February 20, 2007

Weak Ontology, Strong Generosity In a critique of Scott Eric Kaufman's draft paper on the history of theory in literary studies (which I haven't read; I recommend, though, the terrific discussion over at Rough Theory) Eileen Joy rightly draws attention to Stephen White's discussion of weak ontology. Indeed, to my mind, Scott's emphasis (as channeled by N. Pepperell) on "an aggressive commitment to strong beliefs, weakly held" is more akin to William Connolly's ethos of pluralization and commitment to the cultivation of an ethos of generosity (White discusses Connolly's work in detail in Sustaining Affirmation; White's notion of weak ontology in fact draws heavily from Connolly and attempts to mediate between Connolly's Deleuze-indebted 'immanent naturalism' and the work of other political theorists--in particular, Charles Taylor, Judith Butler, and George Kateb). Is this interesting primarily as a matter of academic pedantry or turf warfare (along the lines of "gee, political theorists have already been talking about this for quite a while")? Perhaps. But there could be more at stake. Differently put, that Connolly has worked out these notions in several books that have been the subject of sustained discussion among political theorists for the last decade might shed light on potential ramifications of an "aggressive commitment to strong beliefs weakly held" (it is also likely that the disciplinary difference here is significant--Scott says that literary theorists are more interested in imagined worlds; political theorists, for all our engagement with ideals, remain imbricated in this one, for better or worse). Here are a few possibilities: 1....

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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