In a little remembered event in December 1961, Sartre entered into a debate with Roger Garaudy, as well as other representatives of the Parti Communiste Française (PCF), on the topic of the existence of a universal dialectical law applicable to nature as well as to human thought. In the debate, Sartre seeks to rebut the notion that humankind is merely an “alien addition“ to nature, as Engels maintained, and instead argues that individual subjectivity cannot be reduced to an object of knowledge. This paper highlights the importance of the debate for both sides, but particularly for Sartre and his Critique of Dialectical Reason.
As an attempt to formulate epistemological boundaries (“que peut-on savoir d'un homme, aujourd'hui?”), for which Gustave Flaubert becomes a test-case, L'Idiot de la famille (1971-1972) can be seen simultaneously as the exemplification of a method and as a re-assertion and further development of Sartre's theory of subjectivity. This article proposes to approach the issue of Sartre's notion of human subjectivity in L'Idiot from the particular angle of the idea of “destiny.” It will be argued that the term “destin” provides a focal point for multiple visions of subjectivity as it contains at least three layers of meaning: firstly, Sartre's representation of Flaubert's idea of his life as predetermined destiny; secondly, Sartre's analysis of destiny as a situation created by others; and finally, an understanding of destiny which is close to the notion of the project. It will be argued that precisely the mutual interdependence of these terms is an expression of Sartre's conception of alienation and the possibility of freedom.
This article analyzes local concerns with nature and natural changes in response to the tsunami of 2004 based on anthropological fieldwork in the South Indian fishing village of Tharangambadi. It explores the fishermen's effort to restore confidence in their environment after the disaster, and argues that this entails a subtle strategy of relating to climate and weather that aims at gradually transferring the rupture of the tsunami to a more manageable pattern of seasonal variation. In analytical terms, the article investigates how the fishermen work to reassert their subjectivity in the aftermath of the overwhelming disaster through operating with different perspectives on their environment. In conclusion, the article suggests that these shifting perspectives more generally reflect notions of different intensities of change and creative local modes of adaptation ensuing from a disruption like the tsunami.
When remembering the past, the past appears as my own. After all, I cannot properly speaking recollect any other past than the one that I have lived, even though I can remember events from the historical past and from personal histories recounted to me by others. Authentic recollection occurs necessarily in the first person, i.e. I remember myself in given situations, circumstances and places. Recollection is therefore a cogito experience par excellence, despite the fact that I may have become estranged from my past engagements, emotional attachments or culinary preferences. The difference between myself in the past and myself in the present does not put the underlying identity of one life into question. Memory affirms my personal identity, despite the temporal difference and in that difference, it appears therefore as a privileged context for inquiry into subjective life and possibly even as the ground for upholding the contested notion of “the subject.”1 No wonder then that the way philosophers theorize memory is indicative of their conception of subjectivity as a whole. In what follows, I turn to Sartre and to Husserl with the aim of unveiling how their accounts of recollection resolve the question of identity and difference within the temporality of a subjective life. Tracing Sartre’s arguments against Husserl’s, as well as Husserl’s and Sartre’s own presentations of recollection, I inquire into the reasons that incited them to bring either the aspect of sameness or otherness at the heart of subjective life into view.
Hegel associates 'subjective' freedom with various rights, all of which concern the subject's particularity, and with the demand that this particularity be accorded proper recognition within the modern state. I show that Hegel's account of subjective freedom can be assimilated to the 'positive' model of freedom that is often attributed to him because of the way in which the objective determinations of right (Recht) recognise the subject's particularity in the form of individual welfare. To this extent, the practical constraints to which individuals are subject in the modern state are not purely external ones, and the freedom which they enjoy within it is not merely subjective in kind. In exploring the role of certain practical forms of necessity in Hegel's account of civil society I show, however, that Hegel points to the existence of a group of people, the poor, who must be thought to lack subjective freedom, because they will experience the constraints to which they are subject as purely external ones. He also suggests the existence of a form of freedom that is merely subjective in kind, because it consists in a sense of absence of constraint that fails to reflect fully the practical forms of necessity that underlie civil society and constrain an individual's actions. The importance of the concept of necessity in Hegel's Philosophy of Right, as highlighted in the paper, demonstrates, moreover, that the emphasis on freedom found in recent interpretations of Hegel's social and political philosophy needs to be counterbalanced by greater recognition of the role played in it by this concept.
This article investigates direct-to-consumer advertising in Sweden for Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, as a contemporary gendered technology of the adolescent girl body. It explores how, by constructing girls as ideal users of the vaccine, advertising campaigns encourage adolescent girls to vaccinate themselves. Using a feminist visual discourse analysis, the article examines how different girl subjectivities are constructed through advertising, and presented as fit for Gardasil use and consumption. It highlights how, along with their parents, adolescent girls in Sweden are encouraged to assume responsibility for managing the risks of cervical cancer in order to help secure their future health, sexuality and normality. It argues that the Gardasil campaign, in being addressed to individual members of the population, serves to articulate global and national discourses of girlhood, sexuality, (sexual) health responsibility, risk management and consumption.
Disorientation, Travel, and Urban Space
Using a 2010 trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, this article looks at the ways that disorientation is used as a trope within the urban environment and to create the traveling subject. Suggesting that travel is a form of deliberate disorientation/ orientation, the article focuses on ideas of disorientation within the urban environment and the ways they have been portrayed in Western cultural forms (the flâneur; the dérive) while suggesting these forms are not sufficient to understand the dynamics of travel. Moreover, the article focuses on two forms of travel as disorientation derived from John Zilcosky—the trope of being "lost and found" and that of "the return." Finally, the article suggests that Marcus Auge's idea of non-place is not only a sufficient way of conceptualizing contemporary notions of travel, but is also an indicator of something beyond its scope—that of globalization.
On Claiming Land in South Africa
In the context of transitional justice, how does the reinvented state come to be assumed as a social fact? South African land restitution interpellates victims of apartheid- and colonial-era forced removals as claimants, moral and legal subjects of a virtuous 'new' state. In the emotional narratives of loss and suffering called forth in land claim forms, the state is addressed as a subject capable of moral engagement. Claim forms also 'capture' affects related to the event of forced removals as an unstable political resource. However, within an ultimately legal and bureaucratic process, the desire for recognition is typically not reciprocated. Moreover, material settlements are indefinitely delayed due to political and institutional complications. The resulting disillusionment is counterweighed by persistent aspirations for state redress.
This article examines the voter registration card and the social context of voter registrations in the Gambia, West Africa. Drawing on recent ethnographies of documents and using data on worries over foreigners’ efforts to fraudulently obtain voter registration cards, a public information campaign on the Gambian electoral process, international legal material on the Gambian democracy, and observations at voter registration stations, the article argues that the voter registration card delineates not only a national subject but also a generic political subject. This subject is characterized by a commitment to a bureaucratic process and an appreciation of the card as an official identification document inseparable from the person it identifies. The article also considers how the voter registration process allows Gambians to compare their experiences to citizens of other countries. In a political context of an authoritarian government and a weak rule of law, this comparison offers an ideal of a modern democratic state that both enables criticism of the Gambia’s present situation and confirms the centrality of a generic political subject to the realization of that ideal.