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  • Introduction

Diana Coole and Michael J. Shapiro

If there is a common theme that runs through the articles in the current issue, it concerns an invocation of modes of thinking or perceiving that are excessive or alien to conventional practices of rationality or vision. Through their excursions in a twilight world where vitalist philosophies and embodied aesthetics meet, the authors who contribute to Theory and Event 10.4 variously consider what the political implications of their travels might be for conceptions of democracy and for practices of democratic citizenship. Here the power of images or the irruption of perceptual events throws light on — and casts a shadow over — some of the more elusive presuppositions that underpin a modern understanding of politics. By provoking wilder forces that set politics in motion, the six articles that follow allude to labyrinthine folds and intensities that may harbor possibilities for resistance or affirmation. But they also find ruses of power to be prevalent even within the most constitutive processes of co-existence and warn against the dangers of microfascism that may seduce those who lack fidelity to the event.

In “Nietzsche and the New Image of Thought”, Brook M. Blair considers ways in which Nietzsche imagined and practiced an anti-humanist art of thinking. The work is intimately related to its worksite, as a visceral yet virtual landscape wherein thinking plays and dreams in ways that are quite distinct from conventional senses of subject-centered reasoning and where modernity’s epistemological dilemmas regarding idealism or realism become simply irrelevant. Blair judiciously cites Foucault’s “incorporeal materiality” and Deleuze’s incitement of writing that “goes beyond the matter of any livable or lived experience.” Thinking that becomes untimely, kinetic, creative is, Blair concludes, “uncannily equal” to the chaos it affirms in inventing new possibilities of life.

In “The LSD-Event: Badiou not on Acid”, Arun Saldanha also takes us on a journey into creative/destructive ways of engaging with the world through the senses, in this case recalling the LSD event that occurred in 1943 and asking whether the post-hallucinogenic experiences or Leary’s neuropolitics that followed it remained faithful to the event. The story of LSD’s discovery; its migration from pharmaceutical to drug culture to military use; its celebration in the counterculture as a route to an alternative reality via new modes of perception, and its subsequent evacuation from these political and psychiatric experiments with truth, suggest not. While conceding that Badiou would be unlikely to applaud the psychedelic possibilities unleashed by LSD’s biochemical properties as propitious for producing truths, Arun argues that it is nonetheless helpful to understand it as an event in Badiou’s sense: as something entirely unexpected that unleashes a multiplicity of departures from the given. Acid, he suggests, did briefly engender a politics of subjective intensity that opened the doors to surreal aesthetic experiences. If for Badiou an event and its ensuing subjectivity become political by being materialized in a collective that struggles for universality, LSD’s universalist and anti-government aims regarding bodily intensity are deemed exemplary. In the end, however, Arun concedes that neuropolitics had its limits — not least in Leary’s turn to mysticism — although he surmises that Badiou would recognize here the kind of dangers to which Guattari alerts us, where microfascist tendencies remain a danger of the creativity unleashed by the event.

William Callahan interrogates specific images and the way they enmesh biopolitical and geopolitical meanings in his “Trauma and Community: The Visual Politics of Chinese Nationalism and Sino-Japanese Relations”. Here the focus is on the Nanjing Massacre: an event whose reproduction in mainly visual images continues to play a significant role in Chinese politics and identity-formation. Chinese nationalism and securitization, Callahan maintains, are defined through hatred of the Japanese other whose barbarism is documented by photographic images of the massacre reproduced in media such as school books and the internet. Callahan finds many political questions posed by this discursive war against Japan, including several poignant gender issues regarding the way the images replicate senses of passive, feminized victims and masculinized military culture or the patriarchal state, and the tension between apparently realist documentation of atrocities and the eroticised...

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