I will be participating in the Modern and Contemporary Studies Initiative at Penn State and presenting a lecture on “Knowledge/Power behind the Scenes” at their inaugural Summer Institute. Click here for the program.
Je vais présenter une conférence intitulée “Comment sortir de la prison du temps présent?” dans le cadre du colloque “Économies de l’existence” à l’École Normale Supérieur et à NYU à Paris.
I will be presenting the keynote lecture at the conference on “Resistance, Radicalisms and Aesthetics,” which has been organized by the graduate students in the Department of French and Italian at Northwestern University. Click here for the full program. An abstract of my lecture is below.
The Political Plurivocity of Aesthetics:
Equality and Empire in Whitman’s Poetic Revolution
This lecture seeks to demonstrate the political plurivocity of aesthetic practice, meaning the extent to which artistic work is the site of multiple and often conflicting political investments, be it at the level of production, circulation or reception. This plurivocity calls into question the very widespread reduction of individual artists or their works to single political positions, an approach that tends to define the task of the critic as one of drawing up binary lists of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ political art. In critically dismantling this univocal politics of aesthetics—as well as the unidimensional hermeneutics and the moralizing dichotomies that it favors—it is not sufficient, however, to simply point to the complexities of aesthetic practices as multifaceted social phenomena. It is necessary to develop a multidimensional analysis of these practices that is capable of providing a nuanced map of their political plurivocity, precisely in order to be able to intervene more effectively in it.
As a specific instance of this struggle, the paper turns to the work of Walt Whitman and his proposed poetic revolution in New World literature. It elucidates his provocative account—which resonates strongly with the work of figures like Schiller, Hugo and the early Marx—of aesthetic revolution as the necessary cultural supplement to a purely political revolution, explicating how art and literature compose a people by simultaneously depicting and forging its culture, norms, affects and personalities. It then situates his project in the historical nexus it calls its own, detailing Whitman’s unique contribution to the revisionist historiography of democratic theodicy, and more specifically American manifest destiny. Finally, it explores the diverse ways in which the purportedly egalitarian poet of a new world literature, at least in certain of his writings, subjected other people—particularly the enslaved and the colonized—to a brutal, imperial process of decomposition. It thereby foregrounds the multiple dimensions of politics operative in his work and the extent to which the struggle over its reception and interpretation is part and parcel of its social politicity.
I was very happy to have the opportunity to present my research on Nietzsche, Foucault, genealogy and counter-history at the annual conference of the North Texas Philosophical Association. A special thanks to Dale Wilkerson, Cynthia Nielsen, Charles Bambach, Michael Vendsel and the other organizers for coordinating such an excellent program.
I was very pleased to work with Yannik Thiem and Roy Ben-Shai for our panel at SPEP on October 20th, entitled “New Horizons in Critical Theory: Affirmative Critique, Decolonization, and the Information Economy.”
I will be presenting a paper entitled “Toward a Counter-History of Democracy” at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Philadelphia. My presentation will be part of the “Democracy Now” panel, which will take place on Friday, Sept. 2 from 8 to 9:30 a.m. in PCC, 108-A. Details and the full schedule are available here.
This paper, which is an excerpt from my forthcoming book Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy, proposes a critical investigation into the massive valorization of democracy in the contemporary political imaginary. It focuses on the ways in which the categorical and near absolute elevation of the term risks prohibiting any deep interrogation into the precise status of actually existing democracy. Continue reading