Happy New Year and happy new issue to all Theory & Event readers! I have asked James Martel permission to write this Introduction on my own - and only for this issue - simply because I would like to respond to Jodi Dean's generous farewell Introduction from issue 16.4. Yes; Jodi is no longer a co-Editor of Theory & Event, though her imprint remains in and with the journal. I would like to take this opportunity, therefore, to simply thank Jodi not only for her hard work, her constant enthusiasm, and her dedication to scholarly excellence, but also for having mentored me when I first accepted and took on the obligations of being co-Editor with her in January of 2010. Needless to say, it was for me a daunting and frightening task; and Jodi did everything in her power not only to shepherd me into the job, but also to shoulder the burden of my inevitable fumbling. More than this, though, Jodi's generosity led to the development of a robust intellectual camaraderie devoted (amongst other things) to growing the journal's ambitions and established excellence. I genuinely don't think that there is anything I can do or say to adequately express my gratitude for Jodi's collaboration, generosity, mentoring - and, ESPECIALLY, her friendship.
There are three pieces of excellent news that result from Jodi's departure. The first is that this means that we'll be able to see more of her in print in the 'pages' of Theory & Event than we have in recent years. The second is that James Martel has stepped out of his role as Review Editor and stepped in to lead the journal in inevitably fabulous directions. Anyone who has had the chance to read James' writings can confirm the inevitability of great things to come. Last but certainly not least is the arrival of Kam Shapiro who takes over from James the duty of Review Editor. So there you have it - our new assemblage - artfully managed as always by our ever-skillful Managing Editor, Jo Anne Colson.
But let's now talk about this issue, rich and furtive as it is with an impressive array of essays that range from theoretical debates with leftist party organization, to the legal politics of gender reassignment in Turkey, to an interpretation of Plato's Republic through the lens of the ancient Greek satyr-play.
Our first essay, Michael Bray's piece on Chavismo, looks to Venezuelan politics and party organization in order to put pressure on recent post-Marxist debates that embrace horizontal forms of political organization against the more top-down state/leader models. Bray asks whether there can really be such a strict line of division between statist and grassroots movements, or if we should speak instead of an inter-relatedness of these forces of political constituency. Bray's answer to these and many other related questions begins with an immanent critique of Laclau and Badiou.
Samuel Chambers' essay, "Walter White is a Bad Teacher" is a reading of the US television show Breaking Bad in light of and in companionship with Jacques Rancière's writings on intellectual stultification. Chambers not only raises significant questions about the nature and form of cultural political analysis today - for example, about what counts as an object of cultural politics to begin with - but he also continues and extends his project of exploring "Rancière's Lessons" by showing how the critique of pedagogical stultification is part and parcel of Rancière's polemicization of politics. In doing so, Chambers offers us not only a persuasive argument about the force and nature of cultural politics today, but a compelling approach for cultural political analysis tout court.
Başak Ertur and Alisa Lebow's essay discusses the cultural politics surrounding one of Turkey's best known singers Bülent Ersoy and her legal political struggles after her gender reassignment surgery in 1981. The essay takes as its impetus recent battles of queer identity in Turkey and it does so by engaging both the biography of Bülent Ersoy's life and struggles and the film documentary "The End of Fame" - the nearly forgotten 1981 film that documented Ersoy's transition. Specifically, the essay details the ways that Ersoy, for all her devotion to norms of Turkish nationalism and womanhood, inadvertently subverts these principles by misperforming her intended identity.
Benjamin Halligan's essay focuses on The Vagina Monologues and British populist theater culture. But rather than a textualist approach to the play, Halligan looks to such elements as raunch culture, sexting, and feminist activism in Manchester (UK). In doing so, he offers an ethnography of the play's many performances and crowd practices so as to explore how and why there is such a limited critical literature on or about the play, given the play's popularity. Halligan then brings these cultural political insights to bear on the tensions between Second and Third Wave feminism that circulate around the play's success.
The Articles section concludes with two contributions on canonical political thinkers. Elaine Stavro's "Merleau-Ponty and Revolutionary Agency" looks to Merleau-Ponty's political writings in light of recent renewed interest in communist political formations. Specifically, Stavro analyzes the combination of sources and genres of writing that Merleau-Ponty at once endorses and deploys to engage his own contemporary communist horizon.
Christina Tarnopolsky's "The Event of Genre: Reading Plato's Republic through the Lens of Satyr-Play" restructures our understandings of the formal layout of Plato's Republic and its debt to the satyr-play. Tarnopolsky thus invites us to read Republic with ancient Greek eyes in the hope of absorbing the many resonances and allusions to the satyr-plays that Plato develops therein. Central to Tarnopolsky's reading is a nuanced appreciation of Plato's own commitment to serious play; but more than this, what Tarnopolsky offers her readers is an expanded appreciation of what she calls "the event of genre" as central to any serious engagement with Plato's Republic.
Issue 17.1 concludes with five book reviews: Lauri Siisiäinen reviews Colin Koopman's Genealogy as Critique: Foucault and the Problems of Modernity; Anatoli Ignatov reviews Farah Godrej's Cosmopolitan Political Thought: Method, Practice, Discipline; Christopher Lebron reviews Irene Tucker's The Moment Of Racial Sight: A History; Sergio Valverde reviews Fredric Jameson's The Hegel Variations: On the Phenomenology of Spirit; and, Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft reviews Chad Lavin's Eating Anxiety: The Perils of Food Politics.