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On January 19, 2023 Indy Johar of Dark Matter Labs and Global Senior Fellow Bayo Akomolafe explored a set of questions about the self: what if the self is not as estranged or as independent as we often suppose it is? If we are to take seriously notions of entanglement and ecological imbrications, how do we come to see identity? What might this mean for democracy, for our understanding of our roles as temporality-makers (instead of just inhabitants of fixed, monolithic time), for the Anthropocene, and for the future?


Sara Grossman:
Hi, everyone. Good morning, good evening, good afternoon, wherever you are in the world, and welcome all to this conversation that assured to be incredible between Bayo Akomolafe and Indy Johar. My name is Sara Grossman and I am the program director for the Democracy & Belonging Forum, which is hosting this conversation today.

The Forum is a transatlantic initiative from the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley that aims to connect civic leaders in Europe and the US who are committed to bridging across lines of difference while centering the needs and concerns of marginalized groups. This conversation is hosted as I mentioned by Bayo Akomolafe, who is our global senior fellow. His role is to help us reconsider and reimagine our collective work towards justice.

This conversation is part of a series that Bayo is hosting entitled The Edges in the Middle, in which he engages in conversation with thinkers and culturemakers on big issues of the day around justice, identity, race, and belonging among other issues.

Today is actually a big day for Bayo apart from this conversation as he has just released an extraordinary new essay on our website entitled Black Lives Matter, But to Whom, which you can find at democracyandbelongingforum.org. In many ways, this piece defies any simple description or summary, but at its most basic, it seeks to explore the limits of the Black Lives Matter frame in advancing justice and the possibility for re-imagining identities altogether. I encourage you to check that out at our website.

Bayo's conversation partner today is Indy Johar, who is the founding director of Zero Zero and Dark Matter Labs based in the UK. An architect by training, he is a senior innovation associate with The Young Foundation and a visiting professor at The University of Sheffield.

He's a thought leader in systems change, the future of urban infrastructure, finance, outcome-based investment, and the future of governance, and we are so honored to host him here today.

Before I pass it back to Bayo to get this conversation started, I want to quickly thank our wonderful ASL interpreters, Kafi Lemons and Jenese Portae from Interpret, Educate and Serve, as well as our comms lead, Evan Yoshimoto, who is running the tech backstage.

A quick reminder to our members that you can reflect on this conversation afterward directly with Bayo in a Zoom room. You should have received the link to that directly in your email. If you haven't, please reach out to me directly. Without further ado, I pass it back to you, Bayo, to get this conversation.

Bayo Akomolafe:
Good evening from Chennai, India. It's good to see you again. I'm glad to be in this beautiful conversation with my brother and to everyone who is assembled here with us. Thank you for showing up, for being here.

I was just having a conversation with Indy about the weather in India. I crave some cold right now actually, some European cold and snow while he's craving from where he is in Oslo, Norway, some warmth. Just goes to show you how worlds can diverge and defract and become something entirely different.

But I digress. I welcome you to this beautiful exploration. Just before we dive in, and I bring my brother up, I feel led to offer a libation of thought, of spirit, of hope and prayer for what we're doing here together digitally and spiritually in this space. The Umbari is an aesthetic.

This is a reminder, is an aesthetic of exploration, of losing one's way. This isn't an invitation to find the truth or to arrive summarily at a final analysis of things. This is an invitation to respect decay and the limitations of sense-making rituals.

If you can put your body in the body of a fugitive escaping, I know this is probably impossible to do, but it's speculatively possible. Put your body in the body of a fugitive escaping the trap and the capture of the slave plantation. There is no time for maps. There is no time for clarity about where this slave is heading. There is only the effort, the attempt, the imperative to get as far as possible away from the plantation.

It is such fluid cosmologies that inform the Umbari and what we're doing here. Our attempt is not consensus, it is not safety. It is not a finished product. We will not be dropping the mic. We'll be picking it up and not just speaking to it, but interacting with possibilities, poetic possibilities and yeah, that's what we're doing here today.

We want to talk about a new theory of the self. There's a story from my childhood that involves Anansi the Spider. You might have heard of him. Anansi is a trickster like the tortoise in Yoruba stories or Loki in Marvel cinematic universes. Anansi is given an assignment by his grandmother to watch over a pot of beans and gravy that she's just prepared. The problem is Anansi, as in all the stories that is told about him, is greedy.

And so he takes this gravy and he's eating the beans and he's stuffing his mouth with it, and he becomes so taken by this gastronomic experience that he takes the entire thing when he notices his grandmother is about to reenter the house and stuffs it in his hair, in his hat rather. While she is going about the house, his head is burning and his hair is frying and the heat is getting to him and he cannot respond to any of the questions that the grandmother is throwing at him.

In a sense, we also have heat in our heads. Our heads are hot right now and all we can offer, let me just let it out of the bag, is a gasp. A new fear of the self, Indy and I are going to be meandering through the black spaces of contemplation on the matter with personhood.

What has happened to identity and what has happened to the self? We don't have a fixed or final product glossed over and ribboned and presented and packaged. We don't have that. All we have is a gasp and I think that is the most eloquent thing we can offer. Indy, are you here? Can we begin?

Indy Johar:
We can indeed. What a pleasure to be here, Bayo.

Bayo Akomolafe:
Brother, thank you so much for doing this. You are in no way right now craving what I can generously offer you but refuse to. Let me start with this, brother, and we'll see how it goes. I have no idea where this is going. I think that's the gift of this moment. It's what happened to selfhood? What happened to the liberal humanist traditional self, which was according to all the doctrines and wisdoms and insights secreted from modern landscapes supposed to be domiciled in our bodies? Why are we exploring a new theory of self? What is so compelling about this for you?

Indy Johar:
I think I really appreciated your framing of this conversation and I think let's imagine this as a gasp. The premise, I think why this is important as a conversation is that I think that things like climate change or biodiversity losses, these big crises that we face, in my view, are not a crisis of the outside world. They're a crisis of our relationship with the world.

It is a crisis of how we manifest in the world that is manifesting in what many people would say is a self-terminating situation where we are killing the thing around us in order to kill ourselves. This is rooted I think in fundamentally how we perceive ourselves, how we perceive the world. I think the conception of that, and I think you talk about it through the words of the pixel or the individuation of the world.

I don't think we can deal with the crisis of climate change without dealing with our crisis of self. This is foundational and it's rooted, I would argue, in the theory of objectifying ourselves, objectifying the world around us. This object-subject relationship has created the space for, I would say, violence and waste. It creates a space for violence and thereby, creates a space for waste. Things that are externalized, things that are rejected in the system.

This thesis is manifesting in the world around us. What was once, you could argue, we were living in a perceptionally, conceptually infinite world that violence and that waste was ignorable. Now that trash and that violence is no longer ignorable because that micro violence now eats back at us. It was problematic even when it was born, but the problems weren't visible. Now those problems manifest back into us in a way that I think our civilization terminating for ourselves.

And so I think this reconceptualization of the self and our thesis of the self, without that, I don't think there's a pathway to addressing the problems. I think the final point I'd make on it is that conceptualization of self is not just philosophy, it's how philosophy manifests into language. It is language, then grammar, then grammar than actually stuff like institutions, property, theories of property, which allow for that violence to be concretized in law all the way to theories of transactions and economics, home economists, theories of models of the world.

This conception has then virally infected all of our structures of how we conceive and structure the world, and thereby accelerating that object-subject relationship in a way that is now self-terminating. I think it is both philosophy but also philosophy, language to institutions. It's a root problem. This is I think why climate change is more than just a technological problem. It is actually a problem, a much deeper problem with our relationship with the world, which is why biodiversity losses, we are living in the age of a great extinction event, because it's much deeper than I think what we talk about.

Bayo Akomolafe:
Therapy as well. I'll add therapy to the list. This might be a good way to bring that in story-wise. This story I tell about two monks strolling down the river and by and by, they hear someone drowning, screaming for help. One of the monks jumps into the waters and drags the person out, resuscitates the person and they are on their way.

But then it happens again, and someone else is in the water calling for help. The same process repeats itself. Then it happens again, and again, and again until the monk that is now enlisted in this troubling cyclicity of saving someone else decides to run up the river instead of jumping into the waters and his companion calls out and says, "Where are you going? You know I can't swim, you're supposed to save this person." He responds, "I'm going to stop them from where they're dropping in."

I come to this story again and again because in my profession, I refer to myself as a recovering psychotherapist/psychologist. But in my career, which wasn't that extensive, I found myself faced with the impossibility of the individual. It was easier for me to see this. My client was supposed to be ... The contract of the clinical alliance is that the therapist with the skills is supposed to help the client navigate. But what if the client is monstrous? What if the client is the social, the political, the economic, the ecological? How do I stuff that into the anorexic confines of my study or my room for the therapeutic encounter?

So that it seems this thesis of the self, this dismantling thesis of the self, which is at the heart of modernity, seems to be troubling everything, all the institutions by which we name ourselves and we name the world. You're right, brother, it seems we have to come to this problem, which is far from being an abstract issue, far from being an example in sophistry or just talking talk. This is at the heart of the climate crisis. I don't like to use climate change, but this is at the heart of the ecological emergencies that we are facing.

Indy Johar:
Exactly. I think unless we start to address this, I don't think there's a pathway, and it's rooted in everything. Our theories of identity, our theories of registries, our theories of ownership, our theories of economic rights, even our rights agenda is rooted in some of these things.

I think this is where it's a deep code problem. I think we could argue it's a problem which is maybe at the center of The Fermi Paradox, the kind of idea that civilization, only if it can transcend itself in our theory of being entangled and recognizing entanglement, agency and care and a planetary self, the language I would probably use is a planetary self, that we are part of a planetary self, and it's non-divisible.

At that moment in time, this may be a critical social, linguistic, philosophical, institutional, a new emergence. This is why, I think many people like Thomas [inaudible 00:16:59] and other people talk about this being as a 1 in a 400-year or 1 in a 6,000-year transformation because it's rooted in a fundamental idea of theories of control.

Words like governance, words like governance beget classification, classification begets identity. Because these are top-down, still top-down associations in positions of power, in positions of theories of self. They're in positions of language. And just playfully, maybe even words like belonging, who do I belong to? Do I want to belong to something? Or where does the word find its root from?

I think there's fundamental questions about these words because these words are still about association, asymmetric association, asymmetric lineages, asymmetric power that do not recognize. I think there's a reconciliation of our entanglement, reconciliation of our agency, reconciliation of our care. Also, I think this is where one thing I'd say is I think we see the world through the language of dead things. The language of economics perceives the world through the language of dead things. We have in that purpose also killed ourselves, made ourselves dead things.

There's a reunderstanding of the world and we can only free ourselves if we perceive the agency of others. This is a really ... If we see the world through dead things, then that is what we become in process. How do we actually re-enlive the world, re-breathe the life into the world and also recognize the life in us, which is not in position, and do exactly as you said. It cannot be defined. It's an act of journey, it's a becoming.

This is where all of our language of identity is about fixity, determination, constraint. Even I read your work, what you were beautifully saying about intersectionality, where whilst intersectionality allows us to see more than one relationship and more than one constraint, it's still a theory of constraint to those one things rather than the dynamic. Intersectionality is a verb, we're constantly in a new intersectionality, in an emergent intersectionality as opposed to a fixed one. I think these things become really critical. But yeah.
Bayo Akomolafe:

To that point, I've often used the term nounism, which is just silly at this point, but you know what I mean. It feels like, this is how I describe whiteness. Whiteness is not reducible to white persons. Whiteness is not white people. Whiteness is speculatively the genocide of relations. To borrow a phrase from Dr. Erin Manning, it is the placement of bodies in strict, rigid, unforgiving, immobile, sterile identitarian boxes as a place-making, world-building project.

This is why black scholars like Fred Moten through the voices of my sister, Marisol de la Cadena, would suggest that the real violence that was performed down to Africans wasn't a slave ship. The slave ship was only part of it. The vessel of dishonor, if you will, the vessel of capture was the human individual. That was what transported the human individual as the thing that you are now going to fit within.

Because the worlds that we lived in, and I'm not trying to create some revisionic or originalism that we ought to return to. I don't think of the world in that way. It's not a binary, there's nothing pure to return to. But there are accounts that suggest that we saw ourselves together with mountains, that there wasn't a private sense of self. There still isn't in many parts in, at least where I come from.

Grief is a public event. There isn't some private interiority that I'm supposed to tend to, so to speak. That's the breeding ground for new ancestors. I hear you when you suggest that the citizen is a burden. It might be the most ontologically heavy thing on the planet. The citizen is, it's not about carbon reductionism, it's about the presumptuous of citizenry. The idea that the performative closure that reduces the agonistic tensions of the world around us, the flows and tides of things to that atomic thing in front of us.

Indy Johar:
I think, the enlightenment or certainly the scientific and the Newtonian enlightenment with exactly that thesis, the Newtonian enlightenment allowed for the divisibility of the world into discreet ways of seeing. The scientific paradigm it was born was a theory of ... That enlightenment was to use light to separate, to make visible, to capture in a very particular way. We lost the ... I think that journey is also scientifically coming to an end in a way whether if you look at any of the stuff that's on quantum physics-

Bayo Akomolafe:
Quantum physics. I knew-

Indy Johar:
That journey is coming to an end. The science is already at the end of that enlightenment journey of the divisibility of the world into a new paradigm. David Boorman and various other people have been at this for 50 years plus, have been showing that the science has already moved beyond this. Yet what we haven't done is culturally linguistically moved beyond this.

Your thing about nounism is perfect because we know like [inaudible 00:23:21] language and other languages have been 80% verb-orientated, whereas English is a noun-orientated language and has become more noun-orientated, object-orientated. There's a language form and that language, as you rightly say, is a way of seeing that then captures ourselves.

The language is we are now captured. I think there is something interesting that we're facing, is that there is also something extraordinary going on, that there is a new consciousness emerging at a different scale as well. I think I'd like to bring this in on the table.

Bayo Akomolafe:
Of course, brother.

Indy Johar:
James Lovelock and his book on Novacene is really interesting for me because I think he purports, I think, a very powerful idea that the planet itself is becoming conscious, that actually our ability to put satellites up into it and then to be able to change our behaviors, to be able to see the planet, to then ecological systems to actually also be asked to change our relationship with ecological systems. This machine-human ecological singularity, this consciousness emerging at the planetary scale is also challenging our theory of individual self.

I think if we argue that we are seeing the birth of a new meta life, there is also something extraordinary going on in that sense. I think the question of self becomes really critical because we can no longer assume dominion but recognize ourselves in fractals of life. That means that there's a different relationship required and different way of being required in that cognition. I think unless we're able to deal with that, appreciate this meta life and our component are placed in that meta life and also recognize our relationality, that's a profound change.

I think we're at the end of an enlightenment era, that area of light-orientated seeing to a new era. I think you rightly say, and I think there are other cultures like Japanese culture, which you talked about In Praise of Shadows, where there's a beautiful question in the book In Praise of Shadows where it says, what if we photograph shadows as opposed to photograph light, and how would we see the world?

I think we'd see the world in a very particular way and I think we're in that transition moment. This is why I think the cultural project of actually the conversations that you host, Bayo, and the kind of integrity of those questions that you're opening up is so critical because without these conversations, I think all of our other solutions are just superfluous adults because it is a root crisis, it's a root transformation that we're operating on.

Bayo Akomolafe:
Let's go deeper into this, brother. I'm loathed to use the exhausted metaphor, the rabbit hole, but we'll see what we can do. I said earlier, I can see a question around blackness that doesn't it equally apply to blackness? Well, the essay addresses that. But blackness is also an identitarian form of capture.

There is a saying we have on the streets of Lagos. Now, we did not know we were Black until white people came. It seems that what we are itching for is spillage, is the sense of exceeding the boundaries that we're supposed to inhabit. The categoristy of the person is part of the algorithm of modern civilization and complicit in the co-production of what some call the Anthropocene. There isn't a throwing of solutions at this. There isn't some techno-bureaucratic clause that releases us from this. This feels like a call to shape shift, to become something entirely other, different, exquisite, if you will.

To your point about planetary consciousness, I'm sure you know about ... Is it the ChatGPT?

Indy Johar:
PT? Yeah, exactly.

Bayo Akomolafe:
That is frightening some people right now, conversations about AI. Well, I don't want to go into AI, but I find it remarkable that I posted a question there recently about comparing Gilbert Simondon and his theory of the pre-individual connecting that with clinical psychology and Deleuze. I just crafted the question there and I swear to you, the response was shockingly good. The response was shockingly good.
If a student of mine wrote that as an essay, I would've given the person, and I hate to speak about grades, I would've given the person an A, as if I don't do that all the time just to get back at the university system. But it just speaks to the idea that intelligence is not as scarce as we think it is, that the world is profuse, replete with life forms.

Maybe this is my question to you, brother, then. Now there, I call it a miracle. What in your experience, in your awareness, in the stories you've heard, in the things that you've explored, feels like a transversal breaking of the idea of the self. Maybe an experience about, shall I say ESP, extrasensory perception, which was the original thesis of Sigmund Freud. He was really, and then he covered it up with the interpretation of dreams. His real focus was the transfers of thought.

Have you come across or is there anything that feels like empirical evidence or even anecdotal evidence that might shock you or shock anyone else listening into rethinking the boundaries we think we have and examining it from a different perspective?

Indy Johar:
I think the thing that broke me or transformed me was exactly what I said earlier, which was this idea that what if the planet is coming alive and what if the planet is, in a sense, a life which is now extraordinary in the universe where the divisibility between human-machine ecological systems is a synthetic divisibility and a dominion thesis of the human being and dominion of the world is a synthetic idea.

When you look at it from that perspective, it changes everything for me because it fractally transforms everything around us. The singularity is not a singularity of AI, but it's a singularity of this consciousness, this machine and human ecological consciousness that is emergent. You can see evidence of these interrelationships starting to actually have feedback and resonance and new ways of organizing.

For me, this view changes everything and it then changes all sorts of things as you rightly place about what ... I'm really troubled right now about this conversation that we have of 8 billion people being a burden on the planet. I'm troubled by our analysis of looking at the planet through the lens of 8 billion people not, I don't know, 1 trillion life forms. I think how we narrate this language is problematic and how we narrate the population as a population burden in itself is part of a power thesis.

This is where I think we have to shape the narration of it as we have many, the great and the good talking about the population burden, whereas actually you could talk about the life profusion. You could talk about, yes, the profusion of life, the profusion of machine-human ecological emergence that is happening.

I think that, and this is again the theory of humanity and burdens and object power subjecthood, who is a burden? Who is not? We know that you probably only need to get rid of 1% of the world's planet, maybe less. Actually that burden disappears that we've currently got. It's not a burden of total population, it's a burden of lifestyles and the way people want to live.

I think for me, the profoundness at that level of this kind of machine-human ecological life emerging, a meta life emerging is I think quite extraordinary, and I think we're in the midst of it. One thing I was going to say was that I feel identity is an imposition order. Like racialization, I think most of identity is an imposition order, an order structured through power and control and the preservation of control and the preservation of divisibility.

Actually, it's completely at odds at a relational sense of actually where we are, where we need to be, and that divisibility, we are at odds of that. I think that's something completely at odds within new planetary relational human-machine ecological emergence that we're seeing. This is the conflict we're in the middle of, this kind of conflict of these two worldviews in transition.

Bayo Akomolafe:
If we do not see ourselves as individuals, or rather if we are invited to see ourselves as ongoing processes, already complicated, already haunted, already inviting, cyborgian assemblages, that we are implicated with machines and technologies and concepts-

Indy Johar:
And ecologies and viruses ...

Bayo Akomolafe:
Ecologies and viruses and fungi and bacteria, and that we're not and have never been alone, then it seems that we're being invited to new postures to assume new postures. Again, this is an invitation to a new politics, brother. You're causing a lot of trouble by saying this, I hope you know.

I was speaking, my last point was about exploring Teresa Brennan, of blessed memory, wrote about The Transmission Of Affect, exploring the idea that emotions are not human. It seems a very scandalous thing to admit or to say that we don't have emotions, emotions have us, so that there is some truth to the saying that you can walk into a room and you can feel the emotions in the air.

There's actually some story I often tell about a man who explored that concept. But there are other things afoot, brother, especially in my discipline. It's the idea of the external mind, the external cognition, what in Katherine Hayles would call non-conscious ... I think it's nonconscious cognition and exploring the ways that cognition is, how we think is not a matter of what goes on here, it's a matter of phones and landscapes and parking lots.

All of these are assemblages of thought. They produce thought where we don't think outside of these things, so that to become a genius and go into a room and try to fix the world's problem, I think devils is an exemplification of it's just to repeat the problem of isolation, of dissociation.

I'm also speaking about a dark psychic mind, the idea that we have as moderns defeated the wilds. We've chased away the gods and we're free from that. We're immune from possession or the things around us. I mean this is what I'm speaking about, a milieu that allows us to think about how texture, architecture, furniture, rhizomes, plants and all of these things are thinking alongside with us.

Indy Johar:
I think the language I would use is the entangled mind, and we are one part of an entangled mind. I think we often see this as an imposition on our theory of freedom. Actually what it is, is less an imposition on our theory of freedom. It's a place of sanity. The more untangled we become, actually I think the risk of abstraction is the risk of manifestation in violence.

I think the abstracted thesis of the individuation, the abstraction of ourselves from the world around us, and I would say the iconic symbol is the human in an astronaut suit filled perfectly. This is the absolute apex point of a misunderstanding of what it means to be human. Because for a moment, we could isolate ourselves, yet we know I think the researchers out there that humans, if we were to be divided from the planet significantly along our cognitive capabilities decline, our health declines massively.

This is a momentary isolation, which was sort of the apex point of modernity thinking or enlightenment thinking, that divisibility. I think in that divisibility lies madness, and actually the entangled mind is actually the mind of feedback. Relationships flows. It is the place of health. Our theories of money, our theories of power have been orchestrated on theories of abstraction because that is what we were taught as a theory of enlightenment, the abstracted mind and its power.

I think the thing we have to reconcile is a kind of conversation of freedom in entanglement. The freedom to roam in that landscape of that mind-

Bayo Akomolafe:
The freedom of indebtedness, that we're not free from our indebtedness to the world around us, yes. But go on, brother.

Indy Johar:
No, no, and this freedom to also intermingle and to relate, to construct, that is the freedom of the world, not the freedom to be isolated in a prison. I think this is a different theory of freedom, and it requires us to operate and dance with care in relationship to that entangled mind that we live in. There is great joy in this.

I think we have created a theory of freedom, which is a theory of escape, a theory of escapism from that entangled mind, that entangled world, and a world of dead things. We've imposed that world to be a world of dead things, and we have to enjoy to rebuild the life, re-understand the life of the table, life of the matter, life of the world around us and our life with it and deep entanglement of it.

I think there's beauty in there. There is a new language in there. There's a new way of conceiving in there. There's a new way of actually architecting in there, which I think is-

Bayo Akomolafe:
I knew you're going to get to the architecture part. Speaking of architecture, it feels like, again, this is a call for social experimentation. I mean, one hour is not enough to do justice to our gasping around this. It's a broad commitment to investigating our porosities, and just to really situate this, again, this is not some heady philosophical affair with words. This is really something that is tethered to our deepest aspirations for a world that works for not just humans, for multiple life forms. It is tethered to our hope for beauty, for thriving and living well.

But the thing is, I think we really need to come to a place where we see the way we see and think about the ways we have been invited to think. What you're saying, Indy, is we have thought and acted through the prison and the prison of the individual for far too long.
The Anthropocene is this galvanizing, cautionary tale. Everyone, put your hands on deck. Let's save ourselves from drowning. But it still collapses at the feet of the agent, the human agent, the one supposed to march in and save the day.

It doesn't seem to be adequate to the moment. It feels like we need some different ethic. Maybe this is where the trickster comes in. We need a different modulating ethic that allows us to feel our porosities, to touch our edges and know that our edges are also diasporic and not as local as we think they are.

What do you see, or what do you feel of politics built around social experimentation, of touching our borders, of listening? I heard this talk about listening to the earth, listening to the world around us. What do you think it would take to convene a practical politics around this vocation of losing our way, of exiling ourselves from the plantation of the individual?

Indy Johar:
It's a powerful question. I want to, and I'm going to say this and I'm going to say this hopefully with sufficient care. I think we have to challenge ourselves to recognize ourselves as being a multiple, multiple and entangled. I think when I used to refer to my grandparents, I used to say they are coming over even in the singular. My grandparents in old language terms, it was always they because we recognized that it was a formal plural. They were not one, there were many.

Bayo Akomolafe:
We have that a year ago as well.

Indy Johar:
Right, exactly.

Bayo Akomolafe:
Yes, yes, yes. I hear you.

Indy Johar:
I think there is something about that that I think is really deeply profound, because it actually challenges this idea of the singular. It challenges our idea of the divisible in a very simple but clear way. It requires us to challenge our own theories of the singular. Am I an Indy? Am I multiple Indy's? How do I give myself permission to live in that multiplicity, in that dynamics? I think there's a freedom that we have to give ourselves in order to be able to actually embrace a different way of relating to the world.

I think it's a small thing, but it's profound because we are trapped in our own singularities, in our own individualities, the own sense of self. I think the freedom is really vital, that freedom of the multiplicity is really critical as a stepping stone of this reality. I think that is, for me, one of the key stepping stones in that conversation, and that opens up a new way of relating to everything around us, the world around us, and the things that we see. I think that to me is the unit of transformation.

I think we see this in the world around us. We see the crisis of how we relate to each other and how we transform that language. I think that language is really particular.

Bayo Akomolafe:
It's a relational reconfiguration we're talking about. Again, not to use the language of do the work in yourself, I think that has its place. But there's something really navel-gazingish about this idea to focus on yourself. That feels foreign to me. That feels alien to me.

Indy Johar:
I think it's true, but I think for me, it's not a focus on ourselves. It's actually the unprisoning of ourselves.

Bayo Akomolafe:
Yes, yes. I agree with you.

Indy Johar:
I think if we can unprison ourselves from the individuality landscape, I think we can actually start to relate to the world. I think we have to recapture language, language like freedom, which has become a language of escapism and escape. We have to recapture words and reembody them into new philosophical frames, which is what you're doing it beautifully.

Because unless we do that, the world constructs in the language that we use. I think we have to have a re-orchestration of language. I know it sounds basic, but I think without those philosophical and those initial frameworks, it's very difficult to then say, well actually property as a theory, property is in a way to be in proper order and to be in relationship to what I perceive as proper order is a theory of power of orchestration between object and subject to the ordering of myself rather than recognizing the intrinsic order of the thing itself.

We have constructed theories of property and then legal constructs on that theory of dominion into that framework. Then where I enslaved the world to that thesis and this delicate recoding of these things, these are not just words, but they are power structures. They're manifestations of orchestration. They're the thing that makes the land dead. They're the thing that reduces the agency. They're the thing that destroys the butterflies because it's improper order to my perception.

These words have magical power. They're like spells which transform and destroy the world around us. We are using those words without cognition of the spells that we weave into the landscape around us. For me, we have to understand that we are the magicians of those words and we have to become cognizant of the spells we weave. Those spells have been programmed into us.

I think I hear you about the kind of work on self. I think it's more the work on my relationship with the world and recognizing the spells I'm locked into, the words I'm throwing around without actual due consideration and due care into that complexity.

Bayo Akomolafe:
I would even dance with that, dancing within those spaces. You're a beautifully creative, brother, that the individual is, or the individuation, is a choreography of gestures, if you will. Not that there are individuals moving atomically from point A to point B, but that there's a cartographical unity that more or less describes what individuals are doing or what the individual is.

So that a falling away from this cartography would be spillage, would be exploring the modern human, would be opening ourselves up to new languages, would be breaking out of the sensorial monoculture of the modern. It feels to me that it's about losing our way. It's about what Glissant would call a poetics of relation or the right to opacity. It's the fugitive. We're inviting fugitivity here.

There's one consideration that I have to bring up, brother, before you go. It's about the future. I mean we've talked about within a space of a few minutes spoken ... This deserves 10 hours, by the way. I almost felt paralyzed at the beginning of this because there are too many directions to take this for me.

But if wellness is trapped by our considerations of individuals, if politics is also beholden to this very, very pixelated notion of the individual, then we also have to consider that time is secreted, our particular notions of time as this edifice that flows from the past, touches the present and is going towards the future, seems to also be a creature of our entrapment, our ontological entrapment. So that it might be suggested that there are other temporalities, other ways of thinking and moving with time that we haven't conceived of yet.

Indy Johar:
Look, I think there's two aspects of this. I think if we were to understand ourselves as a knot of flows, we are a knot of flows and these flows exist, in a way time is also just a construct that we built to stop everything happening at once is a kind of idea. But actually what we are is in this knot of flows, and these knots of flows means that our cognition isn't that of objecthood but is a function of the knot of flows.

I don't think we have yet the language for this thesis of this knot of flows. We don't have ... Our Cartesian frameworks don't allow for this knot of flows to exist. Our drawings, our manifestations of logic don't allow for this knot of flows. This is what creates an object-orientated reality. This is what creates also the theory of waste because we do not recognize the relationships in time, and the relationships of a glass bottle being a function of sand, which took millions of years to deform, to then actually that glass holding for a moment then being liquidated and being turned into something else. We exist in those knots of flows.

I think that is a way of perceiving, a way of languaging and a way of relating with the world and also a way of seeing ourselves in the world. In that moment in time, I think the mountain is no longer an object. The mountain is an act of flow. It is a rock and flow as is everything else. I think there is a new way of being in that world, and I think the science is already there. Our knowledge is there, but we haven't built our scaffolding, our cognitive, philosophical, linguistics scaffolding to make this happen.

But you're right, time is also part of this problem, but it's also our theory of this knot of flows in that frame.

Bayo Akomolafe:
I like that phrase, knot of flows. Thinking about time, this way changes the question. I'm developing a thesis that I call chronofeminism. It's the idea that it's basically the refusal to bow the knee at the imperial throne of imperial time, the idea that time marches on. I like to see with the Yoruba people that time is slushy. There are pockets of time here and there. There are many futures. There are many pasts. The world has already ended.

So that when we come to climate matters and predictions of apocalyptic endings, it's not just to say that we have already been there, that a lot of people have already been there and are living through that now. It's also to say there isn't a fixed future waiting outside of our bodies. Bodies relationally secrete spatial temporal continuities or discontinuities.

Time is not outside. Time is not an ideal, just like justice is not some ideal floating by. We, with non-humans around us, co-create these intensities so that like you are preaching, brother, and it's a preaching. We are being invited to new relationships with the world and maybe new times secrete from that.

I thought we could end it this way around grief, brother, which touches on a question that I'm seeing through the side of my eyes here. It feels a proper way to end for me, appropriate not just to grieve the loss of relationship, the apartheid that is enacted by modernity, the imprisonment of the individual, but to also consider the ways that grief and grieving is not permitted in modern flatness.

As a psychologist, my work was to get people to be productive again. It's to get you back into the race, the pit stop that allows you to just get back out there. There aren't real places of grieving, and grieving seems to be this more than collective interstitial, liminal space where bodies melt into other bodies, where materialities tumble into other materialities.

It seems like maybe grieving is activism. I don't know how that resonates or how that dances with you.

Indy Johar:
I mean I think the spaces of grieving in my worldview is that the space of humanity has been reduced to the production and the consumption and storage, logistics of humanity. All the other dimensions of being human have been lacerated. They have been from our spaces, a city is ...

A public square is a function of the cappuccino, the boy with a balloon. It actually no longer has the called space for actually a human in grief or actually even a human in reflection. Actually those things are not of value. We are reduced to these polarities of work and life. These have also been sort of pixelated into divisionality, to actually break us in this way.

I think the pixels are so low resolution. They are part of our mechanistic theory of self, to actually a reductive idea of being human. For me, this is why this conversation is important because this is a reawakening of being human. It is a new awakening of being in its complexity, in its richness, post-pixelation, a re-enliven, an analog, biological as opposed to the kind of pixeled bureaucracy of the world.

I think this is an opportunity for breathing life back into us, a life where we are not just bad robots, a life that I think is grieving as much as joy, I think these are [inaudible 00:56:09] spaces that we have to reawaken. That I think is a really powerful component, and I would argue the new machine age or the age of automation creates a new space for humanity as we are freed from the shackles of being bad robots.

I think the idea of being freed from the shackles of being bad robots is an embrace for this new humanity. I think this is going to be a new space for a new liberated entanglement and a liberation not to be free but to be re-entangled with the world and re-embraced by the world in that journey. I think that is an optimistic view of actually re-embracing ourselves.

Bayo Akomolafe:
That opens up a thousand new questions, brother. But this means we still have a lot of places to go and explore. We're not arriving anytime soon. We are touching and being touched in our explorations. All I can say at this point in time is that there is no encounter that does not leave us hyphenated. My name in this moment is now Indy Bayo as yours is Bayo Indy.

Maybe that's the gift of our moments. We are touching each other in ways that escape the surveillance state. That is summarily and ecstatically, our mode of leaving the plantation, the possibility of emancipation. Thank you so much, brother, for doing this.

Indy Johar:
Absolute pleasure and a real honor to be in conversation with you. Thank you for everything that you're doing, Bayo. It really is critical. You whisper words into the world which transforms it in ways that you probably can't see all the time, but I want to fully acknowledge what power of what you do.

Bayo Akomolafe:
Thank you, brother. Thank you. Part two, soon. Thank you.

Thank you everyone for ... We must now let the Umbari be taken by the goddess, Ala. Let it decay. None of this has to stick. This is not about things living neurotypically into infinity. That's not how change happens. Let us just be in the exquisite transience of this moment. Until we meet again, be blessed. Thank you.

Indy Johar:
Thank you.