency and not as a [paradigmatic] matrix that positions the subject.”[23] The implication is that blackness is welded to the ontological position of the Slave ¾ a non-subject position substantiated by and sustained through violence thereby lacking any relational capacities. In Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study, the social scientist Orlando Patterson defines the slave as “the permanent [and] violent domination of natally alienated and generally dishonored persons” (his emphasis).[24]

In stark contrast to alienation and exploitation, Afro-pessimism presents accumulation and fungibility as the modalities of violence that constitute the grammar of the Slave. For Saidiya Hartman, the value of blackness resides in its metaphorical aptitude, weather literally understood as the fungibility of the commodity or understood as the imaginative (glass) surface upon which whites and non-whites come to understand and identify themselves.[25]  In conclusion, the governing semantics of my art constructs a system of representation around the constitutive violence that produced the Slave and their descendants as paradox-objects, i.e. sentient objects overdetermined by social death. Put differently, if the distinction between the ‘flesh’ and the ‘body’ parallels the difference between captive and liberated subject-positions, my work thinks of the flesh as a primary narrative that registers the wounds of institutionalized dehumanization ¾ what Spillers’ described as the “high crimes against the flesh.[26] Yet, the semiotics of my work does less to record the smack of the whip and more to present the facticity of the bullet.[27] Patricia Williams pointed out in The Alchemy of Race and Rights: “The cold game of equality staring makes me feel like a thin sheet of glass…I could force my presence, the real me contained in those eyes, upon them, but I would be smashed in the process.”[28] So be it, then! I consider my art, research and writing as “wake work.”[29]


[1] Much like Christina Sharpe, “I include the personal here in order to position this work, and myself in and of the wake.” see Sharpe, In the Wake On Blackness and Being (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016) 8.


[2] Steve Martinot and Jared Sexton, “The Avant-garde of White Supremacy.” Social Identities, vol. 9 no. 2, 2003.


[3]  The Police claimed that Derrick pulled a gun on the officer; thus, the officer shot my brother in self-defense. However, when my dad, who had spent five year in Vietnam, viewed his son’s body he noticed dirt in Derrick’s mouth and abrasions on his face. My dad concluded his son must have been forcefully propelled to the ground face first. And in turn he must have been shot in the back. The family had a coroner from outside of the city perform a second autopsy. The exit wounds indicated Derrick was shot in the back. My local and familiar newscasters’ did not report this information on the six o’ clock news. Shortly after the not guilty verdict the officer who murdered Derrick was promoted to detective ¾ arguably, this is what Martinot and Sexton termed as hyper-injustice.



[4] Afro-pessimism is both an epistemological and ethical project. It is an endeavor to think rigorously about agency and its conditions of possibility. The procedure involves the abstraction of a conceptual framework regarding structural positionality, a methodology regarding paradigmatic analysis, and a structure of feeling regarding the politics of antagonism. see Jared Sexton, “Afro-Pessimism: The Unclear World.” Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, no. 29 (2016).


[5]  Frank Wilderson, Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010).


[6] My work offers a complex dialectic between presence and absence, subject and object, free play and determination that aims to suggest a fraught relation of material things to bodily violence. Positioned here for a moment, perhaps, the spectator might not entirely grasp what it was to be a slave back then, but see what it means to be an embodied subject now. see Huey Copeland, Bound To Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013), 22.


[7]  Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2002), 1-30.



[8] A possible research project reads cognitive science through Afro-pessimism to consider local and national news communication (and VR technologies) in the production of fantasy structures: wherein subjects can envisage a way out of their dissatisfaction with the results of neoliberal social reality. A potential thesis would correlate the accelerated divestment from reality of the dominant libidinal economy with the escalation of proto-genocidal social systems and ecological catastrophe.


[9] Wilderson, Red, White & Black, 58.


[10] Sharpe, In the Wake, 14.

[11] Sexton argues that Afro-pessimism supplements the paradigm of cultural and ethnic studies in at least two ways: First, insofar as the complexity of racial hierarchy makes recourse to comparative history and social science, Afro-Pessimism shifts from the experiential to political ontology. Second by reframing racism as a relation of anti-blackness rather than white supremacy it brings apprehension of the world historical transition initiated by racial slavery. see Sexton, “Afro-Pessimism: The Unclear World.”

[12] Michael A. Tissaw, “The person concept and ontology of persons” The Psychology of Personhood: Philosophical, Historical, Social Developmental, and Narrative Perspectives, ed. Jack Martin and Mark H. Bickhard (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 19.


[13] Wilderson, Red, White & Black, 339.


[14]  Saidiya Hartman, positions the “slave [as] the object or the ground that makes possible the existence of the bourgeois subject and…by contradistinction defines liberty, citizenship, and the enclosures of the social body.” see Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 62.


[15] Hortense J. Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” Diacritics, vol. 17, no. 2, 1987, pp. 68.


[16] Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along The Atlantic Slave Route (New York, Farrar, Straus And Giroux, 2007), 6.


[17] Hartman, Scenes of Subjection, 123.


[18] Wilderson, 340.


[19] Ibid., 55.


[20] Ibid.


[21] Sharpe, In the Wake.


[22] Spillers, “Mamma’s Baby”, 67.


[23] Wilderson argues, the worker, whose positionality is defined by alienation and exploitation, has a contingent relationship to violence based on transgressing the norms of civil society, be it her attempt to unionize or otherwise. By stark contrast black being is constituted by the original violence and ensuing social death of racial slavery.


[24] Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1982), 13.


[25] Hartman, Scenes of Subjection, 7.


[26]  Spillers, “Mamma’s Baby”, 67.


[27] Ibid.


[28] Claudia Rankine, Citizen an American Lyric (Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 2014), 34.


[29]  Christina Sharp writes, “to be in the wake is to occupy and to be occupied by the continuous and changing present of slavery’s as yet unresolved unfolding.” Elsewhere, she continues, “To do this work of staying in the wake and to preform wake work I look also to forms of Black expressive culture… that do not seek to explain or resolve the question of…exclusion in terms of assimilation, inclusion, or civil human rights, but rather depict aesthetically the impossibility of such resolutions by representing the paradoxes of blackness within and after the legacies of slavery’s denial of Black humanity. I name this paradox the wake.” see, Sharpe, In the Wake, 14.








Although rarely stated this clearly, Trevor Paglen is not concerned with the point where public and private intersect, but the point at which the institution of art and the social practice of state secrecy overlap.  Amongst other things, his praxis critiques the former by attempting to photograph the latter. Consequently, the thesis of this essay asserts the poetry and politics of Paglen’s spatial-practice cannot be fully unpacked by academic aesthetic orthodoxy. Particularly, because this historically evolved code serves to normalize, apologize, and generally disassociate from, if not all together transcend the ever evolving ethnocratic terror state, known colloquially as the United States of America. [xix]  From this perspective my thesis attempts to substantiate how Western aesthetic discourse and the militarized domination of (internal, external and extraterrestrial) space serve to produce an aesthetic regime of veridiction — situated, however clandestinely, by euro-ethnic supremacy, its corollary hegemony on wanton violence, and the necessary ethic of self-decriminalization, which affords the reproduction of the social

conditions of production.[xx] By hegemony the author attempts to describe the point at which objectivity and power converge.[xxi] And in this way, Paglen’s artistic praxis critiques the USA’s “political economy” of truth: the ensemble of discourses a liberal democratic society  such as ours accepts and makes function as true.[xvii]  Indeed, the art historian has an important function in this economy. As described by Foucault “truth” is a system of methodical procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation and operation of statements it “is produced and transmitted under the control, dominant if not exclusive of a few great political and economic apparatuses (university, army, writing, media); finally, it is the issue of a whole political debate and social confrontation (‘ideological struggles’).”[xviii]

The methodology of this thesis follows what Foucault described as a “triple movement to the outside.”[xxii]  This method of institutional analysis attempts to relate local mechanisms of discipline, e.g. the autonomy of art, with the overarching governmentality of state power, e.g. the sovereignty of U.S. violence, so as to discover more encompassing point of view of institutional power. Thus, this methodology moves outside a local analysis of power, within prisons, hospitals, and such, so as to enter into another type of institutional analysis wherein the totalizing and individualizing effects of state power becomes an object of analysis.


For this author, Trevor Paglen is an aesthetic whistleblower concerned with the production of space.[i] His concerns with production pivot at the intersection of aesthetics, natural science, and philosophy.  A self-described experimental geographer, Paglen is best known for photographic representations of a militarized “Deep State” ¾ a sovereign field of governmentality behind and above the constitutional state.[ii] Due to the very nature of state secrecy, his object of study often lies inthe deep recesses of restricted landscapes. Rarely is there public space for citizens to view these military facilities or, what government insiders’ call, “black sites” with the unaided eye.[iii]

As a result, Paglen utilizes photographic methods originally designed for astronomy in attempts to understand classified programs spatially. Even though state secrecy and its various covert programs are organized in such a way as to amplify their own invisibility, these programs necessarily materialize somewhere on the surface of the Earth. Accordingly, Paglen developed optical systems to visualize the concrete landscapes and geographically situated spaces where state secrecy is performed. On the one hand, and in the words of the artist himself, “state secrecy is an amalgam of logics and practices with a common intent: to conceal ‘facts on the ground,’ to make things disappear, and to plausibly deny their existence.”[iv] At the same time, Paglen maintains, “geography theory tells us that it really isn’t possible to make things disappear, to render things nonexistent.”[v]   Yet, his photographs deliberately traffic in the contradictions between what can be seen, imagined, believed, known, proven, and finally, affirmed in public. Moreover, the images often blur the line between empiricism and fantasy, while still, however, as the artist states himself, “insisting on underlying sociological, cultural, and political facts.”[i]And in this way, Paglen inverts the aesthetic idea, at least to the extent that he uses neo-Kantian aesthetics as a means to address the social not as a means to transcend it.

 For this author, what is most compelling about Paglen’s art photography is that the aspiration to simultaneously take things that exist in the world and make them nonexistent may very well be a predisposition state secrecy shares with academic aesthetic discourse, insofar as the discourse on modern art strives to make political and social realities, from which a given art work emerged, appear nonexistent, oftentimes against the best intentions of an author.[vi] To elaborate on the above, it becomes useful to consider what, the well-known sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu termed cultural capital: a form of historically constituted knowledge or internalized social code that equips a person with empathy, appreciation, and competence in deciphering the cultural relations of cultural goods. The result of art capital — the institutionalized social code acquired through the homogenous and homogenizing training of academic pedagogy — is that the aesthetic perception of the art historian is sculpted in accordance with normative schemes for the deciphering and interpretation of works of art.[vii] Along these lines, the art historian is somewhat predisposed to make social relations nonexistent so as to normalize privilege, in other words, his or her possession of the institutionalizedor “private” social code. For instance, the social pre-requisites and social conditioning that cultivates the eye of the art historian is annulled, insofar as the internalized social code is experienced as a normalized form of being as if it were second nature, while, at the same time, this discursive code — an historically

evolved combination of interlocking, self-sustaining, mutually reinforcing, and potentially contradicting statements — legitimizes the fragmentation of reality into the profane socio-political universe and the aesthetic universe of suspended disbelief. The hush-hush consequence of digesting art capital is twofold. First, the obvious and simultaneously hidden link between aesthetic perception, education and class, as Bourdieu argued, is “forgotten, disguised, and denied.”[viii] Second, the cultivated eye of the art historian vis-à-vis the written word serves to sanctify the appropriation of “non-art” objects and the visual iconography of the real. At the same time, the cultivated eye divorces representations from the material, social, political, and historical conditions of reality. In this way, both state secrecy and esthetic discourse function as self-contained universal communities, whose modus-operandi serves, amongst other things, “to conceal ‘facts on the ground,’ to make things disappear, and to plausibly deny their existence.”[ix]

Furthermore, if Executive power and jurisprudence legitimizes state secrecy then, what, the prominent theoretician, Boris Groys termed, “art power” legitimizes the competent behavior of art historians’ and the discursive field of modern art.[x] Of course, the contemporary art historian is neither a disembodied bureaucratic tool nor a defenseless subject on which art power comes to fasten or against which it happens to strike, and in doing so represses individual agency. But rather, the aesthetic subjectivity of the art historian is one of the prime effects of power.[xi] Precisely to the extent the art historian is that effect, he or she becomes a functioning point within a network of disciplinary power. That is to say, the contemporary art historian and art critic become vehicles of disciplinary power, insofaras they internalize a set of external ethical norms, and thus exemplify: possible models for subjective experience, normalized frameworks for appropriate behavior, and particular methods for the production, examination and legitimization of knowledge.[xii] In sum, disciplinary power does not simply weigh on the individual art historian as a force of prohibition and punishment, but instead it produces the “truth,” induces pleasure, and sculpts one’s subjective experience of a socially constructed reality. Disciplinary power produces discursive geographies and collective cognition within historically evolved spaces such as hospitals, prisons, and universities. Moreover, the manifold of strategies and techniques of various power networks: one’s relation to self, to others, and to “truth,” structures the positions that can be legitimately preformed within these spaces ¾ apparatuses of power-knowledge, example given, the social system known as the institution of art. In this way, institutionalized disciplinary power is always concerned with governmentality: the conduct of self and the conduct of others.[xiii] Therefore, it becomes

important to consider that governmentality does not only operate on the macro level of the nation-state, but also on a micro-institutional level. What’s more is that the strategies of the latter, most often serve to reinforce the domination of the former.[xiv] All of this is to suggest that a self-reflexive critique of disciplinary power or governmentality, as it relates to the constitution of subjectivity, citizenship, and “truth”— within the historical-evolved frameworks of modern art and the modern state — are internal to the artwork at hand. To be sure, a critique of aesthetic discourse and the subjectivity of the art historian is an “objective” component of the work, at least to the extent that the concrete practices and theoretical insights that make Paglen’s counter-surveillance of U.S. state secrecy possible not only remain “outside the photographic frame,” but beyond the pale of aesthetic perception altogether. Plainly stated, if Paglen’s spatial practice points beyond a narrow conception of aesthetic representation and towards the broad materiality of economies, politics, and history, then his practice necessarily critiques a narrow conception of aesthetic representation.

To put it another way, the cultivated eye of the art historian, what Bourdieu calls the pure gaze, “capable of apprehending the work of art as it demands to be apprehended (i.e. in itself and for itself as form not as function), is inseparable from…producers of art motivated by a pure artistic  intention.”[xv] Therefore it becomes vital to understand that the instruments for the perception of art are the essential complement to the instruments for the production of art, insofar as every artwork is made twice, first by the artist and then by the art historian, or rather, by the social code possessed by the art historian. In other words the reception of art is always a process of co-production. Art magazines, books, graduate essays, and the like are spaces for the re-presentation of art, linguistic sites of exhibition.

To say the least, Paglen’s spatial practice is not exclusively motivated by “pure” artistic intentions, but rather an anti-Enlightenment and anti-capitalist spatial cod e, known as Marxist geography, structures Paglen’s experimental geography. Paradoxically, however, his early art photography is often poetically camouflaged by the self-negating aesthetics of the neo-Kantian sublime. From this perspective, Paglen is not only an aesthetic whistleblower, more aptly he is a discursive double agent. The immediate result of this covert operation is twofold. On the one hand, the paradox of Paglen’s art photography has been emphatically well received within mainstream discursive spaces, since the work is ostensibly aligned with the instruments of aesthetic perception: the didactic social code internalized by contemporary art historians and art critics. On the other hand, this favorable reception largely serves to neutralize Paglen’s corrosive aesthetic praxis. Reason

being, as Bourdieu explains:

In periods of rupture, the inertia inherent in art competences means that the works produced by means of art production instruments of a new type are bound to be perceived, for a certain time, by means of old instruments of perception, precisely those against which they have been created. Educated people, who belong to culture at least as much as culture belongs to them are always given to applying inherited categories to the works of their period and to ignoring, [because culture belongs to them], the irreducible novelty of works which carry with them the very categories of their own perception (as opposed to works which can be called academic…which only put into operation a code, or, rather, a habitus [i.e. the socially conditioned response] which already exists.)[xvi]

Despite the pure gaze of the contemporary art historian, U.S. society is clearly in a state of political, economic, and cultural rupture ¾ a crisis of the present. Accordingly, the work codifies a caustic critique of the given, specifically, the aesthetic discourse on modern art and the militarization of social space. In this way, Paglen’s praxis suggest the concept of problematization: the formulation of fundamental issues and choices through which individuals, citizens and art historians, confront their existence within the historical context of the present, the imagined past and a projected future.  Over the past decade Paglen’s experimental geography has exercised the rights of citizenship and, in turn, repositioned the artist and art historian along the lines of social communication and aesthetic resistance.

In reflecting on the social purchase of Paglen’s praxis, let us take Limit Telephotography (2005-07) as a starting point. Instead of beginning with the Romantic and sublime images the artist is known for, we may consider three images from Limit Telephotography, which exemplify the withdrawal of all aesthetic pleasure. A meager collection of amateurish looking images, each one blurrier than the next. The morning sun rises just outside the frame of the first photo, which re-presents two 737s, unmarked save a red strip painted down the length of their white airframes. Two men casually ascend a stair ramp leading to the cabin of the aircraft. The next and most cinematic photo re-presents passengers beleaguered by a morning sun, who withdraw diagonally from a propeller powered King Air whose fuselage is adorned with three blue stripes. Finally, a closely cropped photo re-presents a row of three 737s, these minimalistic modules are lined tail-to-tail, one after the other. If one were predisposed to what Georg Lukács would call the ‘commodity form’ of thought ¾ the belief that “the immediately given form of objects, the fact of their existing here and now and in this particular way appears to be primary, real, and objective whereas their [social] ‘relations’ seem to be secondary and subjective,”[xxiii] then the social function of the aircraft re-presented in Limit Telephotography and the (spatial) practice of counter-surveillance that producedthese photographs would appear somewhat beside the point of art. On the other hand, the photographic images themselves, the Kantian thing-in-itself, would appear to be primary, the tangible thing, which objectively exists, independently of thought. Meaning, if one were to adopt what Lukács termed Bourgeois thought, the “primary,” and formal attributes of Limit Telephotography would “objectively” communicate socially banal disinterested events — airplanes and people gettingon and off of them. In this way, mainstream art historians do in fact grasp the surface level of the work, insofar as the work concerns the politics of visibility and the transubstantiation of the commonplace.

End of Introduction


[i]  As Paglen say’s himself, I think about the word “production” in a somewhat philosophical way, informed by the geographic concept of “the production of space” [a reference to Henri Lefebvre’s book by that same title]. In this sense, production is not about where and how one fabricates an object, but…[has] to do with our fundamental relationship to the earth. Here, the world “production” concerns the ways we humans sculpt the earth’s surface and are in turn sculpted by [it]…creating a continual feedback loop.  He continues, “I want to suggest the ‘where’ of production is, well everywhere. [Moreover] the feedback loops of production…are also produced through, and productive of various social, political, and economic relationships. Thus production is never and cannot be value-free or neutral process. See Sculpture Center, “Trevor Paglen,” Where is Production: Inquiries into Contemporary Sculpture (London: Black dog Publishing, 2013), 62.

[ii]    Political Analysis, Peter Dale Scott argues that the usurpation of American democracy has only thickened since Eisenhower’s 1961 warning of an academic-military-industry complex. And with deep events such as 9/11 the ‘American war machine’ has transformed into a self-perpetuating unregulated deep state, whose finances dominate both parties. See, The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the attack on Democracy (Maryland: Rowman &Littlefield, 2015).

[iii]    Paglen received a Ph.D. in geography and BA in religious studies from University Berkeley, as well as, his MFA in photography from The Chicago Institute of Art. Paglen’s spatial-practice (Marxist-Hegelian spatial analytic + photographic practice) is a critical form of human geography. To hear Paglen tell it, “Since the Second World War the secret world has grown dramatically…Secret programs and the social, cultural, legal, and economic blank spots that they represent…continue to transform the United States in their image.” See, Trevor Paglen, Blank spots on the map: the dark geography of the Pentagon’s secret world, (New York: Penguin Group Inc., 2010),17.

[iv]     Ibid., 16.

[v]     Ibid.

[vi]    This is to question the idea that individual art works ought to “make themselves progressively independent of their symbolic function…and contribute to the constitution of a realm that,” as Adorno states, “is antithetical to the empirical world and its meaning.” See, Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, 1970, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis: University Minnesota Press, 1997), 95.

[vii]     Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production (United Kingdom: Polity Press,1993), 217-245.

[viii]     Ibid., 235.

[ix]  A symbolic universe legitimizes the institutional order and the individual’s subjective position within it by defining the rules and regulations of competent behavior and the limits of subjective experience. See, Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of RealityA Treatise in The Sociology of Knowledge (New York: Random House Inc., 1967), 92 – 102.

[x]  What Boris Groys termed as art power is a modality of what Michel Foucault described as disciplinary power, and both can be considered as mechanisms that support or validate the ideals of the modern state. Thus, as Groys flatly states, “the atheistic, humanistic, enlightened, modern world believes in the balance of power—and modern art is an expression of this belief. The belief in the balance of power has a regulatory character—and hence modern art has its own power, its own stance. It favors anything that establishes or maintains the balance of power and tends to exclude or try to outweigh anything that distorts this balance…Now the modern state also proclaims the balance of power to be its ultimate goal…” See, Boris Groys, Art Power (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008), 2.

[xi] Michel Foucault, “Two Lectures.” Power / Knowledge: Selected Interviews and other Writings 1972 -1977, edited by Colin Gordin (New York: Random House Inc., 1980), 78-109.

[xii]     Foucault stated, “replacing the history of knowledge with the historical analysis of forms of veridiction, [discursive strategies to legitimize the truth of knowledge] replacing the history of domination with the historical analysis of procedures of governmentality, and replacing the theory of… subjectivity with the historical analysis of the pragmatics of self and the forms it has taken, are different approaches…[and] define to some degree the possibility of the history of what could be called ‘experiences.’” See, The Government of Self and Others: Lectures at the Collège de France 1982-1983, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Picador, 2010),1-5.

[xiii]     Foucault stated, “by the word ‘governmentality’ I mean three things. First, by ‘governmentality’ I understand the ensemble formed by institutions, procedures, analysis and reflections, calculations, and tactics that allow the exercise of this very specific, albeit complex power that has the population as its target, political economy as its major form of knowledge, and apparatuses of security as its essential technical instrument. For more on the discussion of governmentality see, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977-1978, transGraham Burchell (New York: Picador, 2007), 87-115.

[xiv]     Foucault stated, “what I feel to be the aim of the modern art of government, or state rationality, namely, to develop those elements constitutive of individuals’ lives in such a way that their development also fosters the strength of the state.” This is to suggest the disciplinary techniques individuals experience within apparatuses of power-knowledge also serves to strengthen the state. Arguably it is no coincidence that the Western fine artist is, most often, celebrated as an exemplar of extreme individual (liberal democratic) freedom. See, “‘Omnes Et Singulatim’ : Toward A  Critique of Political Reason,” Power: Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984, edited by James D. Faubion and Paul Rabinow (New York: The New Press, 2000), 322.

[xv]     Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production, 256.

[xvi]     Ibid., 226.

[xvii]   Trevor Paglen is what Foucault termed a ‘specific intellectual.’ As Foucault phrased it, the [specific] intellectual can operate and struggle at the general level of that regime of truth so essential to the structure and functioning of our society. There is [or needs to be] a battle ‘for truth,’ or at least ‘around truth’ – it being understood once again that by truth I mean not ‘the ensemble of truths to be discovered and accepted…’ [Meaning] its not a matter of a battle “on behalf” of the truth but of a battle about the status of truth and the economic and political role it plays. It is necessary to think of the political problems of intellectuals not in terms of ‘science’ of ‘ideology’ but in terms of ‘truth’ and ‘power.’  See, Michel Foucault, “Truth and Power,” 1976. Power: Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984, ed. James D. Faubion and Paul Rabinow (New York: The New Press, 2000), 241.

[xviii]      Ibid. 240.

[xix]     For Kant the cognitive faculty for the Judgment of pleasure and displeasure is separated from the Rational desire for political freedom and the Understanding of nature. See, Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. James Creed Meredith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 351.

[xx]     By veridiction Foucault refers to the intersection of truth, right, and law via the power of a given discourse. As he puts it himself, “the regimes of veridiction, that is to say, the constitution of a particular right of truth on the basis of a legal situation, the law and truth relationship finding its privileged expression in discourse, the discourse in which law is formulated and in which what can be true or false is formulated; the regime of veridiction, in fact, is not a law of truth, [but] the set of rules enabling one to establish which statements in a given discourse can be described as true of false.”  Michel Foucault, “Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège De France 1975-1976, trans. David Macey (New York: Picador, 2003), 35.

[xxi]     Chantal Mouffe, The Democratic Paradox (London: Verso, 2005), 21.

[xxii]      For Foucault, This kind of method entails going behind the institution and trying to discover moving outside of the institution or what could be called the ‘institutional-centric’ approach.” In the words of Foucault himself, “the first methodological principle is to move outside the institution and replace it with the overall point of view of the technology of power…The second principle [is that] the external point of view of strategies and tactics [should replace] the internal point of view of the function [of institutions]…In short, the point of view adopted…involved the attempt to free relations of power from the institution, in order to analyze them from the point of view of technologies…If this triple movement of a shift to the outside was tried out with regard to the disciplines [prison, hospital, sexuality] I would now like to explore this possibility with regard to the state.” See, Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977-1978 (New York: Picador, 2007), 116-117.

[xxiii]     Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness, transRodney Livingstone (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1972), 154.