edge archiving.

edge methodology: toward the topological
December 23, 2010, 2:46 am
Filed under: edge discourse, edge glossary


I will start from a point of abstraction, and work toward several points of specificity in what I am terming an “edge topology.” Edges describe a topology of delineations, limits, obstructions, the layers for which are historical, geographical, and ontological. The layers do not, however, represent an ascending logic of material accumulation, thus rendering ‘history’ in these spatializing terms of progress. Thinking laterally, in this sense, produces an archaeology which flattens time into surfaces. Rather than dig for history, we must assume the historicity of a topology – a ‘history’ premised on the dynamism of its own temporality and spatiality. The Berlin Wall, for instance, is an edge which conjures this kind of historical dynamism, as a border which exists in the present as a multiplicity of temporalities. The border is now a ruin of history, the edge-site of memories, a tourist destination. At this border, time is experienced manifold, through its presence and absence, de-territorializing and re-territorializing the past as ‘history.’

The edges of this topology can be imagined as borders, boundaries, frontiers. Movement takes variable directions with, around, through, over, and below the planes on which these edges are imagined. Edges take variable directions as well: moving, expanding, folding, disappearing. Boundaries and frontiers – which can be pushed or moved forward – are edges that cannot be crossed, while borders are static edges that can be crossed over and under. As with boundaries and frontiers, however, the ‘edge’ has no beyond: the edge is a horizon, which transforms with movement, but which never ceases its function as an “end” which is always ending.

The figures of this topology each have historical resonances, for which the ‘edge’ itself resonates the sixties. The ‘edge’ proliferated in the sixties. The ‘edge’ became a mainstreamed figure of speech, a frequent descriptive for the counter-culture, and a way of imagining history. The ‘edge’ describes a threshold, or boundary, which was being pushed against and re-negotiated through the course of the long sixties – up to the very “end of history.” For the Diggers, it was “planet edges”; for the Merry Pranksters, it was “edge city”; for the Hell’s Angels, it was the edge of death.2 During the sixties, Harlan Ellison began his extensive “Edge Works” – a still growing compilation of articles, short stories, and essays which elaborate the tropology of the ‘edge.’ For Ellison, the ‘edge’ describes a tone – “is there an edge in my voice?” – as well as the vantage of a certain “world view.” Before proceeding into this notion of the sixties as “the world on the edge,” however, I would like to begin with an earlier world image, from which to engage a comparison by means of this notion of an edge topology. This should be understood as a historiographical gesture, while the gesture must ultimately be critiqued. The attempt will be to work against the narrative of an archaeological digging for the edges of history, and rather as a search for this narrative on the planes of our current historical imaginary. The ‘edges’ and ‘edge-sites’ of this topology cannot be understood through ascending and descending in history, but as emergent to a standpoint of historicity.

2This final ‘edge’ comes from Hunter S. Thompson’s account of the Hell’s Angels, in which he describes the death-drive of his subjects as a compulsion toward “The Edge.” (Hell’s Angels, 262)


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