Theory & Event 9: 3 features diverse genres and much of the interpretive work (in two of the essays, as well as in one of the reviews) is on film. Geoffrey Whitehall investigates the musical modulation of political possibility in an analysis of Lars Von Trier’s film Dancer in the Dark. Central to his treatment is a tension he finds between the way that the main character’s (Selma’s) body constitutes her as a musical being and the normalizing judgment she faces, as she tries, as a nearly blind person, to pass through a “visual-political matrix of qualification.” Whitehall interprets Von Trier’s film as a counter-force to what Gilles Deleuze calls the “dogmatic image of thought,” by having Selma embody a different way of seeing. Inter-articulating the oppositional political insights in Von Trier’s film with John Cage’s insistence that listening must be a life affirming, experimental rather than habit sustaining practice, Whitehall constructs a politics based on what he calls a “dissident image of thought.”
Stephane Symons also uses film to explore Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault’s concept of the “outside,” noting that when zones become indistinguishable as either solely inside or outside, we gain socio-political insights. Drawing on diverse illustrations - from Fritz Lang’s film M (in which policing and unofficial sleuthing reveal paradoxical structures of city politics), from Herman Melville’s character Bartleby (“whose work space is simultaneously inside and outside [an] office of [an] attorney”) and from Samuel Beckett’s “Film,” (whose protagonist enacts a Deleuzean philosophical emphasis on breaking open paths of fixed identities), Symons offers a challenge to the traditional identity politics predicated on unambiguous political topologies. She shows, for example, how political powers such as those connected to sovereignty control only that which they appropriate and internalize.
Chris Robinson takes issue with the conservatism ascribed to Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. Contending that Wittgenstein “posits a plurality of language games, themselves expanding and contracting, abutting and overlapping” and operating with permeable rules, Robinson interprets Wittgenstein as radical rather than conservative. This Wittgenstein is one who challenges “fixed and privileged perspectives” and offers a critical view of the roles of science and bureaucracy in a way that aligns him with such theorists as Hannah Arendt and Max Weber.
Charles T. Lee offers a political perspective on citizenship that emerges from an inquiry into undocumented workers. He suggests that they can help us “reformulate an alternative ‘cultural’ processing of citizenship that both uses and challenges the conventional scripts of ‘citizens’ in political theory.” Influenced by the work of Bonnie Honig on the foreigner and Dick Hebdige on youth subculture, and adapting Michel de Certeau’s concept of the tactic, Lee focuses on “tactical citizenship”. He views as action that is both freed from structural constraints and constituted as a “reactive responsed” by a “subordinate class” that is without the typical political options of those with privilege and secure positions. The tactical citizenship of undocumented workers effectively rescripts traditional conceptions of citizenship.
Jack Reynolds stages an encounter between the rationalism in John Rawl’s Theory of Justice and Jacques Derrida’s demonstrations of the “dual and competing demands of rationality,” in what Derrida shows to be the “auto-delimitation that divides reason.” Identifying with important critical assets of deconstruction that foreground what is incalculable, Reynolds argues on behalf of a “middle way,” that reverses “the practice of deconstruction without betraying its spirit.” He suggests that a calculative reason can be preserved against the deconstructive argument provided it is “a calculation that acknowledges the violence of state sovereignty and of democracy”. This distinguishes it from Rawls’ rationalistic liberalism that pushes for harmonious reconciliation through general principles of distribution.
In the review section, we have a review essay by Daniel Levine on Steven Spielberg’s film Munich and two book reviews: Jimmy Casas Klausen on Jacques Derrida’s Rogues: Two Essays on Reason and Jill Stauffer on Alain Badiou’s Being and Event.