Research

My research explores the relationship between literature and philosophy, with a particular focus on American science fiction published during the Vietnam War, and emerging theories of biopolitics grounded in the same period. This means I read authors such as Heinlein, Le Guin and Dick alongside philosophers such as Foucault, Deleuze and Agamben (writing much later) to explore the intersections and extrapolations born from examining these two distinctive fields side-by-side.

I am especially interested in the relationship between literature, philosophy and technology – in particular, the tension between the human and the machine. Computer technology came to public attention during the Second World War and reached its apogee with the famous ENIAC machine demonstrated to the public in 1946. Described in the press as a ‘giant brain’, ENIAC was one of the first electronic general-purpose computers, and helped pave the way for new disciplines such as cybernetics and cognitive psychology, in which the academy began to think of the human brain as a form of computer, or machine.

These theories reached new heights during the Vietnam War, in a period I have described as the ‘Vietnam Imaginary’. As computer technology found new and deadly uses on the field of battle, it also increasingly found its way into people’s homes. This ambivalent and often troubled relationship is reflected in the science fiction literature of the period and feeds back into academic and social discourse surrounding the relationship between the human and the machine. As the state seeks to ‘robotize’ subjects through monitoring and surveillance, we must ask: How and why are humans transformed into compliant robot subjects? Are robots truly the ideal citizens? Is the AI the ultimate destination for the biopolitical state?

To find out more about this project and my other related interests, browse my research blogs. You can also see my researcher profile on the Lancaster University website.

  • The Darkest Hour (Novel)
  • 'War Stories' in Fuzzy Revolutions (2019)
  • 'The Final Frontier' in Fuzzy Revolutions (2019)
  • 'The Trouble with Joi' in Blade Runner 2049 and Philosophy (2019)
  • 'The gates of our world: Vietnam and the (re)birth of biopolitics'
  • 'Exclusions through time: Charlie Gordon and the biopolitical paradigm'
  • 'The Literature of Drones: Ethics and Remote Killing in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game'

Feedback for my work...

In 2014, I completed my MA in English Literature at Brunel University, Greater London. I received an A+ for my Masters dissertation, with the following feedback from my supervisor, Professor William Watkin:

I think it is safe to say this is the best dissertation I have marked on an MA program at Brunel. It is simply excellent in all areas and would easily function as a chapter in a PhD in my opinion. It also marks an important moment for me as a marker and teacher. It clearly develops ideas on Badiou, Deleuze, Agamben and Derrida that have featured as part of the undergraduate and graduate programs that I have been involved in in recent years. I know this because I know that they would not have met this kind of material anywhere else. To see a candidate take this material and make it their own in this way is of immense satisfaction to me, although all the credit should do to the candidate who has transformed everything he has read and produced a work of lasting originality. This is certainly all their own work.

As I specialise in these areas perhaps I should make some simple things clear. At present, there is almost no one even at a profession level writing across Agamben, Badiou, Deleuze, Foucault and in terms of mourning and animality, Derrida. That the author gets one or two of these right would be wonderful. If they related one thinker to another correctly that would be astonishing. That they do this across five thinkers each of which presents unique and complex challenges, I just haven't seen that. Alone this would excite me at a PhD level. So there is that. But then there is also a talent for relating the ideas to the texts in a clear, developmental and original fashion. Expertise in theory often hampers clarity of textual exegesis but here the two sit together absolutely perfectly in my opinion. I have to say I have nothing critical to say and that almost never happens (it never happens). Even when he speaks about Agamben and potential, where in my opinion most go wrong, he does it with subtlety and grace.

Then there are the four chapters. The third chapter on death, one of my other areas of research, is excellent. It takes the debate away from central concerns, refreshes the intellectual palate, raises a radical consideration of communicability/ intelligibility, and just transforms the debate by bringing in Butler, Derrida and so on. What is expressed there in terms of Butler's use of Agambenian discourse analysis would be a chapter on its own. When one returns to Chapter 4 which is more in line with the first two, it is then that Badiou is engaged. This is simply brilliant structural awareness as to how to build and develop and advance argument. And of course the conclusion is exceptional. Using a kind of side-comment from Hallward and locating the novels within this structure is totally original. To close, the grade here doesn't matter, it is work beyond the confines of an MA in my opinion. What should happen next is that someone intervenes and makes sure this person gets on a PhD course as soon as possible and develops this project to its full potential which, I am certain, is immense. Thank you for submitting something of this quality it was a privilege to read and I urge you to make sure this is not the last piece of theoretical work you ever write.

Prof. William Watkin
William Watkin
Professor of Contemporary Philosophy and Literature