Hi, I’m Emma, welcome to my website. I’m an instructor and PhD student at Virginia Tech, where my research exists at the intersection of continental philosophy, STS (science, technology and society) and critical data studies. I also write fiction, poetry and music.

Disclaimer: there’s not much rhyme or reason to what I post about on o-culus. (Winter 2018: recently it’s been a lot of experimental writing and music YouTube).

Here’s a page where I’ve indexed a lot of recent writings, some published.
My academia.edu homepage has other content, including lecture slides and papers.
Music: http://stamm.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @turing_tests
I dig it when people put things here
New for 2018, this site has a blogroll! Yes, like it’s 2003. Check it
And you can contact me via email: stamm[at]vt.edu.

Thanks for visiting!

— Emma Stamm

writing warnings

[1] Fact: writing is made of words, not ideas.
[2] “Nothing is like an idea so much as an idea” — Bishop Berkeley
[3] Fact: writing and ideas and content all refer to ontologically separate entities.
[4] “I myself prefer an Argentine fantasy. God did not create a Book of Nature of the old sorts Europeans imagined. He wrote a Borgesian library, each book of which is as brief as possible, yet each book of which is inconsistent with every other. For each book, there is some humanly accessible bit of Nature [“the natural”] such that that book, and no other, makes possible the comprehension, prediction and influencing of what’s going on” — Ian Hacking on Borges and Berkeley

“Writing is made of words…” means that to write is to write. Thinking about writing isn’t the same thing as doing it. It’s something to put on a post-it note and keep over your computer, it’s a reminder that thinking about working isn’t the same thing as working.

It also means that writing done right self-contextualizes and self-legitimates.

Good writing cuts through the hell of sameness that is the digital space (and capitalism! Capital writ large). It doesn’t produce anything new, of course, but it reveals.

And writers have to be very careful as they pick through Pandora’s box. Some spells are stronger unsaid.

you are a light

Not halfway through the week. A minute, an hour, no more, a day, a moonrising-setting, half a minute I’m sitting alone at this bar and an uncomplicated sage interjects to split my order. Across the room his face was cubed through the bubbles in my wine. He wants a friend with soapy skin and a sickness to be cured.  Paint my liver and lips oily goldochre and. Not mead, honey wine. I said I’m busy trying to make things simple. I need to be alone. Two minutes don’t make me sicker just so you can heal me. Conditionally attracted because my blood floats on water. Pneumatic illness, a sentient plague, don’t be too excited by it. I can afford my own co-pay.

Silly girls purposefully casting off mirrors to push their luck, walking under ladders, giving black cats edible rats. I’m so green. Half a yard beneath the dismal ladder I’m trembling for the construction workers. Oh my god, it’s only Tuesday. I hate the new shape of the workweek. The disordered time gets heady. No clue whether it helps to be flexible or arrhythmic. I can’t stop causing confusion among my peers. Is that why he’s here?

Obfuscate. I’m not looking to be picked up or put together even though I can’t stop coughing, my system will reintegrate eventually but still you’re hustling me. A confusion trance by a simple man, yeah but he’s but good-looking in a sort of  sterile, clinical way, and he smells like disposable latex. Pitching me against myself, reading me as homeopathy, an instruction manual like I should follow my own paths like inscriptions on a tourist map, not sober or drunk, not good or bad, I’m alone by design, award me with your restraint, please let me be ill.

Unshadowing a medicine man, scrawling erroneous diagnoses on his fat pad, tell him to dose me strong and make a legible diary, deliver me to you doubly, fit like a teenager, rewritten with pleasantries and a pretty smile, talkative sometimes, living equally off charms and wit, well-read, most important: knowable, winnable, in a high castle but not too darn high. Do your slick thing like the tapsters do, mix my virus into the vortex, suck it from my lungs and restore (again) my fortune as you do perennially (again) despite how and why we flirt with different qualities of luck. Little evil me, yes evil, only hanging out since I thought you were a doctor.

& another

This came out in the print edition last month and was unpaywalled this week. Data, biopolitics, Eugene Thacker, Henrietta Lacks, genomic science, technocapitalist domination, deathlessness, the usual: https://thenewinquiry.com/immortal-techniques/

new publication

Retooling “The Human:” A Review of Ashley’s Shew’s Animal Constructions and Technological Knowledge. Link here: https://social-epistemology.com/2018/01/18/retooling-the-human-emma-stamm/


one soft taboo

Magic, and grownups inclined to take pleasure in its ambiguous status, its relationship to artifice and sympathy, rather than feeling burdened by the whole thing. Wondering how long you can practice magic before it becomes an anvil between your ribs. Like how many minutes a chill can creep around your spine before it presages nerve damage. The average timespan of a trance.

Same thing with loving a God, any God. Loving God more than art. Loving art that comes from a spiritual rather than aesthetic regime.

“Magic and also an open faith in God have seemed far more taboo than a total commitment to art.” — Ariana Reines

you’re living all over me

For a long time I thought the term “nuclear family” had something to do with nuclear energy, a phrase of Atomic Age vintage, and Wikipedia says I’m not alone in this misunderstanding. The metaphor of molecular nuclei to describe family units has got to be a stretch for a lot of us. Nothing I’ve ever called “family” exists as/at the center of anything.

I’m writing this from my former bedroom at my parents’ house in upstate New York. Having not spent Thanksgiving or Christmas with my own nuclear family. It is January and I am home for the holidays.

Two summers ago I adopted a cat. She is the only other resident of my apartment in Virginia. Still it doesn’t feel like living alone. I have nonnuclear families in the mid-Atlantic region, really up and down the whole Eastern seaboard.

In 2015 I had two roommates in a walk-up apartment in a suburb of Hoboken New Jersey. To get to school in lower Manhattan every morning took two hours. First a mile walk to the Light Rail station, clocking in at about twenty minutes, then a wait — hanging out on the platform for God knows how long. The Light Rail could take up to forty minutes if you didn’t make the express. Then the PATH train which runs across state lines, which liked to get stuck halfway through its subterranean trans-Hudson crossing, a ritual reminder of infrastructure fragility and human mortality that I failed to adjust to and suffered greatly from.

My two roommates and I shared a bathroom and bedroom walls, which was fine by all of us. Probably I cleaned the most but I don’t recall doing so very often. None of us did much more than sleep and drink in that place. I was the only woman.

One day a few months into my New Jersey residence an ex told me someone told him They Hate New York Women to which I replied “me too” knowing well the wit would bite harder than any bitterness I disclosed. I had no idea how to be a woman in the big city, no idea where to look for guidance in that department except in caricatures of gender drawn a little differently in every neighborhood. I still don’t.

Despite the close quarters I shared with my roommates at the time, and the zillions of humans I bumped against on public transit, I felt isolated, and happily so. Moving alone across state borders twice a day or more, I recognized that my proximity to others could be as real or unreal as I wanted it to. I was young and female. I could observe others without threatening them and disarm male strangers with a cartoonishly blunt return of their gaze (wide, inviting eyes; lifted brows) or by clearly deliberate aversions with my face and figure.

Sometimes I think I should have more to say about gender. When I do the thoughts are meek. Sometimes I think that Women’s Writing is a set of uniquely ill-conceived criteria for a genre. Not a radical hypothesis. But it’s only with some notion of Women’s Writing that we can charge Men’s Writing with the crime of imposing clear lines between realism and everything else. God, damnit.

I think of all flowerings of gender troubles 2017 marked on our psychic social ticker-tape. I think of a gentle world where rape is only the unalloyed expression of desire because

those who restrain their desires do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.

— William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

An observation straight out of a poet’s world, a world where wishes really do come true, the somewhere-over-the-rainbow where appetites have no natural kinship with shame. I think of Anaïs Nin who felt real compassion for men and their self-identified sexual deviances, who took pity on them for all their shame. The writer who enjoyed deep tremors of bliss in feeding hungry specters of maleness. While so many other writers iterate on the theme of just how bad it can get. And neither one resonates with me. What I want with gender, principally, doesn’t exist. There’s no parsimonious explanation for “woman.”

Feeling alien and out of my dimension in a global city, realizing too late that no one wants to become familiar with an extradimensional alien, an animal or an angel, but something coded human and proximal, that’s when I left New York.

And the infrastructure got to me too. I mean, it got to me. Freaked out doesn’t even begin to describe it. Visions of mass annihilation via subpar maintenance.  It wasn’t enough to make me a shut-in. I just put up with it until I left.

Now I miss the isolation and threat. Something happens when you’re in the temporary state of new familiarity with a person (a lover or friend) or group (of friends or colleagues or neighbors); at some point you notices the sounds in your head dialed down, those voices whose harmonious registers and dissonances at one time lifted and lulled you alone, all the personal music. You cash in yours for theirs. Change for cold comfort.

And in my sourest Christmas reflections (I’m not a holiday person) I thought that’s the meaning of family: a series of realistic and grave compromises. And when gravity overrides mass we call it an implosion. However you call it, kin or nuclear, roommates or blood brothers or girlfriends or wives, I get uneasy whenever I think about this living-with thing, the family thing.