Friday, April 16, 2010

Bullet-Point Friday: Spring Writing Projects

  • The online academic journal borderlands out of Australia will publish my review essay of Lisa Guenther's The Gift of the Other: Levinas and the Politics of Reproduction next month. I'll post a link as soon as the new issue is up. This is really an exceptional work of philosophy and scholarship.
  • Last Saturday afternoon I presented an excerpt of my article "Facing ('and yet not facing') East: Reorienting Levinas Toward the Buddhist No-Self" at the 43rd Annual Conference of the North Texas Philosophical Association. The longer version of this article will be published in my forthcoming co-edited volume Levinas and Asian Thought some time next year. I've spent the majority of my "second spring break" reviewing the submissions to this volume, and I have to say I'm pleased with the quality of papers we've received.
  • Here is my abstract for an essay entitled "The State of Emergency: Power, Terror, and the Problem of Resistance" I submitted to the Radical Philosophy Association Conference:

    In his eighth thesis on the philosophy of history, written during the spring of 1940, Walter Benjamin writes,
    One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.
    Can we say the same of terrorism in the twenty-first century? Is it simply our view of history that we somehow have gotten wrong? In this essay, I approach the issue of contemporary terrorism and its affect on knowledge by examining the philosophical discourse of power and terror as well as exploring how terror acts as yet one more articulation of power itself.
    Arguing against the humanist tradition that would split knowledge and power into separate spheres, Michel Foucault asserts, “knowledge and power are integrated with one another.” Still, terror, much like Foucault’s notion of the State, is dispersed: individuals are simply nodes, or articulations, of power confined within a closed, yet nevertheless ubiquitous network. For Foucault, the exercise of power is never wholly negative: although one aspect of power is repressive, power nevertheless does generate new knowledge. But there seems to be an ethical disconnect in comparing terror-power to state-power: would Foucault himself even be able to maintain that the exercise of such terror-power cannot only be in negative terms, particularly to Benjamin, who was literally fleeing the “negative exercise of power” of the Third Reich as he penned the thesis cited above?
    Benjamin implicates our view of history in the production of fascism. Furthermore, he seems to be suggesting—much like Foucault—that with a complete shift in our understanding of history and knowledge, a new power might be possible. But the usefulness of a terror-knowledge appears flawed at best. Is a terror-knowledge something we (should) want? Within the notion of power, in its dispersal, it seems that an interrogation of terror-power (even if that terror-power is the selfsame state-power, as in Benjamin’s case) would be a possible means of understanding both Foucault’s and Benjamin’s conflicting notions of resistance as well as their views on any efficacy of an agentic subject contained and restrained by that resistance. In this project, I hope to move toward an answer to these more abstract questions by addressing the following issues: the nature and ontological category of terror-power, the systemic violence of ontology, the possibility of a terror-knowledge, and the problem of resistance.
    It's a topic I've been working through and thinking about for the past few years. We'll see if it's "radical" enough to be accepted.
  • I've had a poem published in our literary journal Sojourn. I can't remember the last time I submitted something creative for publication, especially a poem. Years ago I fancied myself a poet. Blah!
  • My dissertation has been at a standstill for the past few months as I complete these other projects in hopes of beginning an academic career after defending this autumn.

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