This article attributes the conception of 'freedom-without-power' which dominates contemporary Western political philosophy to a reification of social agency that mystifies contexts of human capacities and achievements. It suggests that Plato's analogy between the structure of the soul and the polis shows how freedom is a consequence, rather than a condition, of political relations, mediated by inter-subjective contestation. From this basis, the article draws on the work of Raymond Geuss to argue against pre-political ethical frameworks in political philosophy, in favour of a more contextually sensitive, self-critical approach to ethics. Such reciprocal ethical-political integration addresses problems of ideological complicity that may arise if freedom is discretely abstracted from history and power in political philosophy. Finally, the article roughly reconstructs a critical account of African identity from writings of Steven Biko to illuminate symptoms of 'meritocratic apartheid' in South Africa today which Thad Metz's influential pre-political conception of ubuntu obscures, by abstracting the figure of African personhood from politically significant historical conditions.
Freedom, without Power
Sexual Performativity and Gender Dissidence in Dickens's Dombey and Son
This essay considers some of the implications of a critical turn from a concern with a 'political technology of the body' in the Foucauldian sense to one with embodied micropractices. I will contend here that a critique of social experiences that is conceptualised through attention to individualised, or intersubjective, corporeal practices, is necessarily limited. A critical focus on the affective or performative self potentially colludes with a political agenda that privileges the bourgeois concept of individuality over that of collectivity, and performative micropractices over the transformation of social relationships on a structural level. This article approaches these issues by investigating two forms of sexual deviance, enacted by the figures of Paul and Edith Dombey, in Dombey and Son - a text that explores the problematic of nineteenthcentury gender-specific discipline and resistance, but also a narrative that points to the conceptual limitations resulting from individualised notions of embodiment and embodied resistance. I will suggest that this novel codes Paul and Edith's resistance to Dombey's regime of gender-discipline as specifically physical and sexualised forms of deviance.
In 1968, at the height of political unrest in Europe and North America, in the heyday of French existentialism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis, Emmanuel Levinas published an essay curiously opposed to the emerging “canon” of the time, in defence of humanism. Both with and against psychoanalysis’ and structuralism’s decentring of the subject and the Marxist critiques of bourgeois humanism, Levinas called for a different conception of humanism. He suggested that humanism had never been truly humanist because metaphysics (and ethics) had given priority to a conception of subjectivity characterized exclusively by activity and rationality. But Levinas did not toll the death knell of reason; rather he suggested that the rationalist subjectivity of humanism and idealism covered over depths of our intersubjective life. Against these, he proposed a humanism whose beginning would not be the self-positing of the ego, but rather would lie in the peculiar character of our sensuous vulnerability to other human beings. This vulnerability – whose ethical implications can be elucidated by an inquiry into the possibility of the sentiments of responsibility and obligation – belongs to a philosophical anthropology characterized by a certain optimism. Such an optimism is envisionable for Levinas even in the wake of skepticism over the meaning and coherence of ethical judgement. Thus, in the following passage Levinas summarizes his conception of the subject and the starting point of his humanism, using the Fichtean ego (inter alia) as its foil.
Drowning and Prosopopæia in Later Dickens
The way in which the judgements of the landmark 1860 case Rylands v. Fletcher employed the English language to attempt some kind of clear notion of liability is representative of a much wider cultural anxiety over the status of water as a live, conscious and capriciously dangerous agent. I will suggest that the Victorians' emergent fear of wild and live water represents a kind of cultural imaginary that predetermines Dickens's use of prosopopoeic figurative language. The novels that I will draw upon, principally David Copperfield and Our Mutual Friend, both take the trope of drowning as their focal rhetoric. Because the idea of water being embodied as a feral animal emerged around the 1850s, I will deploy some of Dickens's earlier work that uses the same trope of drowning, but in a more simplified way which envisioned water as the passive recipient of the drownee. As a result of the cultural idea of a live and conscious water, Dickens's later novels and journalism can be seen to be exploring an inherently queer notion of intersubjectivity; as the drownee meets their fate, their body's boundaries become permeable, they and the water which 'takes' them become intermingled. The water takes their life and it dissolves their identity. Dickens's later work and Rylands v. Fletcher both play their part in articulating this wider cultural anxiety and phenomenological presence of water as live monstrosity. Moreover, Dickens's use of water as embodied, raging and stampeding agent, raises some fascinating questions surrounding the taboo nature of gender, sexuality and subjectivity in Victorian culture.
the common equation of sociality with collectivity neglects the fragile forms of sociality that emerge when people are faced with uncertain futures. Several contributions go beyond human intersubjectivity to explore how humans and non-humans are
The Role of (Liberated) Embodied Simulation
” (2017: 63). Seventeen years ago, when introducing the “shared manifold” hypothesis of intersubjectivity, I made a similar proposal to operationalize the investigation of intersubjectivity and social cognition according to three levels of description
Mette Louise Berg, Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, and Johanna Waters
taking their point of departure in migrants’ intersubjective, everyday processes of meaning-making. They explore migrants’ complex routes and journeys, including protracted experiences of being stuck in transit, demonstrating the constant interplay
Ugly Emotions and the Politics of Accusation
Geoffrey Hughes, Megnaa Mehtta, Chiara Bresciani, and Stuart Strange
greed thus reveal the latent and unsettling power of accusation to reconfigure all of others’ affects and to create negative or disrupted intersubjectivity ( Strange 2018 ). We seek to understand how such accusations can be both sites of political
How an International Student Dorm in Copenhagen Became a Closed Circuit during COVID-19
spread of COVID-19 have dramatically altered the ways in which ethnographic fieldwork as understood in anthropology – that is, rooted in physical co-presence and intersubjectivity – can be carried out. In a recent article on this issue, Magdalena Góralska
Christopher J. Allsobrook
identify sites of domination and resistance, it is best, he argues, to combine these insights with his own ‘genealogical, inter-subjective and contextualist account of the determination and satisfaction of human needs’ (2014: 11). Hamilton is adamant that