Jacques Rancière occupies a position of mainstream marginality in contemporary thought, and the present volume demonstrates both facets of this complex position very well. First, the reader is struck by the wealth of implications that Rancière’s thought holds for a range of disciplines, which the book divides among three more or less homogeneous sections: (I) politics; (II) history, reading, writing; (III) literature, film, art, aesthetics. The volume’s scope demonstrates, and will surely help to augment, Rancière’s position as an indispensable contemporary thinker. In addition, the collection shows how, in some ways, Rancière remains a marginal figure: not at all in the sense that his ideas are peripheral to current debates, but marginal in that his thinking on education and politics strikes a significant proportion of his readership as extreme and unworkable. This is not necessarily a criticism of Rancière, as is sometimes assumed (unfortunately), or of this volume of essays; in fact, it is a seal of approval. That Rancière criticism should be replete with sceptical voices of, quite aptly, dissent is a sign of health, and this volume is no exception to that display of vigorous critical life. This is no hagiography, no paean of praise to the Great Man, and the essays do not read like a manifesto for a Rancierian future, but as a series of catalysing calls for further reflection both with and against Rancière. Indeed, a number of the contributors shake the Rancierian tree with great vigour, seeing what they can dislodge. For example, responding to Rancière’s critique of the fourth volume of A History of Women in the West (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1993), Geneviève Fraisse, the co-editor of that volume, detects in Rancière ‘the implicit establishment of a divide between good and bad domination’ (p. 53); Sabine Prokhoris laments in Rancière’s work ‘a pretty poor critique of what it passes off as established Freudian positions’ (p. 104); and Joseph J. Tanke wonders whether ‘Rancière’s prioritization of individual works of art prevents him from analysing the dynamics internal to the aesthetic experience’ (p. 136). The single-author chapters are complemented first by an illuminating exchange between Rancière and Jean-Luc Nancy around the theme of metaphysics (Rancière does not like Nancy’s, but Nancy thinks there is little separating them) and the place of the universal in art, and finally by an interview between Rancière and the book’s editor, Oliver Davis, exploring and contextualizing Rancière’s latest major work, Aisthesis: scènes du régime esthétique de l’art (Paris: Galilée, 2011). The exchange with Nancy is of particular interest for the way in which both thinkers make some attempt to articulate the other’s thought in terms closer to their own. Rancière, for example, rethinks Nancy’s understanding of ‘exposure to sense’ as a problem of distribution. Fittingly, the closing interview folds Rancière’s recent work on aesthetics back on his earlier writing on political equality and pedagogy. The earlier essays in particular do not assume a prior intimacy with Rancière’s work, and so this volumewill appeal both to Rancière scholars and to those relatively new to his oeuvre. [End Page 418]
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Rancière Now: Current Perspectives on Jacques Rancière. Edited by Oliver Davis. (Theory Now.) Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013. xiv + 250 pp.
Copyright © 2014 Christopher Watkin