2020 marks the 10th year of the Humanities on the Edge series, with this year featuring a variety of female scholars across multiple disciplines. The latest in these talks was Dr. Sayek Valencia, a transfeminist philosopher, essayist, and performing artists. Valencia is currently a Professor and Researcher at the Department of Cultural Studies at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana, Baja California, México. Although she has written many books, this lecture was primarily based on her 2010 publication Capitalismo gore, which was recently translated and updated as Gore Capitalism (2018).
In following with the title, Dr. Valencia broke her talk down into several distinctive sections, including answering ‘what is gore capitalism,’ ‘what are snuff politics,’ what do they have to do with the ‘body as mass media.’ The talk also covered the ways in which these ideas are connected to and reflect one another, leading to a feedback cycle of necrocempowerment. Valencia was first interested in these ideas because she was looking for some way to work through the rise of neoliberalism, death regimes, and violence have taken strong hold in Mexico over the last ten years.
In first defining gore capitalism, Valencia described it as “the explicit and unjustified bloodshed” needed to make the logics of neoliberalism take power. She noted that in particular, this was a price paid by the ‘Third World’ as they as spaces of neocolonial pillage. Here, this means the way organized crime and the government have worked in tandem to make predatory uses of body. Usually, gore capitalism is organized along binaries of gender, with Valencia calling attention to way it plays hand and hand with the machismo of Mexican men. Machismo, she countered, was intercolonial idea that feels like survival within a gore capitalistic society. Later in the talk, in the section of the body and mass media, she talks about how the exaltation of femininity does quite the same.
Gore capitalism are employed through the use of snuff politics, which Valencia called “[hu]manslaughter.” Snuff politics is the intentional live streaming of the violence of gore politics, with snuff being the understanding that these actions are true, not fake. In a world of newly energized mass media, any violent act, from murder to simple bullying, can be captured and disseminated as a tool of fear. In this way, gore capitalism assures a “livestream regime” – a form of sensibility government used to incite reality. The ‘livestream regime’ moves beyond fiction and cinematic imagination, instead, it is a systematic broadcasting of snuff to cultivate a truthful version of reality. The subjects most used in the snuff of ‘livestream regime’ are the bodies are those who are most vulnerable – women, members of the lgbt+ community, people of color, migrants, and many others.
This section was strongest for Dr. Valencia, proving the many different ways that gore capitalism and snuff politics work together to normalize violence Think of the many different in which media repeats and creates discourse around the violence against these marginalized groups. These images are first distributed by media outlets, like the news and tabloids. Then these images trickle into culture, with reproductions in films, advertisements, and fashions. The image of the violence is more important than the violence itself. After a while, the images are no longer shocking or disturbing, instead they are what feel normal, like this violence is merely a product of reality. This, Dr. Valencia, argues is the very power of the ‘livestream regime.’
Bodies come into play within gore capitalism because they are both medium and the message, as bodies are that which violence is applied to but also that which views the violence through the reproductions of ‘livestream regimes.’ In short, our bodies are both the producers and consumers of the violence. Valencia noted the ways that gore capitalism manifests not only in large systematic violence against marginalized media, but also in the smaller ways that are bodies are used for production and consumption on social media. Here, she used the hyper-feminization of the female body as example, with “influencers” like Kim Kardashian constantly positioning their body as a capitalistic branded tool, especially in colonizes the images of marginalized groups. It’s a small-scale corporatization of the body, of a body that doesn’t want to be human anymore. This produced/consumed body on a smaller scale gives foundations to the larger production/consummation of bodies in which violence is done against them.
This brings a materiality to the virtual, where both online and offline activities normalize the slaughter of bodies both in metaphorical and actually violent ways. Again, Valencia noted the many different ways that these mechanisms unfairly effect those in marginalized positions. This is what ultimately makes reality a machine of gore capitalism.
Although Dr. Valencia claimed to not get through the entirety, her lecture was both apt and appalling because it showed the many ways in which violence against the body, especially marginalized bodies, is so widely accepted as normalized reality. Both in her conclusion, and in her Q&A, she offered ways that we can resist this, by fighting against urges to offer our own bodies up at producers nor consumers of this type of violence, that support of the actual realities for the violence happening, can be done without sharing and reproducing the images of said violence. Both jokingly, and seriously, she ended her lecture by suggesting we turn to kittens, using images of joy to show support, rather than allowing ourselves to be participants in gore capitalism.
HoTE Preview: Sayak Valencia "From Gore Capitalism to Snuff Politics: The Body as Mass Media"
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HoTE Review: Sayek Valencia’s "From Gore Capitalism to Snuff Politics: The Body as Mass Media"