For a Pragmatics of the Useless

AUTHOR: Erin Manning
PUBLISHER: Duke University Press (2020)

PAPERBACK: 384 pages
ISBN13: 978 1 478 01107 1

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What has a use in the future, unforeseeably, is radically useless now. What has an effect now is not necessarily useful if it falls through the gaps. In For a Pragmatics of the Useless Erin Manning examines what falls outside the purview of already-known functions and established standards of value, not for want of potential but for carrying an excess of it. The figures are various: the infrathin, the artful, proprioceptive tactility, neurodiversity, black life. It is around the latter two that a central refrain echoes: « All black life is neurodiverse life. » This is not an equation, but an « approximation of proximity. » Manning shows how neurotypicality and whiteness combine to form a normative baseline for existence. Blackness and neurodiversity « schizz » around the baseline, uselessly, pragmatically, figuring a more-than of life living. Manning, in dialogue with Félix Guattari and drawing on the black radical tradition’s accounts of black life and the aesthetics of black sociality, proposes a « schizoanalysis » of the more-than, charting a panoply of techniques for other ways of living and learning.