An Experimental Note on Technologies of Certain Bodies
Curator, cultural programmer and radio host Amal Alhaag focuses in her essay for the publication Work, Body, Leisure on the Door(s) of No Return, an architectural symbol of the slavery and colonialism, and looks into the historical significance and implications in the present.
"How a world is shaped is memory"
Sara Ahmed 
This essay is merely scratching the surface of the research, (un)thinking, literature, and cultural production examining the complex genealogy and sets of relations, histories, and politics that inform the project Technologies of Certain Bodies. It is an invitation to complicate, and trace the technologies of certain bodies by invoking the historical and architectural function—meaning the politics and poetics—of the Door(s) of no Return at Fort Elmina, Cape Coast, and the island of Gorée in West Africa in order to question the process by which ethnographic, enslaved, migratory, and gendered people are reduced to bodies by technology. The project is also a proposition to be “in the wake,” and to vigilantly question the engineering of the enslaved African bodies as historical sites for technological innovation of work, body, and leisure. In what ways do these specific bodies redefine and resist the dominant hegemonic understandings of technology, space, memory, and the body itself? Equally, what does it mean to talk about work, leisure, and the body in the wake of, and amidst the ongoing trauma of African deaths in the Mediterranean Sea?
This essay can be considered as the prelude, or parallel universe, to Constant Nieuwenhuys’s New Babylon, a project that envisions a society of total automation, where the concept of work no longer exists and social life becomes an architectural playground. From whose perspective is this social life as architectural playground imagined, and whose vision of the future is disregarded? It is exactly this unwarranted indifference that is emblematic of said white hegemonic understandings. It is this indifference that also invokes an ontological sidestep, which intervenes and brings the legacies and afterlives of colonialism and slavery to the forefront of discourses around the future of labor and leisure. These histories of terror, these histories of people as cattle/capital, require different sets of questions, a different reading of the silences within archives, architectures, and systems; a reading that shows and dissects the precarity, resistance, refusal, and agency of Black bodies in relation to and as part of the afterlives of slavery and colonialism.
Contemporary technological, surveillance, and police practices were tested and developed on enslaved bodies. A hater player recognizes that leisurely rethinking automation means “sitting in the room with this history.” Within this context, Black and other racialized and gendered bodies can’t ask the rhetorical question “Are we human?” without adding the modifier “yet” and expecting clap back from and through the heinous practices of slavery and colonialism that have been transforming people into cattle and reducing their bodies to property over the course the past five centuries.
The Door(s) of No Return: Architecture for remembering/forgetting
"The door is a place, real, imaginary and imagined. As islands and dark continents are. It is a place, which exists or existed. The door out of which Africans were captured, loaded onto ships heading for the New World. It was the door of a million exits multiplied. It is a door many of us wish never existed."
In her publication A Map to the Door of No Return, Dionne Brand poignantly dissects the typologies of the Door(s) and its historical meaning and implications for descendants of enslaved Africans. What does being in the wake offer us in the process of rethinking the Door(s) as a site for the engineered, engendered, and racialized body? Within this speculative realm, the space between the Door(s) and the Atlantic Ocean can be seen as an imaginative space for acts of resistance, or a fraction of time, which “dissolves the fixed boundaries between past and the present, public and private, personal and political.” In this sense, the Door(s) are a multitude of archives, happenings, emotions, architectures, and rituals, but also a historically cruel collision, remix, and transformation of bodies, languages, loss, and longing. Christina Sharpe piercingly asks “what, then, are the ongoing coordinates and effects of the wake, and what does it mean to inhabit that Fanonian ‘zone of non-being’ within and after slavery’s denial of Black humanity?”
The Door(s) of No Return are also sites for experimentation, surveillance, and production with, of, and on African bodies. The Door(s) of No Return are windows, spaces of control, loopholes in the castles’ stonewalls that led countless stolen African bodies to a life in slavery and death. These castles, these forts, are perhaps architectural and historical loopholes that “produce space, produce its meanings,” and facilitate technologies. Cape Coast, Fort Elmina, and the Island of Gorée are three of approximately forty castles and forts along the West African Coast, built between the sixteenth and nineteenth century, that were used mainly as holding grounds for enslaved African people before being forcefully taken onto commercial slave ships. The Portuguese, Danes, Swedes, Dutch and British operated the various forts, and used them to transport enslaved Africans to their colonial outposts all over the world. The Door(s) are therefore disruptive to history, as they offer a site to reckon with the idea that it “might not be the factory, which brings the complete dissociation of work from leisure,” but rather slavery and colonialism that accelerated global capital and produced the Eurocentric myth of the West.
The conceptualization of the Door(s) demonstrates that these architectural (non) spaces are imperceptible and inescapable. They symbolize haunting moments that simultaneously (re)fashion histories and imaginations. Nonetheless, in the past five decades, Door(s) of No Return have been transformed into geographical sites for heritage tourism, Salamishah Tillet notes interestingly that “Africa is now primarily reconstructed as the originary site of displacement for all New World Blacks.”Furthermore, she points out that “these heritage tourists do not privilege all of Africa as a geographical site to which they should return, but give preference to the slave forts of Cape Coast Castle, Elmina in Ghana, and Gorée Island in Senegal.” But as Katherine McKittrick states, “Geography is not, however, secure and unwavering. We produce space, we produce its meanings, and we work very hard to make geography what it is.” McKittrick speaks of geography as a space, place, and location that is of importance in the physical materiality and imaginative configurations of memory.
Brand takes into account that the Door(s) of No Return are architectural sites for what Christina Sharpe describes as “wake work”: “understanding how slavery’s violence’s emerge within the contemporary conditions of spatial, legal, psychic, material, and other dimensions of Black non/being as well as in Black modes of resistance.” Proposing wake work at the site of the Door(s) of No Return exemplifies the complex relationship between leisure, trauma, and terror that is present in everyday life of black people. Perhaps here, the space between the Door(s) and the Atlantic Ocean is a site of science fiction; a speculative, opaque space that can be carved out to reflect on “emerging” technologies and histories in light of the fact that labor’s future continues to be predicated upon the ongoing destruction of the migrant, poor, racialized, and gendered body. This space is dispositional by nature, and informed by the Transatlantic, Trans-Indian Ocean, Trans-Mediterranean, Trans-Red Sea, and every other body of water that carries the histories, cultures, bodies, and violence that shaped the realities of black beings in the past, the present, and into the future. Here, the speculative arena offers the possibility to rethink, decode and repair “certain” bodies’ encounters with technologies; encounters in which architecture is complicit as the site of the ongoing performance, erasure, and translation, and in relation to tourism, labor, leisure, trauma, and refusal.
"Wake up and rebel
We must destroy in order to rebuild
Wake up, you might as well
Oh are you... oh are you satisfied
Oh are you satisfied?"
"Definition of 'technology'
1. a. the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area
b. a capability given by the practical application of knowledge
2. a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge
3. the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor"
This set of definitions aside, technology can also be understood as a methodology to engineer, design, and manufacture “complex” products, beings, and systems. Thus, to think through the non-linear and violent formation of technologies of certain bodies is an exercise in refusal and waywardness towards colonial engineering and the industrial-surveillance complex of the past and future that configures the politics of the present. What happens to the engineered bodies that are shaped, violated, hidden, stolen, and erased when they are placed against a backdrop of a multitude of intersecting and clashing histories, architectures, and technologies? And what about the bodies that were decoded at Fort Elmina in present-day Ghana, or the Island of Gorée, just off the coast of Dakar, Senegal? What about the defiant racialized and enslaved bodies that refused and sidestepped the technology created to surveil their bodies, to forcefully coax and twist them to become the machines?
"I have crossed an ocean
I have lost my tongue
from the root of the old one
a new one has sprung"
Science fiction suggests there’s a possibility and responsibility to repair, to narrate, to be in the wake, and to sit with this confinement of histories and technologies. It is to be in a constant state of Sankofa, the Adinkra knowledge symbol that signifies the capacity to go back and fetch the “future weird.” It is a future that is explained by Derica Shields as “unruly, uncontained, and situated outside of the mainstream, or at an awkward angle to it.” Shields stretches the definition of the future to create a speculative space, which centralizes the agency and imagination of those certain bodies and how they envision their futures. To ponder the ways certain bodies redefine and resist the dominant hegemonic understandings of technology, space, memory and the body is to negate the politics of innovation. The Door(s)(s) are simply an exit/entrance point to shift towards a technology of recovery, one that decodes the ways that enslaved African bodies inform technologies and affords the prospect to become “Black cyborg rebels—biological- mechanical-divine entities in service to freedom.”
"Black Matters are spatial matters"
Furthermore, this invitation to be in the wake, and to vigilantly question the engineering of the enslaved African bodies, is to think what freedom means in contested memorial sites for the technological innovation of work, body, and leisure. Drawing on the idea of the Black cyborg rebel helps to expand the notion of what these silenced bodies, as footnotes in architecture, technology, and history, are capable of realizing, undoing, or creating as acts of resistance. James illustrates these acts of resistance by stating, “the ability to refuse Blackness-as-victimization and reconstitute Black-ness-as-resistance may be the Black cyborg rebel's only real possession.” Therefore, to even contemplate the question why one is not human yet is irrelevant, and doesn’t “rekindle that spirit” that reconfigures the dominant technological hegemony “flaunting violence” by putting him “out of the picture.” How does one then pass Fanon, James, Ayeeyo (grandmother), and the Black cyborg rebels’ concept of freedom onto others?
In Living a Feminist Life, Sara Ahmed addresses the reactionary ways gendered bodies have reproduced the dominant hegemonic structures. Ahmed states that, “when being freed from labor requires others to labor, others are paying the price for your freedom. That is not freedom.” Perhaps, what can be passed onto others is their labor towards freedom. Yet this type of freedom requires finding de-colonial loopholes in time and space to avoid that others are required to replace the Black, gendered, and racialized bodies as technological testing ground and machines.
To return to the space between the Door(s) of No Return and the Atlantic Ocean, we should contemplate the production of imagination, which has been a form of keeping the wake throughout the past centuries. Imagination is the language that technology has not yet decoded into categories of work and leisure. Maybe imagination is the ongoing, everyday redefinition and resistance of and towards these particular processes, histories, and technologies. Imagination is music capable of bending technology to speak the lingua franca of racialized bodies. I think of Gqom, the sound of Durban, South Africa, that transforms music into something that scams time and space. It is something that tricks the ears into believing that the body is weightless, off-on-off beat, without transcending itself. Within this process, the Black cyborg rebels are momentarily in a state of freedom amidst trauma and imagination.
 Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017), 263.
 The Door(s) of No Return of the forts of Cape Coast, Elmina and the island of Gorée, it was out of the dungeons and through the door, the portal of these castles that Africans boarded the ships that would take them on the horrendous journey across the Atlantic Ocean to the “New World.”
 In the Wake borrows the title and wake work as a methodology from Christina Sharpe’s publication In the Wake: on Blackness and Being (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016). Sharpe defines Wake work as a way to be a mode of inhabiting and rupturing this episteme with our known lived and un/imaginable lives. With this analytic we might imagine otherwise from what we know now in the wake of slavery.
 Egbert Alejandro Martina reminded me that it is urgent to point out the presence of the contemporary migratory crisis of Fort Europe in relation to the colonial project. This example illustrates what I am thinking about/what is present when I reference the afterlives of slavery and colonialism in this essay. In the 2017 publication Decolonising the Mediterranean: European Colonial Heritages in North Africa and the Middle East, Gabriele Proglio describes the Mediterranean as a space for highly exploitative bodies that produce money on the borders. He builds on the article by Nick Dines and Enrica Rigo on “Postcolonial Citizenship and the ‘Refugeeization’ of the Workforce: Migrant Agricultural Labor,” in Postcolonial Transitions in Europe: Contexts, Practices and Politics, ed. Sandra Ponzanesi and Gianmaria Colpani (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015).
 The Urban Dictionary defines a Hater Player as is someone who acts in such a way as to give the impression of disapproval, while not genuinely caring. Cf. Sharpe, In The Wake, 100.
 Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging (Toronto: Random House of Canada Ltd, 2001), 3.
 Gilane Tawadros, 1996, quoted in Kobena Mercer, Travel and See (Durham: Duke University, 2016),12.
 Sharpe, In The Wake, 2.
 In correspondence, Martina addressed that he always considered doors as technologies that capacitate or incapacitate people. Doors are essentially (though they’re rarely understood as such) means of controlling behaviour. I am thinking here of Michael Weinstein: “Coercion is defined in terms of controlling spaces rather than in terms of controlling actions.” How are bodies/actions produced through controlling spaces?
 Katherine McKittrick, Demonic Grounds: Black Women and The Cartographies of Struggle. (Minnesota: Minnesota University Press, 2006), xi.
 Donald Pilcher, “Leisure: an architectural problem,” The Architectural Review, January 26, 2017.
 Salamishah Tillet, Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post–Civil Rights Imagination (Durham: Duke University Press, 89).
 McKittrick, Demonic Grounds.
 Sharpe, In The Wake, 14.
 Lauryn Hill, “I Find It Hard to Say (Rebel),” MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 (2002).
 “Technology,” Merriam Webster Dictionary.
 Grace Nichols, The Fat Black Woman's Poems (London: Virago Press, 1984).
 Derica Shields, “The Future Weird,” interview by Black Girls Talking, 2014.
 I borrow the phrase “Black cyborg rebels” from the incredible Joy James,. She introduces the Black cyborg rebels as the “native, fellah, and sistah’s” way of being that offers a strategy to transcend power relations, renounce the desire or as she describes the “fight to be considered ‘human.’” See Joy James, “Concerning Violence: Frantz Fanons Rebel Intellectual in Search of a Black Cyborg,” South Atlantic Quarterly 112, no. 1 (2013): 57–70.
 McKittrick, Demonic Grounds, xiv.
 James, “Concerning Violence.”
 Frantz Fanon quoted in Ibid, 68.
 Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life, 86.