For a Pragmatics of the Useless (Thought in the Act)

December 10, 2020
For a Pragmatics of the Useless (Thought in the Act)

What has a use in the future, unforeseeably, is radicallyuseless now. What has an effect now is not necessarily useful if itfalls through the gaps. In For a Pragmatics of the UselessErin Manning examines what falls outside the purview ofalready-known functions and established standards of value, not forwant of potential but for carrying an excess of it. The figures arevarious: the infrathin, the artful, proprioceptive tactility,neurodiversity, black life. It is around the latter two that acentral refrain echoes: "All black life is neurodiverse life." Thisis not an equation, but an "approximation of proximity."Manning shows how neurotypicality and whiteness combine to forma normative baseline for existence. Blackness and neurodiversity"schizz" around the baseline, uselessly, pragmatically, figuring amore-than of life living. Manning, in dialogue with Félix Guattariand drawing on the black radical tradition's accounts of black lifeand the aesthetics of black sociality, proposes a "schizoanalysis"of the more-than, charting a panoply of techniques for other waysof living and learning.