Jodi Dean and Davide Panagia
We open this issue with a symposium responding to the tenth anniversary of the English language publication of Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. Entitled “Form-of-Life: Giorgio Agamben, Ontology and Politics,” the symposium is guest-edited by Richard Bailey, Daniel McLoughlin, and Jessica Whyte. It features Agamben’s “Introductory Note on the Concept of Democracy” and articles by Ewa Plonowska Ziarek, Justin Clemens, Jessica Whyte, Daniel McLoughlin, Nina Power, and Brett Neilson.
The articles in issue 13.1 address war, violence, and terror. The first three take up differing assemblages of human and machine. Roy Scranton’s “Memories of My Green Machine: Posthumanism at War” reformats Ernst Jünger’s man-machine symbiosis via Scranton’s own experience as a soldier in Iraq. Rejecting approaches to war caught within the binary of trauma and normalization, Scranton positions the fighting man as animal-become-machine. He provides thereby a phenomenological approach to the post-human that grapples with the diminution of human possibility.
Banu Bargu accentuates the idea of humans as weapons, focusing her inquiry on Carl Schmitt’s theory of the partisan. In “Unleashing the Acheron: Sacrificial Partisanship, Sovereignty, and History,” Bargu turns to Schmitt for insight into contemporary forms of struggle wherein fighters are willing to go to their deaths for the sake of the imagination of new forms of life.
The third of the pieces on violence and war is from Chad Shomura, who offers the concept of “homopolitics” as an abstract machine generating and relying upon an in/human regulatory ideal. His article “‘These Are Bad People’ – Enemy Combatants and the Homopolitics of the ‘War on Terror’” highlights the figure of “humanity” in terror discourse. It attends to the possibilities for contestation that accompany even the seemingly absolute distinction between good and evil rhetorically mobilized as terrorism’s assault on human values.
Jinee Lokaneeta also sets her analysis in the contemporary U.S. war on terror. In “Torture Debates in the post-9/11 Unites States: Law, Violence, and Governmentality,” Lokaneeta argues that the concept of the state of exception does not help our understanding of U.S. torture discourse, especially with respect to discussions focused on the U.S. camp at Guantanamo Bay. More useful, she argues, is the liberal distinction between law and violence, in general, and the idea of excess violence, in particular. The latter indexes that shifting, negotiated field of violence the liberal state attempts to define but never quite succeeds. Insofar as liberal governmentality takes up the problem of violence, and insofar as the question of its use is crucial to the liberal art of governing, then excess violence is not external to the liberal state. It is at its very core.George Ciccariello-Maher approaches violence from a different perspective, one informed by the work of Franz Fanon and amplified by the contemporary Venezuelan revolutionary process. In “Jumpstarting the Decolonial Engine: Symbolic Violence from Fanon to Chávez,” he traces the theory of symbolic decolonial violence that extends from Black Skin, White Masks to The Wretched of the Earth. Ciccariello-Maher summarizes this theory as “making oneself known,” a process that involves not just a claim for reciprocity but a prior assertion of alterity. To appear, one has to appear as other, an act that for racialized subjects is necessarily violent. Anti-colonial and anti-racist struggle depends on establishing a clear division and opposition, an argument Ciccariello-Maher wields powerfully against those opponents of Hugo Chávez who would accuse Chávez of polarization. Of course he is polarizing – that is the point.
The last of the articles in this issue continues the thematic of polarization and partisanship as it offers a new reading of Foucault’s 1976 lectures, Society Must Be Defended. In “War against Biopower,” Amedeo Policante presents Foucault’s historicism as a form of counterknowledge that is “perspectival, bellicose, and irreducibly partisan.” Historicism, Policante contends, offers a matrix of knowledge important in the struggle against biopower.
In the review section, James R. Martel reviews Samantha Frost’s Lessons from a Materialist Thinker: Hobbesian Reflections on Ethics and Politics; Samantha Frost reviews James R. Martel’s Subverting the Leviathan: Reading Thomas Hobbes as a Radical Democrat; and, P.J. Brendese reviews Thomas Dumm’s Loneliness as a Way of Life.
"Philosophy's sole aim is to become worthy of the event." Gilles
Theory & Event: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/tae/