after, Jesús Carrillo

narrator Jesús Carrillo
term after
published July 2021, Madrid

“After” is the name given in Spain to nightclubs, very often illegal, which stay open overnight after others close. Life goes on at an “after” club while most people sleep. Tired but still excited, night birds cross their paths with “normal” people as the latter go to work.


After the INTERRUPTION of our dystopic normality by COVID-19, life happens “after”: after the quarantine, after illness, after the vaccine, after losing someone, after becoming aware that our normality was just a self-deceptive illusion that may never and, perhaps, should never come back.


→ Post” has been our post-humous, post-ideological condition under post-capitalism. There was no way out of the “post” trap: post-communism, post-socialism, post-colonialism, feminism, post-identitarianism… Discarding an increasingly unthinkable revolutionary takeover, post-fascism appeared to many as the only alternative. “Post” blocked the → imagination of anything of value or interest which may come after… before “after” abruptly came up, interrupting the wonky dynamics of our system which have been replaced with feelings of exposure, of uncertainty and fear. But this interruption may provide the conditions for us to stop and enter a non-impassive impasse in which re-politicising those feelings, as predicated by Fisher and Preciado, dissipating at the same time the false “promises of happiness”, as Ahmed noted, and the “cruel optimism” of late-capitalist societies described by Berlant.


There is no way back “after”. The pandemic lock-down has short-circuited our existing flow economy, suspending or decelerating the apparently endless, senseless and destructive rhythm of things. It has been traumatic in one way or another, but it may also be cathartic and revealing if we decide not to use our diminished energies to unsuccessfully rebuild the fragile house of cards of our previous normality and assume for a while the vertiginous experience of living without horizon.


The pandemic has drawn a landmark in the vital experience of all (which does not mean that we all have experienced it in the same way), a breach on common experience which is still waiting to find cultural and political forms to be expressed.


Living, literally, under a STATE OF EXCEPTION, wearing masks and being confined, may be just the revelation of an immanence situation, as Giorgio Agamben immediately pointed out; but this common awareness of living under COERCION, at the same time as being exposed and → vulnerable, also provokes an awakening, an ALERT.


The premonition of an imminent COLLAPSE (the name of a French film series which gained attention just before the pandemic) which nurtured our apocalyptic unconscious since the cold war has now been accomplished. We have slipped down from katechon, the time before the end, to eschaton, the end of the end. Awake from the narcissistic apocalyptic dream, we now share the experience of living after.


SUR-VIVE means literally “to outlive, to continue in existence after the DEATH of another”. This “other” may be a relative, a neighbour or a friend, but it might well have been us. In the pandemic we are all survivors in a general, common way. The distinction between “the quick and the → dead” has drastically being subverted. After the pandemic survivors are left, but what we outlive after death has become conspicuously present, making patent the radical communality of those who are present with those who are gone. Once we have realised that the dead of others is part of ourselves, → temporality obtains a different meaning.


Stretching the analogies with nightlife, in the “after” you keep on DANCING till the sun is up or your body gets exhausted. The expectation of an extension of life pushes you forward, even if chemicals may be needed. The normal time-flow is interrupted, and space is the dance floor. Your BODY interacts with other bodies both promiscuously and unintentionally, as in a sabbath or danse macabre. There is no truth nor lie, no good nor bad. The lines of beauty and identity get blurred and confused while the rhythm of music rules.


The young → feminist critic Elizabeth Duval’s recent book Después de lo trans [After-Trans] reflected upon identitarian politics in an “after” situation, inviting us to break the self-referential and self-confined circles of new LGBTQ+ “normalities”. In daylight positions must be sharp and clear. What I am and what you are not: I am/you are not a man, I am/you are not a woman, I am/you are not white, I am/you are not legal, intending to extend its binary norm even to non-binarism, to any dissidence or margin. The application of this compulsory logic to anyone: being trans, → queer, non-binary, “racialised”, as observed lately, inevitably leads to a mousetrap.


The conventional terms of the political debate today are very much like conversations held at bars before they close by curfew. They intend to normalise social space while interactions and dealings are now taking place after. After gives time and space for a different kind of PLAY. A play of → disidentification (quoting Pablo Martínez in this Glossary), the play of losing yourself in a nameless, dancing multitude.


Madrid has been the European “after” club in the last few months due to the suicidal/murderous neoliberal policies of the local government which attracted youngsters from France and other northern countries escaping from their strict confinement. They are said to be seeking “freedom” as opposed to the limitations and bans of “communism” and state control. The hungry hyenas of capitalism immediately perceived their smell, their impatience to live “after”, and were ready to sell them → air tickets and serve them beers.


The Left should not let the alt-right colonise and totally connote the DESIRE and libidinal economy of the “after”. After is whatever we make of our experience in this time of exception, before an even more dystopic post-pandemic normality gets restored.


After/interruption is the realm of REVOLUTION.

Let’s challenge the imposed ISOLATION and de-collectivisation;

Let’s politicise EXTINCTION, as Bifo claims.

Let’s dance till dawn

Let’s FUCK pandemically, as Carolina Meloni proposes in her recent Dream and Revolution: “let’s defer, stop the world, dislocate it in an apocalyptic orgasm”, and “by fucking, meeting, touching each other, our bodies communicate with other isolated, proletarian, precarious, colonised, spectralised, forgotten bodies, in the necro-capitalist dystopia we are living in.”


“After” was surely in the experience of survivors; of the millions of migrants and refugees who have outlived the TRAUMATIC interruption of their biographies and the violent separation from their homelands; of all the excluded and oppressed: women, youths, trans and queer, who have not been allowed to have a proper life “yet”, being compelled to project themselves towards an “unimaginable after”. We should all learn from them, since


“After” may be the contemporary word for “future”.