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Concepts of the global in contemporary culture: figuring the totality

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2017
Number of pages297
Awarding Institution
Place of PublicationLancaster
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis approaches a selection of contemporary literary, filmic, and philosophical works from the point of view of a now well-established field of concern – namely, the global. It takes into account a broadly Western view of the global, prioritises Anglophone cultural production, and looks at a range of authors and directors, such as Margaret Atwood, Iain Banks, Neil Blomkamp, David Cronenberg, Mark Danielewski, Gilles Deleuze, Don DeLillo, Félix Guattari, Michael Hardt, Kazuo Ishiguro, Fredric Jameson, Charlie Kaufman, Patrick Keiller, David Lynch, Antonio Negri, Peter Sloterdijk, Ali Smith, and Bernard Stiegler. The project locates prominent and significant concepts of the global in contemporary culture, which offers a break from current studies which either focus purely on ways in which texts represent the current form of so-called globalisation, or ways in which texts, and traits of texts, circulate across the globe. The overarching argument of the thesis is that, through conceptualisations of the global, we witness a return to figurations of the totality in contemporary culture. There is not just one way of conceptualising the global today, however, and to register this four main modes of conceptualisation are identified. These are: the immanent; the transcendent; the contingent; and the beyond-measure. The political, philosophical, and aesthetic implications of conceptualising the global in each way are assessed throughout. During the course of the thesis, two additional ways of figuring the human totality are discovered. These come under what is called in general terms the ‘Global Brain’, and are dubbed individually the ‘Idealist Brain’ and the ‘Unhuman Brain’. With the Idealist Brian, we uncover a longstanding vision of the global, which has again become present in contemporary culture. This is a view of the Earth as the ultimate place of the global, with the privileging of the human sensorium being at the heart of this. What the Unhuman Brain figures is a scenario whereby the human is traversed by the inhuman at the level of totality. The identification of this new strain of the Global Brain has all sorts of implications, not least being the fact that it puts into question the Earth’s status as the site of the global, and its close ties with the human subject.