Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.
Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University (UK), delivered the following presentation at the OURS2018 Conference Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective: Publics and Performances which was held at The Open University, Kents Hill, Milton Keynes, February 19-21, 2018:
The (Un)bearable Whiteness of Informationalist Religion
Against the backdrop of earlier work exploring ‘entanglements’ of race and information (Ali 2013), information, race, religion and Orientalism (Ali 2015), and the sedimented anti-Islamic historically-constitutive ‘essence’ of European cum ‘Western’ socio-political formation (Ali 2017a), I have recently argued that late techno-capitalist developments such as Transhumanism and technological Posthumanism are usefully interpreted as ‘iterations’ of the phenomenon of whiteness within a long durée modern/colonial ‘Western’ historical onto-logics that might be characterized as ‘algorithmic racism’ – more specifically, as a response to perceived ‘White Crisis’ or whiteness under increasing non-white contestation (Ali 2017b). Drawing on the insights of Noble (1997), Davis (1998) and others, I have also argued that Transhumanism / technological Posthumanism might – should – also be understood as a techno-apocalyptic (millennial) ‘religious’ phenomenon, iterative within the same algorithmically-racist ontological ‘horizon’ (Ali 2016) (Ali 2017c).
In this paper, I continue the exploration of the entanglement of race, religion and information by situating Transhumanism and technological Posthumanism in the context of broader ‘informationalist’ currents that include ‘New Religious Movements’ (NRMs) emerging within ‘Western’ societies such as Anthony Levandowski’s ‘Way of the Future’ and ‘Syntheism’ as proposed by Alexander Bard and Jan Söderqvist (2014). My concern is to subject such developments to critical race theoretical and decolonial interrogation along body-political, geo-political and theo-political lines with a view to disclosing the hegemonic yet masked operation of whiteness, Orientalism and post-Christianity against the backdrop of an ‘algorithmically racist’ techno-apocalyptic/utopian ontological horizon.
- Ali, S.M. (2017a) Islam between Inclusion and Exclusion: A (Decolonial) Frame Problem. In The Future Information Society: Social and Technological Problems. Edited by Wolfgang Hofkirchner and Mark Burgin. Singapore, World Scientific, pp.287-305.
- Ali, S.M. (2017b) Transhumanism and/as Whiteness. Transhumanism – The Proper Guide to a Posthuman Condition or a Dangerous Idea? Workshop. In: IS4IS Summit Gothenburg 2017 – Digitalisation for a Sustainable Society, 12-16 June, Gothenburg, Sweden. Proceedings 2017, 1(3), 244; doi:10.3390/IS4SI-2017-03985
- Ali, S.M. (2017c) Decolonizing Information Narratives: Entangled Apocalyptics, Algorithmic Racism and the Myths of History. DTMD 2017: 6th International Conference. In: IS4IS Summit Gothenburg 2017 – Digitalisation for a Sustainable Society, 12-16 June, Gothenburg, Sweden. Proceedings 2017, 1, 50; doi:10.3390/IS4SI-2017-03910
- Ali, S.M. (2016) Algorithmic Racism: A Decolonial Critique. 10th International Society for the Study of religion, Nature and Culture Conference: Religion, Science and The Future. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, January 14-17.
- Ali, S.M. (2015) Orientalism and/as Information: The Indifference That Makes a Difference. DTMD 2015: 3rd International Conference. In: IS4IS Summit Vienna 2015 – The Information Society at the Crossroads, 3 – 7 June, Vienna, Austria. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/isis-summit-vienna-2015-S1005.
- Ali, S.M. (2013) Race: The Difference That Makes a Difference. tripleC 11 (1): 93-106.
- Bard, A. and Söderqvist, J. (2014) Syntheism: Creating God in the Internet Age. Stockholm: Stockholm Text.
- Davis, E. (1998) Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information. New York: Harmony Books.
- Noble, D. (1997) The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention. New York: Penguin Books.