History & Theory

A Minor Cybernetic Hypothesis

History & Theory
17 Oct, 2022

A Minor Cybernetic Hypothesis

Presented as part of the History and Theory of Media Lecture series, co-sponsored by Media Studies and the Department of Rhetoric

with Kelli Moore
Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University

Moderated by Hannah Zeavin
Assistant Professor at Indiana University in the Luddy School of Informatics; former BCNM Executive Committee Member

A “silent witness” is a fungible evidentiary figure or object that observes but offers no comment in an action; it may nevertheless provide an evidentiary trace of said action.

This talk centers an intersectional account of the techno-cultural mediation of struggles for justice in contemporary gender violence crimes. The politics of the silent witness are traced to the plantation economy and seen reappearing in several places, namely, legal instruments for teaching about intimate partner violence; the popularization of digital tools for redressing and resisting sexual assault and harassment; and true crime entertainment. These elements are put into conversation with the ancient virtue of liberality and the idea of the cybernetic loop to hopefully contribute to a more thorough analysis of the history and theory of the cybernetic hypothesis and a reckoning with neoliberal sexual politics.

Video and Transcript Now Online

Click here to watch the recorded lecture.

Click here to view the transcript.

About Kelli Moore

Kelli Moore is Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. In her debut book of scholarship, Legal Spectatorship (Duke UP, 2022) Kelli Moore traces the political origins of the concept of domestic violence through visual culture in the United States. Tracing its appearance in Article IV of the Constitution, slave narratives, police notation, cybernetic theories of affect, criminal trials, and the “look” of the battered woman, Moore contends that domestic violence refers to more than violence between intimate partners—it denotes the mechanisms of racial hierarchy and oppression that undergird republican government in the United States. Drawing on Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, abolitionist print culture, courtroom witness testimony, and the work of Hortense Spillers, Moore shows how the logic of slavery and antiblack racism also dictates the silencing techniques of the contemporary domestic violence courtroom. By positioning testimony on contemporary domestic violence prosecution within the archive of slavery, Moore demonstrates that domestic violence and its image are haunted by black bodies, black flesh, and black freedom.


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