Issue 19.1 inaugurates our nineteenth year of publication. In addition to our normal run of articles, we present no fewer than two symposia and in early February, a special supplement on contemporary Turkish politics. The first symposium consists of memorial essays for a political theorist who influenced and inflected many in Theory & Event’s extended network: Richard Flathman. Steven Johnston and Davide Panagia have compiled pieces which act as both remembrance and engagement with Dick’s writing and pedagogy. Like the authors, we too miss him while continuing to struggle productively with his insights concerning liberalism, justice, and freedom. The second symposium, edited by Keally McBride, concerns the relationship between history and political theorizing. These authors ask what is gained by the context and placement of thought in its temporal dimension. Do truth claims and political demands determine, reinforce, or undercut one another? Does the diachronic location of writing reduce or expand its philosophical implication? The coincidence of these symposia on memorialization (viz., the determination of memory) and on the interrogation of history’s place would certainly have pleased Flathman.
Sara Rushing’s essay, “What’s Left of ‘Empowerment’ After Neoliberalism?” discusses the way that the discourse of empowerment has itself been co-opted by neoliberalism. Looking at the example of the film Dallas Buyer’s Club, for example, she explores how the discourse of empowerment can lead to distinctly disempowering outcomes, offering a false sense of agency that disguises deep depoliticization.
Shane Herron’s “Revolution in France: Lacan and Burke” makes an unlikely and unexpected connection between Edmund Burke and Jacques Lacan. While recognizing the reactionary aspects of Burke’s work, Herron sees a more progressive side to Burke as well. For Herron, Burke’s critique of how revolutionary iconoclasm (in the case of the French revolution) can often smuggle in much of what it sets itself in opposition to aligns with Lacan’s own theorizing about revolution. Reading these thinkers in tandem helps to politicize Lacan’s analysis.
Brad Evans’ “Liberal Violence: From the Benjaminian Divine to the Angels of History,” turns to Walter Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence” to understand the political theology of liberal violence in our time. He shows how it is precisely in its pursuit of humanitarianism and rights that liberalism turns to a deep form of violence, one that only intensifies as it declines.
Joel Alden Schlosser’s essay also interrogates the violence done to human existence, but in this case through the mode of the literary. Schlosser turns to Don DeLillo’s compressed and cramped novel Cosmopolis to discuss how literature can distance the reader from the presumed verities of the present, opening new possibilities through the destabilizing nature of language and form. By focussing on the “writingness” of the novel, Schlosser argues that DeLillo shows emergent possibilities for the formation of the public, even in a work constrained within the confines of a limousine.
Finally, Çiğdem Çıdam’s essay, “Disagreeing About Democracy: Rancière, Negri, and the Challenges of Rethinking Politics in the Wake of 1968,” investigates the relationship between Rancière and Negri’s work on the event. Attending to history as a different kind of causal point, Çıdam argues for the profound differences between these philosophers, noting that their similar politics obscure far deeper disagreements about political moments and subjectivities, and in particular the event of May 1968.
Issue 19.1 concludes with four reviews: Anna Terwiel reviews Banu Bargu’s Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons; Lida Maxwell reviews P.J. Brendese’s The Power of Memory in Democratic Politics; Annie Menzel reviews Alexander Weheliye’s Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human; and, Murad Idris reviews Joseph A. Massad’s Islam in Liberalism.
Issue 19.1 Supplement – Something is Rotten in the State
In February, we will publish a supplement to Issue 19.1 on Turkish politics, edited by Başak Ertür with assistance by James Martel (one of the co-editors of T & E) that focuses on what might be called the neoliberalization of fascism in modern Turkey. These short essays, written by scholars and activists who are directly engaged in the conflict in Turkey today – one of the contributors was detained by the police for a few days in the process of writing – engage with the various ways that the Turkish state, working in new and neoliberal guises, has sought to extend and increase its control of Kurds and other populations, as well as how (and to what effect) those populations have resisted.