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Commonalities

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Blackpentecostal Breath

The Aesthetics of Possibility

Ashon T. Crawley

In this profoundly innovative book, Ashon T. Crawley engages a wide range of critical paradigms from black studies, queer theory and sound studies to theology, continental philosophy and performance studies to theorize the ways in which alternative or “otherwise” modes of existence can serve as disruptions against the marginalization of and violence against minoritarian lifeworlds and possibilities for flourishing. Examining the whooping, shouting, noise-making and speaking in tongues of Black Pentecostalism – a multiracial, multi-class, multi-national Christian sect with one strand of its modern genesis in 1906 Los Angeles –Blackpentecostal Breath reveals how these aesthetic practices allow for the emergence of alternative modes of social organization. As Crawley deftly reveals, these choreographic, sonic and visual practices and the sensual experiences they create are not only important for imagining what Crawley identifies as “otherwise worlds of possibility,” they also yield a general hermeneutics, a methodology for reading culture in an era when such expressions are increasingly under siege.

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Citizen Subject

Foundations for Philosophical Anthropology

Étienne Balibar, Translated by Steven Miller, Foreword by Emily Apter

This book constitutes the summation of Étienne Balibar’s career-long project to think the necessary and necessarily antagonistic relation between the categories of citizen and subject. In this magnum opus, the question of modernity is framed anew with special attention to the self-enunciation of the subject (in Descartes, Locke, Rousseau, and Derrida), the constitution of the community as “we” (in Hegel, Marx, and Tolstoy), and the aporia of the judgment of self and others (in Foucualt, Freud, Kelsen, and Blanchot). After the “humanist controversy” that preoccupied twentieth-century philosophy, Citizen Subject proposes foundations for philosophical anthropology today, in terms of two contrary movements: the becoming-citizen of the subject and the becoming-subject of the citizen. The citizen-subject who is constituted in the claim to a “right to have rights” (Arendt) cannot exist without an underside that contests and defies it. He—or she, since Balibar is concerned throughout this volume with questions of sexual difference—figures not only the social relation but also the discontent or the uneasiness at the heart of this relation. The human can only be instituted if it betrays itself by upholding “anthropological differences” that impose normality and identity as conditions of belonging to the community. The violence of “civil,” bourgeois universality, Balibar argues, is greater (and less legitimate, therefore less stable) than that of theological or cosmological universality. Right is thus founded on insubordination, and emancipation derives its force from otherness. Ultimately, Citizen Subject offers a revolutionary rewriting of the dialectic of universality and differences in the bourgeois epoch, revealing in the relationship between the common and the universal a political gap at the heart of the universal itself.

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Common Things

Romance and the Aesthetics of Belonging in Atlantic Modernity

James D. Lilley

What are the relationships between the books we read and the communities we share? Common Things explores how transatlantic romance revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth century influenced--and were influenced by--emerging modern systems of community. Drawing on the work of Washington Irving, Henry Mackenzie, Thomas Jefferson, James Fenimore Cooper, Robert Montgomery Bird, and Charles Brockden Brown, the book shows how romance promotes a distinctive aesthetics of belonging--a mode of being in common tied to new qualities of the singular. Each chapter focuses on one of these common things--the stain of race, the "property" of personhood, ruined feelings, the genre of a text, and the event of history--and examines how these peculiar qualities work to sustain the coherence of our modern common places. In the work of Horace Walpole and Edgar Allan Poe, the book further uncovers an important--and never more timely--alternative aesthetic practice that reimagines community as an open and fugitive process rather than as a collection of common things.

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Communities in Fiction

J. Hillis Miller

Communities in Fiction reads six novels or stories (one each by Trollope, Hardy, Conrad, Woolf, Pynchon, and Cervantes) in the light of theories of community worked out (contradictorily) by Raymond Williams, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Luc Nancy. _x000B_The book’s topic is the question of how communities or noncommunities are represented in fictional works. Such fictional communities help the reader understand real communities, including those in which the reader lives. As against the presumption that the trajectory in literature from Victorian to modern to postmodern is the story of a gradual loss of belief in the possibility of community, this book demonstrates that communities have always been presented in fiction as precarious and fractured. Moreover, the juxtaposition of Pynchon and Cervantes in the last chapter demonstrates that period characterizations are never to be trusted. All the features both thematic and formal that recent critics and theorists such as Fredric Jameson and many others have found to characterize postmodern fiction are already present in Cervantes’s wonderful early seventeenth-century “Exemplary Story,” “The Dogs’ Colloquy.” All the themes and narrative devices of Western fiction from the beginning of the print era to the present were there at the beginning, in Cervantes. _x000B_Most of all, however, Communities in Fiction looks in detail at its six fictions, striving to see just what they say, what stories they tell, and what narratological and rhetorical devices they use to say what they do say and to tell the stories they do tell. The book attempts to communicate to its readers the joy of reading these works and to argue for the exemplary insight they provide into what Heidegger called Mitsein, being together in communities that are always problematic and unstable. _x000B_

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The Disavowed Community

Jean-Luc Nancy, Translated by Philip Armstrong

Over thirty years after Maurice Blanchot writes The Unavowable Community (1983)—a book that offered a critical response to an early essay by Jean-Luc Nancy on “the inoperative community”—Nancy responds in turn with The Disavowed Community. Stemming from Jean-Christophe Bailly’s initial proposal to think community in terms of “number” or the “numerous,” and unfolding as a close reading of Blanchot’s text, Nancy’s new book addresses a range of themes and motifs that mark both his proximity to and distance from Blanchot’s thinking, from Bataille’s “community of lovers” to the relation between community, communitarianism, and being-in-common; to Marguerite Duras, to the Eucharist. A key rethinking of politics and the political, this exchange opens up a new understanding of community played out as a question of avowal.

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Giorgio Agamben

Beyond the Threshold of Deconstruction

Kevin Attell

Agamben’s thought has been viewed as descending primarily from the work of Heidegger, Benjamin, and, more recently, Foucault. This book complicates and expands that constellation by showing how throughout his career Agamben has consistently and closely engaged (critically, sympathetically, polemically, and often implicitly) the work of Derrida as his chief contemporary interlocutor. _x000B__x000B_The book begins by examining the development of Agamben’s key concepts—infancy, Voice, potentiality—from the 1960s to approximately 1990 and shows how these concepts consistently draw on and respond to specific texts and concepts of Derrida. The second part examines the political turn in Agamben’s and Derrida’s thinking from about 1990 onward, beginning with their investigations of sovereignty and violence and moving through their parallel treatments of juridical power, the relation between humans and animals, and finally messianism and the politics to come. _x000B_

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The Life of Things, the Love of Things

Remo Bodei, Translated by Murtha Baca

From prehistoric stone tools, to machines, to computers, things have traveled a long road along with human beings. Changing with the times, places, and methods of their production, emerging from diverse histories, and enveloped in multiple layers of meaning, things embody ideas, emotions, and symbols of which we are often unaware. The meaning of “thing” is richer than that of “object,” which is something that is manipulated with indifference or according to impersonal technical procedures. Things also differ from merchandise, objects that can be sold or exchanged or seen as status symbols. Things, in the philosophical sense, are nodes of relationships with the life of others, chains of continuity among generations, bridges that connect individual and collective histories, junctions between human civilizations and nature. Things incite us to listen to reality, to make them part of ourselves, giving fresh life to an otherwise suffocating interiority. Things also reveal the hidden aspect of a “subject” in its most secret and least explored side. Things are the repositories of ideas, emotions, and symbols whose meaning we often do not understand. In an unexpected but coherent journey that includes the visions of classic philosophers from Aristotle to Husserl and from Hegel to Heidegger, along with the analysis of works of art, Bodei addresses issues such as fetishism, the memory of things, the emergence of department stores, consumerism, nostalgia for the past, the self-portraits of Rembrandt and Dutch still-lifes of the seventeenth century. The more we are able to recover objects in their wealth of meanings and integrate them into our mental and emotional horizons, he argues, the broader and deeper our world becomes.

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The Origin of the Political

Hannah Arendt or Simone Weil?

Roberto Esposito

In this book Roberto Esposito explores the conceptual trajectories of two of the twentieth century’s most vital thinkers of the political: Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil. Taking Homer’s Iliad—that “great prism through which every gesture has the possibility of becoming public, precisely by being observed by others”— as the common origin and point of departure for our understanding of Western philosophical and political traditions, Esposito examines the foundational relation between war and the political. Drawing actively and extensively on Arendt’s and Weil’s voluminous writings, but also sparring with thinkers from Marx to Heidegger, The Origin of the Political traverses the relation between polemos and polis, between Greece, Rome, God, force, technicity, evil, and the extension of the Christian imperial tradition, while at the same time delineating the conceptual and hermeneutic ground for the development of Esposito’s notion and practice of “the impolitical.” In Esposito’s account Arendt and Weil emerge “in the inverse of the other’s thought, in the shadow of the other’s light,” to “think what the thought of the other excludes not as something that is foreign, but rather as something that appears unthinkable and, for that very reason, remains to be thought.” Moving slowly toward their conceptualizations of love and heroism, Esposito unravels the West’s illusory metaphysical dream of peace, obliging us to reevaluate ceaselessly what it means to be responsible in the wake of past and contemporary forms of war.

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The Queer Turn in Feminism

Identities, Sexualities, and the Theater of Gender

Anne Emmanuelle Berger

More than any other area of late-twentieth-century thinking, gender theory and its avatars have been to a large extent a Franco-American invention. In this book, a leading Franco-American scholar traces differences and intersections in the development of gender and queer theories on both sides of the Atlantic. Looking at these theories through lenses that are both “American” and “French,” thus simultaneously retrospective and anticipatory, she tries to account for their alleged exhaustion and currency on the two sides of the Atlantic. The book is divided into four parts. In the first, the author examines two specifically “American” features of gender theories since their earliest formulations: on the one hand, an emphasis on the theatricality of gender (from John Money’s early characterization of gender as “role playing” to Judith Butler’s appropriation of Esther Newton’s work on drag queens); on the other, the early adoption of a “queer” perspective on gender issues. In the second part, the author reflects on a shift in the rhetoric concerning sexual minorities and politics that is prevalent today. Noting a shift from efforts by oppressed or marginalized segments of the population to make themselves “heard” to an emphasis on rendering themselves “visible,” she demonstrates the formative role of the American civil rights movement in this new drive to visibility. The third part deals with the travels back and forth across the Atlantic of “sexual difference,” ever since its elevation to the status of quasi-concept by psychoanalysis. Tracing the “queering” of sexual difference, the author reflects on both the modalities and the effects of this development. The last section addresses the vexing relationship between Western feminism and capitalism. Without trying either to commend or to decry this relationship, the author shows its long-lasting political and cultural effects on current feminist and postfeminist struggles and discourses. To that end, she focuses on one of the intense debates within feminist and postfeminist circles, the controversy over prostitution.

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The Reject

Community, Politics, and Religion after the Subject

Irving Goh

This book proposes a theory of the reject, a more adequate figure than the subject for thinking friendship, love, community, democracy, the postsecular, and the posthuman. _x000B__x000B_Through close readings of Nancy, Deleuze, Derrida, Cixous, Clément, Bataille, Balibar, Rancière, and Badiou, Goh shows how the reject has always been nascent in contemporary French thought. The recent turn to animals and bare life, as well as the rise of the Occupy movement, he argues, present a special urgency to think the reject today._x000B__x000B_Thinking the reject most importantly helps to advance our commitment to affirm others without acculturating their differences. But the reject also offers, Goh proposes, a response finally commensurate with the radical horizon of Nancy’s question of who comes after the subject._x000B_

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