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Postmodernism in Parallax Author(s): Hal Foster Reviewed work(s): Source: October, Vol. 63 (Winter, 1993), pp.

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Postmodernism in Parallax*

HAL FOSTER

The darling ofjournalism, it has Whateverhappened to postmodernism? Not so long ago the opposite was the case; become the Baby Jane of criticism. on the leftsaw grand thingsin the term.For Jean-Frangois prominenttheorists Lyotard postmodernismmarked an end to the masternarrativesthat had long made modernityseem synonymouswith progress (the march of reason, the the emancipationof workaccumulation of wealth,the advance of technology, ers, and so on), while for FredricJameson postmodernisminviteda new narrative,or rather a renewed Marxian critiquethat mightrelate different stages of modern culture to different modes of capitalistproduction. For me as for many others,postmodernismsignaled a need to break withan exhausted modernism, the dominant model of which focused on the formalvalues of art to the neglectnot onlyof itshistorical determinations but also of itstransformative - especially Thus even withinthe left withinthe left possibilities. postmodernism was a disputed category.And yet, not so long ago, there was a time of a loose alliance, a sense of a common project,especiallyin opposition to rightist (as the source of positions,which ranged fromold attackson modernismin toto all evil in our hedonisticsociety)to new defensesof particularmodernismsthat had become official,indeed traditional,the modernismsof the museum and the academy. For this last position postmodernism could only be "the revenge of the philistines"(the happy phrase of Hilton Kramer), the vulgar kitschof media hucksters,lower classes, and inferiorpeoples, a new barbarism to be shunned, like multiculturalism today,at all costs. In part our postmodernism was a refusal of this reactionarycultural politic and an advocacy of practices both criticalof institutional modernismand suggestiveof alternativeforms,of new ways to practice culture and politics.And we did not lose. In a sense a worse thinghappened: treatedas a fashion,postmodernism became demode.
* This text was writtenfor a conferenceon postmodernism at the University of Washington in May 1992 convoked by Charles Altieri,whom I want to thankforthe kind invitation. I also want to thank two friendsat Cornell, Mark Seltzer and Geoffrey criticism. Waite, for much sympathetic OCTOBER 63, Winter 1993. ? 1993

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Of course, the categorywas not only emptied by the media; it was also critiquedwithinthe left,oftenwithgood reason. Despite its announcementof the end of master narratives, the Lyotardian (or poststructuralist) version of was regarded as just the latestproper name of the West,a West postmodernism now narcissistically obsessed with its own postcolonialdecline. So too, despite its attentionto the capitalistdynamic of fragmentation, the Jamesonian (or was considered too totalistic, not sensitive Marxian) version of postmodernism to different differences. the of art-critical version Finally, enough postmodernism was seen to seal modernismin the veryformalist mold that we wanted to break. In the process the termbecame not onlybanal but incorrect. I too became suspicious of the term. And yet recentlymy attitudehas shiftedin a way that I can now only express anecdotally.In April 1992 I spent a few days in Detroit, a cityoccupied three times by the army,wounded by white flight, damaged by Reagan-Bush neglect. There the white touristtends to another. On one such trek my group to travel from one cosmeticfortress the at Park, Highland primarysite of the Ford Model T, the first stopped with an the line, assembly factory paradigm of Tayloristlabor around the modern world. On cue our taxi,a Ford, broke down, and so we were stranded inat this rusted plant, perhaps the most importantsite in twentieth-century core and a residential now between a deindustrial lost city posturban dustry, in a space-times, ring,witnessto the uneven developmentof our late-capitalist I worlds. There saw the modern and that between postmodern again purgatory still be used to think such a chronoof might strange category postmodernism cities armored against tropic terrain,one not unique to Detroit,of fortressed zones. How does remainssuspended in twilight and industrial urban inhabitants one map such a space, measure such a time? develSuch an anecdote mightlead one to the model of postmodernism he different which relates over the last decade through stages oped byJameson means of capitalistproduction. To do so he of Western culture to different adapts the long-wavetheoryof economic cycles propounded by the Marxian economist Ernest Mandel, according to which the capitalistWest has passed periods since the late eighteenthcentury (roughly through four fifty-year of each twenty-five years expansion and stagnation):the industrialrevolution crises of the 1848) marked by the spread of handcraftedsteam (until political three furthertechnologicalepochs--the first(until the followed by engines, the marked 1890s) by spread of machined steam engines; the second (until World War II) marked by the spread of electricand combustionengines; and the third(our own) marked by the spread of machined electronicand nuclear systems.'Mandel relates these technologicaldevelopmentsto economic stages:
See Ernest Mandel, Late Capitalism 1. (1972), trans.JorisDe Bres (London: Verso, 1978), and or The Cultural FredricJameson,Postmodernism, (Durham: Duke University Logic ofLate Capitalism Press, 1991).

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Postmodernism in Parallax

from market capitalism to monopoly capitalism(around the last fin-de-siecle) to multinationalcapitalism (in our own millennialmoment).Jameson in turn relates these economic stages to artistic paradigms: the world view of realistart and literatureincited by the pragmatic individualismencouraged by market abstractionof high-modernist art and literaturein capitalism; the subjectivist indeed the opacity,of bureaucraticlife under moresponse to the complexity, practices(art,architecture, nopolycapitalism;and the pasticheof postmodernist fiction,film,food, and fashion) as a symptomof the dispersed borders, the mixed spaces, of multinational capitalism.His model is hardlyas mechanicalor deterministic as my precis: Jameson stressesthat this development is veryuneven, that each period is a palimpsest of emergent and residual forms,that there is never a clean break fromone to the next. Nevertheless, his account has itscritics.I noted the charge thatit is too totalistic, thatit sees the logic of capital in its path. For my purposes it is as a great reaper that sweeps up everything too spatialistic, not sensitiveenough to the different speeds as well as the mixed spaces of postmodern society,to the deferred action as well as the incessant expansion of capitalistculture. I borrow the notion of deferred action (Nachtrdglichkeit) from Freud, for whom subjectivity, never set once and for all, is structuredin a series of anticof events that are often traumaticin nature: we ipations and reconstructions come to be who we are only in deferred action. I believe modernism and in an analogous way,in postmodernismare comprehended, if not constituted, deferredaction,as a continualprocessof anticipation and reconstruction.2 Every epoch dreams the next, as Walter Benjamin once remarked,but by the same token it also (re)constructs the one before it. There is no simple Now: every is a mix of different nonsynchronous, present times.3Thus there is never a
2. The classic discussion occurs in the Wolfmancase history, "From the Historyof an Infantile Neurosis" (1914/18). This slippage between "comprehended" and "constituted"is not only my scene is famously vacillation;it operates in the veryconcept of deferredaction,where the traumatic and/oranalytically constructed? ambiguous: is it actual, fantasmatic, My applicationof thisconcept is a stretch.In a futuretext I will develop its possible uses for (post)moderniststudies (especially around questions of retrospection and repetitionin the avant-garde)as well as its potentialabuses. For the time being, I can only assert that psychoanalysis is not restricted to the individual subject, even as I can only admit that most applicationsto culturalhistory tend to psychologizeit. Even as I intend to complicate "development" with "deferred action," with the nonlinear and the neverof the individual subject to the complete, my extensionof a concept regardingthe (re)construction of a historical"subject" is fraughtwith dangers. For example, can I address the (re)construction if mymodel of history categoryof the subjecthistorically presupposes itslogic? Is thisa productively deconstructive double-bind or a paralytically paradoxical one? (For the persistenceof the logic of the subject in psychoanalysis, see Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen,The FreudianSubject,trans. Catherine Porter [Stanford:Stanford University Press, 1988].) 3. See WalterBenjamin, Baudelaire:A Lyric Poet in the Era ofHigh Capitalism (London: New Left Books, 1973), p. 176. In "Theses on the Philosophy of History" (1940) he all but proposes a historicalNachtrdglichkeit. The classic text on the nonsynchronousis Ernst Bloch, Heritageof Our Times(1935), trans. N. and S. Plaice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), especially and Obligation to Its Dialectic." "Non-Contemporaneity

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transition, say,betweenthe modernand the postmodern:our conscioustimely ness of a period not only comes after the fact; it is also always in parallax. in short,is like sex[uality]:it comes too earlyor too late.) (Postmodernism, This is abstractas yet,so let me ground it in one possible account of the transition to the postmodern.Ratherthan use the cumbersome never-complete Mandelian scheme of four fifty-year periods of the modern West, I want to focus on three moments thirty years apart withinthe twentieth century:the mid-1930s,which I take to be the end of the greatmodernisms;the mid-1960s, which marksthe fulladvent of postmodernism; and our own 1990s; and I will do so throughparticulartexts.I willtreatthese momentsin a discursivesense, in theoretical to see how historical shifts texts,whichin turn may be registered will serve as both objects of historicization and means to historicize.At once and symptomatic, arbitrary my narrativewill not say much about art. Instead, in addition to technologicalimbrications in culturalpractices(whichtend to be too privilegedin these accounts),I want to address certainchanges in Western conceptionsof the individual subject and of the culturalother over this time. My reason for this focus is simple. The quintessentialmodern question concerned identity:Whoare we? Most oftenanswerscame by way of an appeal to an otherness,either to the unconscious withinor to culturalothers without.4 of Freud Many modernistsfelttruthwas located there: hence the significance the and the profusionof primitivisms Indeed, manymodthroughout century. ernistsconflatedthese two sites,the unconsciousand the culturalother,while some postmodernists argue that both are now penetratedby capitalism,that In any case, since theyspeak to these two natural preservesare acculturated.5 two the discoursesof the unconsciousand the cultural the question of identity, are the mostprivilegedof modern and anthropology, other,i.e., psychoanalysis than any human sciences.6As such theymay registermore seismographically us that to define a other discourses the epistemologicalchanges may help not thatis onlyjournalistic. postmodernism shiftin disme here representsa significant Each moment that interests In mid-1930s and the courses on the subject, the cultural other, technology.
4. The modernityof "Man and His Doubles" is developed in Michel Foucault, The Orderof Things(1966; New York: Vintage, 1973). 5. This figureof the natural preserve (which Freud uses in relationto fantasy)may smuggle the unconsciousand the other,thought into postmoderndiscoursea romanticlapsarianism whereby can onlybe contaminated to be outside of history, byit.This is not trueof "the politicalunconscious" of Jameson, and yet in "Periodizingthe 60s" he too speaks of a colonized unconscious (in The 60s of Minnesota Press, 1984]). As without ed. Sohnya Sayres et al. [Minneapolis: University Apology, regards the cultural other, Baudrillard goes further:cyrogenized,"we are all Tasaday" ("The Precessionof the Simulacra,"Art& Text11 [Spring 1983], p. 10). In Jamesonthisotherlost natural "Green RevoThird World agriculturepenetratedby the technocratic enclave is the precapitalist lution" of the 1960s. 6. On this privilegesee Foucault, The Orderof Things, pp. 373-86. Also see Jacques Derrida, and Difference, trans. "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,"in Writing of Chicago Press, 1978), p. 382. Alan Bass (Chicago: University

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in Parallax Postmodernism

version of his Jacques Lacan was at work on the formationof the I, the first was involvedin the Brazilian famous "MirrorStage" paper; Claude Levi-Strauss of "the savage mind"; field work that revealed the mythological sophistication and Walter Benjamin was about to publish his great text on the cultural ramificationsof modern technologies,"The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."By the 1960s each of thesediscourseshad changed dramatically. was detailed by Louis Althusser, The death of the subject, not its formation, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, and Roland Barthes (some of of 1968). So too,the anthropological whom dated itsdisappearance to the revolts of the liberation wars the 1950s, had begun to talk back, i.e., other,inspired by in the rewriting of the Hegelianmost to be heard for the first time, brilliantly Earth dialecticby Frantz Fanon, whose The Wretched Marxian master-slave ofthe was published in 1961. Meanwhile,the penetrationof media into psychicstructures and social relations had reached a new level, which was seen in two of reification by Guy Debord as an intensity ways- chiliastically complementary in his Society the of 1967 and Marshall McLuhan as an ecstatically by of Spectacle in his Media of of man" 1964. "extension Understanding What has changed in these three discourses since then? In a sense the death of the subject is now dead in its turn: the subject has returned- but in the guise of a politicsof new, ignored, and different sexualities, subjectivities, and ethnicities. Meanwhile,at a timewhen First,Second, and Third Worlds are no longer distinct(if theyever were), anthropologyis newlycriticalof its own have complicatedanticolonialconfronprotocols,and postcolonialimbrications tations.7Finally,even as our societyremains one of spectacular images a la Debord, it is also one of electronicdiscipline- or, ifyou preferthe technophilic version afterMcLuhan, a societyof electronicfreedom,of the new possibilities that await us in cyberspace,virtualreality, and the like. My purpose is not to prove one position right,the other wrong, nor to assert that one moment is modern, the next post, foragain none of thisdevelops evenlyor breaks cleanly. Instead I want to suggestthateach theoryspeaks of changes in its present,but of past moments (when these changes are only indirectly --in reconstruction said to have begun) and in anticipation of futuremoments(when these changes are projected to be complete). Thus the deferredaction,the double movement, of modern and postmoderntimes.8

7. This is not to suggest a narrativeof naive simplifications followedby self-conscious complications. On the contrary, the postcolonialhas not demystified, let alone displaced, the (neo)colonial. 8. Thus, for example, the discourse of the death of the subject is not proper to the 1960s; it is announced in the 1930s: not only by Benjamin (who, in the Artworkessay as well as "The Author as Producer," foresees the artistic-authorial "functions"as "incidental") but by Bataille, different Dadaists, Surrealists,and Constructivists, many others. In a sense it is only recapitulated in the 1960s. And yet it is thisrecapitulationthatis itsarticulation, at least as a characteristic ideologeme; that is my point. My use of the term"the subject"(as well as the term"the culturalother") will slip

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and selectively, the discourse on First,let me consider,veryschematically the subject over these three moments,and here as elsewhere I will take only landmark examples. In the "MirrorStage" paper, Lacan argues that the formation of our ego restson a primordialapprehensionof our body in a mirror will do), an anticipatory image of a bodilyunitythat as (though any reflection in It is this image that founds our ego infantswe do not yet possess actuality. in thisinfantile but foundsitas imaginary, as locked in an identification moment, the that is alwaysalso an alienation,forat verymomentthatwe see our self in Lacan also suggests the mirrorwe see this self as image, as other. Importantly that this imaginaryunityof the mirrorstage produces a retroactive fantasyof a priorstage when our body was still in pieces, a fantasyof a chaotic body, and fluid,given over to drivesthatalwaysthreatento overwhelm fragmentary us, a fantasythat haunts us in different ways for the rest of our life (all those In a sense our momentsof pressure when you feel you are about to shatter). and foremost againstthe returnof thisbody in pieces; it is ego is pledged first this that turns the ego into an armor (a term Lacan uses) to be deployed - but especiallywithand without aggressively against the chaoticworld within out, especiallyagainstall otherswho seem to representthischaos forus.9 Lacan but I believe we must, does not specifyhis theoryof the subject as historical, forthistraumatized, armored,and aggressive subjectis notjust anybeing across and culture: it is a theoryof the modern subjectas fascistic subject. In history of whichfascism otherwords,inscribedin thistheoryis a contemporary history of world war and military is the most extreme symptom:a history mutilation, of mercenary murderand of industrialdisciplineand machinicfragmentation, eventsthat politicalterror.It is in traumaticrelationto such military-industrial the the modern subjectbecomes armored- againstothernesswithin(sexuality, unconscious) and othernesswithout(for the fascistthis can mean Jews,Comof thisfear of the body in pieces come again, munists, gays,women), all figures and the fluid. (Has this fascistic of the body given over to the fragmentary

in the course of this text: from the ego as body-image(not yet properlya subject),to the artistweakSometimesthisslippage is my own theoretical identities. to multicultural author "function," shifts. ness; sometimesit speaks to historical a In "The MirrorStage" (1936/49) Lacan writesof "the armour of an alienatingidentity," 9. in Psychoanalysis" (1948), itscompanion piece in Ecrits(trans.Alan trope repeated in "Aggressivity on the Ego," a related paper read to Sheridan [New York: Norton, 1977]). In "Some Reflections the BritishPsychoanalytical shield, Societyon May 2, 1951, the trope reappears as the "narcissistic withits nacreous coveringon whichis painted the world fromwhich[the ego] is forevercut off." a "correlative Here Lacan is led to question the veryvalue of a "strongego." Could itsaggressivity, to stabilize also be outsideof the struggle basis and itsparanoic structure, tendency"of itsnarcissistic it?

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reaction not in part returned?Did it ever go away? Does it not rest potentially withinus all? Or is to generalize it in thisway to normalizeit over much?)"' of the subject in the 1960s What happens to thistheoryof the formation when the death of the subject is proclaimed? This is a moment of radically of currents.In Paris it is the twilight different historicalforcesand intellectual

of the Lacanian account of the ego in "Armor Fou," October referent 10. I suggested a fascistic 56 (Spring 1991). Susan Buck-Morssdeveloped this connectionin "Aestheticsand Anaesthetics: 62 (Fall 1992), and inspiredby her text I WalterBenjamin's Artwork Essay Reconsidered,"October versionof the "MirrorStage" paper at the returnto it here. It is said thatLacan presentedthe first Associationin Marienbad on August 3, FourteenthCongress of the InternationalPsychoanalytical 1936, i.e., in the midstof the Nazi Olympics: "The day aftermy address on the mirrorstage, I took a day off,anxious to get a feelingof the times,heavywithpromises,at the Berlin Olympiad. referent [Ernst Kris] gentlyobjected 'Ca ne sepfiit p. 239). To suggestsuch a historical pas!"' (Ecrits, But no less a commentator thanJacques-AlainMiller for the Lacanian ego is no doubt offensive. one: "There is, therefore, a single ideology has also posed such a referent, albeit a ratherdifferent of whichLacan providesthe theory:thatof the 'modern ego,' thatis to say,the paranoic subjectof at the serviceof free of whicha warped psychology theorizesthe imaginary, scientific civilization, enterprise"(Ecrits, p. 322). Moreover,Philippe Lacoue-Labartheand Jean-Luc Nancy have recently Critical 16 [Winter ("The Nazi Myth," Inquiry argued that"the ideologyof the subject. . . is fascism" 1990], p. 294).

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10

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structuralism, i.e., of the linguistic (the paradigm in which all culturalactivity of the unconscious for the structure mythsof Indian groups for Levi-Strauss, Lacan, the modes of Paris fashionsfor Barthes) is recoded as a language. It is thislinguistic recoding thatallows Foucault to announce in 1966 the erasure of "like a face drawn in sand at the edge of man, the great riddle of modernity, the sea."" It is also this recoding that permitsBarthes to declare in 1968 the culture, toppling of the author, the great protagonistof humanist-modernist will replace the Work of into the play of signs of the Text, which henceforth Art. Now this Barthesian formulation may help us to specifythe figurethat is under attack here: it is not only the authorial artistof humanist-modernist of fascist the figure structures, tradition;it is also the authoritarian personality who compels singular speech and forbidspromiscuous signification (after all In thisis the 1960s, the days of rage againstall such authoritarian institutions). as a sense it is an attackon the fascistic Lacan, subject indirectly by contemplated an attackalso made withthe veryforcesthatthis subject most fears: sexuality and the unconscious,desire and the drives,thejouissance(the privilegedterm of French theoryduring this time) thatshattersthe subject,that surrendersit All of these forceswere celebrated and the fluid."2 preciselyto the fragmentary and praxis,all to challengethe fascistic in art,theory, subject,a challenge made of in and Deleuze Guattari's Anti-Oedipus 1972. There an appeal programmatic to schizophrenia is made as a way not only to disrupt the armored fascistic one. Yet thisappeal is tricky, subjectbut also to exceed the rapacious capitalist and flows, is threatened for if the fascistic subject by schizophrenicfragments the capitalistsubject thriveson such disruptivemovements.Indeed, according is more schizophrenic than to Deleuze and Guattari, onlyabsoluteschizophrenia and this fixed structures. On over to of more subjects decodings given capital, in the 1960s, what account what dispersed the subject,humanistor fascistic, was a revolutionary force,a whole congeriesof such disrupted its institutions, forces (ex-colonial, civil-rights, feminist, student),but it was a revolutionary force that, if not directed by capital, was at least released by it- for what is thatstand more radical than capital when itcomes to old subjectsand structures in its way? Tendentious though it is, this argumentmightthen be extended to the present returnof the subject,by which I mean the partial recognitionof new models. On the in identity and ignored subjectivities politicsand multicultural and ethnic, sexual of different one hand, the partial recognition subjectivities, in the 1990s reveals thatthe subject pronounced dead in the 1960s was a very
at a 11. See Foucault, The Orderof Things, pp. 381-87, here 387. "Since man was constituted time when language was doomed to dispersion,will he not be dispersed when language regainsits unity?" is directedat the connoisseurof plaisir;itsclass enemy In Barthes the challenge ofjouissance 12. than bourgeois,even consumerist. (so to speak) is less fascistic

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particular one, not to be mourned by all: white,bourgeois, humanist, male, heterosexual, a subject who only pretended to be universal. (Often taken for labor of much analysis,firstin granted today, this revelationwas the difficult feminism and then in gay and lesbian studiesand multicultural critiques.)'3On the other hand, the present context of these different subjectivities, brazenly definedby Bush as The New WorldOrder, suggeststhatthe death of the subject then and the birthof the multicultural subjectnow mustalso be seen in relation to the dynamic of capital, its reification and fragmentation of fixed positions. even we as celebrate and we Thus, "hybridity" "heterogeneity," mustremember that these are privilegedtermsof advanced capitalismas well, that social multiculturalism coexists with economic multinationalism. Such a vision is not as totalisticor fatalisticas it sounds, for no order, capitalistor otherwise,can entirelycontrol the forcesthat it releases. Rather,as Marx as well as Foucault suggest,a regime of power does not forbidits resistanceso much as it prepares it,calls it into being, in waysthatcannot alwaysbe recouped. This is true of the release of different sexual and ethnic,in The New World Order subjectivities, Yet it is also true that these forcesneed not be articulatedprogressively. today. And certainlythey can provoke reactive responses- though to blame these forces for such national figuresas Duke, Buchanan, Bush, and Quayle is truly to blame the victims, an ethical positionthat,perversely, these figuresnow also want to arrogate.

Let me leave thisskewed history of the subjectthere,and pass abruptlyto the second discourse thatmay help us to registerthe never-complete transition to the postmodern:the discourseon the culturalother.Here too I willhighlight but three moments. The first,the mid-1930s in Western Europe, might be illuminated by a stark symptomatic juxtaposition. In 1931 a large exhibition concerning the French colonies was held in Paris to which the Surrealistsreshow titled"The Truth about the Colosponded with a small anti-imperialist nies." These artistsnot only appreciated tribalart, not only appropriated its formaland expressive values, as the Cubists and the Expressionistshad done; in the present. Indeed, they they also attended to its political ramifications constructeda chiasmicidentification withthe colonial otherswho, though they were the legatees of such tribal art, were made to disappear in its Western

Here again an instanceof deferredaction in postmodernculture. On the one hand, even as 13. these critiques multiplythe subject,theyoften reinstateits logic. On the other hand, theycannot be opposed to the discourse of the death of the subject,for theyare partlyprepared by it. On this last point see Ernesto Laclau, "Universalism,Particularism, and the Question of Identity," October 61 (Summer 1992).

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Paul Eluard, Louis "TheTruth the Exhibition about Colonies." by Aragon, organized de la Le au service andYves From 4, 1931. revolution Surrealisme Tanguy. delectation. On the one hand, the Surrealistsargued that these oppressed in the Westto be supportedin similarways. peoples were like exploitedworkers between the colonial and the proletariatwas later (This potential solidarity advanced by Aime Cesaire, among others, who was greatlyadmired by the Surrealists.)On the other hand, the Surrealistsannounced that theytoo were that,as modernsgivenover to object desire,theytoo were fetishists. primitives, In effect, performedin the analtheytransvaluedthe revaluationof fetishism if fetishism and fetishistic of perversion: Marx and Freud used yses commodity the term as a critiqueof moderns,the Surrealiststook it as a compliment.In this way they embraced this perceived otherness for its disruptivepotential, again throughan associationbetweenthe culturalotherand the unconscious.14 it stillassumed a racialist Yet thisassociationremained primitivist: analogy and between "primitive" primal stages of psychosexuallife. And in a peoples different cultural politic it had a disastroususe, i.e., in Nazism. By 1937 the on "degenerate" art and music Nazis had produced the infamousexhibitions
In thissense the Surrealistsubjectwas otherto the fascistic 14. subjectas indirectly contemplated In "ArmorFou" I argue thatsome Surrealists byLacan (who workedin the milieuof the Surrealists). countered the fascistic subject with"imagoes of the fragmented body" (e.g., Bellmer),whileothers did so withtropes of the heterogeneousand the acephalic (e.g., Bataille).

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-but especiallyones that connected the culthat condemned all modernisms tural other and the unconscious,here the artsof "the primitive," the child,and the insane, in order to deploy the disruptiveothernessof such alien figures.An fantasmwas an enormous threatto the ideal to the Surrealists,this primitivist fascisticsubject, who also associated it withJews and Communists,for it represented precisely the "degenerate" forces that threatened its armored identity --again, both from withinand from without.Thus, if the Surrealists embraced "the primitive," the fascistsabjected it: for the firstit could not be close enough; for the second it was alwaystoo close. In the mid-1930s,then, a time of revolt and reaction at home and in the colonies, the question of the other for the European, on the leftas well as on the right, was one of "correct distance." I borrow this ambiguous term (replete withits nastynote of proper disdain) from the cultural criticCatherine Clement, who points out that at the momentwhen Lacan deliveredthe "MirrorStage" paper in Nazi GermanyLeviStrausswas in the Amazon at workon "theethnologicalequivalentof the mirror "the question involvedis one of correct stage." "In both cases," Clement writes, distance."'5 What this mightmean in the case of Lacan is fairlyclear, for the "Mirror Stage" concerns the negotiationof distance between the fledglingego and its image, between the infantand its mother.But what mightit mean for Levi-Strauss?A first clear: it too concernsthe negotiation response is also fairly of distance, here between the anthropologicalparticipant-observer, the home forL viculture,and the cultureof study.'6But what mightit mean specifically Strauss in the mid-1930s, a friend of the Surrealists,a Jew who departed a who has done so much Europe on the verge of fascism?For thisanthropologist, to critique the categoryof race, to reenvision"the savage mind" as logical and the modern mind as mythical, the fascist extremeof nonidentification withthe otherwas obviouslydisastrous,but the Surrealisttendencyto over-identification was also potentiallyproblematic.For while the first destroyeddifferencebruto assume it, tally,the second was perhaps too eager to appropriate difference, to become it. A certain distance from the other was necessaryafter all. (Did Levi-Strauss see this danger not only in the more excessive deformationsof Surrealist art, but also in the more extreme experimentsof the College de Sociologie?)
15. Catherine Clement, The Livesand Legends ofJacquesLacan, trans.ArthurGoldhammer (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), p. 76. 16. "There is no way out of the dilemma: eitherthe anthropologist adheres to the norms of his own group and other groups inspire in him no more than a fleeting which is never quite curiosity devoid of disapproval, or he is capable of givinghimselfwholeheartedly to these other groups and his objectivity is vitiatedby the factthat,intentionally or not, he has had to withholdhimselffrom at least one society, in order to devote himselfto all. He therefore commitsthe verysin thathe lays at the door of those who contestthe exceptionalsignificance of his vocation"(Tristes [1955], Tropiques trans.J. and D. Weightman[New York: Atheneum, 1978], p. 384).

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his memoirof Twentyyearslater,withthe publicationof Tristes Tropiques, thistime,the question of correctdistancewas reframed.The primary threatto the other was no longer from fascismbut from "monoculture,"i.e., the encroachmentof the capitalistWest on the restof the world. (At one point LeviStrauss writesof entire Polynesian islands turned into aircraftcarriers,and whole areas of Asia and Africabecome dingysuburbsand shantytowns.)17 One vision of an exotic world on the wane, which must argue with this fatalistic locates its only authenticmomentin its precontactpast, especiallyso since this can flipinto a reactionagainst the remorse about the pure other lost overthere it here.'8 does set the dominanttone of the found other Nevertheless, right dirty the other in the mid-1960s. No Westerndiscussionof correctdistancevis-a-vis doubt to thisother in the contextof liberationwars fromAlgeria to Viet Nam, belated in itsliberalconcern such a discussionwas a cruel farce,preposterously afterdecades of colonialisttrauma.How could one speak, a FrantzFanon might ask, of correctdistancewhen colonialistdominationhad overcoded both bodies and psyches of colonized and colonizer alike? And yet this is exactly what concerns Fanon in a text like "On National Culture," firstdelivered to the in Rome in 1959.19There, again and Artists second Congress of Black Writers threephases forthe he in a rewriting of the master-slave dialectic, distinguishes assimoccurswhen the nativeintellectual renewalof nationalcultures.The first ilates the culture of the colonialistpower; the second when this intellectualis called back, as it were, to native traditions, which,however,sociallyseparated as so many"mummified as he or she is, tend to be treatedexotically, fragments" now a of a folklorish past; and finallythe third phase when this intellectual, in new national to a in a identity active helps forge popular struggle, participant resistance to the colonialist power and in contemporaryrecoding of native traditions.Here too the question is one of correctdistance,but it is reversed, now asked by the other:how to negotiatea distancenotonlyfromthecolonialist past, how to renew a national culture that is power but also from the nativist nor neitherneocolonial auto-primitivist?20
Tristes 17. pp. 37-44. Tropiques, L6vi-Strauss, a primitivist In other words, "correctdistance" is potentially 18. ideologeme as well. It might racialism,of time onto space, imply an evolutionistmapping, residual from nineteenth-century whereby"back then" becomes conflatedwith "over there,"with the most remote marked as the This mapping is not onlyracist(thissiteis always"dark") but also absurd,especially most primitive. core and imperial periphery.And yet it at a time of the multinational implosionof metropolitan and civilizaremains tenacious because it is fundamentalto conceptionsof history-as-development discussionof this space-timemapping is Johannes Fabian, Time The now-classic tion-as-hierarchy. MakesIts Object and theOther: How Anthropology Press, 1983). (New York: Columbia University Earth(1961), trans.Constance Farigan (New York: Grove Press, 1968), In The Wretched 19. ofthe Faces (1952) Fanon had already developed the mirrorstage in pp. 206-48. In Black Skin, White termsof imagoes of the black body. of Europe EarthFanon notes "the obscene narcissism" In his conclusion to The Wretched 20. ofthe death of the subject: "Let us leave Europe where they are never done and invokes a different talkingof Man" (pp. 313, 311). At the same timehe was aware of the dangers notonlyof neocolonial

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What has happened to this problematicof distance today? To call our world postcolonial is to mask the persistenceof colonial and neocolonial relations; it is also to ignore the fact thatjust as there was always a FirstWorld in And everyThird World there was alwaysa Third World in everyFirstWorld.21 of this lack of distance may be termed postcolonial,indeed yet the recognition postmodern,at least to the degree thatthe modern world was oftenthoughtin terms of spatial oppositions not only between culture and nature, city and but also between metropolitancore and imperial periphery, the West country, these poles and the Rest. Today, at least in economies retooled as post-Fordist, - which is not to do not orient much, these spaces have imploded somewhat say that such power hierarchies have collapsed (it is more a matter of "the British Empire [replaced] by the InternationalMonetary Fund").22 However, for my analysis the question is: how are these worldlyshiftsregistered,reconstructed,and/or anticipated, in recent theory? Is it too obvious to say that Derridean deconstructionis pledged to the very undoing of such oppositions as theyinformWesternthought,that Foucauldean methodologyis founded in the very refusal of such foundations?Is not poststructuralism a criticalelaboration of these events of the postcolonial, the postmodern (especially in its concern with"the event")? Or does it also serve as a ruse by whichthese events are epistemologically defused? In the modern world the other confrontedin the course of empire, provoked a crisis in cultural identity which the avant-gardeattempted to resolve the construct of the fetishistic symbolic through primitivism, recognition-anddisavowal of thisotherness.But thisresolutionwas also a repression: managed by the moderns, the other has returned at the very moment of its supposed eclipse; indeed, this returnhas become thepostmodernevent. In this sense the putative incorporation of the outside in The New World Order may have impelled its eruption into the field of the same as difference.This is what betweenthe linesas itwere,as when Derrida proclaims thinks, poststructuralism the end of any "original or transcendentalsignified. .. outside a systemof And yetthe poststructuralists differences."23 rarelyattended to thisother by its names: failed to answer the Fanonian demand for recognitionin its many they

recuperationbut also of triumphalseparatism--whichled him to critiquethe Negritudemovement. For a contemporaneous European response to this same problematicsee Paul Ricoeur, "Universal Civilizationand National Cultures" (1961), in History and Truth, trans. Charles Kelbley (Evanston: Northwestern Press, 1965). University An imbrication 21. explored in the work of Trinh T. Minh-ha. 22. Jameson, "Periodizing the 60s," p. 184. Such spatial oppositions (e.g., sites of industrial production and places of raw materialsand cheap labor) are not canceled. On the contrary, they are only complicated-revealed to be imbrications, never oppositions. How many other such opof late? positionshave undergone a worldlydeconstruction and Difference, 23. Derrida, Writing p. 280.

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own terms. Too often they continued to project the other as an outside, as a space of ideological escape. Thus all the epistemologicalexoticisms-neooases and neo-primitivist orientalist resorts-that appear in the poststructuralist in the Chinese Derrida that"interrupts" Westernlogocentrism, landscape: script the Chinese encyclopedia in Foucault that confounds the Western order of things,the Chinese women that lure Kristevawith alternativeidentifications, of a difference, the Japan of Barthes that represents"the possibility of a muof symbolic the other tation,of a revolutionin the propriety systems,"24 space of nomadism that for Deleuze and Guattaricuts across capitalistterritoriality, the other societyof symbolicexchange that for Baudrillard haunts our own could order of commodityexchange, and so on. And yet if poststructuralism not finda correctdistanceeither,at least it problematizedthe attemptto think differenceas opposition, to oppose inside to outside, subject to other. This critique is extended in much postcolonialdiscourse (as it is in much gay and is most productivetoday. lesbian studies),and it is there thatpoststructuralism of poststructuralism and/or In thisregard I can only disagree withthe trashing of the West. another name as proper postmodernism just

I must break this line here in order to turn to my last track to the postmodern,the impact of technologyon Westernculture as thoughtin the mid-1930s,the mid-1960s,and the present.Here too I willargue that,even as one discursivemomentleads to the next,thisnextcomprehendsthe one before. Thus what Guy Debord defines in the spectacle of the mid-1960s are the thatWalter Benjamin described thirty years betechnologicaltransformations in the mid-1990s writers forein the mid-1930s;and whatcyberpunk extrapolate are the cyberneticextensions that Marshall McLuhan described thirty years the termsattachedto these beforein the mid-1960s.In discourseon technology momentsare both ideologicaland accurate: the age of mechanicalreproduction and the age of revolutionin the 1960s,25 in the 1930s, the age of cybernetic and developwhen research technoscienceand/or technoculturetoday i.e., The ateven cannot be separated ment,culture and technology, heuristically. notion that we the and both tendant narrativesare also telling: e.g., suspect

TheEmpire 24. ofSigns(1970), trans.Richard Howard (New York: Hill & Wang, 1982), pp. 3-4. ChineseWomen, AntiThe Orderof Things, The texts to which I allude here are Of Grammatology, and L'Echangesymbolique etla mort. Oedipus, linksbetween Withmyfocus on the (deferred)diachronic,I have not attendedto synchronic 25. of L6vidifferent discourses. What are the possible relays,for example, betweenthe structuralism of NorbertWeiner (whom L6vi-Strauss Strauss,the cybernetics occasionallycites),and the mediatic explosion of the postwarperiod?

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have now passed from an industrialor Fordist society to a postindustrialor post-Fordistone. For I agree with Mandel that the postindustrialsignals not but its full extension, the supercession of industrialization just as I agree with the of the announces not end modernization but its that Jameson postmodern I to with the want of distance stay ideologeme apparent apogee. Here, however, raised in discourse on the culturalother,forit is also a crucial termin discourse on technology. Benjamin writes"The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"at a momentwhen mechanicalreproductionhad alreadybecome a cultural dominant.26There, of course, he argues that such reproduction withersthe aura of art, i.e., its uniqueness, authenticity, and that this distance, authority, art from its ritualistic bases, "bringsthings'closer"' to withering "emancipates" For the masses.27 Benjamin thiseclipse of distancehas greatliberatory potential, as culture might be made more collective.But it also has great manipulative potential, as politics might be made more spectacular. Socialism or fascism? Yet even by 1936 Benjamin asks in the mostdramaticof modernistultimatums. this alternativecould not hold - thatis, if one takes the socialistreferentto be the Soviet Union of Stalin (who was about to sign his pact with Hitler). In this of politicshad already overwhelmedthe primaryinstance the aestheticization of art. Eightyearslater,in Dialectic (1944), Adorno politicization ofEnlightenment and Horkheimer would trace a continuumfromthe total culture of Nazi Germany to the culture industryof the United States, and an additional twentythree years later,in Society (1967), Debord would argue that the oftheSpectacle on theSociety spectacle dominated the consumeristWest. (In 1988, in Comments he pronounced of theSpectacle, published a year before the recent revolutions, the spectacle integratedWest and East.) In Benjamin the witheringof aura, the loss of distance, impacts on the body as well as on the image: the two cannot be separated. At one point he makes an analogy between a painter and a magician on the one hand, and a cameraman and a surgeon on the other: whereas the firsttwo maintain a "natural distance" fromthe motifto paint or the body to heal, the second two The new visual technologiesare thus "surgi"penetrate deeply into its web.'"28

26. Indeed, given thatradio was pervasive,sound filmhad arrived,and televisionwas conceived, it was already somewhatarchaic as a term (another reason to substitute "technicalreproducibility" in the translation of the title?). in "Spectacle, JonathanCrarydiscussessome of thesetransformations 50 (Fall 1989). October Attention, Counter-Memory," "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,"in Illuminations, 27. ed. Hannah Arendt,trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1969), pp. 223-24. In what waysis thiswithering enacted and/orrecouped, in deferred action, in the poststructuralist death of the author and the postmodernculture of the simulacrum? 28. Ibid., p. 233. For importantelaborationsof these analogies see Miriam Hansen, "Benjamin, Cinema and Experience: 'The Blue Flower in the Land of Technology,"'New German 40 Critique and Anaesthetics." (Winter 1987), and Susan Buck-Morss,"Aesthetics

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shock the observerinto new cal": theyreveal the world in new representations, For this unconscious" renders us both more perceptions. Benjamin "optical criticaland more distracted(such is his great hope for cinema), and he insists on this paradox as a dialectic. But here too it is not clear that it could be maintained. Already in 1931 ErnstJfingerhad argued that technologywas "intertwined withour nerves"in a way thatsubsumed criticality and distraction within"a second, colder consciousness."" And not much later, in 1947, Heidegger announced that distance and closeness were folded into "a uniformity in whicheverything is neitherfar nor near."'30 the mid-1960s the Benjaminian dialecticsplitsin such signal Certainlyby discourses on technologyas Debord on spectacle and McLuhan on media. whereas Debord develops Benjamin on the image, McLuhan elaboImplicitly, rates Benjamin on the body; however,both regard criticaldistance as all but doomed. For Debord spectaclesubsumescriticality under distraction,31 and the dialectic of distance and closeness becomes an oppositionof social separations concealed by imaginary unities(e.g., images of product-bliss, universalmiddlenationalist the one external On distance is elimihand, classness, collectivity). nated in spectacle; on the other hand, it is reproduced as internaldistance,the It is thissubjectivist distance of spectacularfantasy. distance(whichis reallyno the social separations. distance at all) thatunderwrites Out of similar symptomsMcLuhan makes a different diagnosis. As in Debordian spectacleso in his "global village":distance,spatialas well as critical, is eclipsed. But rather than separation McLuhan sees "retribalization," and losthe sees distraction ratherthan criticality oblivious transvalued.32 Apparently to Benjamin, McLuhan develops related ideas, oftenonly to invertthem. For as theydo McLuhan new technologiesdo not penetratethe body "surgically," Yet like Benjamin he sees for Benjamin, so much as theyextend it "electrically." is an excessivestimuluseven as in this process a double movement:technology it is also a protective shield againstsuch stimulus, againstsuch shock- the first the into the second (the shield).33 the converted shock) (the stimulus, by body and This parryingof shock is crucial to the Benjaminian dialecticof criticality

ErnstJuinger, 29. "Photographyand the 'Second Consciousness,"'in ChristopherPhillips,ed., in theModern Era (New York: MetropolitanMuseum, 1989), p. 207 Photography MartinHeidegger,"The Thing,"Poetry, 30. (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), Language,Thought pp. 165-66. but ratherthe Lukacsian 31. In factDebord invokesnot the Benjaminiannotionof "distraction" and Class Consciousness (1923) to think the subjective concept of "contemplation"used in History effects of capitalistmass production. turnin McLuhan, especiallywhen tropesof commonality, indeed There is a strongprimitivist 32. are required-and thisat a timeof revolutionin the Third World. commingling, thePleasurePrinciple shield in Beyond 33. Freud develops the model of the protective (1920), and and ItsDiscontents alludes to it in relationto the ego in Civilization (1930). The psychicdimensionof this model, however,is elided in McLuhan even more radicallythan in Benjamin.

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distraction.But in McLuhan it flies apart into an opposition impossible to reconcile. "We have put our central nervous systemsoutside us in electric he writesmore than once. Yet sometimeshe sees thisextensionas technology," an ecstaticbody become electric,absolutelyconnected to the world,and sometimes as a "suicidal auto-amputation, as if the centralnervous systemcould no on the buffers longer depend physicalorgans to be protective against the slings and arrows of outrageous mechanism."34 is even more extreme. Is our mediatic world Today such dis/connection one of increased interaction, as benign as the cyberspaceof a telephone call or a databank; or is it one of invasivediscipline,each of us so many "dividuals" tracked,geneticallytraced, not as a policyof any maleficent electronically Big Brother but as a matterof quotidian course? In so many ways it is both these worlds at once, and it is thisnew intensity of dis/connection thatis postmodern. of as I can this anecAgain, yet only develop postmoderndis/connection dotally,and withthis I will conclude. In the last few years,with the sacrificed students in Beijing and the fallen Wall in Berlin, the murderous war in the Persian Gulf and the madcap coup in the Soviet Union, I have come to feel wired to spectacular events. Like the mental patientin Gravity's Rainbowwhose feversmount withthe destructive forcesof World War II, my spirit hysterical seems to rise and fall with these events,and I do not thinkI am alone. This electrochemical we are both wiringconnectsand disconnectsus simultaneously: immediateto eventsand geopolitically remotefromthem. psychotechnologically Such dis/connection is not new (thinkof the Kennedy assassination,the Munich Terror Games, the Lennon assassination,the Challenger explosion), but it has reached a new level of oxymoronicpain-and-pleasure.Such forme was the real CNN Effect of the Gulf War: repelled by the politics,I was riveted by the thatlocked me in,as smartbomb and spectator images,by a psycho-techno-thrill are locked in as one. A thrillof technomastery (my mere human perception become a super machine vision,able to see what it destroysand to destroywhat it sees),35but also a thrillof an imaginary dispersal of myown body,of myown subjecthood. Of course, when the screens of the smart bombs went dark, my body did not explode. In fact,it was bolstered: in a classic fascistic trope, my

34. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), pp. 60, 53. Note the differenttropics of the body. In Benjamin the formal body remains central as object of technologicalprosthesisand as figureof the body politic.In McLuhan it is displaced as a trope by the nervous system:the social is seen as a network, not as a body. In much contemporary discourse the body, the social, has lost even thisfiguralintegrity. Consider too the different valuations given the media. Benjamin considers the problem of reproductionfor values of art. For McLuhan (let alone Debord) art is no longer at issue, and the reproduced image is replaced by the metastatic media. And today the strange McLuhan thesis,"the contentof the medium is another medium," has become the everydaycyberpunkslogan, "computersmelted other machines." 35. On machine vision see Paul Virilio,Warand Cinema, trans.PatrickCamiller (London: Verso, 1989).

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in the destructionof other bodies. And body, my subjecthood, was affirmed in I not think I was this do alone awfulaffirmation. again, These are but a fewof the splittings of the subjectthatoccur witha new a the paradox of great today: spatiotemporalsplitting, postmodern intensity a moral splitting, the mediation; immediacyproduced throughextraordinary of of undercut or undercut fascination, sadism; by sympathy by paradox disgust at the level of body-image,the ecstasyof imaginarydispersal and a splitting of ego armor. To me the postmodernsubject is rescued by the confirmation Is it any wonder that this subject is often so constructedin such splittings. Is it wonder thatwhen it is able to function it oftendoes so dysfunctional? any to on automatic,given over to fetishistic syncoresponses, partialrecognitions pated with complete disavowals? (I know about AIDS, but I cannot get it; I know racists,but I am not one; I know whatThe New World Order is, but my paranoia embraces it anyway... ) as cynIt has become common to referto such recognition-cum-disavowal ical reason, a state in which agency is not so much canceled as it is - as if agency were a small price to pay for the shield that such relinquished that such ambivalence mightsecure.36 cynicismmight provide, the immunity autistic.Consider need not render one politically Yet these radical splittings it was for heterosexualmen to come to termswithsexual harasshow difficult whitesto admit mentduring the Clarence Thomas hearings,or formiddle-class but manydid. These to the factofjudicial racismafterthe RodneyKing verdict, to be sure,but as such theyare also moments are momentsof traumatic division, become possible. when impossibleidentifications

36. See Peter Sloterdijk, Reason,trans.Michael Eldred (Minneapolis: University ofCynical Critique of Minnesota Press, 1987).

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