- Introduction – Theorizing the printemps érable
In her late work on political judgment, Hannah Arendt assigned the task to storytellers—theorists and historians—whose eye on events is retrospective, and who are sufficiently detached from the action of politics that their appraisals of it can be impartial. Only these could gain sufficient distance from their object to give an adequate account of its nature and meaning.
Undoubtedly, it is always intellectually risky to pronounce on events as they transpire, especially if they are events in which one cannot help but take part. Such has been the situation of critical theorists and philosophers living in Quebec for the past year, as our students have engaged in a courageous strike on behalf of not only an accessible education system, but an education system that is worth accessing. For us, the luxury of spectatorship has been unavailable.
The events of the printemps érable, Quebec’s Maple Spring of 2012 (chronicled by Cayley Sorochan in the opening piece below) are far from over, and every author in this special supplement of Theory & Event has taken part in them in one way or another. In some ways, the student strike in Quebec is part of the story of the remarkable events of the past couple of years around the globe, which have included European anti-austerity protests, revolutionary uprisings throughout the Arab world, as well as the thousands of occupations affiliated with Occupy Wall Street. The Quebec student strike is also, however, an unfinished story of its own, the audacity and promise of which has prompted us to collect here some initial reflections by a number of Quebec’s leading critical thinkers. These brief essays seek not to provide the final word on what is happening in our midst but rather to honour in thought the movement that is taking place in the streets of Quebec, even as we write.
Our thanks go to the authors who have taken the risk of thinking and writing while the action is still unfolding. Some of these pieces were born in the heat of struggle and have appeared elsewhere. We are grateful to those who have given us permission to reprint them here, and to the colleagues who have generously volunteered translations on short notice. Thanks also to Jodi Dean, Davide Panagia, and Jo Anne Colson for their encouragement and guidance in this effort.
This special supplement of Theory & Event is dedicated to the students of Quebec.
Brian Massumi is a professor in the Communication Department of the University of Montreal. He is the author of Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts; Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation; A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari, and (with Kenneth Dean) First and Last Emperors: The Absolute State and the Body of the Despot. His translations from the French include Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Darin Barney is Canada Research Chair in Technology & Citizenship at McGill University, where he teaches in the Department of Art History & Communication Studies. His article “Eat your vegetables: courage and the possibility of politics,” appeared in Theory & Event 14:2. Darin can be reached at email@example.com
Cayley Sorochan is a doctoral candidate in Communication Studies at McGill University. Her current research is concerned with the ideological function of discourses and practices of “participation” in online culture, political organization and consumer capitalism. Her wider research interests include urban theory, the politics of space, networked performance, spectatorship, and mobile/social networking technologies. Cayley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org