- Prepositional OscillationsPolitics, Ontology, Poetics
The first issue of this two-part series, “The Prepositional Senses of Jean-Luc Nancy (1)” (diacritics 42, no. 2) explored the critical importance of prepositionality across the oeuvre of Jean-Luc Nancy. At the philosophical core of Nancy’s commitment to writing through the preposition is his mobilization of the concept “being-to” (être-à) in contrast to Martin Heidegger’s ontological preposition, “being-with.” As my coeditor, Irving Goh, elaborates in his introduction to the first issue, and then with his contribution to this issue, being-to signifies ontological openness both to others (organic and inorganic) and to “worldliness” across the widest of spectrums. Following Goh’s lead, the authors in the first issue emphasized how the signifying hinge of the preposition “to” (à) activates the empowering indeterminacy of “coming into being” (passage à l’acte). Nancy marshals prepositionality as the magnetic threshold of touch and as exposure to an openness to sense. “The fact that meaning in this sense infinitely exceeds signification . . . it is us as exposed, to a space and to ourselves as a space, to a time and to ourselves as a time, to language, to ourselves, that is, to others.”1
Our first issue elaborated on the parameters of prepositional sense in Nancy’s texts. This second issue, which I also coedit with Irving Goh, addresses more broadly the nature and context of ontological exposure: to the co-appearance of the plural singular, to interruption, disruption and dissensus in sociality and politics, to sharing and networked circulation, to the openness of poetics and art, to a multiplicity of heterogeneous [End Page 3] others, to or toward the future. In so doing, the authors here also clarify the relation of Nancy’s thought to a fascinating range of intellectual interlocutors, from Jacques Rancière, Giorgio Agamben, and Jacques Lacan to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Paul Virilio, and Niklas Luhmann.
Two previously unpublished English translations set the parameters of the issue. Nancy’s brief and provocative text, “Sexistence,” playfully spins on the conceptual parameters of sex from Christian confusions to Freudian drives. The essay settles on two fundamental benchmarks of sexuality with implications for the broader arguments of the volume: 1) Sex should be viewed as “existential,” as “a disposition inherent to the very exercise of existing.”2 Frédéric Neyrat takes this brief claim much further by defining Nancy’s philosophy as “a radicalized existentialism.”3 2) Sex matters “in terms of relation (rapport) . . . diversifying in its own way—within the species, or even, in some cases, at its limits with other species.”4 Relation: this is the term underlying Nancy’s reflections on the ontological and social structure of a wide range of networks, intersections, circulations, and distributions.
Nancy maintains that this slipstream of relation is what lies beyond the predictability of politics, as currently inscribed in the edifice of capitalism: “an infinite toward, toward which politics should know how to make a sign or indication, nothing more.”5 In his nuanced discussion with Philip Armstrong and Jason Smith, Nancy insists that political progression can occur only if we can desire something other than the conditions of capitalism, sexual to political, only if we discover “how we can desire something else, or desire differently.”6 At stake is an embrace of relation and its diversification “as the circulation, sharing, resonance, repercussion, and resumption of sense—of a sense that only consists in circulating.”7
The complex vers(es) of Nancy’s notions of relation and network, or “co-appearance,” as Juan Manuel Garrido here stresses, solicit the critical attention of our contributors. Seizing on Nancy’s prepositional openness “to whoever and/or whatever is to-come (à venir),”8 both Goh and Neyrat emphasize Nancy’s critique of the circular logic of the term “biopolitics,” which “designates neither life (as the form of life) nor politics (as a form of coexistence).”9 While Nancy tells Armstrong and Smith that they should heed how Foucault’s biopolitics named “the transfer of power’s dominance from territory and money to dominance over living conditions, health, and the general maintenance of the population,” he adds that the search for making sense, which “only...