Filed under: Books, Philosophy, Politics | Tags: Add new tag, Agamben, Editorials, Julien Coupat, Philosophy, Political Thought, Politics, Thought, Tiqqun
[Ed note: This post was initially meant to publish sometime in the dead of winter, around January of 2009. For a variety of reasons (procrastination, laziness, business, preoccupation with other matters, reservations, etc.) the post has sat around in a mostly-completed state in the 'Drafts' folder for a long time. Maybe the post has its own schedule, or its publication is not really meant to come out in quite this fashion. (In retrospect, there were probably three or four separate blog posts just waiting to be made out of the compendium below.) At any rate, they are words coming from an exigence that was ultimately frustrated and arrested, leaving you with a post whose timeliness is at best ambiguous.]
The last couple of months of 2008 have been busy on news regarding Giorgio Agamben and work being done on his thought. Usually some piece of information ocasionally drifts in, or a new, nearly inaudible video on YouTube of Agamben’s lectures catches my attention. But I don’t remember there being such a relative volume of Agamben-related news since he protested the U.S.’s policy of ‘biopolitical tattooing’ under provisions of the US-Visit act and consequently turned down an appointment at NYU. Maybe it’s just that my antennae are more finely tuned to pick these kind of things up now than they were before. Be that as it may, though, the news is welcome. Some bits follow:
- The final installment of Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer tetralogy was published in Italy in late 2008. Entitled, Il Sacramento del linguaggio: Archeologia del giuramento (The Sacrament of Language: Archeaology of the Oath), it comes quickly on the heels of Il Regno e la gloria: Per una genealogia teologica dell’economia e del governo (The Kindgom and the Glory: For a theological geneaology of the economy and government), published in 2007. Roughly paraphrasing, the publisher’s website describes the The Sacrament of Language as an inquiry seeking to offer reasons for the strategy and functioning of an institution that has encroached its way into religion, politics, and law- the oath. Agamben places the oath as a decisive anthropogenetic gesture at the threshold between language and power. At a quick blush, the work treats themes that Agamben takes up in a chapter from The Time That Remains entitled, “The Sixth Day.” David Kishik at Notes for the Coming Community offers a rough translation from an excerpt for a sampling. [Notes for the Coming Community].
- In May 2009, Stanford University Press will be publishing a very short collection of Agamben’s essays under the title, What is an Apparatus? and Other Essays. consisting of the title essay, and works on friendship and contemporaenity rounding out the tiny, 80 page book. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed, as seeing a relatively larger text like Il Regno e la Gloria come out in translation before such a short collection of texts would be more desirable. But it’s a trivial complaint. Jason Adams’ translation of the title essay (which will not appear in the collection, David Kishik’s translation will), originally entitled Qui est une dispositif? What is a Dispositor? is a good place to start for a glimpse of what the book will offer. [Stanford University Press/Notes for the Coming Community]
- Lacan.com and Notes for the Coming Community have published translations of a recent editorial that Agamben wrote for France’s Liberation, calling for the release of Julien Coupat* and the Tarnac 9. In the process he challenges a significant feature political life in our time: the concentration of state power that has made dissent a suspect activity by appealing to security (whether real or perceived) as a basis for governance. A outstanding blog with updates and documents on the Tarnac 9 situation is can be found here. [Lacan.com/Notes for the Coming Community/Support the Tarnac 9]
- Leyland de la Durantaye’s recent work on Agamben, “Homo Profanus: Giorgo Agamben’s Profane Philosophy” appears in the most recent edition of the journal boundary. At a cursory glance, it appears to be an in-depth treatment bringing ideas developed in Profanations to bear as part of Agamben’s philosophical and political projects. Namely he places Profanations in proxmity to works outside of the Homo Sacer series- The Coming Community, Means Without End, The Idea of Prose, and The Time That Remains. The article holds out the possibility of reading Agamben’s work systemtically to present some possible prospects and directions for Agamben’s thought, especially in relation to ideas discussed in Walter Benjamin’s work. Interestingly, he alludes to the Flamen Diale as an example of a profane figure. Could this counterpart to the sacred [hu]man be a hint pointing towards the next phase of Agamben’s thinking? Next May, Stanford University Press will be publishing de la Durantaye’s text Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction. [Duke Journals/Stanford University Press]
- Adam Kotsko’s essay, “On Agamben’s use of Benjamin’s Critique of Violence” appears in the latest issue of Telos. Only a short excerpt serving as an abstract is available online, so it’s either to the library or to forking over $15 for an issue.
- Infinite Thought, a tirado/thrown favorite, posted this little item with a link on ”How to Write Like Agamben”** from a blog that is the latest addition to the blogroll, No Useless Leniency. Worth checking out is a commentary on Agamben’s essay “In Praise of Profanation”, in the style of another of Agamben’s essays, Notes on Gesture. It’s called Notes on the Image. [Infinite Thought/No Useless Leniency]
*As it happens, Coupat is the editor of the French-based journal Tiqqun. For a sample of work featured in the journal, Soft Targets published some excerpts from a piece entitled Introduction to Civil War. Very Roughly speaking, these fragments throw situationism, Agambenian philosophy, and samplings of Hardt-Negri’s autonomism into the mix, offer offer a response to neo-liberal imperialism and preventive counter-revolutionary politics. The Support the Tarnac 9 site also has additional texts from Tiqqun and the Inoperative Collective available. [Soft Targets Journal/Support the Tarnac 9]
**As a rejoinder to IT, another possible way to score a Warburg Institute fellowship is to write like Richard Rodriguez, whatever the Chicanada may think of him. This here one finds Rodriguez to be essential reading on the dynamics of mestizaje and subject formation.
Image Credit: Reiner Gahnal, Seminar/Lecture, Giorgio Agamben, Filosofia teoretica,istituto universitario di architettura di Venezia, 6/5/2007, 20 x 24 inches. 51 x 61 cm
Filed under: Books, Literature, Mexico, Philosophy | Tags: Add new tag, Agamben, Books, Charlatanism, Cover Art, Guilt, Liminal, Literature, Nancy, Solitude, Villoro
“La soledad te vuelva charlatán.”
Roughly translated, it means, “Solitude turns you into a charlatan.” Taken alone, the quote uttered by the narrator of Villoro’s title story efficiently sheds light on the work of Octavio Paz, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Giorgio Agamben. With Villoro as an heir to Paz’s cultural project in El Laberinto de la Soledad, his narrator’s thought expresses the non-knowledge gained at the very limits of social and ontological isolation. It is the point where Paz notes that solitude renders human existence to getting on day by day with little but one’s wits and no pre-existing knowledge, “al dia”.
Paz’s post-revolutionary Mexico is an ur-post-modern space from which Mexico can contribute to a universal philosophy acutely attuned to a situation that persists in varied forms. This situation is marked by heightened social alienation and the evacuation of meaning in the face of devastating traumatic encounters that influence the trajectories of our moods and thoughts inwards, and our disposition to the existence of others problematic at best. Agamben refers to this situation in various forms in The Coming Community, Means Without End, Homo Sacer, and Profanations. In The Coming Community he introduces us to the characters in the limbic* world where politics, culture, and religion can only react against and unsuccessfully make its own: ‘toons, fakes, assistants, tricksters. Charlatans, thugs, con-men**, swindlers, and similar figures dwell in this area at the borders of identity, nationality, language, culture, and class. They are left to themselves, abandoned to one another (an idea that Nancy pursues in Being Singular Plural under the term co-appearance or compearance, which Agamben uses in his discussion of the sovereign ban in Homo Sacer.) Which is all to say, we are all charlatans of a sort or another, most especially when we are at our most earnest or seeking out the authenticity’s perverse thrills.
As to how tricksterism and solitude come into play in Nancy’s philosophy, I can only pose the question. Though a discussion devoted to solitude in a portion of Being Singular Plural entitled ”The Measure of the ‘With’” may offer some clue.
Admittedly, in light of this pochista musing concerning things Mexican I’m much more partial to the more colorful and morbid cover art for the book’s Argentine edition over the domestic version in Mexico. But a bright, a lime-green silouhette of an iguana set against a black background on the cover of the Mexican edition shouldn’t deter a good translator from making the book available to an Anglophone reading public.
*Interestingly enough, the brain’s limbic system plays a key role in non-verbal communication, including the generation and regulation of gestures, a topic that Agamben attends to in Means Without End.
**Having started Melville’s The Confidence Man: His Masquerade a couple of days ago has got me on an uncanny path asking about the significance of these figures and types in philosophy and politics more than usual.
Photo credit: Juan Villoro at a reading and book signing in Puebla, MX, 2007; Source: Colorpardo on Flickr.