Footprint 30: Epiphylogenetic Turn and Architecture: In (Tertiary) Memory of Stiegler

2020-11-01

The work of Bernard Stiegler (1952–2020) provides invaluable material for rethinking the built environment as a sort of inorganic spatial memory that enables the evolution of life by means other than organic life. Following Stiegler’s theoretical turn toward epiphylogenetic processes, Footprint 30 is devoted to revisiting the built environment as middling between individuating technical ensembles and niche construction processes. It offers a platform to the transdisciplinary field of posthuman scholarship dealing with existential niches from a technological angle and the concomitant architectural thought that advances such speculative recasting.

Epiphylogenesis is a neologism coined under Stiegler’s anthropotechnical theorisation of the co-evolution of brains and tools. In line with feminist and decolonial theorists like Claire Colebrook and Kathryn Yusoff, it foregrounds that there has never been such a thing as ‘the human’. There are only differentiation processes that historically make humans who they are, and do so in different ways. As such, it has gained some currency in a stream of neo-materialist theories that have revisited anthropogenesis, or the quasi-causality of becoming human, that operates by way of progressively differentiating environments and technics. In addition to primary memory as the genetic information expressed in DNA and secondary memory acquired epigenetically through a complex nervous system, there is also tertiary memory, which Stiegler named ‘epiphylogenetic’. It is the accumulation and retention of historical epigenetic differentiations within the spatio-temporal organisation of material environments. Specifically, the formation of organisational technics includes writing, art, clothing, tools, and machines, but also architecture and urban planning. This outsourcing of memory from the organic changes the conditions for further phylogenetic becomings, given that evolutions continue to be extrinsically organised (‘ex-organised’) by associated technicised milieus.

The theory of epiphylogenesis thus debunks the nature-culture opposition and complements the evolutionary notion of symbiogenesis from a technological angle. As Donna Haraway’s kindred ‘sympoietic’ approach to ‘nature-cultures’ underscores, things don’t ever make themselves. Rather, as Terrence Deacon’s ‘teleodynamic’ approach to emergent selves shows, such systems arise through negentropic work that provides metastability to dynamic assemblages. These evolve when co-constitutive heterogeneities strive to selectively sustain and (re)generate the enabling environmental conditions and constraints that generated them in the first place. Stiegler’s book The Neganthopocene (2018) moved from (intrinsic) negentropy to (extrinsic) ‘neganthropy’ whereby social, spatial and economic systems also select and machinically maintain environments that secure their own material conditions for reproduction. Furthering Foucault’s efforts to subsume the history of architecture under the genealogy of technē, Stiegler lately attempted to sketch the ‘general organology, economy, and ecology’ (in General Ecology, ed. Hörl, 2017) in a bid to reconsider these machinic workings of built environments by further ‘mechanologising’ Félix Guattari’s theory of The Three Ecologies (1989) through Gilbert Simondon’s approach to individuating technical ensembles.

Footprint 30 invites contributions that will tap into the ongoing convergence of technological (rather than cultural) and ecological (rather than natural) thought, to explore epiphylogenetic environments and their transindividuating capacities. We also welcome works that radically extend the vision of a generalised ‘organology’ through more de-generalised, that is, critical feminist and decolonial readings of anthropogenesis and ‘man-made’ environments. Thereby the issue hopes to foster ongoing efforts towards an urgently needed reconceptualisation of architectural technicity as constitutive of the (post)human, and not the other way around, which implies a reinvigorating of the architectural discipline under the epiphylogenetic turn. This may open up a timely opportunity for reclaiming a vanguard position for architecture against its relegation to a mere instrument of control and compliance with no potential for social reform.

 

Authors of full articles (6000–8000 words) are requested to submit their contributions to the editors before 15 February 2021. Full articles will go through a double blind peer-review process.

Review articles (2000–4000 words) will be selected by editors on the basis of a short summary (maximum 500 words) to be submitted before 15 February 2021. All authors should include a short bio (100 words) with their submissions.

 

We kindly refer authors to Footprint Author Guidelines, available at: https://journals.open.tudelft.nl/index.php/footprint/about/submissions

Authors are responsible for securing permission to use images and copyrighted materials.

For correspondence please contact editors Robert A. Gorny and Andrej Radman at editors.footprint@gmail.com.

 

Footprint 30 will be published in Spring/Summer 2022.