Power and Indeterminacy: The Noisy Networks of Foucault, Cage, Burroughs, and Delaney

Anderson, Donald Leonard. Power and Indeterminacy: The Noisy Networks of Foucault, Cage, Burroughs, and Delany. 2011. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

This dissertation project examines the critical transformations of indeterminacy, or chance, as it intersects with critiques of power and subjectivity in postmodern music, literature, and philosophy. Whether indeterminacy provides the means to evacuate the subject in the music of the American composer John Cage, or aids in combating control in the literature of William S. Burroughs it has always maintained its consistency, meaning—indeterminacy is always inconsistent. It is this paradox that permits indeterminacy to be employed in a variety of ways for a variety of purposes. The goal of my dissertation project is to carefully chart the sometimes paradoxical and irreconcilable transformations of indeterminacy and its ever-evolving relationship to resistance. By analyzing how indeterminacy figures in oppositional discourses of resistance of the late twentieth century my dissertation articulates a theory of power and resistance in our postmodern age of neoliberal governance. The figure of this theory is the illegible—or "noisy"—subject or group that is simultaneously constituted by power and antagonistic to power.

The major objective of my dissertation is to demonstrate how indeterminacy produces noisy individuals, groups—what I call "chance-belongings"—and urban spaces. I avoid misreading groups and individuals that fall out of management as counter, or somehow resistant. Although neoliberal governance does not aspire to make all subjects legible its general economy of power remains focused on predicting the uncertain in populations and developing a norm against which subjects are measured. The fundamental stake of my project is that such figures and representations that are "uncertain" or unable to align against a general norm are not manifestations of resistance, but rather articulations of noise within the neoliberal power network. Noisy subjects and spaces offer specific rearticulations of resistance in contemporary neoliberal society. My claim is that oppositional discourses are unable to account for a non-opposing resistance because resistance, although seen as immanent to power, is regularly imagined as "counter to" power rather than as another articulation of power. This power, however, is illegible, indeterminate, and ultimately noisy.

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