|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||Los Angeles|
|Key people||Hedi El Kholti, Chris Kraus, Sylvère Lotringer|
|Publication types||Books, Magazines, Pamphlets|
|Imprints||Active Agents, Foreign Agents, Intervention Series, Native Agents and Animal Shelter|
Semiotext(e) is an independent publisher of critical theory, fiction, philosophy, art criticism, activist texts and non-fiction.
Founded in 1974, Semiotext(e) began as a journal that emerged from a semiotics reading group led by Sylvère Lotringer at Columbia University. Initially, the magazine was devoted to readings of thinkers like Nietzsche and Saussure. In 1978, Lotringer and his collaborators published a special issue, Schizo-Culture, in the wake of a conference of the same name he had organized two years before at Columbia University. The magazine brought together artists and thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze, Kathy Acker, John Cage, Michel Foucault, Jack Smith, Martine Barrat and Lee Breuer. Schizo-Culture brought out connections between high theory and underground culture that had not yet been made, and forged the “high/low” aesthetic that remains central to the Semiotext(e) project.
As the group dispersed over time, issues appeared less frequently. In 1980, Lotringer began to assemble the Foreign Agents series, a group of "little black books", often culled from longer texts, to polemically debut the work of French theorists to US readers. He was aided in this by Jim Fleming, whose collective press Autonomedia would be Semiotext(e)'s distributor for the next twenty-one years. Jean Baudrillard’s Simulations was the first of these books to appear, followed by titles by Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Paul Virilio, Jean-François Lyotard and Michel Foucault, among others. Spin magazine cited the little black books as "Objects of Desire" in a 19XX design feature.
In 1990, Chris Kraus proposed a new series of fiction books by American writers, which would become the "Native Agents" imprint. Kraus worked at the St. Marks Poetry Project and saw an overlap between the theories of subjectivity advanced in the Foreign Agents books and the radical subjectivity practiced by female first-person fiction writers. Designed to promote an anti-memoiristic, "public I", the series published Kathy Acker, Barbara Barg, Cookie Mueller, Eileen Myles, David Rattray, Ann Rower and Lynne Tillman and many others.
A third series, Active Agents, began in 1993 with the publication of Still Black Still Strong by Dhoruba Bin Wahad, Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu-Jamal, with the goal of presenting explicitly political, topical material. It has also published texts by Kate Zambreno, Bruce Hainley, and Eileen Myles.
In 2001 Semiotext(e) changed its base of operations from New York to Los Angeles, ceasing its involvement with Autonomedia in order to begin an ongoing distribution arrangement with MIT Press. Hedi El Kholti, the Moroccan-born artist and writer who co-founded the now-defunct Dilettante Press, became Semiotext(e)’s art director.
As the decade progressed, El Kholti saw a need to re-imagine the Semiotext(e) project beyond the small-format books of the series. Earlier titles would be republished as large format books within the new “History of the Present” imprint.
In 2004, El Kholti became managing editor of the press. He, Kraus and Lotringer became joint, list-wide co-editors. Semiotext(e)'s new goal was to advance its original conflation of literature and theory, and to expand the anti-bourgeois queer theory presented in early issues of the Semiotext(e) journal.
The purview of Native Agents expanded to include science fiction books by Maurice Dantec and Mark Von Schlegell and works by writers like Tony Duvert, Pierre Guyotat, Travis Jeppesen, Grisélidis Real, and Abdellah Taïa. Aware that the theorists he introduced in the 1980s had by now been absorbed into the academic mainstream, Sylvère Lotringer turned his attention to Italy’s post-Autonomia critical theory, commissioning and publishing works by Franco 'Bifo' Berardi, Paolo Virno, Antonio Negri, Christian Marazzi [fr], Maurizio Lazzarato and others. Semiotext(e) also became the English-language publisher for Peter Sloterdijk’s notable Spheres trilogy. Re-visioning New York’s ‘last avant-garde’ of the 1980s, Semiotext(e) published archival works by or about some of that era’s most important artists, including Penny Arcade, Gary Indiana and David Wojnarowicz.
Semiotext(e) was invited to participate as an artist in the 2014 Whitney Biennial.
Semiotext(e) publishes the Intervention Series (2009—present), an ongoing series of short books on subjects related to left-wing politics. Topics of the series include anti-capitalism, anti-authoritarianism, post-structuralism, feminism, and economics. All books in the series are designed by Hedi El Kholti. The series is notable for its first installment: The Coming Insurrection by The Invisible Committee, a French pseudonymous author (or authors). Upon its release, the book was condemned by American conservative commentator Glenn Beck, who described it as a dangerous radical leftist manifesto. The Coming Insurrection is also known for its association with the legal case of the Tarnac Nine, a group of nine people including Julien Coupat who were arrested in Tarnac, rural France, on November 11, 2008 on suspicion of sabotaging French railways. The method of sabotage actually used was similar to one suggested in the book, and members of the group were suspected to be members of the Invisible Committee. Coupat co-founded Tiqqun, a short-lived philosophical magazine which is also represented in the Intervention Series.
Major topics of the series include French anarchism (The Invisible Committee, Tiqqun), Italian Marxist economic criticism (Maurizio Lazzarato, Franco Berardi, Christian Marazzi[a]) and violence in the context of the Mexican Drug War (Sergio González Rodríguez, Sayak Valencia). Other topics discussed include art history (Gerald Raunig, Chris Kraus), racism (Houria Bouteldja, Jackie Wang), continental philosophy (Jean Baudrillard, Peter Sloterdijk) and contemporary culture (François Cusset, Jennifer Doyle, Paul Virilio).
Although the series treats a variety of subjects in left-wing politics and culture, there are also commonalities and throughlines among the works. Several of the series' entries treat the Financial crisis of 2007–2008 and the consequent protest movements of the early 21st century, particularly Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring; these are compared by several of the series' authors with the French protests of May 1968 and the Italian Years of Lead.[b][c][d] In the context of these protest movements, authors in the series describe a tendency to refuse to seize political power, thus also refusing to engage with states, businesses, and traditional power entities in expected ways. This refusal of power is also described as "destituent".[e][f][g] 20th century continental philosophy is frequently cited by the series' authors for various purposes, particularly the work of Deleuze and Guattari, Michel Foucault, and Giorgio Agamben.[h][i][j] Several of the series' authors decry the state of exception, a legal theory due to the German jurist Carl Schmitt (and later criticized by Agamben), which posits that the state has authority to act outside the rule of law in extreme circumstances (e.g. a state of emergency) in the name of the public good.[k][l][m] Works in the series also criticize Richard Nixon's decision to remove the United States from the gold standard in 1971,[n][o] and French television executive Patrick Le Lay who stated that his network's job was to sell Coca-Cola to its viewers via advertising, as opposed to providing content.[p][q]
|1[r]||Various authors||Autonomia: Post-Political Politics||1980/2007||"The only first-hand document and contemporaneous analysis of the most innovative post-'68 radical movement in the West, the creative, futuristic, neo-anarchistic, postideological Autonomia."|
|1||The Invisible Committee||The Coming Insurrection||2009||"A call to arms by a group of French intellectuals that rejects leftist reform and aligns itself with younger, wilder forms of resistance."|
|2||Christian Marazzi [fr]||The Violence of Financial Capitalism||2009/2011||"An innovative analysis of financialization in the context of postfordist cognitive capitalism." New edition: "An updated edition of a groundbreaking work on the global financial crisis from a postfordist perspective."|
|3||Guy Hocquenghem||The Screwball Asses||2009||"A founder of Queer theory contends that the ruling classes have invented homosexuality as a sexual ghetto, splitting and mutilating desire in the process."|
|4||Tiqqun||Introduction to Civil War||2010||"Activists explore the possibility that a new practice of communism may emerge from the end of society as we know it."|
|5||Gerald Raunig [de]||A Thousand Machines||2010||"The machine as a social movement of today's "precariat"—those whose labor and lives are precarious."|
|6||Jean Baudrillard||The Agony of Power||2010||"Baudrillard's unsettling coda: previously unpublished texts written just before the visionary theorist's death in 2007."|
|7||Tiqqun||This is Not a Program||2011||"An urgent critique of the biopolitical subject and omnipresent Empire."|
|8||Chris Kraus||Where Art Belongs||2011||"Chris Kraus examines artistic enterprises of the past decade that reclaim the use of lived time as a material in the creation of visual art."|
|9||Jarett Kobek||ATTA||2011||"A disorienting fictionalized portrayal of 9/11 mastermind Mohamed Atta and the meaning of madness."|
|10||Paul Virilio||The Administration of Fear||2012||"A new interview with the philosopher of speed, addressing the ways in which technology is utilized in synchronizing mass emotions."|
|11||Sergio González Rodríguez||The Femicide Machine||2012||"An account and analysis of the systematic murder of women and girls in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juárez."|
|12||Tiqqun||Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl||2012||"A theoretical dissection of capitalism's ultimate form of merchandise: the living spectacle of the Young-Girl."|
|13||Maurizio Lazzarato||The Making of the Indebted Man||2012||"A new and radical reexamination of today's neoliberalist "new economy" through the political lens of the debtor/creditor relation."|
|14||Franco "Bifo" Berardi||The Uprising||2012||"A manifesto against the concepts of growth and debt, and a call for a reinvestment in the social body."|
|15||Gerald Raunig [de]||Factories of Knowledge, Industries of Creativity||2013||"With the economy deindustrialized and the working class decentralized, a call for alternative horizons for resistance: the university and the art world."|
|16||Peter Sloterdijk||Nietzsche Apostle||2013||"Peter Sloterdijk's essay on Friedrich Nietzsche and the benefits and dangers of narcissistic jubilation."|
|17||Maurizio Lazzarato||Governing by Debt||2015||"An argument that under capitalism, debt has become infinite and unpayable, expressing a political relation of subjection and enslavement."|
|18||The Invisible Committee||To Our Friends||2015||"A reflection on, and an extension of, the ideas laid out seven years ago in The Coming Insurrection."|
|19||Jennifer Doyle||Campus Sex, Campus Security||2015||"A clear-eyed critique of collegiate jurisprudence, as the process of administering student protests and sexual-assault complaints rolls along a Möbius strip of shifting legality."|
|20||Sergio González Rodríguez||The Iguala 43||2017||"A well-researched and powerfully argued account of the disappearance of forty-three students and an analysis of the cruelty that normalizes atrocity."|
|21||Jackie Wang||Carceral Capitalism||2018||"Essays on the contemporary continuum of incarceration: the biopolitics of juvenile delinquency, predatory policing, the political economy of fees and fines, and algorithmic policing."|
|22||Houria Bouteldja [fr]||Whites, Jews, and Us||2017||"A scathing critique of the Left from an indigenous anti-colonial perspective."|
|23||The Invisible Committee||Now||2017||"A new political critique from the authors of The Coming Insurrection, calling for a "destituent process" of outright refusal and utter indifference to government."|
|24||Sayak Valencia||Gore Capitalism||2018||"An analysis of contemporary violence as the new commodity of today's hyper-consumerist stage of capitalism."|
|25||François Cusset||How the World Swung to the Right||2018||"An examination of the reactionary, individualist, cynical, and belligerent shift in global politics to the right, implemented both by the right and the establishment left."|
|26||Franco "Bifo" Berardi||Breathing||2019||"The increasingly chaotic rhythm of our respiration, and the sense of suffocation that grows everywhere: an essay on poetical therapy."|
|27||Sergio González Rodríguez||Field of Battle||2019||"The emergence of a geopolitical war scenario, establishing a form of global governance that utilizes methods of surveillance and control."|
|28||Tiqqun||The Cybernetic Hypothesis||2019||"An early text from Tiqqun that views cybernetics as a fable of late capitalism, and offers tools for the resistance."|