Political Concepts at Brown, December 5, 2015 4 of 4

Political Concepts at Brown, December 5, 2015  4 of 4


OK, it is my honor to chair this
last session of the conference. Our first speaker
is Ariella Azoulay, who is professor of
modern culture and media and comparative
literature at Brown. She is the author of
numerous books including, in recent years, Aim
Duelle Luski and Horizontal Photography, published in
2013 by Cornell University Press and Louven University
Press, Civil Imagination: The Political Ontology
of Photography, published by Verso in
2012, and with Adi Ophir, The One State Condition:
Occupation and Democracy Between the Sea and the River,
published by Stanford in 2012. She’s also a curator
of several photography exhibits and a director
of documentary films, most recently, Civil Alliances:
Palestine 47-48 in 2012, and her paper will be
on sovereignty today. I will also,
following the custom, introduce our second
speaker, James Kuzner, who is assistant professor
of English also at Brown. He is the author of Open
Subjects: English Renaissance, Republicans, Modern
Selfhoods, and the Virtue of Vulnerability, published in
2011 by Edinburgh University Press, and a second book titled,
Shakespeare as a Way of Life: Skeptical Practice and
the Politics of Weakness, published by Fordham,
forthcoming next year. And his current
project is a study of John Donne, the metaphysical
imagination, and the experience of counter intuitive liberties. His paper today is
titled, Bondage. Thank you, Thangam. And I would like to thank Tim,
Bonnie, who is not here, Adi, Amanda, and all the
participants for making these two days so wonderful. And I’m grateful
that you stayed here. OK, so I would like
to start directly. It’s late. “In The Human
Condition, Hannah Arendt refers to theater as, ‘the
political art par excellence. A delineated place– a
theater– is necessary, she implies, for actions
to be repeated, imitated, and played out. However, the enclosed space she
associates with theatre is not what makes theatre the
political art par excellence. It is, rather, the effect
that it is, and I’m quoting, ‘the only art whose sole object
is man in his relationship to others.’ Arendt’s assumption
about a delineated space seems like a received idea,
or a cliche, about art, reiterated without
paying attention to how it contradicts her own
argument that an action is never carried to completion
by the one who starts it. Or, in other words,
that actions are always continued unexpectedly
by others who may arrive any time, from anywhere. Rather than engaging
father with this mismatch in the context of
Arendt’s writings, I propose in my
reflection on sovereignty to bracket Arendt’s spatial
understanding of theater, and deploy her
statement in reverse. Politics is the theatrical
art par excellence. This reversal enables the study
of a field of interactions where actions always
compete with other actions on and off stage, and
accounts for the fabrication of a demarcated
theatrical space– what is called the stage of
history– defined mainly by the sovereign’s
actions and decisions, as if these sovereign’s actions
could be self-contained, and as if they did not
struggle against or respond to the actions and
decisions of others. Modern sovereignty, occasionally
called popular sovereignty since the 18th century,
but more often described in an unqualified way
as simply sovereignty, has never been about [? a ?]
[? demos ?] as the source of its authority, but about
manipulating the body politic and rendering competition
without a political actor whose actions and formations,
in-existent or at least unrecognizable.” Or what Joan Cocks
described yesterday with the concept disappearance. “This elimination of
competition is not achieved through
the sovereign’s acts on an already existing
and well-demarcated stage. This sovereignty is formed
through violent processes of destroying existing
political formations, differentiating between people,
and imposing strict divisions and roles on people. I propose to identify
this type of sovereignty by the structure of
its body politic, and call it differential
sovereignty. By dividing the body
politic and creating distinct political
classes, sovereign power also assigns
individuals with roles that fit their position
in the political space. That is, citizens, non-citizens,
immigrants, refugees, et cetera. Performing these
roles, individuals partake in the reproduction
of the differential rule. Often, regardless their concrete
gestures, thoughts, actions, et cetera. By the body politic I refer,
though, to all the people who are assigned political
roles that include them, often through violent means,
in the theater of sovereignty. Which labels them citizens,
transported, evolues, deported, relegated, immigres,
infiltrators, slaves, servants, free blacks, Indian, women,
vagrant, paupers, redskins, indentured servants,
present absentees– which is the Israeli invention–
refugees, resident, alliance, illegal immigrants,
and the like. These roles, enforce
through violence and maintained though
law enforcement, determine the scope
of their actions. It is all about impossible
for members of the body politic to deviate
from them without being punished by a sovereign power. Including those who are
often not recognized as political actors by
sovereign power in the study and conceptualization
of the body politic. And relating to the body
politic as consisting of the entire body
of the governed, this is a first step in my
attempt to study sovereignty independently of its own terms. This cannot be done
without questioning, also, the way time and space are
manufactured such that only citizens are associated
with sovereign territories and histories. The temporal, spatial,
and body political are the three principles
through which I propose to study modern sovereignty. Rather than focusing
on sovereign power that acts unilaterally from the
stage upon members of the body politic and subjugates them,
I propose to study sovereignty as it is reproduced through
the bodies and roles that comprise the body politic. My assumption is that this
triple principal, enforced violently through
imperialism, has conditioned the way sovereignty is
experienced and discussed as a discrete state formation,
bounded by local circumstances and studied along the temporal,
spatial, and political parameter that it imposes. In other words,
modern sovereignty creates its own phenomenal
field and epistemic apparatus, and interpolates us to
relate to this field as the stage of history. Studying sovereignty
from outside of its own temporal, spatial,
and political principles requires one to study
the way time is sliced through new beginnings–
revolutions, for example– how
territories are cut, and how people are
violently differentiated to embody those different
political roles that I just cited. In this sense, I
argue, the constitution of differential
sovereignty in each and every modern sovereignty
should be studied in continuity with the imperial
violence that preceded it and prepared
the terrain for it. Differential sovereignty
is the ultimate instrument for the consolidation
of imperialist gains and their institutionalization
as the transcendental condition of politics. Only against this
background can one understand how and
why sovereignty is imposed, studied,
and referred to in an unqualified
form– sovereignty. Or called popular,
even though it’s early manifestations in the
French and American revolutions were differential
par excellence. All too often, the use
of the term sovereignty, especially when it refers to
its moment of self constitution, is already a
manifestation of the logic of unqualified sovereignty. The reference to a moment of
constitution that disrupts time has the effect of
relegating to a bygone past a precedent phase of violence
against competing forms of rule and being together,
which now appear obsolete and irrelevant
to the group who seized power and engineered the
ethnic and racial composition of the body politic. Similarly, when
sovereignty is studied within the territory which
sovereign power declares as its own and under
its rule, the power it exercises in its
offshore territories or in refugee camps
along its border–” Sorry, in refugee
camps that these state borders consolidate, “is
conceived as incidental to it. When sovereignty’s
source of authority is associated only with the body
of those who are made citizens, all those who are
made non-citizens are conceived as superfluous
in [INAUDIBLE] language. Foreigners, intruders,
infiltrators, or refugees– altogether irrelevant to
the study of sovereignty. Even though they were made the
embodiments of these categories at the same time that
others were made citizens. Sovereignty belongs
to a particular family of political concepts that
were shaped under imperialism, and which I propose to
call unqualified concepts. Their unqualified
nature is not a mark of their being open, or
their polysemous nature, as many historians and
political theorists have argued. But rather, the
imperial world out of which they emerged,
and the violence that was required for
imperialist powers to suppress rival
formations and institute an unqualified sovereignty
as hegemonic, or as standard. Alternative competing
formations of key concepts, such as sovereignty or
citizen, had to be repressed and outlawed in
order to maintain a space that made their
qualification unnecessary, and to construe them as
transcendental conditions of politic. When a particular type of
sovereignty– monarchical sovereignty– was questioned,
there was more than one answer to the question,
what is sovereignty, and how it can be
imagined and shaped. These answers were
not given solely by those thinkers
known as philosophers, and they should not be sought
only among this small tribe. In what follows, I
will try to answer the question, what
is sovereignty, from the perspective
of non-citizens, and their experience
as non-citizen subjects who are governed
alongside, and interact, with other subjects to whom
the same ruling power granted or wielded citizenship. Sovereignty did not become
the transcendental condition of politics at one stroke. Rather than studying
it from the perspective of its constitutive moment,
and its discrete manifestations in what have come to be
different nation states, I start my study of
modern sovereignty by focusing on what I argue
is inseparable from it. Its two inaugural acts. The first act consists
in the destruction of political, social,
and cultural structures, mainly in the new world or in
other offshore territories. When the formation of popular
sovereignty in the 18th century is studied in opposition
to monarchical sovereignty in France, or in the
pre-revolutionary US colonies, this destruction is
all too often occluded and kept irrelevant to
the study of sovereignty. The second inaugural
act of violence consisting the differentiation
of the governed population into distinct groups,
each with its own rights, or lack thereof, and
mode of governance. Studying enslavement, cultural
destruction, ethnic cleansing, and transfer of population
performed again and again since the 15th century as the
first phase of the constitution of any popular
sovereignty provides us with a different
phenomenal field out of which we can
start to account for the transformation
of this imperial violence into the terrain from which
discrete sovereignties could emerge as rule of law. I will draw an example
from the era known as the French Revolution and
dwell on the trope of the stage and the notion of
political actors. In his book Political
Actors, the historian and Paul Friedland anchors
the radical transformation in the relationship between
politics and theater in the change in the character
of the stages on which they were performed. Prior to the mid 18th century,
politics was performed on a sacred stage where the
intangible body was made present– was re-presented–
while theatre was performed on a profane stage.” The intangible body, of
course, the body of the King. “These two stages were
kept separate and parallel. In the course of a few decades,
with the advent of public opinion, the differentiation
between the two stages was weakened and,” and I’m
quoting again from his book, “‘an underlying revolution
in the conception of representation itself
manifested itself in both realms'” unquote. “In politics, it was articulated
through the representative democracy, and in theater,
through their ways actors ‘started to'” and I’m quoting
from Friedland again– “‘started to represent
their characters abstractly, in a manner that seemed
realistic to the audience, rather than a manner that
the actors experienced as real,'” unquote. “Barriers that kept theatrical
and political actors apart collapsed in the
late 18th century France. Actors became politicians
while politicians took acting classes, and
people could, for a fee, perform in a mock
national assembly while deputies could put on
shows in the real assembly. Friedland associates this
merging with a modern regime of representation, in which
‘intangible body'” and I’m quoting again ‘”intangible
body is abstractly represented in spirit rather than
in substance,'” unquote. “And wherein the legitimacy of
the representation ‘no longer depended'” and I’m
quoting him again, “‘no longer depended upon
the physical identity between the actor and the
object representation, but upon the political
audiences willingness to accept the representative body as
resemblable.'” I don’t know how you say it in English. Resemble, whatever. OK, resemblable,'” unquote. “This modern regime
of representation is emblematized by the persona
of the citizen obstructed from his particular traits in
order to be equal to others. But this does not mean
equal to any other, but solely to those who,
after violent processes of sovereignty have taken root,
are allowed to become citizens. Embodying their
roles as citizens in the theater of
differential sovereignty through their
actions and speech, they demarcate these actors,
these citizen actors, the hypothetical
stage of sovereignty while endowing each
other with the power to relate all others–
non-citizens– as if they were off
stage, regardless of the special organization. The known fact that the
French Revolution only granted citizenship
to a minority among the governed–
wide males– and that political actors
under democratic regimes have been identified
as a matter of course with this persona
of citizen only, thus bracketing all the
groups of non-citizens who have been excluded
from– or more accurately, included differentially–
in this kind of narrative do not prevent the reiteration
of the same structure for narrating the known French
Revolution once and again. This structure consists
of two assumptions about opposition and progress
with respect to monarchy. The transition from the ancient
regime to the nouveau regime, from monarchy to democracy,
from one type of sovereignty to a new one is assumed
as a factual matter that need not be questioned. The fact that this
emancipatory narrative of a small elite of
white males vis-a-vis the monarchy is
blatantly at odds with the massive imperial
violence exercised against large
groups of people who were made into
governed populations has not prevented
reiteration this narrative in numerous historical
and philosophical accounts of sovereignty. This gap between the
concept of sovereignty and accounts of
imperial violence that makes the two
separate objects of study is not incidental,
but constitutive for the fields of political
theory and history. Through the two inaugural
acts that I discussed earlier, imperialism shaped the world
by which political discourse is bound, as it conceived imperial
violence as a given condition dissociated from the
constitution and reproduction of sovereignty. In 1782, seven years
prior to what is known–” sorry to repeat what is known,
but I cannot call it the French Revolution– “what is known
as the outbreak of the French Revolution, Olympe de
Gouges– then a young, rather unknown writer– wrote
her first play, Black Slavery.” Oh, I am grateful to Rita, if
she is here, for her suggestion to call it Black Enslavement. “Its plot is deliberately
located in a French colony. A territory that was considered
external to French monarchical sovereignty. And the political
rule of its subjects remains foreign
and irrelevant to the discursive political
and philosophical scope of the concept of sovereignty. The play narrates the
story of two black slaves. Zamore– who killed his master’s
white guard after the latter demanded that he attacked
his beloved partner, a slave like himself, for having
refused the guard’s overtures– and Mirza, his female partner. The play starts
after the murder, as the two slaves
are running away. On their way, they
rescue a French couple whose boat has sank. The grateful,
white, French couple proposes to be their allies,
and help them to find shelter from their persecutors. For the most part,
the play deals with the question of
whether the runaways will be executed or spared. Numerous characters,
including the French woman rescued by Zamore, the wife
of the governor of the colony, other slaves, servants
and apprentices, and even a military officer all
gradually come together to save Zamore and Mirza
from a band of armed men who, led by a judge,
hunt them down to execute them for murder. Joining Zamore and Mirza is not
an act of compassion exercised by a benevolent white
protagonist in front of an appreciative audience, but
rather a revolutionary moment of grace, when varied
members of the body politic, one after the other, realize the
structural complicity implied in the differentiated
role they inhabit in enslaving others and
exposing them to death. They now start to act and
interact with each other without adhering to
the roles assigned to them in the
differential body politic. I propose to read this
play, located in a colony, as an essay on
sovereignty signaling from where sovereignty
should have been re-imagined. De Gouges was not a
prophet who anticipated the white, male revolution
known as the French Revolution, as her text is often
read by others. Nor did she inhabit
position of the philosopher who writes a template
for a new ideal society. The revolution was dynamic
she writes in this play, and falls within
the body politic without assuming the
convergence of sovereignty in a monolithic power
that acts from on high. In writing this
play, she responded to a reality of imperial
and racial violence where people were enslaved
due to their skin color, but also because of their
daily revolutionary actions and gestures against the
violence that forced them to inhabit the roles of
slaves and disposable people in a differential body politic. Moreover, de
Gouges’s play is not simply an essay on a discreet
and accomplished sovereignty, but an essay on the competition
between one type of sovereignty based on the principle
differentiality, and another possible
formation of sovereignty that would take co-citizenship
as its organizing principle. At the center of
de Gouges’s play, you do not find the
violence exercised in the process of enslaving
people and maintaining them as slaves. This is not a pedagogic tale
about unilateral actions, seeking to convince its audience
that this type of violence is outrageous. That slavery’s outrageous
is beyond doubt in the play. One needs to spend
no more words on it. At stake is rather
the division of roles among all members of
the governed population, of which the body
politic is composed. This division is what defines
the type of sovereignty, and shapes the sovereign’s
action, priorities, and distribution of
resources and bodies. It is the constitutive
violence through which members of the body politic are
differentiated and compelled to act according to
their assigned roles that is contested in this play. de Gouges challenges the
way differential sovereignty is reaffirmed with each
reiterated performance of each role, and caters
to the urgent need to imagine another type of
body politic, through which a different sovereignty
would be performed. Saying it differently, it’s
through the division of roles that we can identify
the type of sovereignty. In her play, the monarch is
not conceived as omnipotent, and is not considered the
ultimate origin of his acts, as these are always shaped and
limited by subjects’ actions and interaction. When de Gouges wrote her play,
the differential body politic was already there,
but the polarizing or progressive narrative,
and the concept of sovereignty as the
transcendental conditions of politic, had not yet
become a principle of faith or a metaphysical axiom. In de Gouges’s
play, the transition from monarchy to democracy is
not associated with progress. Sovereignty is not reduced to
the pull of sovereign power, and the transition from one
type of sovereignty to another is not anchored in an
external source of authority, but rather in an
inclusive principle according to which the
body politic is structured. Similarly, massive abduction,
genocide, and enslavement are not positioned outside
of the field of sovereignty, but rather seen as its
most mundane expressions. In the theater of
differential sovereignty, political actors, through
their assigned roles, are structurally pushed,
lured, and incited to act against each other. The division of roles
is not flexible, and roles are almost
always prescribed for life with very limited choice. Even though participation
in this theater is mandatory for all governed
subjects– not only citizens, but also second class
citizens and non-citizens, who inevitably share
the same stage–” which is bounded, as I said,
“only citizens and a sovereign are counted as political actors. Denied citizenship and
deprived of the status of an actor in the new political
formation and historical stage, Olympe de Gouges sought ways
to challenge the demarcation lines that kept her, and members
of other groups, off stage. She questioned the legitimacy
of a popular sovereignty that related to the body politic
as if women, people of color, and members of the lower
class were not part of it. Horrified by the inclination of
the assembly– of the National Assembly– to base its authority
on the execution of the King, she argued for
including the King as a citizen who takes part
like any other in the formation of a new body politic. For her, the Reign of
Terror started at the moment when the decision to take the
life of the King who was taken, and not when Robespierre
rose to power. In the text that led to her own
execution, The Three Ballots, de Gouges questioned the
new political regime, its mechanism of
self reproduction, and its tyrannical actions. Many of her texts,
including this one, begin by directly addressing
the members of the body politic who happen to be in power. In The Three Ballots she
addresses the sovereign, blaming him for being just one
in a long continuous lineage of tyrants. As long as large group of people
are excluded from the body politic, she implies, there can
be no significant difference between a Republican, a
Federalist, a monarchy, and a democratic regime.” And I’m quoting from de Gouges.
“‘The Constitution is null and void if the majority
of individuals composing the nation is not cooperated
in its drafting,’ she wrote, when she archived The
Declaration of the Rights of Men and Citizens by
creating her own version, The Declaration of the Rights
of Women and Female Citizens.” And I won’t have
time to dwell on it, but her declaration for me is
another form of an archive, because she archived the
declaration of white males in her own declaration. “What is striking in Black
Slavery or Black Enslavement and de Gouges’s later writings,
in which she addresses the question of sovereignty,
is that the presence of the sovereign is
relegated to the background. He is not abolished, but rather
substituted or multiplied by proxies, or rendered
specially distant. His proxy in Black
Enslavement, the governor, is absent through
most of the play. This remoteness
enables one to see the performance of
sovereignty as a performance of the division of roles, and
to follow the way sovereignty is reshaped when those excluded
from the stage of differential sovereignty cease
to be transparent. While awaiting for the
governor, the governed cross, blur, and redraw the confines
of their roles and the lines that separate types of
subjects– men from women, slaves from free black,
black from white, laymen from functionaries,
soldiers from civilians, governed from governors, victims
from perpetrators, citizens from refugees. Together, the governed
undo the separation lines and transform them into
the malleable substance of sovereignty. The body politic is transformed
so much that, upon his return, to sovereign’s proxy finds out
that his power to take life has become inoperative, even
without his right to do so being formally annulled. Empowered by the new
formation of the body politic, the new formation
that came out in his absence, the governor, the
sovereign’s proxy, realizes that he is able to
reject the law of the colony that the judge seeks
to enforce, and to free the two slaves, Zamore and
Mirza, without punishment. In doing so, he
acknowledges their right to resist enslavement, and
the right of other members of the community to
refuse the role assigned to them in the division of roles
that enables and perpetuates slavery. Or, what I would say
in another context, that they exercise their
right not to be perpetrators. Unable to ignore the
transformation of the body politic, the governor realizes
he can no longer enforce the law whose aim is to
keep the members of the body politic differentiated. However, aware of his
subjection to the King and the limits of
his power to sanction the new formation
of the body politic as law– that is, to free
all slaves– the governor states his wish. ‘Would I might also give
liberty to all your fellow men, or at least temper their
fate'” unquote, from the play. “When the mainland
and the colonies are conceived as parts
of one continuous temporal and spatial
unit, it becomes clear that a principal of
differential ruling had been thought, practiced,
and institutionalized long before the advent of what is
called popular sovereignty. Its alleged newness was not
due to its being unprecedented, but rather to a wrong
impression derived from the destruction of
everything that preceded, political formations
first and foremost. From the very
beginning of what is known as popular
sovereignty, the sovereignty these white male elites
strive to constitute was exclusive and differential. Differential types of
political formations that existed prior to the
18th century, those known and researched as possibly
competing formations such as, for example, the Hansa city
league and the city-state, and those who are
were considered as alternative sovereignties,
like marooned societies in faraway lands. Or the many political
formations in what was made the new world, whose
existence evaporated together with the people
who were massacred, as well as resistance to
differential sovereignty by slaves, people
of color, and women, who have been continuously
repressed and suppressed. Neither an unqualified
concept of sovereignty, nor a concept of
popular sovereignty can account for these
competing political formations of sovereignty, both
existing in potential which have not been compromised
by a differential body politic. When sovereignty is qualified
for what it is– that is, when one grasped its underlying
differential principle– one is capable of taking
the first and necessary step towards reconstructing
other competing formations from outside of the
imperial modern imaginary.” And this outside is not in
the future, is in the past. But I won’t have
time to dwell on it. “Imagining other
political formations is not about progressing
toward a different future, as if the outcome
of a continuous past could be left
unrevised, or generating more fantasies of miraculous
new beginnings or democracies to come. It is rather about
potentializing, and reactivating options that
were made obsolete by actively, concretely disengaging
from and undoing the categories through which
the long lasting violence of differential sovereignty
could remain unacknowledged. As citizens were trained
to recognise other people according to the roles they were
forced to embody– property, refugees, or infiltrators. These embodied
categories were always experienced and
conceived as detached from the political
regimes that produced them over 500 years of
imperial history. During which, the
imperial apparatus yielded ostensibly
neutral categories that became key political concepts.” That is, citizens or refugee. For example,
Palestinian– those who are called Palestinian
refugees are not associated to the sovereign
regime that expelled them. And those who are called
Palestinian refugees– because I think
that they should be called the expellee
of the Jewish regime. But this is in parentheses. I tried not to speak about
Palestine in my paper today. This is why there is recurrence
to my second beloved topic, which is the 18th century. “These embodied categories
were always experienced and conceived as detached
from the political regimes–” sorry, I read this. “Unlearning sovereignty is a way
to question the very position of the actor we inhabit, and
the temporality of progress implied in it. When political actors unlearn
differential sovereignty together with others, or
are forced or interpolated to embody other roles
in this theater, the historical
narrative of progress that presents, for example,
women or people of color as living proof that political
progress has being made come under question. Indeed, black people and women
have been granted citizenship, but the differential
structure of sovereignty has not been dismantled. Citizenship is still
a form of recruitment of some of the governed into
a mechanism of differential ruling, in which
other others are placed in the position of
none, or second class citizens. In order to rewind
differential sovereignty and imagine alternative
types of sovereignty, it is necessary to give up
the temporality of progress according to which
citizenship is extended from the center
toward the periphery, from the white, Christian,
Western male to his others. It is no less necessary to
abandon the role boarders play in protecting those
who are placed inside at the core of citizenship,
as if differentiation between inside and
outside reflected anything other than what
has been achieved through imperial
violence, and to resist the division of
citizens and refugee into different
political planets. The people who today make up
the refugee crisis–” again, what is known as the refugee
crisis “are not merely uprooted by an actual crises
in this or that region. They, like all the
millions of expellee.” or dozen of millions of
expellee, or maybe thousands of millions of expellee
“structurally produced by imperialism over
the last 500 years keep fleeing their
fate as descendants of people who, through processes
of imperialist dispossession– transfer, partition,
and enslavement– were deprived of
different positions and statuses of co-citizenship
in the societies where they lived
prior to imperialism, and where they enjoyed
certain– even though often insufficient– communal
ties and rights. When they were forced to
embody a variety of roles in the standardized theatre of
modern imperial sovereignty, others were provided with modern
citizenship and were made part of the light weaponry of
differential sovereignty that was shaped and institutionalized
as the only possible political formation. If I had more time, I
would have present to you my regular companion,
who was forced to become not only
a non-citizen, but a non-governed subject. And since he resisted to
inhabit his role in the theatre of differential sovereignty,
he was forced to become an infiltrator. And since he survived the fate
of infiltrators being executed to inhabit the
role of a refugee– was forced to inhabit
the role of refugee. I would have shared with
you– if I had more time, I would have share with you
one particular civil formation in Palestine in the late
’40s that I learned together with this guy who
is an infiltrator.” Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Hello. No I don’t, actually. Thank you everyone
for organizing this, and for being here at this time. And I’ll just– I’ll
go fast, but before I start I did just want to
note the irony on a Saturday when we all held ourselves
captive in this room, in some cases for nine hours,
that this talk on bondage is the last one. I really appreciate that. OK, so the concept that I’m
discussing today is bondage, and I really just want to
ask one question about it. And that question is this,
is bondage the opposite of, or antithetical to, freedom? Not constraint, but bondage. “The answer is a
resounding yes, according to at least two schools
of thinking about freedom. One that emphasizes negative
freedoms, or freedoms from, and another that emphasizes
positive liberties, or freedoms to. I say that the
answer here is a yes, because both schools
metaphorize freedom as unobstructed movement,
opposed to some constraint and to all bondage.” So for both of these
schools, free movement is the conceptual frame by
which liberty is understood. OK, so “first, let’s think about
negative freedoms or freedoms from. Say, the seizure of property,
arbitrary violence, and so on. Here, freedom takes the
form of legal protections that surround and
safeguard individuals who, within certain parameters,
are then at liberty to operate. Those who emphasize negative
freedom often focus on what Quentin Skinner calls the
‘neo-Roman theory of liberty as non-domination.’
To enjoy this robust, Republican liberty,
Skinner argues, people must be not only
free from actual unjust, or unnecessary interference
in the pursuit of their chosen goals, but must also be free
from the very threat of such arbitrary interference. Skinner shows how,
from Cicero and Sallust in this English Civil War–”
sorry “from Cicero and Sallust into the English Civil War
and beyond, Republicans display how simply being
subject to another’s arbitrary will means being in a
state of subjection. For Skinner, the
stakes here are high. He writes that quote, ‘servitude
breeds servility,’ for, quote, ‘if you live at the mercy of
someone else you will always have the strongest
motives for playing safe. There will be many
choices, in other words, that you will be
disposed to avoid, and many others that you
will be disposed to make, and the cumulative effect
will be to place extensive restraints on your freedom of
action.’ According to Skinner and more contemporary political
theorists who follow him– and here I have in mind people
like Philip Pettit and John Maynor– freedom is first and
foremost negative freedom, and Republicans
conceive of it best. More than, say, someone
like Isaiah Berlin who, from this perspective,
focuses too narrowly on actual unjust
interference rather than the threat of it as well. To be sure, many Republicans
in the 17th century and beyond think of freedom in these terms. And I just want to look
at a pair of quotes from a 17th century royalist
turned Republican, Marchamont Nedham, which show how
freedom so conceived really does lend itself to
metaphors of free movement. So shortly after the
execution of Charles I, Nedham argues
against the return of monarchy with
reference to images of intense, excruciating
physical constraint. ‘If now we have
burdens,’ Nedham writes, ‘we must then look to have
furrows made upon our backs. If now we are,
through necessity, put to endure a few whips, we
shall then of set purpose be chastised with scorpions.’
Nedham then explains the psychological damage done by
monarchy through an invocation of Livy, who quote, ‘compares
such as have been educated under a monarchy or tyranny to
those beasts which have been caged or cooped up all their
lives in a den’ which, quote, ‘if they be let loose
will return in again, because they know not how to
value or use their liberty.’ Nedham imagines oppressed
subjects who cannot even appreciate being set free. Since servitude breeds servility
from Nedham’s perspective, burdens and restraints curb a
freedom which he cannot help but frame as free movement. Of course, not everyone
assumes that freedom from the threat of
arbitrary interference is freedom’s preeminent form. That brings me to
a second school of thinking about freedom. One that also identifies
with republicanism, and that opposes
freedom and bondage. From this perspective,
the preeminent freedom is not freedom from the threat
of arbitrary interference. The freedom which Mill
would later call, quote, ‘pursuing our own
good, in our own way, and the only freedom deserving
of the name.’ Rather, the preeminent freedom is
the freedom to participate in government to exercise
positive political liberty. This freedom might, in
fact, curb negative freedom, and leave individuals
open to interference. As Charles Taylor puts it,
such freedom merely yields the quote, ‘sense of
having a say in decisions in the political domain which
would shape everyone’s lives.’ Finding as much or more
value in what is public and shared as in what is private
and individual– in freedom to rather than freedom
from– these historians share with political
philosophers who adopt and adapt
Republican theory, and are linked to
communitarianism, a strand of thinking about
the Republican legacy that’s been developed by people
like Charles Taylor, who I mentioned, Michael
Sandel, Michael Walzer, and Alistair MacIntyre. Now, there are differences here. But despite these differences
from neo-Roman theorists like Skinner,
thinkers of this sort also frame freedom primarily
in terms of unimpeded movement. Generally they do
so with reference to accessibility of public
and political spheres. John Milton’s Areopagitica
here, I think, serves as an emblematic
17th century example. Milton argues for a
relatively open public sphere on several grounds. Two grounds are, one, that an
open public sphere would create a textual field that might
permit the individual to become a, quote, ‘scout into
the regions of sin and falsity.’ And two, that
reason was given to men so that we might, quote, ‘discover
onward things more remote from our knowledge, might move from
regions that are known to those that are not.’ A relatively
free open public sphere helps individuals develop civic
virtue than Milton imagines with metaphors of adept movement. So both those who privilege
negative freedom and those who privilege positive
liberty think of freedom primarily– certainly
not solely, but primarily in terms of self government
and oftentimes sovereignty. For communitarians,
self-government is most crucial at the
level of the state, whereas for neo-Romans
like Skinner, states should grant
the protections that make individuals themselves
sovereign and able to govern themselves. So since freedom is thought
in this way in terms of self-government,
the predominant image is that of free movement
and the predominant image for freedom’s
opposite is bondage. It just makes sense. Some thinkers would
take this tendency to metaphorize freedom as
free movement much further, and declare that it’s actually
an inevitable association within human experience. So cognitive scientists like
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, for instance, go
so far as to say that all of our
concepts of freedom, from the most conservative
to the most radical, share a non-metaphorical core
that consists in the ability to move freely. So according to
Lakoff and Johnson, our earliest
childhood experiences, when we react negatively–
more or less immediately– to being unduly
restrained and bound render inevitable the opposition
between freedom and bondage. The idea of freedom, Lakoff
writes is felt viscerally in our bodies, and means, quote,
‘being able to achieve purposes either because nothing
is stopping you, or because you have the
requisite capacities, or both.’ When we imagine the
opposite of freedom, we naturally think
of the following. In chains, imprisoned, enslaved,
trapped, oppressed, held down, held back, threatened,
fearful, powerless. So according to
Lakoff and Johnson, not only do we think of freedom
and bondage is antithetical, but it’s actually impossible
to think of freedom and bondage as other
than antithetical.” Obviously that’s not true. “Free movement itself
is hardly the only image by which liberty is framed. Particularly when freedom
is not conceived primarily in terms of freedoms. That is, in terms of legal
protections and entitlements, and instead conceived in
terms of free experience.” Now when people turn to think
about what is free experience like. So for the second
part of this talk, I want to just look
at two examples. Those are the ones
on the handout in which freedom and bondage, or
at least fetters in captivity, are not antithetical
but actually enter into indistinction. And in both examples
I want to claim that the indistinction
between freedom and bondage, or captivity, need not
be dismissed as merely ideological mystification. The first example is one of John
Donne’s divine poems, Batter My Heart Three-Person God. So for a few minutes, I’ll
leave an explicitly political register and then
I’ll come back to it. “‘Batter my heart,
three-person’d God, for you as yet but
knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; that I may
rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend your force to break,
blow, burn, and make me new. I, like a usurp’d
town to another due, labor to admit you, but
oh, to no end; Reason, your viceroy in me,
me should defend, but is captiv’d, and
proves weak or untrue. Yet dearly I love you,
and would be lov’d fain, but am betroth’d unto
your enemy; divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
take me to you, imprison me, for I, except you enthrall
me, never shall be free, nor ever chaste,
except you ravish me.’ In the sense that
Donne’s speaker pleads to be divorced and
untied from Satan, which in another context would
conjure the image of being freed of physical impediment. Yet Donne also makes clear that
the choice, not his to make, is the one set out by
Martin Luther between two forms of bondage–
to Satan or to God. Luther draws on two verses in
Paul’s epistle to the Romans in which Paul writes
not only that, quote, ‘when ye were the servants
of sin ye were free from righteousness,’ but also that
when his adversaries were quote, ‘made free from
sin ye became the servants of righteousness.’ For Paul, freedom in
one sphere is always accompanied by
servitude in another. Explicating these verses,
Luther writes that quote, ‘the human will is, as it
were, a beast between the two– God and Satan. If God sits thereon, it wills
and goes where God will. If Satan sits thereon, it
wills and goes as Satan will. Nor is it in the power of its
own will to choose to which rider it will run, nor which
it will seek.’ Donne’s speaker, likewise, has as alternatives
two forms of bondage over which he exercises no control. Given this, we must conclude
not the Donne’s speaker wants to be enthralled in order
to then become free, but that he believes freedom
to consist in being properly enthralled and ravished. In a radical departure from
what I’ve described so far, Donne wishes for God not
to respect personhood. To disregard the boundaries of
the self and its given state. So he really wants
as much interference from God as possible. So long as God pursues him
considerately– so long, in fact, as he is not violent–
Donne cannot have the liberty for which he longs. He can only gain
liberty if stripped of virtually everything
associated with free movement. We see imprisonment rather
than the removal of fetters, standing rather than motion,
the experience of being drawn instead of self direction,
and the excruciating process of being made new
instead of self preservation or self transformation. This may sound more like
ideological mystification than it is. Badiou, for instance, argues
that Paul, on whom Donne draws, holds interest for
thinking about freedom. Badiou turns to Paul
in order, quote, ‘to re-found a theory of the
subject that subordinates its existence to the aleatory
dimension of the event, without sacrificing the theme
of freedom.’ And Paul holds out interest for Badiou in almost
precisely the terms set out in “Batter My Heart.” In Badiou’s reading of Paul,
positive law of any kind does not guarantee freedom,
but makes individuals into automatons stripped of
any genuine self control. Law does this because law
in the Pauline framework automatically solicits
its own transgression. So it just turns people–
law, by being in place, turns people into automatons. So the Pauline subject’s
release from automatism comes only when the
subject is seized and overwhelmed by an event,
in a rupture with the given world, emblematized for
Badiou by the moment when Paul, on the road to Damascus,
is arrested by God’s voice. Being so seized
constitutes freedom by liberating individuals not
only from the curse of the law, but also from the
determinants of the given. Badiou’s Paul assumes that
the Christian subject first comes into being with this
truth event’s occurrence, when the work set out in
Romans 12:2 of being, quote, ‘not conformed to
this world but transformed by the renewing of
your mind’ has begun. The free subject’s subordination
to the event is axiomatic. These are Badiou’s
words. ‘I call subject the bearer of the fidelity. The one who bears
a process of truth. The subject, therefore, in
no way preexists the process. The process of truth
induces a subject.’ Badiou believes the
connection between freedom and being made new
to be essential. In this regard, his account
squares with Donne’s yearning in Batter My Heart for an
event that will free him from his present
existence, and for fidelity to what his seized him. For Badiou, as for Donne,
only transformation would bring freedom. Most apt image for
freedom for these two is not the image put forth
by cognitive science, or by Mill in his
famous formulation– that of a stable self
moving through space, but that of selves destabilised,
undergoing drastic change. Freedom arrives, if it
arrives, in this change. Such freedom cannot be perfectly
predicted or guaranteed by law as it can according to
champions of negative freedom and positive liberty. Since freedom, for
Badiou and Donne, involves our non-coincidence
with our preexistent self, it is intrinsic to freedom
that its exact parameters and effects be
unknown in advance. Now, there are some more
subtle political implications of Donne’s poem that I won’t
attempt to spell out right now. The less subtle implication,
which I will mention, is that the relation that
Donne’s poem describes– one that could be, and has
been described as masochistic– allows for freedom. At least in his understanding. Here though, masochism
allows for freedom not because the masochist can
exercise surreptitious agency, and this is how masochism
gets recuperated in some accounts of its
political potential.” For instance,
Foucault’s– that, like, you seem like you’re in this
powerless, passive position, but you actually have power. But that’s not what
Donne’s poem is doing. “Rather, Donne’s masochism
allows for freedom because Donne, like
Badiou, thinks of freedom not as free movement,
but as transformation. In this case, transformation
into a self for whom self mastery has no value. A self free from the
wish for mastery. In this sense, Donne
perhaps anticipates someone like Leo Bersani who, at
points, has praised masochism for the masochist’s
willingness to relinquish the desire for mastery in
order to access jouissance.” Now, for my second example,
“this example, to an extent, secularizes what, for Donne,
is explicitly religious. It’s a poem by
Katherine Philips. It’s also 17th century–
Friendship’s Mystery, which makes a religion out
of terrestrial friendship. ‘Come, my Lucasia, since we see
that Miracles Men’s faith do move, by wonders and by
prodigy to the dull angry world let’s prove there’s a
religion in our love. For though we were
design’d t’ agree, that Faith no liberty
destroyes, but our Election is as free as Angels,
who with greedy choice are yet determin’d
to their joyes. Our hearts are
doubled by the loss, here Mixture is Addition
grown; we both diffuse, and both ingross: and we whose
minds are so much one, never, yet ever are alone. We court our own
Captivity than Thrones more great and innocent:
’twere banishment to be set free, since we
were fetters whose intent not Bondage is, by Ornament. Divided joyes are odious
found, and griefs united easier grow: we are ourselves
but by rebound, and all our Titles shuffled so,
both Princes and both Subjects too. Our Hearts are
mutual Victims laid, while they (such power in
Friendship likes) are Altars, Priests, and Off’rings made:
and each Heart which thus kindly dies, goes deathless
by the Sacrifice.’ And to avoid
running on too long, I won’t treat many of the
complexities of this poem, and I won’t talk about the
first three stanzas at all. Mainly, I just want to highlight
what I think are some important similarities and differences
between this poem and Donne’s. So first, some similarities. “Like Donne, Philips seems
to find freedom in captivity. Being set free in
stanza four constitutes the opposite of liberty. It would be an unwilling
banishment to be set free. Since the speaker has claimed
liberty in stanza two, the liberty that
exists in this poem must exist in the captivity
that the poem represents. Second, like Donne’s
speaker in relation to God, Philips in relation
to the friend experiences liberty partly
in a transformation. In this heart that’s grown
deathless by its sacrifice. But critical differences between
Donne and Philips also exist. First, instead of the
absolutist, one way domination the Donne fantasises
about in his poem, we have shared fetters
and shuffled titles. It’s worth remarking on
both, I think, briefly– the shared fetters and
the shuffled titles. In the fourth
stanza, the speaker carefully distinguishes
the fetters of this friendship from bondage. ‘Twere banishment
to be set free, since we wear fetters whose
ornaments not Bondage is, but Ornament.’ The logic here
suggests that being set free would be banishment because the
fetters that they wear are not for bondage but
instead for ornament. If the fetters affected
actual bondage, then perhaps to
be set free would be freedom, not banishment. The distinction between
fetters and ornaments, and fetters as
bonds is critical. The ornaments you can cast
off, the bonds you cannot. So that’s one point to be made. That Philips, unlike
Donne and more like some of the thinkers I’ve
considered here, does– or at least can–
think about freedom even in the personal domain
in bondage as opposites. At least in this stanza. But this raises another
more difficult question about stanza four. How could the
experience of fetters as ornaments– how
could that constitute an experience of freedom? One way to answer this question
would be to move to stanza five and say that the fetters
referred to in stanza four are the temporary
fetters of subjecthood that Lucasia and Orinda– that’s
the speaker’s name– shuffle. So that they can both be princes
even as both are subjects. If this is the case,
then the image of fetters here very much lends itself
to Foucault’s account of masochism’s
productive potential. That it allows participants
to play with power relations– endows the ostensibly
submissive position with flexibility
and reversibility. So Donne posits
that freedom might exist within a
masochistic situation because that situation frees
the masochist from his given self in a way that’s
beyond his control. Philips posits that fetters
allow the unfettered to free themselves from
their given selves by shuffling titles in a
controlled, masochistic game. For both Donne and
Philips, freedom seems to be freedom
from the given– from given, fixed identity. But Donne and Philips
achieve that freedom rather differently. All the same,
Philips complicates matters in the final stanza. She’s been dealing an outward
ornament, but now at the end she deals with the
inward– with hearts, and with their mutual victimage. Here Philips, I think,
edges much closer to something like bondage. The heart unlike the body,
fettered merely ornamentally, cannot cast off its bonds
prior to its sacrifice. Friends’ hearts are mutual,
consensual victims to be sure. In the end, though, how much
does this consensual sacrifice differ from Donne’s plea to
be broken, blown, and burned. To me, Philips infuses
the final stanza with comparable intensity
to what we see in Donne. Here the masochistic
situation offers not just the shuffling of identities–
the shuttling back and forth from
prince to subject– but the radical
remaking of identity. The sacrifice of self into
deathlessness– a happy self shattering. Philips puzzles me by refusing
to represent a progression that clearly transitions from
one masochistic mode, which might be said to look
forward to Foucault, to another mode which might
be said to look forward to Bersani. But my puzzlement may
just be the product of how innovative Philips’s poem is. Philips innovates, I
think, in brokering a compromise between masochisms
more playful and intense forms. Philips treats fetters as merely
ornamental and unthreatening, yet also as absolutely binding. Through consent,
freedom and bondage enter into indistinction, such
that friends paradoxically exist in a broad field of
masochistic experience– one capacious enough
to accommodate not just sovereignty and
subjection, but playful self fashioning and intense
self shattering. In Friendship’s Mystery,
masochism frees the self, but Philips’s poem also frees
masochism from a single form. In examining Donne and
Philips, my intention certainly hasn’t been to
say that bondage is not freedom’s opposite. Bondage often is
freedom’s opposite. Rather, my intention
has merely been to say that bondage is not
always freedom’s opposite, and for more than one reason. Particularly when
freedom is understood in terms of freedoms
or legal provisions, it may often make
sense to frame freedom in terms of free movement. To use that as your
conceptual frame. But at the same time, I really
do think that Jean-Luc Nancy remains right in his claim
that freedoms can never grasp the stakes of freedom, just as
the metaphor freedom as free movement cannot exhaust the
field of thought as to liberty. In their masochistic
fantasies, Donne and Philips bear this out.” [APPLAUSE] Well, we have about 40
minutes for questions. So I’m happy to [INAUDIBLE] OK, so we’ll start with Steven. Thank you both for
your presentations. So my question is for James. I guess on one
level I’m wondering whether– so if
freedom in respect to attachments, whether the
attachments are religious in nature– attachments
to God– or freedom as attachments to a lover,
whether that’s really something significantly
different than what Pettit and other
Republicans mean when they’re talking about freedom. Which is specifically
in relation to a just constitution
of a state. And that the freedom bondage
relationships might actually be considerably different
in both those cases. So I’m wondering, is
there a bit of an apples to oranges problem here? And then also with the
Pettit, he differentiates his understanding of liberty
from either the positive versus negative
sort of dichotomy, and a crucial
differentiating factor is it’s not just
freedom as movement, it’s freedom from
arbitrary interference. Not even freedom
from interference, or even freedom from
susceptibility to interference, but freedom from
arbitrary interference. Which gives him an
important distinction for how he treats law from
some versions of liberal theory which view law as sort of
essentially and necessarily a constraint against freedom. Whereas, for Pettit’s
version of republicanism, law is compatible–
law and its constraints are compatible with freedom,
because of this issue of, is the interference
arbitrary or not? And sometimes, susceptibility
to interference is compatible with freedom
if it’s not arbitrary. Which for him means it has
to track the interests. So that I think also might
complicate the relation between– I don’t
want to say bondage, but at least constraint– that
constraint and freedom are compatible Pettit
in ways that might, if we wanted to
compare the freedom bondage from political realms
to the realms of loving attachments, there might
actually be more room for compatibility of
constraint and freedom. I prefer that term
rather than bondage. I still have to think about
constraint versus bondage. Yeah, thanks for that question. I think there are sort
of two parts to it. The first part about freedom’s
compatibility with constraint– yeah, I mean that’s
definitely true for virtually every– like not just Pettit,
but lots of other people. Freedom and constraint are
not thought totally apart. The only way you can
sort of have freedom is if there are certain
constraints in place. But I do think that with
Pettit in his most recent book, but also his older books like
Just Freedom, the way that you can know whether or not
your free is, as you say, you’re free from the threat
of arbitrary interference. Not interference as such,
but arbitrary interference. And arbitrary interference
does to you psychologically is it prohibits you
from flourishing. Flourishing is a very
important term for him, and for Pettit,
flourishing means being able to sort
of realize yourself. To go places. Not like literal
freedom of movement, but it’s able to sort
of pursue your aims and to flourish in a
way that you see fit. As long as it doesn’t
violate other people flourishing in a similar way. And as to the second part,
the apples to oranges thing, I think that you’re
right that there is a compatibility between
framing legislative freedom in terms of free movement. Just metaphorizing it that
way and still leaving space for politically productive
personal experience that involves bondage. But what I think
Pettit does is, we’ve talked a lot about
vulnerability today, particularly in the
section that you chaired, and I think that Pettit
only views vulnerability as something that’s
demeaning or abjecting. So that what he does is he
takes vulnerability and turns it into, I think, into
a negative term. So in a way, I can
see how my paper seems to set it up as though these two
ways of thinking about freedom are like– they can’t
be thought together. I think they can, but I think
that Pettit himself denigrates vulnerability in a way that
suggests that it is quite hard when you’re in the
habit of thinking of freedom with metaphors of
free movement, and you start to think about
vulnerability and passivity, and things like that,
you tend to abject it. And I think that Pettit
really does this especially not in Just Freedom, but
the book on republicanism before that. It’s a particular type
of vulnerability, right? Vulnerability to
arbitrary interference. That just seems like a
different kind of vulnerability than what’s going
on in the poetry. Right, this is what
I’ll say though. I think to him it’s
virtually inconceivable that there could be another
kind of vulnerability. You know what I mean? The only vulnerability he
treats is the bad kind. So when he thinks
about vulnerability, he thinks about the father
abusing his child or something like that, that is
clearly terrible. And I’m not saying that if
he was in this room right now he might say– maybe
he would say, yeah, what Don’s talking about
there– I’m cool with that. That’s good, that’s productive. I don’t know what he would say. But just from
reading his work, it seems like he’s incapable of
thinking about vulnerability as a positive thing. But you’re right that
the vulnerability that he does discuss
is specifically terrible forms of it. Thank you. I can see how the
Donne and the Philips are incompatible with
the Republican slash communitarianism version
of positive liberty, but I don’t see how it’s
incompatible with Berlin’s account of positive
liberty, which is precisely aimed at this. It would seem to be. Because how he proceeds to
cash out the argument, at least in the two concepts, it is
to make positive liberty susceptible to the
surrender of the self– to some sort of higher
power, or to placing it in bondage to a higher power. Maybe the slippery move
that he makes there is make that somehow
your true self, as opposed to being
overpowered by another self. But I don’t know. I think Berlin would– and
I’m not sure that– anyway. Yeah? Do you think that when Berlin,
in “Two Essays,” when he’s like talking about positive
liberty and this domination of one part of the self by
the other part of the self– that’s like, he’s
ultimately not– that’s not where he’s going, right? Well he is critical of
it, because he’s going to go to negativity liberty. I’m not sure– but in
fact your starting point was that both positive and
negative liberty, neither of these traditions would
have any necessary opposition to bondage. And it seems to me that that’s
a little bit more ambitious, because it seems like
that’s what Berlin is about. Yeah, that’s exactly right. And you’re right to point
out that Berlin thinks about positive liberty
differently from Charles Taylor and the communitarians. Yeah, right, and if you think
about what Skinner’s doing, what seems to have been going
on is this gradual evacuation of the number of candidates who
could count as positive liberty theorists with
Skinner attempting to move large numbers of
Republicans out of there. And maybe what we’re left with
is a few English Hegelians– perfectionists– and
maybe not even them. But I think you’re right that
what that’s missing is– well, it seems that positive
liberty field is populated by religious
conceptions of liberty. Yeah, that’s fair. Is it my turn? She’s over there. Oh, I’m sorry. I thought– I’m not in
the place that I am. My question is for Ariella. Thank you very much. I think that your
paper– there was a lot to think about in your
paper, and at the end of this long thing I’m sure
there’s much more than I got. So my question may
seem simplistic. In other words, I’m tired,
but I really appreciated it. And I wanted to ask
you to speak more about this idea of
unlearning sovereignty, or that unlearning sovereignty
was a matter of learning other modes of acting. So that I wanted to
just ask you, well, what does that
actor training look? How would one, as
having been brought into it the actorly-ness of
performing under sovereignty as one of these
differential positions, what would a different
actor training be? Is it necessary for– you said
it is necessary to unlearn and, I think you said, rewind. And I was interested
in the word rewind. I suppose that means to
a sort of pre-imperiality in order to resist the
separation of citizen and refugee, which I completely
find incredibly interesting. That separation between
citizen and refugee is structurally produced
by imperialism, you said. I thought that was a really
interesting way to say that. And yet, I’m also really
interested that I think that separation is endemic
to theatre itself. So that instead of learning
a different actor training, wouldn’t we have to just
unlearn the theater. Like, get out of the theater. Isn’t the theater itself that? Isn’t the structure of
even thinking theatre and theatricality, maybe,
something we just have to get rid of? You know, I don’t know. Is there anything that’s not–
is there a way to unlearn that? Or is it a different kind of
theatre that you’re imagining that’s not the theatron– that’s
not the place for viewing? That doesn’t have that
architecture of division sort of scripted into it. So that’s my question. Thank you. I think you
transmitted [INAUDIBLE] to say that I am tired,
because your question was very eloquent. I’m not sure that
my answer will be as eloquent at this time of the
day because I am also tired, but I’ll try. Thank you for the question. You actually ask me to
spell out all my books, because this is about
unlearning sovereignty et cetera, et cetera. So I’ll try. I’ll try to make
it very condensed. Yeah, I speak about
unlearning sovereignty, and it’s a long process. Yesterday when
[? Sharon ?] gave her talk I thought about–
someone asked her, I don’t remember who
because too many questions, and interesting questions. But someone asked her
about thinking about agency in a non-sovereign way. And I remember, when I started
my book few years ago– this is part of it– I distinguished,
for example, in relation to revolution, between
sovereign revolution and civil revolution. And it took me, wow, many years
to understand that actually I have to unlearn sovereignty,
and to qualify sovereignty, and then to understand what were
the other possible sovereign formations. So unlearning
sovereignty was part of unlearning all these
unqualified terms. And trying to rehearsal not
for the big day, but rehearsal in terms of, really, a tedious
work of writing and rewriting all these terms in
a way that I will be able to go to the archive
and go through materials that many historians read them
already, and all of a sudden understand them differently
through this process of unlearning sovereignty. But unlearning as I
understand sovereignty– and it will want to
be unlearning theater. What I’m trying to speak
about is unlearning our roles. So I am of course– and it
feels great to speak in a room where everybody is
inspired by Hannah Arendt, so I don’t have to
defend and I don’t have to say that of course I
understand that this, and this, and this. So what I’m trying to do is to
understand, OK, indeterminacy– but what determine our
actions, nonetheless. And I think that the division
of roles is the theatre in which we perform. And this division of
roles is something that I’m trying to
understand as the theater. So what I would associate
unlearning sovereignty is, first of all,
unlearning sovereignty as an unqualified term. Then to go to the archive–
if I am unlearning my role, I will go to the archive
only with those with whom I am governed differentially. So every time when
I go to the archive, I’m not going to study the
infiltrator or the refugee, but I’m going with the refugee
or with the infiltrator. How do I do it? I smuggle documents
from the archive, and I share them with
people who don’t have access to the archive. Many ways to undo the
archive, and many ways to imagine that I’m
entering the archive always with my companion. So I cannot read the looted
document in the archive as if I am provided with scholarship,
but as if now we are sharing something that was looted, and
I share it with my companion. So this is part of this
process of unlearning. And rewinding is because–
and I was so happy to hear you’re resisting against
nostalgia every time that somebody is
trying to say something wrong about going back. I think that instead of looking
for a new political language, or instead of thinking
or envisioning new political formations, there
is such a big repertory that is constantly smashed
in the last 500 years. And thinking about
pre-imperial formation is not going necessarily to
483, or ’85, or whatever. It’s at every
moment we have what is made into a
pre-imperial formation. Going to Palestine ’47 and
discovering in the archive all these civil alliances
between Jews and Palestinians committing not to take
part in violence, even though everything was violated
in the process of few months. But finding these
documents and being able to read them
for what they were, if we suspend the constitution
of sovereignty that became a fait accompli already in
’48– so this is, for me, going to a pre-imperial moment,
but not before imperialism. It is all the options that are
made obsolete by imperialism to reactivate them. So the process of
unlearning is trying to imagine all these
formations from the past. So it’s not imagining and
inventing future possibilities, but imagining in a way that we
will be able to bring them back from the archive, or bring
them back from the squares, or bring them there back from
wherever they are eliminated by sovereignty. And by sovereignty, I
don’t mean one source of power of the sovereign. What I mean is us. And this is why I
speak about being citizen as a light weaponry
of differential sovereignty. So unlearning this. And I cannot not be a
citizen because I am citizen. This is what I said, if
I try not to be a citizen and to let the refugee come with
me to the archive, both of us will be punished. So it’s not upon each
individuals to change it, but this is where
we have to think about unlearning sovereignty. About our roles, and our
blurring of our roles. Thank you. Yet again, these two papers
worked beautifully together. I just want to– Thanks to the organizers. I want to say that Adi
did the programming, and he is the genius who’s
responsible for that. I wanted to– anyway,
very great papers. Each one had a moment of what
I see as critical audacity that seems to me at odds with the
ultimate aims of your paper. Ariella, I love this idea
of differential sovereignty. I’m glad you kind of mentioned
Sharon’s paper, which I think your paper is in a
kind of interesting dialectical relationship with. But the moment of– You mentioned what? I didn’t hear. Sharon’s paper. I mean, the concept of
differential sovereignty seems to me in something like
a dialectical relationship, to introduce a new
term, with her notion of non-sovereign agency. I don’t know how you’re
thinking about that. I mean, I’m sure you’ve been
thinking a lot about that since her paper. But the moment of audacity
I wanted to allude to was your opening gesture,
which is the attempt to address sovereignty from the
perspective of the non-citizen. Which is fascinating,
but it seems to be– it’s a large gesture. It’s a large move
that you’re making. And of course, it’s
predicated upon a whole set of linguistic
refusals on your part. The refusal of the notion
of the French Revolution. The refusal of the
term French Revolution. The refusal of the term
popular sovereignty. And there are several
other moments like that. And then kind of added to that
is this moment of, of course, interpretation. I mean, you’re
interpreting this play by de Gouges in very
interesting ways. A set of interpretive gestures–
monarchy is not omnipotent. Roles are prescribed for life. So there are a whole set
of interpretive gestures which seems to me in tension
with your underlying gesture– methodological
gesture– of thinking about sovereignty from the
perspective of the non-citizen. Which is, I suppose, from
a differentially sovereign perspective. So I wondered how you
would respond to that. And then James,
the moment that I thought had a kind of
moment of audacity to it is the moment when talking
about the Donne poem– it was absolutely
an aside, but you said that what you proposed
to say about the poem may sound more like ideological
mystification than it is. Or at least the
poem may sound more like ideological
mystification than it is. So in other words,
you’re setting aside the whole question of
ideological mystification, which is, I think, interesting. But again, it’s a moment of
interpretive sovereignty, which is interesting especially
given that the poem seems to me to be– I mean,
the freedom in question is freedom from
sovereignty it seems. Freedom from individuation,
but in fact freedom from sovereignty. So I wondered how
you would respond to that take on Donne’s poem. And I think it’s partly
what you were saying. But what I’m interested
in is the sort of tension, in a sense, that you’re both
struggling with as readers of literary texts,
and texts that are enmeshed in this complex
relationship to sovereignty. Thank you, Tim. Wow, again, a huge question. I’ll try– I am
not sure that I’ll be able to answer to all
the layers of your question, but I’ll try. I think that what motivates
me in this project– maybe besides many
other things– but in relation to your question
is, what does it mean to write, or to make research, or to be a
scholar when you’re a citizen, and you’re governed
differentially from other who are not citizens. This is the first question that
shapes everything that I do. In the archive, out of the
archive, when I read books, et cetera. So this is one side of the
beginning of the answer. The other side is
how to question these key political
concepts that, in the process of
500 years imposed a phenomenal field and an
epistemic apparatus that bound us– that condition us. We cannot think
about sovereignty– most of the on sovereignty start
with the way that sovereignty constitute itself. From its beginning. But its beginning is
always so late, so many years after the violence–
the imperial violence– that prepared the
terrain for the emergence of this sovereignty. So how do you
re-articulate slavery to the French Revolution? How you skip these moments
that Zizek will stand here on the stage and we
that the slaves should be grateful to their French
revolutionary for being freed? So the question is how
to rethink sovereignty not in its own terms. So in a process of
few years it led me to re-conceptualize
the archive. To reconceptualize–
understand that I have to think about the
conditions of thinking these key political terms. I cannot just think them, I have
to think about the conditions of thinking them. So I have to think about
temporality, spatiality, and body politic. Which leads me to understand
that I cannot study sovereignty upon its temporality
from its beginning, because its beginning is
massacre, enslavemeant, expulsion, et cetera, et cetera. So just to give an example,
when I read, for example to CLR James’s book
The Black Jacobins. First, it’s obvious
that it is not part of the French
Revolution, right? Because all the narratives
of the French Revolution do not account for Haiti being
part of the French Revolution. But what is
interesting is when I read CLR James,
that focuses mainly on Toussaint L’Ouverture,
in each and every page we have Toussaint L’Ouverture
in each and every slave. It’s not only Toussaint
L’Ouverture the figure, the Black Jacobin, but we
have Toussaint L’Ouverture in each and every page. Which means that what we
have there is all the time this struggle between
this movement to enslave, this movement to
impose sovereignty, and the counter movement
of resisting by the slaves. So what I’m trying
to conceptualize– what you identify as
a tension– is not to account for
sovereignty, but to account for the struggle of differential
sovereignty to impose itself and to eliminate
the other options. So when I’m speaking about
differential sovereignty, it’s not a poetic way to
speak about many differences. It’s a way to account for a
very concrete type of violence, which is that each
and every one of us is governed with
other people who are not counted on the stage
of the theater of sovereignty. I don’t know if I
answered you, but this will be the perspective
of the field from where my answer will emerge. OK, so just quickly with the
ideological mystification thing. Sometimes this poem,
Batter My Heart, is read as being about Donne’s
relationship with James I. The idea being
that he is kind of abject pathetic– a
flatterer, or something like that. I don’t think we have to
read the poem that way. But even if we do,
I think we can still say that there is something more
than ideological mystification going on here, because just
look at all the commands that the speaker of that poem
is issuing to his sovereign. He’s saying batter my
heart, divorce me– like, he is quite petulant so that
he does want to undermine his own– Dude. Is that D-U-D-E-E? He does want to undermine
his– like obviously to destroy himself. To undermine his
own sovereignty. But the manner in
which he does that– the declarative, imperative
manner in which he does that– would mean that in undoing
his own sovereignty, he would also undo his
sovereign’s sovereignty. So, yeah, that’s basically
what I would say. OK, just to know how much
time we’re working with, we have 12 minutes. I have three names. Does anyone else want
to add themselves to the list of names? [INAUDIBLE] Thank you very much
for both of the papers. Much to think about. My question is
for James’s paper, and I’m very sympathetic
to the larger project as many people might guess. I think I’m not entirely sure
where it’s headed, in so far as I wasn’t clear the extent
to which you want to say, well, there are some models
of freedom that are not antithetical to bondage. Or whether you want to say
those models of freedom that imagine themselves
as antithetical to bondage are, in fact, rather
simplistic models. But what I actually
wanted to ask about is, in the reading of
the two poems– and I want to give
a response that I’m not sure if I buy it or not,
but wondered how you responded– that first, in the reading
of Donne, that third line, “that I may rise and
stand” seems to me quite an assertive– I mean, I was
thinking about– Augustine keeps coming up, but sort
of Augustine in the garden, and the kind of prostrating
oneself in prayer. That’s not what’s going on. This is rising up and standing. That seems like a very
revolutionary kind of self-assertive act. And so how much this
is act violently such that I may be free
is– I think there would be more to say on that. I would be interested
to hear that. But even to the
extent that we do see this as just a movement
from one bondage to the other, then one might also
read Donne as just in a quite long-standing
Christian convention of his freedom is
found precisely in the proper
relationship with God. And part of me
wants to say, well, what’s surprising about
that, if we see it that way? But then the Philips, to
me, reads quite differently in that the intersubjectivity
that is crucial there is not a
horizontal relationship, but much more of a–
I’m sorry, is not a vertical relationship
but a much more horizontal relationship. So it’s quite crucial that the
titles can be shuffled, right? We stand in equal
relationships with each other. We are remade by
that, but why not– I guess I want to
see that as sort of roots for an intersubjective
conception of the subject and, ultimately, of freedom
in ways that sound a lot like some of Hegel’s more
romantic, early writings on love, for instance. And one might see as some of the
key roots of some of the people like Taylor, whom you want to
class as the communitarian. So it wasn’t clear
to me how much that’s really an alternative
trajectory, or some of the kind of thinking or
some of the strands of thought that get channeled
into some of what gets grouped as communitarian. Though as you said, most of them
reject that name and so forth. So I’m definitely relinquishing
mastery at this point, but I’ll try to– I
guess my question has to do with how religion plays
a part of both of your papers. And let me start with Ariella. I’m wondering why, in order
to make your argument, that you need to talk about
theatricality in relationship to sovereignty. And that because sovereignty
and theatricality, or spectacle, is so linked to Catholicism
and to the Baroque. And that then, of
course, re-emerges in the modern era in Benjamin as
the astheticization of politics and fascism. So I’m just wondering
why you need that. And of course, the text
I immediately think of, of course, is Rousseau’s
Letter to D’Alembert where there is this critique
of participatory democracy, but against theatricality. And for you, James,
I guess I want to ask– this sort of,
methodologically speaking, a kind of historical question,
or how you historically contextualize your argument
in invoking something like the Donne poem. Because as [? Than ?]
just said, this can be read in
terms of tropes that belong to a religious tradition
that wouldn’t seem particularly surprising. So then I would
ask why– now, it’s not that one can’t reuse
it for other purposes. Actually, a wonderful
use of the poem is in John Adams’s opera,
Doctor Atomic where– it’s the big moment where
Oppenheimer actually recites this, or sings it, in
relationship to science. And so the it’s not God but it’s
science that he’s engaged with, and to which he has
to submit, and it becomes very, very complicated. So I guess that it would
seem to me important in terms of your argument just
to think about how you would use these texts
in discussions about freedom and liberalism. I mean, I guess also
wouldn’t– I mean, I wrote a book on Masochism,
so I get very touchy about the thing, and I would not want
to– I wouldn’t want to read John Donne as a masochistic poem
because it’s a modern concept. I’m really going to
pass, because I was just going to ask Ariella to
say more about sovereignty, but you’ve done that. But if I could just
really quickly say that the line is, “that I may
rise and stand or throw me,” right? So James, you’ll
say more about that with more knowledge than I,
but it’s a fascinating line because you can’t be overthrown
unless you’re standing, but that comes later as it were. So that’s a way in which,
although lots of the poem sounds as though
it’s, as it were, giving orders, or
topping from the bottom, to pick up that trope. These dense moments are
fascinatingly hard to place. This will be quick. I’ll just say a word Ariella. You know, I’m very
sympathetic, of course, with a lot of what
you’re arguing. But I wonder why you don’t also
look at the nation state form. I mean, you’re looking at what
hap– you’re really emphasizing imperialism, and
the imperialist past or erasures that paved the way
for– enslavements that pay the way for sovereign power. But I think the nation state
form itself is problematic. I mean, even if you could
disentangle it somehow from an imperial past, because
there is a kind of exclusion that’s intrinsic to
nation state polities, and that is the distinction
between citizen and foreigner. In other words,
there is no– I mean it’s especially nation states. And I think that becomes
particularly difficult when nation states define themselves
in ethnonational terms, where the nation is
actually an ethnonation. But even in the cases
of civic nationalism, or civic polity– civic
national polities– the nation state is less
than the entire world, right? So there are always going
to be those exclusions. So that, to me, adds
another set of problems. And that, I don’t
think those exclusions you’re not going to be able
to escape if you stay with, or embrace in some way,
the nation state form. So I guess that I was just
thinking about the nation state form as being important
to look at in addition to, or in conjunction with
looking at imperialism and imperial histories. I also caught you
sometimes saying, well, we need a different
kind of sovereignty. Maybe I got that wrong. I mean, I know you’re talking
differentiated sovereign power, which I love that whole concept. But you said we have
to imagine– sometimes I think you are looking for
alternative sovereignties, or you may even
mention that phrase, and I’m wondering
why not just– why look for alternative
models of sovereign power? Why not be more
radical than that? And make the argument that
there’s something fundamentally problematic about the desire
for a sovereign power– the desire for power that
takes a sovereign form. And I’ll just end
with saying that I do agree with Suzanne that,
I think on the one hand the theatrical– it’s really fun
to begin to think about being on the stage of
politics, and who has to be offstage,
who’s consigned to the role of sweeping up, and
who is center stage, and so on. But I think that one
problem I have with that is that– where was
I going with this? I just lost it, so forget it. Forget it, yeah,
I’m done– sorry. So we technically
have two minutes left. One minute? Given that there’s
no [INAUDIBLE]. I’ll do my best. All yours. It’s all mine, OK. So Suzanne, why do I
speak about theatricality? Thank you for both
questions, of course. I’ll do it short. Why do I speak
about theatricality? I don’t speak
about theatricality as what is performed on
stage for an audience. So I’m not speaking
about spectacle. I’m speaking about what
I take from theater is the division of role. This is only what I
take from theater. And the division of role is
what stabilizes sovereignty, and what, in the first phase of
sovereignty that usually is not associated with sovereignty,
it is enforced upon people to become slaves, to
become indentured workers, to become whatever. I made a very long list earlier. So this is my very
short answer to you. And my try very short answer
to you, Joan, is you ask me why don’t you look
at the nation state. My whole discussion of
sovergnty– differential soverignty– is about
the nation state. I didn’t discuss
it here, but it is about– differential
sovereignty is the nation state. I understand that,
but I’m saying that even if you were
to get rid of all– somehow unwind, and transform
all those other relationships that were rooted in imperialism,
in imperialist erasures, colonialism, and so on. You’d still have
one differentiation that you couldn’t get rid of
in a nation state form, which is the distinction between
the citizen and the foreigner. Which then, very
quickly, produces a whole set of new problems. But the nation state
is post-imperialism. I mean, not post-imperialism,
it is part of imperialism. Right, but– well,
anyway we can– OK, and the other
question, let me just address the other question. You ask me why not
to be more radical and not speak about sovereignty. I insist on speaking about
different type of sovereignty because what I’m trying to do
is once I qualify sovereignty, and I say that
all of what remain or what was consolidated in
all these 200 nation states that the globe is
covered with today is differential sovereignty. But along these 500
years of history, people struggled all the
time to create and to impose different formations. But maybe not
sovereign formations. So what I’m trying
to do is to account for their political formations. And with that, what I’m trying
to associate with alternative sovereign formations
is not sovereignty reduced to the source
of power of a sovereign, but the way that people imagine
together their common life based on the idea
of co-citizenship. And you see it in
maroon societies, and you see it–
if I had more time, I would reconstruct the
non-differential sovereignty that was in the
process of being shaped in Palestine from the moment
when partition was imposed until the state was created. In 10 months Jews
and Palestinians all around Palestine
struggle to commit themselves to the local political
formations that they had, and not to submit all of them
to one single sovereignty, which is differential sovereignty. So I insist on
accounting– when I’m speaking about
going to the archive or studying with
my companions, it’s because I want to account for
all these long lasting efforts of other people prior to
my appearance in the world. They struggled for
many things, and I think that there is a huge
reparatory to account for, and to imagine not
a new sovereignty, but what they tried
to defend when they struggled imperialism. So all these anti-imperial
formation along 500 years, from me, are
reparatory to imagine alternative sovereign formations
based on the body politic, not on the source
of the sovereign. I’ll make this really quick. What I’ll just say about
Donne is that, yes, there is a conventional
aspect to this poem. Although I also
think that there are quite unconventional aspects,
like when he asks God to ravish him– you’re not going to
find that in his sermons, for example– in
Donne’s sermons. So it’s conventional
in some ways, unconventional in other ways. And then with
respect to masochism, and whether it’s just not right
to use a concept that comes up after Sacher-Masoch and
start talking about that in relationship to
Donne, I will just say that I don’t think–
A, if I couldn’t do stuff like that I wouldn’t
have a career, and B, there’s no reason
for us, I don’t think, to legislate in advance what
a text from an earlier period can or can’t say. I agree with that. I would agree with that. OK, sweet. All right. On this note of sweet agreement
I want to thank our panelists, and also reiterate these
thanks to all the participants.

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