Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Summer 2000

Volume 26 Issue 4
    • 641Leo Bersani
    • Nothing, it would seem, is more difficult than to conceive, to elaborate, and to put into practice "new relational modes." Foucault used this expression to define what he thought of as our most urgent ethical project, one in which gays, according to him, were destined to play a privileged role. Indeed, in an interview published in 1981 in the French magazine Gai pied, he went so far as to argue—against what we might call psychoanalytic common sense—that what disturbs people about homosexuality is not "the sexual act itself" but rather "the homosexual mode of life," which Foucault associated with "the formation of new alliances and the tying together of unforeseen lines of force." Such alliances, such lines of force would somehow escape "the two readymade formulas"—both perfectly consistent with the normalizing coercions of the dominant culture—"of the pure sexual encounter and the lovers' fusion of identities." But we should remember that the "new ways of being together"—which, apparently, neither genital nor psychic intimacy would help us to imagine—are for the most part as yet "unforeseen." Foucault seems to have thought of cultural subversion and renewal as inherent in homosexuality, but, to a large extent, it is also something not yet realized. Homosexuality "is not a form of desire but something desirable. Therefore," he went on, "we have to work at becoming homosexuals." In so doing, we might, curiously and impressively, help to bring heterosexuals closer to what Foucault also called "a manner of being that is still improbable.”

      See also: Leo Bersani, “The Culture of Redemption": Marcel Proust and Melanie Klein  ·  Leo Bersani, “I Can Dream, Can't I?”

      Leo Bersani's books include The Freudian Body (1986), The Culture of Redemption (1990), Homos (1995), and most recently Caravaggio's Secrets and Caravaggio/Jarman (with U. Dutoit, 1998, 1999).

    • 657Slavoj Žižek
    • How are we to unravel this paradox of mourning an object that is not yet lost, that is still here? The key to this enigma resides in Freud's precise formulation, according to which the melancholic is not aware of what he had lost in the lost object.8 One has to introduce here the Lacanian distinction between the object and the (object-) cause of desire: while the object of desire is simply the desired object, the cause of desire is the feature on account of which we desire the desired object (some detail or tic, which we are usually unaware of and sometimes even misperceive as the obstacle, as that in spite of which we desire the object). From this perspective, the melancholic is not primarily the subject fixated on the lost object, unable to perform the work of mourning, but rather the subject who possesses the object but has lost his desire for it because the cause that made him desire this object has withdrawn, lost its efficiency. Far from accentuating to the extreme the situation of the frustrated de-sire, of the desire deprived of its object, melancholy rather stands for the presence of the object itself deprived of the desire for itself. Melancholy occurs when we finally get the desired object, but are disappointed in it. In this precise sense, melancholy (disappointment at all positive, observable objects, none of which can satisfy our desire) effectively is the beginning of philosophy.

      · 8. See Sigmund Freud, "Trauer und Melancholie" (1917), in Psychologie des Unbewußten, ed. Angela Richards, vol. 3 of Studienausgabe (Frankfurt am Main, 1975), p. 199.

      See also:  Slavoj Žižek, A Plea for a Return to Différance (with a Minor Pro Domo Sua)  ·  Slavoj Žižek, Against the Populist Temptation

      Slavoj Zizek, a philosopher and Lacanian psychoanalyst, is senior researcher in the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. He is editor of Cogito and the Unconscious (1998) and author of The Indivisible Remainder: An Essay on Schelling and Related Matters (1996), The Plague of Fantasies (1997), and The Fragile Absolute, or Why Is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? (2000). His previous contribution to Critical Inquiry is "A Leftist Plea for Eurocentrism" (Summer 1998).

    • 682Robert Kaufman
    • I want in this essay to advance a claim that may seem at odds with anti-aesthetic exploration of artistic and critical history. Put simply, there is good cause to question a foundational assumption here, namely, that Kantian, romantic, and modernist aesthetics do ideologically deform the real, the material, and the historical by turning them first into art and then into the latter's ideology. A strong case presents itself that, on the contrary, assumptions or articulations of ideological deformation themselves deform or misrepresent the aesthetic. This deformation or misrepresentation stems from a tendency—tracing itself back at least to the tangled reception histories of Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"—to posit an identity between the aesthetic and the different (though certainly related) phenomenon of aestheticization.

      See also: Robert Kaufman, Negatively Capable Dialectics: Keats, Vendler, Adorno, and the Theory of the Avant-Garde

      Robert Kaufman is assistant professor of English at Stanford University. He is presently completing two related studies, Negative Romanticism, Almost Modernity: Keats, Shelley, and Adornian Critical Aesthetics and Experiments in Construction: Frankfurt School Aesthetics and Contemporary Poetry. He has also begun work on a third project, "Hamlet"'s Form of the Modern.

    • 725Oren Yiftachel
    • Why do leaders of towns support further Jewish settlement activity? This, I suggest, reflects the dependent and insecure position of peripheral Mizrahim within the Israeli ethnocracy, which has cornered them into taking a territorial-nationalistic and prosettlement (that is, anti-Palestinian) position. This impedes their ability to voice opposition and to challenge policies that clearly affect them adversely.

      See also:  Daniel Boyarin and Jonathan Boyarin, Daspora: Generation and the Ground of Jewish Identity

      Oren Yiftachel is associate professor and chair of the department of geography and environmental development at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, and is a research fellow at the Negev Center for Regional Development. He is author of Planning a Mixed Region in Israel: The Political Geography of Arab-Jewish Relations in the Galilee (1992) and Planning as Control: Policy and Resistance in a Deeply Divided Society (1995) and editor of Ethnic Frontiers and Peripheries: Landscapes of Development and Inequality in Israel (with Avinoam Meir) (1998) and The Power of Planning (2000).

    • 757Dan Rabinowitz
    • Whether one is fond of the political economy engendered by globalization in late capitalism or not, it obviously plays a growing role in determining our futures. Whatever solutions to the conflict are attempted, they will have to take into account the powerful dynamics of globalization. The scenario of corporate peace, in which barriers to trade, capital, investment, migration, and labor are erased and reinstated at will by giant economic players controlling politics and politicians, may be unattractive. Dismissing it, however, will not make it go away or mitigate its consequences.

      The cultural implications of transnationalism and globalization include a redefinition of the nexus between place and identity and a need to unpack the hitherto unproblematized connection between territory, ethnos, and state. In this essay I therefore highlight the contribution of diasporas to deterritorialization and explore the relevance of this dynamic to Palestine/Israel.

      See also: Daniel Boyarin and Jonathan Boyarin, Diaspora: Generation and the Ground of Jewish Identity  ·  Dan Rabinowitz, The Right to Refuse: Abject Theory and the Return of Palestinian Refugees

      Dan Rabinowitz is senior lecturer in anthropology in the department of sociology and anthropology at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. His most recent books are Overlooking Nazareth (1997) and Anthropology and the Palestinians (1998).

    • 798Jonathan Auerbach
    • A certain kind of early movie, circa 1903: A man, perhaps impatient for something to happen or perhaps reacting to something already happening, begins running. Others follow after him, until all figures exit the frame, one by one. The action is repeated in the next shot, and then again, and then again, shot after shot showing a man and his pursuers running over hill and dale, from one scene to another. The chase proves immensely popular, and so it is imitated/copied/reproduced by other filmmakers until one sues another for copyright infringement. The legal case raises important questions about the ontology and ownership of the moving image. In this essay I examine three related modes of repetition—within the shot, between shots, and between films—in order to suggest a somewhat different way to think about narrative in early cinema, with implications for film history more generally. Analyzing patterns of reiteration will also let us appreciate how the human body in motion, projected on screen, helped early filmmakers and their audiences to master emerging codes of intelligibility.

      See also: Rae Beth Gordon, From Charcot to Charlot: Unconscious Imitation and Spectatorship in French Cabaret and Early Cinema

      Jonathan Auerbach is professor of English at the University of Maryland. His publications include The Romance of Failure (1989) and Male Call: Becoming Jack London (1996). He is currently writing a book on reality effects in early cinema.

    • 821Susan Buck-Morss
    • Why is ending the silence on Hegel and Haiti important? Given He-gel's ultimate concession to slavery's continuance—moreover, given the fact that Hegel's philosophy of history has provided for two centuries a justification for the most complacent forms of Eurocentrism (Hegel was perhaps always a cultural racist if not a biological one)—why is it of more than arcane interest to retrieve from oblivion this fragment of history, the truth of which has managed to slip away from us?

      See also: Susan Buck-Morss, Envisioning Capital: Political Economy on Display

      Susan Buck-Morss is professor of political philosophy and social theory in the department of government, Cornell University, and Visiting Distinguished Professor in the Public Intellectuals Program, Florida Atlantic University. She is a curator for the art project inSITE 2000 in Tijuana/San Diego. Her books include Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (2000) and The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (1989).