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  • Wounds of the Common
  • Ida Dominijanni (bio)

In speaking of Italian thought outside of its original context and language, there is a sense of displacement that invites interrogation. This can have two different effects. One can try to master it, assuming the stance of a sovereign subject who seeks to conquer a foreign territory and flood its markets with a homemade good, which is an already known factor in its proportions and intensities, its potentialities and fallouts, its composition and internal hierarchies—there remains in this case the fantasy of deciding the destination and impact of this thought, of prescribing how it will be received as well as its uses and effects. Alternatively, one can let this feeling of displacement run its course, accepting the risks of misunderstanding, the friction and dispossession that it involves, as well as the promises of opening, contamination, and doubt that it implies. Within the ontological condition that marks us as inhabitants of global space and time, thought (and particularly the construction of a tradition of thought) is not immune to identitarian contractions and sovereign temptations. But it is only at the intersection of different cultural perspectives, where "the demand for translation is acute and its promise of success, uncertain" [Butler, Gender Trouble ix] that the conditions for thinking creatively are given. Referring to the theme of "commonalities," we can say that such an opportunity is also given "commonly": that is to say, in a way that is not engaged in affirming or defending an identity, but rather is open to the risks of dislocation and contamination. Far from believing that we are here to display a "Made in Italy" product, I believe instead that reconsidering Italian thought by displacing it in a different language can help us discern its qualities but also its limits: in other words, it can help us to "globalize" as well as to "provincialize" it, putting it to the test of different experiences and opening it to other voices.1

More so in theory than in other areas, national labels have a relative or allusive value. The philosophers who have been convoked or evoked here—Remo Bodei, Roberto Esposito, Antonio Negri, Giorgio Agamben—all work at the limits and the intersections of international debates. As for the Italian thought of sexual difference, despite its specific valence within the international maps of feminist theory, it wouldn't be the same without a relationship with the work of French thinkers like Luce Irigaray, American ones such as Judith Butler, or with other less famous, though no less interesting feminist laboratories across the globe. Therefore, if the definition of "Italian thought" has any value, it does so insofar as it reveals something of the questions it provokes and the expectations to which it corresponds. This is why I ask myself what expectation might lie behind the shift of interest in the United States from "French Theory" to "Italian Thought," and whether this shift has something to do with the semantic shift between the two words, theory and thought. One could say that the former evokes a thorough systematicity while the latter elicits the very activity of thinking itself, a thought-experience, a living thought, as Esposito would say, one that lives in praxis and as praxis.2 On a similar note, Negri—who singles out the creative and transformative power of workerism and of the feminism of sexual difference as emblematic of "Italian difference" in twentieth-century philosophy—emphasizes three aspects of these theoretical and practical experiences born within the anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal struggles of the 1970s: they gave voice to a subjectivity in action; they [End Page 135] were not limited to a critique of the status quo but rather they generated transformation (social, linguistic, inner, and collective); they developed not as schools but as practices of thought.3 I agree with Negri in his valorization of these experiences, but unlike him, I don't see workerism and feminism as exceptions in a philosophical milieu that is politically weak. Rather, in a way that is closer to Esposito, I see them as the tip of the iceberg in a milieu characterized by an unavoidable relation between philosophy and politics. Italian...