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PostPalliative:Coloniality'sAffectiveDissonance
B y R anj ana K hanna
DukeUniversity
"Isthealibistillavoidable?Isitnotalreadytoolate?"(Derrida,WithoutAlibi280)
Debate concerning field formation and demise is often accompanied by language of birth, newness, and
radicalhopefulnessinthefirstinstance,andmelancholia,disappointment,andoutdatednessinthesecond.
Somefieldsthathaveannouncedtheir"newness"withtheprefix"post":postmodernism,poststructuralism,
postcolonialism,forexample,haveoftensuggestedacriticalengagementwithandsurpassingofthatwhich
has preceded the former in political and/or disciplinary terms. Others, like postfeminism, have simply
announcedthedemiseandlackofimportanceofthefield,andthedeathnoticeisoftenaccompaniedbya
sense of despair on the part of those who conceptualize a continued need for the field and the politics
associatedwithit,seeingitshastyburialastestimonytothenecessityofitsrevitalization.
Criticsofmodernismanditsimmediateaftermathhavenotedthemannerinwhichnewnesswasannounced
in modernist texts, and also with terms such as the new man in decolonization movements and
metropolitan postwar discourse. Kristin Ross, for example, has commented extensively on the different
ways in which newness enters the world of the French language through metropolitan and anticolonial
discourseinthemid1950stothemid1960s,withthetechnologizationofthejeunecadreinFrance,andthe
simultaneouscautious hopefulness of Fanon's desire for the "new man" that emerged in Wretched of the
Earth (Ross 157196). It is exactly this form of highlycautious optimism, and an acute critical agency that
accompaniedit,whichIwillexploreherebyfocusingonthetermandaffect"melancholia,"andthewayin
whichitpermeatespostcolonialstudiesinitspoliticalanddisciplinaryfieldformation.[1]Asanareaofstudy
whether in literary, geographical, architectural, or spatial terms concerned with borders and other
postcolonial problems the cautious critical optimism, accompanied by its epiphenomenal counterpart in
poststructuralism, is testimony to the impossibility of a declaration of newness intheworld.Melancholiaas
symptom and reading practice does, however, offer a way of gauging how critical agency functions
constantly to undo injustices performed in the name of justice and novelty. The impossibility of completed
digestionofthepast,anditscalmproductionofnovelty,manifestsitselfinconstantcritique.
A recent anthology of essays on postcolonialism begins with an observation concerning the melancholic
conditionofthefieldthatservesasaninterestingobservationonthedisciplinarylimits,politicalconstraints,
andselfconsciousdistasteforidentitypolitics:
(T)hefieldofpostcolonialstudiesisatpresentbesetbyamelancholiainducedparadoxicallybyits
newfoundauthorityandincorporationintoinstitutionsofhigherlearning....(T)hismelancholic
conditionderivesnotonlyfrompostcolonialscholars'apprehensionthatinstitutionalizingthe
critiqueofimperialismmayrenderitconciliatory,butfromothersignificantfactorssuchastheir
own(FirstWorld)placeofspeaking(whichimplicatesthemintheproblematicofneocolonialism),
theircriteriaforpoliticalselflegitimation(i.e.,theimpossibilityofrepresentingtheThirdWorldas
anantiimperialistconstituency,especiallyinthefaceoftheretreatofsocialism),andtheir
peculiarimmobilityasaneffectiveoppositionalforceforcurricularchangewiththe(Americanand
British)academies.Itisespeciallyinthelastsensethatpostcolonialstudiesdiffersfromethnic
studiesforinstance,unlikeAfricanorAsianAmericanStudies,itcannotcommititselftocanon
revision,whichisessentiallyaminoritarianproject.(SheshadriCrooks34)
When Kalpana SeshadriCrooks describes the field in these terms, she uses the term melancholia quite
loosely,referringtotheconsciousinternalcritique,andaffectation,thathangsoverafieldofstudythatnow
hasitsownMLAdesignationandhashadimpactonseveralhumanitiesandsocialsciencefields.According
to SeshadriCrooks, it is the apparent "success" of the field that has induced this melancholia, and it is
accompanied by ineffective immobility when it comes to curricular change, guilt concerning one's own
privileged status as an academic located in the first world, and a crisis of representational politics. I would
claim, however, that this affectation of melancholia has little to do with these three predicaments, which
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have consistently been topics of theorization within postcolonial studies. The field has always engaged with
thecomplicitybetweencolonialismandcanonformationinamannerthatwouldpreventasimplerejectionof
the existing canon and institutionalization of another. It has always been conscious of the role of the
intellectual in postcolonial life, the liminal and contaminated points of representation, political or otherwise,
andithasalwaysproceededwithamandateto"knowthyself."[2]
My concern with "melancholia" is similarly about field formation, but it is about the affect of melancholia
ratherthanaboutanaffectation.Itconcernsanaffectthatpermeatesallpartsofthefieldandpoliticalarena
of postcolonialism and the persistence of colonialism within its political formation. This melancholia initiates
and in fact finds its symptoms within a constant vigilance concerning palliatives, alibis, and easy complicit
andcompromisedgesturesofsanctimoniousnoveltyorliberalism.
WhilemelancholiaismoreoftenthannotconsideredtobeadisablingaffectFreud,forexample,discusses
the impoverishment of the ego in melancholia[3] it implicitly provides, I propose, an ethicopolitical
gesture toward the future. And this temporal shift is particularly evident in studies of colonial and
postcolonialsubjectivitiesinrelationtospatiality.Itisthereforeallthemoreimportanttoargueagainstthe
sharp division between the realms of the ethical and the political, between aesthetics and politics, and
between melancholia and utopia in the theoretical humanities. Melancholia is endemic to the field of
postcolonial studies, and has always been the driving force behind it, because it is not only recently that
lament, the elegiac, and the melancholic response have been constitutive of the field. In fact, one is hard
pressed to find anyone who endorses the term postcolonial, or who has not been critical of some
manifestations of the field, or cautious of the apparent newness it seems to herald.[4] The rejection of
postcolonialtheoryseemstobeprevalent,andisevidentamongthosewhoareoftenconsideredtobethe
field's most prominent theorists. But more than rejection, which I understand as part of a selfcritical
affectation,therehasalsobeenanaffectofmelancholiainplaythatinvolvesarelationshiptolossanddeath
of something somewhat difficult to locate, resulting in a critical agency distinct from overt selfcritical
rejection.
Melancholia,however,isnotsimplyacripplingattachmenttoapastthatactslikeadrainofenergyonthe
present, even though it is indeed an impoverishment of ego. Rather, the melancholic's critical agency, and
the peculiar temporality that drags it back and forth at the same time, acts toward the future. Freud could
not resolve his notion of melancholia entirely during his career. After elaborating the term in relation to
mourning in 1917, in which the critical agency associated with melancholia is understood in terms of a
"diseased conscience" ("Mourning" 247), he discussed it once more in relation to the forming of group
identityandgroupleadersin1921.InGroupPsychologyandtheAnalysisoftheEgo,heproposedthatthe
individual's relation to the leader emerges from the splitting of the ego that he had described as being
presentinthemelancholic:theegosplitsbetweenthatwhichcriticizes,andthatwhichiscriticizedinrelation
to a disappointed ideal ("Group" 67145). Melancholia's conceptual transformation within the terms of the
individual's relation to the collective makes it particularly useful for understanding how affect emerges in
groups.InGroup,Freudseestheemergentleaderasformedbythecollectionofindividualsaspartofthe
egoideal, split off from oneself once again, and projected onto another. Critical agency has a third
incarnationin1923inTheEgoandtheIdwhenFreudtheorizedthesuperegoforthefirsttime,describingit
asaconscience,thistimenotdiseasedortaintedbymelancholia,butenforcinganormativeandnormalizing
restraint on the ego and its behaviour ("Ego and Id" 1266). In my analysis, which draws from Nicolas
Abraham and Maria Torok, as well as from Jacques Derrida's Freudian notion of "the work of mourning,"
criticalagencyemergesbecausearemainderalwaysexiststhatcannotbeassimilatedintothenormalizing
constraintsofthesuperegoontheego(AbrahamandTorok125138).Theundoingofegoplacestheselfin
a different economy of subject constitution, in which normative gestures, palliatives, and alibis will always
needtobecritiqued.Itisthereforefutureorientedasmuchasattachedtoapastthatcannotbeforgottenor
recognizedwithinthelogicofknowablememory.
I have argued in Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism that melancholia emerges from
colonialisminamannerthatallowsforcritique.IndeedthecriticalagencyproposedbyFreudasendemicto
melancholia provides an interesting counter to the hegemonic superego in which critical agency is
assimilated into social mechanisms of control. Unlike arguments concerning melancholic affectation,
described in Wolf Lepenies, Walter Benjamin, and Wendy Brown as disabling in terms of imagining a
politicallydifferentfuture,theaffectofmelancholiaastheorizedbyFreud,andbyAbrahamandTorok
pointsthewaytowardapoliticalfuturefreeofthefailuresofpostcolonialstatesandmisguidedbiopolitics.[5]
Melancholiaasaffectentersthediscussionoftheethicopoliticallargelyintermsoftheremainderthatinsists
onitsowncovertsymptomaticpresence.Melancholia,astheorizedbyFreud,isfirstunderstoodinrelationto
mourning, and it is closely related to its form and symptoms. Unlike mourning, however, it cannot be
overcome, and that which is lost remains unknown. As I have explained extensively, Freud employs the
languageofingestiontodescribethedivergencebetweenthetwoaffects.Inmourning,thatwhichislostis
digestedinaslowprocessinwhichonecomestotermswiththatloss.Intime,thelostobjectisassimilated
into the ego, expanding and nourishing it. In melancholia, the lost object remains elusive. Unable to
recognizewhatitis,theegoswallowsitwhole,andbeginstosplitinrelationtoit.Criticalagencydevelops
asthesubjectstartscriticizingtheswallowedobject,andthissymptomappearsasselfcritique.Melancholia
manifests itself as an impoverishment of the ego, because the melancholic has entered a different psychic
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economy than the subject who is able to mourn, and who can therefore achieve a level of normativity
(retrenchmentornovelty)ineverydayexistence.Letmeclarify:therecanbenoimperativetomelancholia
asopposedtomourning,becauseallthatcouldfollowfromthisisanaffectationofmelancholia.Onecannot
simplychoosetheaffectofmelancholiaoverthatofmourning,andofcourse,theabilitytomourn,ifitwere
possible,wouldalwaysbewelcome.DerridathroughareadingofAbrahamandTorok'sworkonmourning
andmelancholiaandtheirdigestivecounterpartsofintrojectionandincorporationsuggeststhatmourning
canrarelybecomplete.WhatIhavecalled"theworkofmelancholia"involvesanundoingofanyegothat
could present affectations, novelty (in a colonial progressive discourse), or retrenchment to the world. The
emergenceofmelancholiainstyle,form,constantcritique,anddissonancehasbeennotedbyAbrahamand
Torok in terms of such symptoms as "demetaphorization," or the taking literally of something that only
makessensefiguratively.
I would propose that such manifestations in language, thematization, and critique have characterized the
focusofpostcolonialstudiessinceitsinception.Ifitsdemisehasbeenannouncedbecauseofthefailureof
somanypostcolonialstatestobringjusticetotheirpeoples,orbecauseoftheneocolonialismthatpervades
current globalization and Empire, such factors apparently announcing the death of the field have actually
been sources of engagement with the impossibility of postcolonial studies from its start as a melancholic
discipline. While hope has been in play for a better future outside the conditions of colonialism, the
pervasiveness of colonialism in almost every sphere of modern life whether as remainder from earlier
eras of Ottoman, Habsburg, or French, British, Belgian, Italian or German colonialism, or newer forms of
neocolonialrulehasalwaysbeenengaged.
Inthisarticle,Iwilldiscussvariousmoments,sites,andmanifestationsofmelancholiainthefield'scritical
engagements to note how alibi, palliative, and mourning have always been impossible and avoided. These
moments exemplify a focus on dissonance, contradiction, antinomy, and other manifestations of critical
agencyastheyplayoutintemporalandspatialterms.ThemainsitewillbecolonialandpostcolonialAlgeria,
with its peculiar exemplarity that allows comparison with later colonies for example, the contemporary
neocolonial occupations in Israel/Palestine and Iraq. I will approach the issue of exemplarity and
melancholia through a consideration of Edward Said's work on late style, Pontecorvo's film The Battle of
Algiers, the Makam al Shahid monument in Algiers and modernist understanding of space in that city, and
thenotionofsovereigntyasdiscussedbyAchilleMbembeandJacquesDerrida.
Sai d an d L at e St yl e
EdwardSaiddeliveredhis1995Tannerlecturesonthesubjectofthe"LostCause."Increasinglyinterestedin
politicalandliterarylossintheyearssincehewasdiagnosedwithleukemia,andinwhatAdorno,writingof
Beethoven,wouldrefertoasthelatestyle,Saidprovidedawayofthinkingabouthopeanditsrelationto
the future in the face of loss. It is an essay that profoundly brings together melancholia in a number of
different ways, through personal affect, political disappointment, cultural analysis, and the study of literary
andmusicalgenreandform.PerhapsitisimportantalsotoremindusthatSaidwasoften(wrongly,Ithink)
creditedwithbeginningthefieldofpostcolonialstudiesandasits"father,"asitwererejectedthatrole,
andtosomeextentthefielditself,fromthebeginning.
Thelecture,publishednowas"OnLostCauses"inReflectionsonExile, is one of the few texts in which he
triedtotacklethequestionofhispoliticalactivism,hisliteraryanalysis,autobiography,andhisgreatinterest
inmusic,linkingthem,inoneessay,throughaconsiderationoftemporality.Itisoneofthefewplacestoo
whereheattemptedtoresolvesomeofthequestionsandcontradictionsinhisownlife,includinghisattitude
towardthehuman,theextraordinaryendorsementofaEurocentric,masculinist,andratheroutmodedliberal
humanism, and his elegiac but resolute relation to the Palestinian cause. He highlights the "irreconcilable"
and"antinomian"conflictbothembodiedintheland,butalsointhelatestyleofmanywriterswithwhomhe
found himself engaged. What he refers to as the aesthetics of exile "skeptical and always on guard"
(xxxiii) but not necessarily unhappy comes together with the problem of hopelessness and antinomy so
typical,hesuggested,oflatestyle:
Alostcauseisassociatedinthemindandinpracticewithahopelesscause:thatis,somethingyou
supportorbelieveinthatcannolongerbebelievedinexceptassomethingwithouthopeof
achievement.(527)
Twofactorsdeterminetheconclusionthatacausehasbeenlost.Thefirstisthetimeofmakingajudgment:
thepredicamentismorecommonlyencounteredinthelifeofanindividualasheorshenearsthe
endoflife...whenweaskourselvesthequestioncanIgoonorisithopeless,henceonlydespair
istheanswer.Intheseinstancesacauseisnotmomentousandpubliclikethesurvivalofanation
orthestrugglefornationalindependence,butthesenseofurgencymaybegreater.(529)
The second analytical category to be considered in the notion of a lost cause is who makes the judgment
thatacauseislostisitthebelieverinthecauseorthecriticofit?AccordingtoSaid,inthepoliticalrealm
theopponentwillunderminethecause,namingitlost,usuallyatthebeginningandmiddleoftheattemptto
advanceit,inthehopeofdiscouragingthepeopleontheotherside.Insuchinstances,Saidasksustorecall
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Gramsci's phrase, itself quoted from Romain Rolland, that we should have "pessimism of the intelligence,
and optimism of the will" (529). Judgment too has a curious temporality. It is pessimistic concerning the
present's pressure on the future. But the hope for a better future persists, suggesting, I would add, the
deepseatedaffectofmelancholiainitsproductionofutopia.Drawingonhisownchildhood,asiftodelineate
for his audience the manner in which colonial affect manifests itself on the modern political stage, he
describeshislifeintwoBritishcolonies,andallthepeculiaritiesofBritishcolonialeducation'scontradictions
for even those colonized figures like himself from the most privileged backgrounds: "I was not being
educatedinArabbutinBritishorEuropeanculture,thebettertoadvancethecauseofthatalienyetmore
advancedandmodernculture,tobecomeintellectuallymoreattachedtoitthantomyown"(530).
ButitisthisattachmenttothatculturethatwillcauseSaidtomakeanunlikelylinkthat"thepassagefrom
inculcatedenthusiasmforhighercausesintheyoungtothedisillusionmentofage"findsitsequivalentinthe
aesthetic form of the great realistic novel. Drawing on Lukacs' bold early work, The Theory of the Novel,
Said demonstrates through a reading of Flaubert's Sentimental Education that the novel presents the
romanticismofdisillusion.Thenovel"expressesthepredicamentofaworldabandonedbyGod"andisthus
a departure from epic. The final example of abstract idealism would be Cervantes' DonQuixote, in which
Quixote"canremainunblemishedinthepurityofhisintent"(533).Notonlyinthelaterformoftheepic,i.e.,
thenovel,butalsointhelatestyleofvariouswriters,doweseeawithdrawalofpalliatives,orthegradual
demiseofSaintJude,patronsaintofLostCauses,inthemoderncontext.Hagiographybecomesimpossible
inthemoderncontextgiventhatSaidwasdisparagingofhagiography,wecouldsaythatSaiddidnottake
feminism seriously, and trying to convince him of its importance was something of a lost cause. Thomas
Hardy'ssupremelydepressingJudetheObscure was, for Said, exactly a demonstration of how Saint Jude
has no value whatsoever to Hardy's Jude Fawley, "his modern namesake" (537). All these late works by
Flaubert, Cervantes, and Hardy demonstrate the doublebind in which they find themselves. At the end of
theirlivestheyattempttosummarizeandmakejudgments,yettheydosointheformofthenovel,itselffull
of "underlying ironies and depressing exigencies" (537) "conditioned...to be a narrative in which time
ironicallyexposesthedisparitybetweenrealityandhigherpurpose"(538).Thenovel,forSaid,istheform
constitutively opposed to idealism, containing as it does the "ruins of lost causes and defeated ambition"
(538).
Forpoliticallostcauses,therewasforSaidnoritualorformsuchasthenovel.Hewritesaboutthepolitical
causetowhichhehaddevotedhislife:thepursuitofPalestiniansovereignty,whichlookedtohimthentobe
atitsbleakestandofcourse,asweknow,itonlygotworseafterthat.Inadescriptionofthehorrorsdone
tothePalestinianpeople,andalsointhecorruptionofmanyofthoseinthePLOwithwhomhehadatone
timejoined,itisdifficulttoseehowSaidcouldregainanykindofidealisminthefaceofdefeat.Asiftrying
toliveoutthecontradictionsofthelatestyleinthenovelform,Saidunravelstheinevitablythwartedhope
the only hope available in modernity which keeps one from what Benjamin would call "left melancholy"
andwhatSaidwouldrefertoas"joininginthechorusofdefeatedactivists"(553).Drawingonceagainfrom
Adorno, he implores us to "reject the foolish wisdom of resignation" (527). He affirms "the individual
intellectual vocation, which is neither disabled by a paralyzed sense of political defeat nor impelled by
groundlessoptimismandillusoryhope"(553).
Formany,Orientalism,inits25yeareditionatthetimeofSaid'sdeath,remainsacrucialtextinthinkingthe
relation of the literary and the political, and how the modern West is constituted through colonialism and
thereforeparadoxicallyconstructedonthedestructionofhope.Saidtunedintotheparadoxesofhislifeand
his career and presented a way to revise the role of the intellectual in modern life. It is with a tone of
despairthathewroteinthenewintroductiontothe25yeareditionofOrientalismthattheargumentofthat
text was even more relevant today. New forms of Empire still include complicit intellectuals (like Bernard
Lewis),andtheappropriationofothers'voicesofdissent.
Said's final work published in his lifetime it seems that his book on late style will be published
posthumouslyFreudandtheNonEuropean,analyzesFreud'slatestyle,referringtohislastmajorwork,
Moses and Monotheism. Analyzing the antinomies of Freud's relationship to Judaism, and his rather
Christianized version of Moses who in turn appears as an Egyptian in Freud's text, Said discusses the
importanceofresponsiblearchaeologicalknowingthatresistsanationalistagendaandthefalsesustainingof
anidentitynotbasedonaflaw.Archaeologyofthenationalistvarietygivesawrongmindedpalliativethat
can never attend to flaws, losses, or complexities. For Said, the late style of Freud, archaeologist of the
unconscious, rather like that of Fanon, will never dispense such palliatives. Said's analysis of Freud's late
styleanditsrelationtoanarchaeologicalconstitutionoftheselfleadstosomethingFreudcouldneverhave
predicted:aPalestinianreadingthatwouldhavetocriticizetheIsraelinationalistdiscourseofarighttothe
land.CommentingonFreudand"hismostdisputatiousheir"(Freud18)Fanon,Saidasserts,"CertainlyFreud
had no thought of Europe as the malevolent colonizing power described a few decades later by Fanon"
(Freud5051).AndFanonhimselfwoulddemonstrateallthehorrifyingcomplexitiesofanypossiblefuturein
sovereignty,evenashefoughtforit.Said'sownendorsementofhumanismmakeshimquitedifferentfrom
Fanon,buthenonethelessmarkedthecomplexstyleoftheposthumouslypublishedWretchedoftheEarth.
Moses and Monotheism became an example of the late style's demand for complexity and a loss of the
hagiographicabilityandslavishloyaltytothepalliativesofidentitypolitics.ItdemonstratedforSaidaform
of flaw and splitting in the figure of Moses, which produced in Freud a form of secular thought that can be
employedtoanalyzeotherbesiegedidentities.[6]Freud,Fanon,andSaidhimselfbecomespokespersonsfor
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thebesieged,whowilldiebeforeanyoftheircausescouldbewon.Freud,inasense,becomesaPalestinian
inthewaythatFanoneffectivelybecameanAlgerian:inhopefulbutprofoundmelancholy.Stylisticaffective
expressiongivesformposthumously,forSaid,tosolidarityandthedemandforjusticebeyondidentity.
Saidwasultimatelynotapsychoanalyticcritic.Hisintellectualinvestmentslayinhumanistcosmopolitanism.
I would propose that the form of melancholia theorized by Freud and to some extent Fanon allows for a
reading of Said involving critical disidentification with space even as it calls for justice in the affective
attachment to it. Feelings of disappointment are mixed with barely audible hope for what seems like an
inevitably failed ideal of sovereignty, to which the novel is testimony. The lost cause emerges in textuality
ratherthanthematization,andinaffectemerginginlanguageratherthandirectedarticulation.Expandingon
the notion of late style in another article, and focusing on Adorno's writing on Beethoven from which the
termlatestyleemerges,hediscussesthedissonance,incompletion,jettisonedharmony,anduntimelinessof
the style. Of Ibsen, he notes, "a sort of deliberately unproductive productiveness, a going against"
("Thoughts" 3). This "going against" that emerges in textuality seems like an undoing, a loss of palliative,
easysolution,orknowledgeofacompleteworldviewtobepresented.Inpoliticalterms,suchlossofideal
constitutestheemergenceofdissonanceinthefaceofcompromise.Itpointstowardanotherfutureinwhich
attention to formal and stylistic aspects in the language of coloniality and its peculiar post, demands an
attentiontotherelationbetweentheaesthetic,theformal,andthepoliticalhowevercontradictorythesemay
at times seem. Said, in Freud and the NonEuropean, places himself in a line of Freud and Fanon who, in
their late styles, expressed a kind of despair that nonetheless allowed them to present hope for a better
futureoutofatarnishedpresentwithitsmurderoustrajectory.
I have suggested that melancholia's temporality is dragged backwards and forwards in ways that force an
understanding of the weight of the loss of ideal. Affect weighs against the palliative of newness, which is
often alibi for conducting politics in a compromised vein. An incipient future oriented hope manifests itself
textuallyinremainders,indissonance,andinuntimeliness.BydrawingonSaid'snotionoflatestyleasan
example of postcolonialism's textuality, I am not only suggesting that Said, the postcolonial cosmopolitan,
produces a melancholic style. His Adornonian theory of late style is an interesting descriptor of
postcolonialism'smelancholicbelatedsovereignty.
A l g i ers an d i t s Exem p l ari t y
Edward Said considered the Battle of Algiers to be the greatest political film ever made (Exile 282293).
RecentlythisfilmhasbeenscreenedatthePentagonforratherdubiouspoliticalends.WhileSaidsoughtto
find analogy between the Algerian and Palestinian situation, the Pentagon found connections between the
USA'scurrentroleinIraq,andthatoftheFrenchinAlgeria.Suchcomparisonofsitesandpoliticalsituations
poses difficult questions concerning the possibility of coalition, internationalism, or solidarity, because each
comparison raises questions of temporality concerning how repetition, teleology, analogy, contingency,
influence, and mutual constitution function. The analogy between the current war in Iraq and the Algerian
war of independence, and also the analogy between the Algerian struggle and that of Palestinians, attests
notonlytothepowerofPontecorvo'sfilmbutalsototherelationofdeathtosovereigntyrevealedinstark
fashion in Algeria (Mbembe 12). Said was profoundly disappointed when Pontecorvo said that he could not
make a film about the Palestinian cause because for him the situation was far more complicated than that
between the Algerian and the French. Pontecorvo's decision had as much to do with a political response to
the Israeli/Palestinian situation as with his inability to make a film demonstrating that complexity and the
difficultyofhopefulpalliativesinthefaceofcompromisedalibis.Said'sownlatestyleaffirmsspeakingout
for those who suffered more than him with the implicit acknowledgment of the impossibilities, paradoxes,
and antinomies of postcolonial intellectual and political life, and its despairing affirmation of hope for the
future.ItisperhapsinthisthathisdisappointmentinPontecorvolay.
The apparent exemplarity of the film and, I will suggest, the case of Algeria in the understanding of
postcolonialism, necessitates a drawing out of many different aspects of the "return" of this film in belated
fashion. What returns in the film is an excess of historical teleology that could not find rest in the political
trajectorysuggestedinneorealiststyle,orconfusedcomparison.TheanalogydrawnamongAlgeria,Iraq,
andPalestineinconsiderationsofthefilmandperhaps,moregenerally,thesiteAlgiers,withitslegendary
theoristofdecolonization,FrantzFanondoesnotsimplysuggestahistoricalcontinuityamongtheformsof
colonial or neocolonial rule. Rather, I would propose, the case of Algeria, and more specifically Algiers,
becomesexemplarybecauseacertainformofsovereigntywasplayedoutwhichsystematicallyengendered
a melancholic remainder. It is within the affect initiated by this remainder that one could, perhaps, find a
spectercallingforjustice.Thesemelancholicspecters,availabletousonlybylisteningtotheoftenunspoken
demandsofatext,pointthewaytowardadifferentfuture,andareprofoundlymaterial.
WhenTheBattleofAlgierswasscreenedatthePentagon,manyjournalistscommentedonhowthefilmhad
beenrequiredviewingforthoseontheleftinthelate1960s.Thiswasespeciallytrueforthoseinterestedin
the mechanisms of what Sartre, using Maoist terminology in the Russell War Tribunals on the war in
Vietnam, called "a people's war": a war fought on the ground by those faced with the possibility of total
annihilation.AccordingtoSartre,inthefaceofamuchgreatermilitaryforcethepeopleinevitablyresortto
anewformofwar,usuallyincluding"terrorism"and"torture"(ElKaimSartreandSartre65).Thefortyor
so Pentagon officers and civilian experts were invited, on the flier advertising the screening, to consider
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"howtowinabattleagainstterrorismandlosethewarofideas.Childrenshootsoldiersatpointblankrange.
Womenplantbombsincafes.SoontheentireArabpopulationbuildstoamadfervor.Soundfamiliar?The
Frenchhaveaplan.Itsucceedstacticallybutfailsstrategically.Tounderstandwhy,cometoarareshowing
of the film" (Kaufman 3). Organized by a civilianled group, the message suggested that while it may be
tempting to use similar tactics in Iraq today as used by the French fortyfive years earlier, there are
positives and negatives to be discerned. In the 1957 battle depicted by Pontecorvo, of course, Algerians
were fighting for independence and sovereignty in the face of a France reluctant despite the length and
bloodinessofthewar,andthelossofaround100,000Frenchlivestoletgo.Andthewarfrontunlikein
Iraqtodaywheremilitarycampsdefinethefront,thosewhofightareconsidered"radicalinsurgents"rather
thancombatants,andfightingbeyondthisfrontisperceivedasterrorismwasparticularlyintimate,fought
inthecityofAlgiersasabattlebetweentheoldArabcasbahandthemodernFrenchcity.
I have written elsewhere on the scene in which women prepare themselves to plant bombs in the modern
partofAlgiers("ThirdtoFourth"1332),andthewayinwhichwomeninthefilmseemtodemandadifferent
kindofpoliticsthanthatunderstoodwithinthedominantmodeofneorealistrepresentation.Thegrainyfilm
used is different from the majority of the film, the sound is all percussion with no speech, the light is far
brighterthanatanyothermomentinthefilm,andthewholestructureofrepresentationisconfusedthrough
an enclosed space of mirrors. Even as the trajectory and will of the film is toward independence and
sovereignty, the scene with the women seems to gesture toward a form of politics outside a system of
representation and sovereignty. Women rarely speak in this film the most significant sound that emerges
fromthemistheululation,atonceasoundofmourningandofcelebration.
ThequestionofvoiceinrelationtoAlgerianwomenisaconsistentsourceofengagementforfilmmakersin
theregion.MerzakAllouache,forexample,inhisearliestcomedy,OmarGatlato(1977),structuredhisfilm
around the question of woman's voice and the politics of representation. Omar, an antifraud bureaucrat,
lovesmusic,andparticularlysongsfromHindifilms.Hetakeshistaperecordertothecinemawithhim,and
tapessongsillegally,andlistenstothemconstantly.Oneday,heinevitablyhashistapemachinestolen,and
when,aftergreatdifficulty,hegetsanotheronethroughsemilegalmeans,heturnsitontofindthevoiceof
awomanspeakingonthecassettethisdiscoveryraisesquestionsregardingjusticeinthefaceofthelegal
corruptioninwhichheis,inspiteofhiskindness,nonethelesscomplicit.Thespeechisnotdirectlyaddressed
to him, but he will become caught up in the demands of a particularly feminine form of justice this voice
makes. The form of justice will only exist as a demand in the face of a legality that has no room for the
remaindering of woman that takes place in the Algiers of the moment. Assia Djebar's film, La Nouba des
femmesdeMontChenoua(1976)orbyDjebarandMalekAlloula,LaZerdaetleschantsdeL'Oubli(1980)
similarly plays with this question of voice and the possibility of a politics outside the realm of liberal
representationanditsevidentcorruption.Butfilmssuchasthese,whichseemtotakeonthepoliticalreality
invariedstylesofcomedyandmockdocumentaryratherthanneorealismwithitsplaywithtemporaland
historicalexactitudearerarelyfoundtoexemplifyinthemannerofTheBattleofAlgiers.InPontecorvo's
masterpiece, the complexity of political alibi or a palliative that justifies corruption and violence appears in
thesceneswithwomenandwithanexplicitstylisticshiftoutofneorealismanditsteleologicaltemporality.
The later demise of women's rights in 1980s Algeria is suggestive indeed of the failure of representative
politics,whichseemstobepromisedbythefilm'sdominantstylistictrajectory.
Whilemostoftheeventsinthefilmareenclosedwithinthetemporalityofaflashbackafailedbattleon
the part of the Algerians and a dismal story of violence and death being wrought against all but most
significantlyAlgeriansthefinalscenedepictsanululationandawomanskippingforwardwithanAlgerian
flagoutofabarelyvisiblecrowd.Thewordsarenothers,butreportthatin1962the"Algeriannationwas
born."Thestoryofbirthispositedinthefuture,butalsointhereportageofthepast,asiftoremindusof
theconfusedtemporalityofpostcolonialnationhood,andthemelancholiclabortowhichitattests.Birthand
deathcometogetherinatemporalitythatatonceproposeswomen'sreproductivelabor(literallypregnancy)
as hope, and the extraordinary supplement of death attested to in national sovereignty struggles and in
postcolonialstates(Khanna1332).
Mostofthefilm,however,depictsapeoplebrilliantlyandclandestinelyorganized,whoseguerillastrategies
are as unmappable as the casbah into which they disappear.[7] The casbah, in true modernist binary
opposition, is shown to function as an organ, in contrast to the modern French city. When parts of it are
destroyed with French explosives, the whole complex network appears to weep, and paradoxically is
strengthened in its pursuit of sovereignty. This sense of organic cohesion is particularly striking in the film
oncethenarrativehasmovedpasttheFLN'stroubling"cleanup"ofthecasbah.Inamomentwhichcanbe
read retrospectively as cautionary, we see the FLN's intolerance of difference and disregard for human life
as its excess is rendered disposable. Children are taught to persecute drunks, and prostitutes and others
deemedlowlifebytheFLNarecleanedoffthestreets,asifechoingtheexclusionarypracticesofthesettler
town.
Themodernpartofthecityisneverdepictedasanorganicwhole,andneverappearstobeofthepeople
(thesettlers)wholivethere.Shotsofthemodernsectionsofthecityaremuchnarrower,andthereisnever
anysuggestionofitsgriminess.Mostshotsofthenewtownareofinteriorsinwhichpleasurefood,drink,
dance,travelandaccesstopublicspaceareforegrounded.
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ItiswellknownthatPontecorvowasareaderofFanon,andbasedmuchofhisunderstandingofthewomen
of Algiers on Fanon's famous essay, "Algeria Unveiled" (3567). The film also depicts a stark contrast
between the settler, or European section of the city, and the casbah as described in the posthumous
WretchedoftheEarth. Fanon almost certainly had Algiers in mind when he wrote the following concerning
colonialspatiality:
Thesettlers'townisastronglybuilttown,allmadeofstoneandsteel.Itisabrightlylittownthe
streetsarepavedwithasphalt,andthegarbagecansswallowalltheleavings,unseen,unknown,
andhardlythoughtabout.Thesettler'sfeetarenevervisible,exceptperhapsinthesea,butthere
you'renevercloseenoughtoseethem.Hisfeetareprotectedbystrongshoesalthoughthe
streetsofhistownarecleanandeven,withnoholesorstones.Thesettler'stownisawellfed
town,aneasygoingtown,itsbellyisalwaysfullofgoodthings.Thesettler'stownisatownof
whitepeople,offoreigners.
Thetownbelongingtothecolonizedpeople,oratleastthenativetown,theNegrovillage,the
medina,thereservation,isaplaceofillfame,peopledbymenofevilrepute.Theyarebornthere,
itmatterslittlewhereorhowtheydiethere,itmattersnotwhereorhow.Itisaworldwithout
spaciousness,menlivethereontopofeachother.Thenativetownisahungrytown,starvedof
bread,ofmeat,ofshoes,ofcoal,oflight.Thenativetownisacrouchingvillage,atownonits
knees,atownwallowinginthemire.ItisatownofniggersanddirtyArabs.(Wretched3839)
Nothavingacleararchitecturalplanforthecityorforthefuture,Fanonfamouslywouldalreadybemoanthe
almost inevitable failure of national culture in newlyindependent nationstates. Even within the context of
the hopeful international communism evident in the title of his book the title The Wretched of the Earth
comes from "L'Internationale," the song of the first and second communist internationals Fanon found it
difficult to imagine how a postcolonial national bourgeoisie, with its history of hunger and bad digestion,
wouldbeabletocreateanationalculture.Inspiteofthishopefulinvestmentincommunistinternationalism,
he would of course have to acknowledge that the PCF, even as it had been critical of the French army's
tactics in Algeria and had supported strikes resisting participation in the army, was ultimately against
Algeriandecolonization.
Generalizing from what he had observed in his years in Algeria, he wrote that middle class background in
poverty, hunger, the very stuff of indigestible ideological assimilation, and the squalor of years under
colonialsovereignty,createdasituationinwhichithardlymattered,andwouldhardlymatter,where,how,
andwhetherthecolonizedlivedordied.Thecolonizedpeople,inFanon'sreading,areutterlydisposablefor
the settlers and the French. He saw them as crouching and wallowing in mire, ready, like all leavings of
colonialism, to be swallowed up by the garbage cans of empire. The very structure of the divisive colonial
city for Fanon shapes the temporality of colonial and postcolonial life. It is difficult for him to find any
prospect of hope, and this is precisely why this late style manifesto of decolonization is full of remainders
that beg the question of how a future could be imagined out of the degradation of contemporary colonial
existence. It is most often the explicit Marxist, sometimes Sartrian, dialectical vein that is drawn out of
Fanon's text, and yet there is a dissonance on every level of the prose that is suggestive of the ways in
whichremainderswillinsistuponthefuture,andwillcallanyalreadytheorizedformofpoliticsintoquestion
ifjusticecannotbefulfilled.
The contrast between Fanon's late 50s/early 60s vision on the one hand, and that of the classic modernist
architect, Le Corbusier on the other has rightly been remarked upon by Zeynep Celik. Le Corbusier had
extraordinary and numerous never realized plans for Algiers. In writings spanning the years from 1930 to
1950, he depicts the city as part of a radiant block for "our machineage civilization," in which Paris,
Barcelona, Rome and Algiers would constitute a "unit extending north to south along a meridian" in which
Algiers(thoughpresumablystillunderFrenchrule)would"ceasetobeacolonialcity,"becominginstead"the
headoftheAfricancontinent,acapitalcity"(TheRadiantCity228).Addressingthemayorasheproposed
plans for the city, he imagines "Witnesses," writing "The barbarians' speak." He described the beauty and
poetryofthe"barbarian"Arabareasofthecityandofthehospitalityofthedomesticarchitectureincontrast
to what he saw as the pitiable shoddiness of the modern city where Europeans live like rats in holes (The
RadiantCity230232):
Seenfromthesea,EuropeanAlgiersisnothingbutcrumblingwallsanddevastatednature,the
wholeisasulliedblock...Europeansdidnotexploitthefortuneofferedtothem.
ThecasbahofAlgiersmadethesite:itgavethenameofWhiteAlgierstothisglitteringentity,that
welcomes,atdawn,theboatsthatarriveattheharbor.Inscribedinthesite,itisirrefutable.Itis
inconsonancewithnature,becausefromeveryhouse,fromtheterraceandtheseterracesaddon
toeachotherlikeamagicandgiganticstaircasedescendingtotheseaoneseesthespace,the
sea.(LeFolklore31)
Bodies that seem disposable and ready to be swallowed up by the French to Fanon, who sees them in the
streets and in the hospital, are to Le Corbusier, seeing them from the sea, resident barbarians, deeply
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connected to nature, able to command the space of the city as well as the Mediterranean, and willing
hospitably, to draw guests within. Far from disposable, the architecture of the city suggests they too are
irrefutable,eveniftheycannotbemapped.
It has been famously asserted by Benedict Anderson that the print culture of such things as novels,
newspapers, censuses, and maps, and institutions like museums, go into the formation of the modern
nationstate. Each of these institutions shapes people's notion of temporality, and therefore, according to
Anderson,theirideaofan"imaginedcommunity"(Anderson).AndersondrawsonWalterBenjamin'snotion
of "homogeneous, empty time" which is structured by the existence of the calendar and clock, and which
preventsusfromexperiencingamessianicsenseofabsolutesimultaneitybetweenpast,present,andfuture
events.Andersonsuggeststhattheproductsofprintcapitalismallowforasynchronicrelationamongpeople
existing and feeling commonality with other anonymous readers. Drawing on Ernest Renan's notion that a
nation state exists as a function of will, Anderson notes that these institutions constitute the parameters
throughwhichthe"dailyplebiscite"isperformed.ForAnderson,theycreateanotionofimaginedcommunity
that allows one to forget the impossibility of commonality among sometimes sworn enemies. Buried in the
past, they can be commemorated as something remembered as forgotten, and mourned, swallowed as it
were into the garbage bin of national history in favor of the new relations coming into existence. And the
citizencomesintobeingandintohumansubjectivityastheauthorofhisbelonging,confidentintheideathat
thesovereigntyofthestatehonorshisexistence.Nowhereisthismorevividlyfelt,accordingtoAnderson,
than at memorials, or monuments to the dead and the ceremonies that surround them.[8] The monument
performs the work of mourning, and hence the assimilation of the dead object into the national body,
swallowed as if in a garbage can. It also celebrates a cause, demonstrating the power of the sovereign
nationstate to honor its martyrs, and thereby validating the cause for which they died. While Fanon
proposesthatthesettlercolonycreatesdivisionsthatwillpotentiallybeperpetuatedintothefuture,andthat
cannotbeforgottenbutwillalwaysinsistthemselvesastheremainderdemandingjustice,Andersonasksus
tofocusonhowthemonumentbecomesasinglelocationthroughwhichtochannelaprocessofmourning,
loss,andvictory.Theinjusticesstrewnthroughoutthecity'sarchitecturebecomeoccludedinthenewfocus
onthepalliativeofthemonument.
In 1982 in the period of Chadli Benjedid's unpopular presidency when the economy of Algeria was
beginning to shift from its socialist model, when concessions were given to Islamists on such important
subjects as women's rights for private and public sovereignty, when corruption in the ruling party, the
NationalLiberationFront,wasatitsheight,andwhenBerberdemandsweregreatlysuppressedMakamel
Shahid, or the Martyr's Monument, was constructed in Algiers to celebrate, and also to commemorate,
twentyyearsofAlgerianindependence(Fig1).ThemonumentdominatesthelandscapeofAlgiers,withits
three flamelike sides, each protected, in federalist style, by a massive statue of three different faces and
soldier'sattiresoftherevolution.Itisvisiblefromallquartersofthecity,andispopularlyanddisparagingly
known as "the banana," to which it bears a vague resemblance. In the basement of the monument is a
museum of Algeria's war of independence. There is tension between celebration and commemoration
evident in this monument, and the way in which the sovereign nationstate came to elide the difference
betweenthosetwofunctionsandeffectivelyrenderedthose800,000to1.5millionlivesdisposable.[9]
In 1982, many of the more progressive forms of politics theorized during and in the aftermath of the
struggle for independence were being erased from collective memory, and the monument serves as if to
commemorate independence as much as the dead soldiers. The work of mourning materialized in the
monument forms a simulation of the past in the service of political myths serving the state. However, the
boundaries of the work, I would suggest, are irrefutably unstable. Assia Djebar's book, Algerian White,
mourns individuals, and yet shows the generalized architecture of Algeria (invoked in the title) set to the
work of mourning and death. Mourning is therefore not located in one structure and confined to one
identifiable and delimited historical event, as in Makam alShahid. There is a melancholic and excess of
monumentalism, the leavings, the uncounted, the utterly disposable, as the affective expression of
disidentification and critical politics in late sovereignty. Once again, the case of Algeria seems to ask why
modern nation states in general, and other emerging late sovereignties, celebrate their treatment of
disposable bodies, while occluding their more generalized existence within state sovereignty. Modernity's
injunctiontomournisexemplifiedinthemonument,asiftoconstructapalliativeinwhichdisposabilitycan
belocatedonceandforall,andburied.Amelancholicreadingaffectivelyresiststhisinjunction.Itexposes
howdisposabilityisgeneralizedtothewholepopulaceinlatesovereignty.ItislocatednotonlyinMakamal
Shahid, but throughout sovereign Algerian White. Modern divisions, whether by Fanon or Le Corbusier
become, in postcolonial Algeria, divisions among the sovereigns and the disposable rendered in a constant
stateofwar.
So verei g n t y' s L at e St yl e
In a recent essay, Achille Mbembe has formulated a concept of "necropolitics," which underscores the
profoundly cynical nature of the form of politics enunciated in disposability. Sovereignty, generally
understoodaccordingtoMbembe,ratherromantically,asthesubjectas"masterandthecontrollingauthor
of his or her own meaning" (12) in his rendering is always associated with Hobbes' distinction between life
anddeathandthesovereign'spowertodecideoneitherforhispopulation.Mbembeinsiststhatthoughwe
maythinkofsovereigntyasdrawingonGreeknotionsofthedemos(thepeopleorcommons),infactithas
many varied and particularly modern roots. Drawing on Agamben, and registering his departure from
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Foucault,Mbembeasksustothinkofpoliticsasaformofwar,ratherthanasbiopower.MichelFoucault,at
theendoftheHistoryofSexuality,describedtheturningofpoliticsintobiopolitics:themomentinwhichlife,
or natural life, becomes the terrain upon which the state's power is played out. Foucault writes: "For
millennia, man remained what he was for Aristotle: a living animal with the additional capacity for human
existence modern man," he adds, "is an animal whose politics calls his existence as a living thing into
question"(143).Consideringthedisciplinarycontrolofwhathavebecome,throughstateenforcement,docile
bodiestobemanipulated,Foucaultimploresustounderstandthegenealogyofthemechanismsofbiopower.
In Society Must Be Defended, he stresses that modern state racism is an instantiation of other earlier
racismsandtheirrelationtosovereignty.ForFoucault,wemustunderstandthatallofusarethreatenedby
thesystemofbiopower,notonlythosewhoaresingledout.ContrarytoHobbes,whothoughtthatthestate
ofnaturewasoneofwarthatwouldbeovercomebythestateofculture,Foucaultproposesthisnarrativeis
apalliative.Itforcesanahistoricalunderstandingofsovereignpowerthatstopsusfromseeingtheformsof
violence directed toward all of us. It causes us to counter biopower with biopolitical critique, itself
symptomatic of sovereign power. For Foucault, the state of modern culture in which we find ourselves is a
stateofpermanentwar,andpoliticshastobeputintheserviceofdefendingsocietyagainsttheforcesof
modernsovereignty(Foucault,SocietyMustbeDefended).
Taking this a step further, Agamben considers this notion in relation to sovereignty and the state of
exception,formulatinganotionofbarelifeheseesascomingintoexistenceintheNazicamps:"theplacein
which the most absolute conditio inhumana ever to appear on earth was realized" (5051). Whereas the
stateofexceptionisabstractlyunderstoodasatemporalaberration,inthecampsitacquiredapermanent
spatial organization, and established itself within this area as the norm that is, as the primary mode in
whichsovereigntyoperated.Sovereigntythusbecomesassociatedwiththesovereign'sabsoluterighttokill
or keep alive for no other representative purpose than to demonstrate and enforce power. Sovereignty in
bothAgambenandMbembebecomesadiscourseofdeath.
Mbembe,withoutdisputingtheparticularityandthehorrorofthecamp,departsfromAgamben'sEurocentric
focus on the Holocaust. Agamben is unable to acknowledge the importance of the category of slavery
despitethefactthatthehistoricalgenealogyhetracesisfromRomanlaw.Itappears,infact,thatAgamben
canmakehistotalizingdistinctionbetweenbiosandzoepreciselybecausehedoesnotaccountforslavery
orcolonialism(Agamben,HomoSacer).Mbembenotonlycitesvarioushistorianswhocontendthatslavery
and some colonialisms would have to be understood as similarly forming a systematization through which
biopolitics becomes irrelevant because all bodies are deemed disposable. Through this contention, he also
persuades us that the state of exception is not a spatial category at all. Rather, he says, rejecting the
adequacy of Foucault's biopolitical argument, "to exercise sovereignty is to exercise control over mortality
andtodefinelifeasthedeploymentandmanifestationofpower"("Necropolitics"12).Inthissense,politics
is no longer "the exercise of reason in the public sphere" (12), but rather a form of war. Politics, argues
MbembethroughBataille,isnotadialecticalmovementtowardaHegelianbecominghuman,butratherthe
movementofbeingsthatpushesthelimitoflife,death,andallformsoftaboo.Mbembeasks,"Whatplaceis
giventolife,death,andthehumanbody(inparticularthewoundedorslainbody)?Howaretheyinscribedin
the order of power?" (12). It is the decision to let die, rather than the Schmittian/Derridean formulation of
the sovereign's power to decide when to decide, and when to suspend the rule of law in the state of
exception.
As Derrida formulates his notions of sovereignty, he writes in the context of the suspension of elections in
Algeria 1992, supposedly in the name of democracy. The power to decide on when to grant an exception
(Schmitt's state of exception) in the name of democracy is also the moment, he writes, when the demos
becomessecondarytothekratos(cracy),thatis,thetakingofpower,rule,andauthorityinthemomentof
demonstrating the might of the sovereign (Voyous57). This shift of emphasis to the moment of decision,
ratherthantheparticularsofwhetherthesovereigndecidestomakeliveorletdie,changestherelationto
death somewhat, and makes its choice an entirely arbitrary demonstration of power that can always be
instrumentalized in socalled democratic states, or ones being "brought into" the state of democratic
sovereignty.Thisdemonstrationofpowerappearscynicallyintheapparentviolentimpositionofdemocracy
through an alien occupying force in Iraq and in the increasingly dismal struggle of a frequently thwarted
people in Palestine. And it is not only coincidence that at this moment The Battle of Algiers made a
comeback,andindeedthatanalogieswithAlgeriaseemtobecommonatthistime.[10]
Although I would not underestimate the importance of Derrida's Algerian background, or the knowledge of
illnessthatmayleadtoourunderstandingthistextasalatework,itisnotmerelybiographicalreasonsthat
lead Derrida to turn to the example of Algeria in his discussion of sovereignty today. Algeria seems like a
testcaseforhim,fullofallthecontradictionsofaformofdemocracythatwillcancelelectionsinitsname.
Forhim,thecancellationofelectionsin1991/1992astrategyusedbytheFLNandbackedbytheFrench
to stop the Islamic Salvation Front's coming to power exemplifies how the state of exception becomes
normalizedwithinthesystemoflatesovereignty(seealsoRachidBoujedra).Ontheonehand,thestateof
exception appears to have been isolated to a particular moment of Algerian politics: the opening up of
electionstoafullmultipartysystemin1988andtheremovalofsocialismfromtheconstitution.Whilesome
would argue that this led to the subsequent success of the FIS in provincial elections in 1990, we could
proposethatunderstoodasmelancholiaitwasperhapsmerelyanextensionofthegeneralstateofAlgerian
politicswhichcametoaheadthirtyyearsafterindependencein1962.
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The story of sovereignty and citizenship experienced a shift during the Algerian war of independence that
exposed the systematic disposability of bodies in struggles for sovereignty. Restoring any kind of voice
attemptingtoapologize,reinstateorder,rectify,ortraceastoryofviolenceasanexceptionisanalibiwhen
circumstances show that it had become the norm. And if the revolutionary desire for national sovereignty
endswithexceptionalviolenceasthenorm,howisitpossibletothinkofthepostcolonialprojectasanything
otherthanalostcauseinwhichamilitarybackedstateofexceptioncanbedeclaredatanytimeandwithout
much any need for rationalization? How is it possible to conceive of hope when those categories of
democracyandsovereigntythathavebecome,inenlightenmentthought,theframeworkwithinwhichjustice
hasbeenconceivedseemadulteratedattheirfoundation?Howdoesonemaintainhopewhenstatepolitics
seems to have been reduced to war, with the nuclear power of total war threatening absolute annihilation,
and strong economy as the rationale for a form of constant war through which states can maintain their
imperial power? How also does one maintain hope when, as Mbembe would put it, the attempt for
sovereignty in, for example the Palestinian situation, has been reduced to an overt mechanism of death in
thefigureofthesuicidebomber?[11]
Algeria's erection of the huge memorial that dominates the melancholic landscape is in a sense also the
burialoftheideaofsovereigntyasselfdeterminationofthepeople.Initsplace,andinthiscombinationof
commemorationandcelebration,itistheverydisposabilityofbodiesthatiscelebrated.Theextraordinarily
diverseaccountsofhowmanydiedbetween800,000to1.5millionregistersindeedthatbodiesdonot
count: they are born and die with no census to mark the nationalist agenda. The structure, more than a
massive flame held in respect to the unknown soldier, resembles a chimney in which they burn. The
dominanceofthestructureoverthecity,inwhichitbecomesalandmarknowcombiningtheseparateparts
oftheoncedividedcity,isitsnavigationpointinthiscitywithoutmaps.[12]Themuseumtothemartyrsin
the cavernous basement, attempting to bury the dead, also attempts to bury the cause of sovereignty as
selfdetermination. The organizing principle of the new nation state by the time of the erection of the
monument,wasallthatFanonfearedforthepostcolony.Butwhilethemonumenttellsataleofnecropolitics,
acriticalmelancholiaremains,inwhichtheremnantsofanidealleaveanirrefutablemark.Nomap,census,
print,ormuseumcanbeentirelysuccessfulatpresentingthenationseamlessly.Whiletheworkofmourning
may relegate swallowed disposable bodies to the garbage can of modern nationalism, the work of
melancholia, critically attesting to the fact of the lie intrinsic to modern notions of sovereignty, is the only
hope for the future. To sustain a people existing in the sovereign state of necropolitics and lost causes,
criticalmelancholia,formulatedthroughtheghostswithideals,istheonlywayfordemocracytocome.[13]
While not all in the field of postcolonial studies will conceive of melancholia in the Freudian and Derridean
termsIhaveemployed,myreadingnonethelessdemonstrateshowandwhythefieldofpostcolonialstudies
hasalwaysbeenmelancholic,andhasalwaysexpressedthroughthismelancholiaitsprofoundbelatedness
and complicated antinomies. It is indeed usually at fault when it offers palliatives, announces success, or
thinksthatjusticehasbeenfulfilled.Sovereignty'slatestylehas,inpostcolonialtheory,founditscriticswho
minetheantinomiesofpostcoloniallifetofinddemandsforjustice,andthereforehopeforthefuture.

N otes
[1]

ThespecialissueofAngelaki6.1(2001)isdevotedtothequestionof"SubalternityandAffect"andis
helpful in thinking through this question of nonhegemonic manifestation of protest, and non
representative forms of politics. See especially the special issue editors introduction, Jon Beasley
MurrayandAlbertoMoreiras,"SubalternityandAffect."

[2]

Seeforexample,EdwardSaid'sinvocationofGramsci,invokingtheclassicsinturn,atthebeginning
ofOrientalism(25).

[3]

See Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud,
especially"MourningandMelancholia"inVol.XIV(23760).

[4]

The most obvious and most extensive example of this is Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's Critique of
PostcolonialReason.

[5]

Theenormousbodyofrecentworkonmelancholiaderivesfromaninterestinpsychoanalysisonthe
one hand, and Benjaminian theories on the other. See for example Jacques Derrida, Spectres of
MarxGillianRose,MourningBecomestheLawJudithButler,ThePsychicLifeofPowerJosEsteban
Muoz,DisidentificationsWendyBrown,"Resisting Left Melancholy" Anne Cheng, The Melancholy of
RaceDavidEng,RacialCastrationDouglasCrimp,MelancholiaandMoralismDavidEngandDavid
Kazanjian eds., Loss: The Politics of Mourning Ranjana Khanna, Dark Continents. The relevant
sources for much of this scholarship include Walter Benjamin,The Origin of German Tragic Drama
and "Leftwing Melancholy" Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, The Shell and the Kernel. My book
(citedabove)discussesmelancholiaatgreatlength,andmyarticle,"SignaturesoftheImpossible"in
Duke Journal of Gender, Law and Policy also explicitly addresses a slight departure from Judith
Butler'sworkonthesubjectinPsychic.Butler'smodelofmelancholiaisderivedatleastpartlyfrom
MelanieKlein'snotionofthecomingintosexualityasaprocessoflossofobjects.Itseemstomethat
this loss is often recognizable as such in sexual terms. My own emphasis is on the trace and
remainderthatcannotbeidentified,althoughIappreciateverymuchtheinterventionsoftheKleinian
frameworkfromButler,aswellasfromEstherSanchezPardoinhermonumentalstudyofKleinand
sexualdifferenceentitledCulturesoftheDeathDrive.

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[6]

SaidisbynomeanstheonlyonetoturntoFreud's"MosesandMonotheism"oflate.Worksrelatedto
my consideration here include Cathy Caruth, "Unclaimed Experience" Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi,
Freud'sMosesJacquesDerrida,"ArchiveFever"and"PsychoanalysisSearchestheStateofitsSoul."

[7]

Having declared the casbah an international heritage site, UNESCO has now mapped this site in
Algiers.

[8]

Antoine Prost, writing for Pierre Nora's new national history of France, based on realms or sites of
memory, considers the monuments to the dead and ceremonies associated with them, particularly
thatofthemonumentsforWWIwhichcanbefoundineveryFrenchtown.

[9]

Foranextensivediscussionofdisposablepeople,seeBertrandOgilvie,
Violenceetreprsentation.

[10]

There are many examples of this line of thinking. See, for example, Andrew J. Bacevich oped from
April13,2004intheSouthBendTribune.

[11]

It seems important to note, of course, that it is not only the Palestinian cause, or indeed Muslim
politicsthathasgeneratedformsofattemptedsovereigntythroughtherearingoflifefordeathinthis
way.IndiaandSriLankahaveseenmanyofthese,andinthosecontexts,unlikeinthoseconcerning
Palestinians, the popular imagery has (with historical validity) focused on women as disposable, in
otherwords,thefemalesuicidebomber.Thisisnottheplacetoanalyzefurthertheratherwonderful
film titled The Terrorist. But what is fascinating about that film is the manner in which life
(reproduction) and death (suicide bombing) are played against each other, as if this were really a
clear political choice, with the utopian ideal articulated through pregnancy. A contrasting film, like
ManiRatnam'sDilSe,explorestheethicalimpossibilityofthepoliticalchoicesinplayinsomeways
(paradoxicallygivenitsmorepopularform)inamoresophisticatedfashion.

[12]

Interestingly,itistheexternalforcesthathavemappedAlgierstheBritishduringWW2theFrenchas
documented in their recent exhibition, "Alger: paysage urbain et architectures" in which very few
images of buildings were in evidence and now UNESCO, effectively finally winning the argument to
createthemuseumificationofthecasbah,begins to map the city. As a tourist going to Algiers, it is
almostimpossibletofindamap,andwhenoncedoes,ithasthemodernistbeautyandabstractionof
aLeCorbusiersketch.

[13]

IhavediscussedthisfurtherinDarkContinents.Derridadiscusses"democracytocome"inmuchof
hisworkinthelastfourteenyears.Seehis"ForceofLaw:TheMysticalFoundationoftheLaw."

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