e -jo u rn a l w w w .b o rd e rla n d s.n e t.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2, 2009


Jacques Rancière on the Shores of Queer Theory

Samuel A. Chambers
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Michael O’Rourke
Independent Colleges, Dublin

This special issue of Borderlands proposes to consider an engagement that has never occurred, between two fields of thought that have never been (and have often resisted becoming) proper ‘fields.’ This issue itself must therefore stage that encounter, but to do so both the issue and the pieces that comprise it must flirt with a particular danger: namely, that the engagement staged here will be a ‘staging’ in the worst possible senses.[1] Staging could mean a false and forced construction, a merely academic exercise, or perhaps just a sham. While it goes without saying that we, as editors of the issue, hope to bring about a different sort of staging, it remains for us to say what sort, and why. In thinking through the encounter orchestrated and presented here, we consider the meaning of staging as a mise en scène. We might think such a staging in Rancière’s sense as a particular partition of the sensible. In a response to a recent issue of Parallax devoted to his work, Rancière, speaking in the third person, discusses precisely the ‘dramaturgical’ aspects of his work and its refusal to solidify into a ‘field’ or a ‘method’: ‘This is not a theory of politics, setting the principles for political practice. This is a dramaturgy of politics, a way to make sense of the aporias of political legitimacy by weaving threads between several configurations of sense’ (Rancière, 2009b: 120). We might also think such a staging in the terms of queer activism, as a political confrontation (for example, ACT-UP’s ‘staging’ of kiss-ins or die-ins). Therefore, this special issue rests on the wager that the encounter between the thought of Jacques Rancière and the work of queer theory will add up to much more than exercises in comparison/contrast or trumping efforts; an effective


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staging of this encounter must seek to transform both fields of thought. Rancière conveys just this sense of transformation:
Performing or playing, in the theatrical sense of the word, the gap between a place where the demos exists and a place where it does not … Politics consists in playing or acting out this relationship, which means first setting it up as a theatre, inventing the argument, in the double logical and dramatic sense of the term, connecting the unconnected. (Rancière, 1999: 88, emphasis added)

Despite being well aware ourselves that queer theory, even broadly construed, has shown little interest in the writings of Rancière, and despite understanding fully that Rancière has at best entirely ignored, at worst actively disdained, the work of queer theory (see Rancière, 2005), we chose to make this wager (as did, in their own unique ways, the authors who responded to our invitation to write and whose work constitutes this issue) for a number of significant reasons.[2] First, even a superficial reading of Rancière’s conception of politics and police orders, of his understanding of subjectivization (assujetissement), of his theory of the subject as ‘in-between’ reveals powerful affinities with queer theory’s thinking of norms, subversion, and subjectivity as positionality, as relationality (Rancière, 1995b; 2001). More felicitously, the logic of the tort, which is so central to Rancière's thinking of politics, may share an etymological link with the word queer.[3] Furthermore, a number of thinkers working in and around queer theory, including such influential figures as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (2003), Adrian Rifkin (2003, 2004), and Lauren Berlant (2007) have also taken a keen interest in Rancière – despite not necessarily bringing these areas of interest together in any explicit way.[4] Andrew Parker, translator of The Philosopher and his Poor, hearteningly concludes a recent essay by foregrounding this possible conjunction:
one of the best approximations of what Rancière defines as 'properly' political is the emergent Anglo-American model of queer politics: anti-identitarian, anti-statist, anti-normative in its emphatic swerving from the rhetoric of gay and lesbian civil rights. If 'We're here, we're queer, get used to it' is something other than a claim on behalf of an identity, queer theorists might look indeed to Rancière's work for its way of posing rigorously the relation between voice and body and the impossible speech acts that bind and divide them. (Parker, 2007: 75)[5]

All of this adds up to a strong case for actively engaging Rancière with queer theory, queer theory with Rancière, since the possibilities for new lines of thinking begin to multiply rapidly.[6] And, indeed, we have tried to bring together a diverse group of thinkers and writers to carry out the staging of this encounter, precisely so as to begin that process of multiplying possibilities.[7] In a recent interview, Rancière himself (in Les Inrockuptibles, where he shares a cover with Nicole Kidman) comments with no small degree of amusement upon the impending queering of his work in the present volume and the potential disagreements he might have with such an endeavour. Responding to


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the interviewer’s question about the overlaps between the queer project and Rancière’s own disidentificatory work in The Philosopher and his Poor, Rancière admits to being intrigued by queer theory. But he goes on to claim that the question of the sexual lies at the heart of the project of queer theory, and this question, he continues, does not have a special place in his own oeuvre (Rancière, 2008: 29).[8] Taking our cue from Parker’s work, we might suggest that the radical potential in such an encounter lies precisely in working through the non-sexual aspects of queer thinking. However, before developing a suggestion such as this, we should state directly at the outset what should become quite clear upon reading their work: the contributors to this volume have no shared agenda, certainly not ours. And their articles were chosen (through a double-blind external review process) not for their ability to achieve any particular predetermined ends, but for their capacity to bring different, vibrant theoretical backgrounds and political perspectives to their readings of the two broadlyconstrued areas of inquiry that make up the axes of this special issue. Many of our contributors do choose to leave the sexual in place in queer theory (though surely not without problematizing its centrality), while others establish a critical distance from sex/uality and identity as they gravitate towards modes of queer inquiry that have little or nothing to do with the sexual. None of this is to say, however, that we do not have our own theoretical and political concerns. And just as it would be intellectually ungenerous and stifling to inquiry if we had sought to press those concerns upon the authors (or the selection thereof), so also would it be slightly disingenuous of us to mask those investments and interests behind the screen of editorial objectivity. Much of the impetus for this special issue can be captured by the account of the fecund yet nascent connections between queer theory and Rancière’s thinking that we documented in the preceding paragraphs. But our enthusiasm in bringing these areas of inquiry together also arises from a particular set of theoretical and political commitments and concerns. Put succinctly, within queer politics we worry about an increasingly normative swerve toward identity politics, and a narrow focus on state-sanctioned gay and lesbian marriage (see Stryker 2008). Within academic work receiving the general label of ‘queer theory’, we find ourselves anxious over the trend to make sexuality the only proper object of study, since such work quite often reduces understandings of sexuality to fixed identities or orientations. The institutionalization, domestication and one might even say banalization of queer theory has taken many forms both within and outside the academy, but most obvious have been preoccupations with same/sex marriage, the emergence of neoconservative agendas, and the return to an essentialist identitarianism (to a solidifiable subject). In the end, we have some serious concerns that the mainstreaming of the term queer, and the tendency to use it as a catch-all general term for the cumbersome stringing together of identity categories (L, G, B, T, Q, A...) may serve to make queer studies nothing more than a substitute for gay and lesbian studies.


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Indeed, to borrow and perhaps turn on its head a famous line from Leo Bersani’s well-known, powerful, and important early critique of queer theory – in which he worried aloud about queer theory’s despecifying of properly gay sexuality – we worry about the de-queering of queer. When queer goes mainstream it has, by definition, lost its meaning, since to be normal is precisely not to be queer (Halperin, 2003). Queer must retain elements of deviance, of the perverse – a perversion we find in Rancière’s early archival and historiographical work, especially The Nights of Labour (1989) and The Names of History (1994). Moreover, queer theory must challenge, resist and subvert regimes of the normal. If it fails to do so it may end up completing a process of apolitical catachresis in which queer comes round full circle to name the very identities that it was originally connected to, yet still distinguished from. In other words, when queer merely points to or categorizes a group of non-heterosexual identities, when it no longer actively resists heteronormativity, when it loses its capacity to thwart – at just these moments it is no longer very queer at all. Part of the project of bringing Rancière to bear on queer theory (and vice versa) emerges from a certain optimism on our part. It is easy to forget that Rancière always remains a relentlessly optimistic thinker. But we follow Kristen Ross (2007) – who consistently reads Rancière as optimistic – when we focus on the possibility that Rancière’s radical resistance to the proper, and his consistent refusal of police orders (with their attendant categories of identity and interests), might just serve to queer that which today travels under the heading of queer theory and queer politics. Another way of putting this might be to say that we are most interested in the possibility of distinguishing between, on the one hand, a queer politics that can easily be reduced to lesbian and gay identity interests, and on the other, a ‘properly’ queer politics that seeks to disrupt the police order that is regimes of normalized sexuality. Translated into Rancière’s terms, queer politics as lesbian and gay interests turns into a set of strategic moves within the terms and framework of liberal-democratic social orders (in other words, it is simply policing). Queer politics is disruptive in the way Rancière says politics must be. Another way of putting this point would be to say that we are on the side of optimism and hopefulness at a time when many who work in queer theory uncritically and exuberantly embrace negativity and hopelessness.[9] The question of the extent to which the encounter produced by this special issue will lead to the transformation of queer theory, or to the reformulation of a Rancièrean political theory, remains to be answered by the articles themselves – and by way of the potential impact they may have on those respective fields of thought and study. It is not our role to pre-judge or ‘spin’ the reception of these articles. Nonetheless, we can say at this point that we are heartened by the incredible diversity of approaches and by the wide variety of engagements: the


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articles in this issue demonstrate forcefully (it is no accident that Badiou relates torsion to forcing in his work after Theory of the Subject) that there is no single way or right way to consider ‘Rancière and queer theory.’ Of course, this makes the editorial task of categorizing the articles or synthesizing their key arguments rather vexing. Certainly there are overlaps and interconnections that emerge at almost every turn upon first reading these pieces – and which only proliferate upon multiple readings. Furthermore, there is, no doubt, great potential for synergistic readings of pairs or groups of pieces. We therefore hope that this special issue will serve as an important resource for thinking, rethinking, and certainly for teaching, both Rancière and queer theory. Once again, however, we will not play the role of stultifiers: it is not for us to determine the uses to which these essays might be put. All of this is a roundabout way of saying that the remainder of this introduction will attempt to map the possibilities for reading and making use of the articles that constitute this special issue, but it will surely not circumscribe or limit those possibilities. Perhaps a better way of saying this, in Rancière’s language, is that we insist on remaining the ignorant editors (Rancière, 1991b). For this reason, the adventurous or emancipated reader (or since this is a staging, the emancipated spectator) may wish to dive into the essays directly, to read them without any trace of explication by us. But for those who want a bit of a roadmap, it follows below. Putting Rancière on the queer theory stage Roger Cook and Daniel Williford are both concerned to work out a queer aesthetics or a queer politics of aesthetics at the intersection of queer art and Rancière’s radical re-thinking of the politics of aesthetics – ‘what art can be and can do today’ (Rancière, 2008a). Cook and Williford are each in their own way aware that Rancière’s recent ‘turn’ to film, art, and literature does not constitute a break with his earlier work on politics. In fact, what both Cook and Williford demonstrate in their different ways is an absolute consistency to Rancière’s project. As Jean-Philippe Deranty has argued, there has been a tendency among critics to divide Rancière’s writings into two distinct periods: the first being concerned with political questions, equality and democratic politics in particular; the second comes in the mid-1990s when a shift is putatively detected, as Rancière moves from questions pertaining to the political to concepts of the aesthetic, to the politics of literature, film, and art. Deranty claims, however, that this ‘apparent division in his career … hides a deep unity and coherence. As is well known, for Rancière, politics is aesthetic (a challenge to dominant social perception); and aesthetics is political (introducing the principle of equality in the practices, representations and perceptions that count as art and aesthetic experience)’ (Deranty, 2007: 230-31). This shifting between questions concerning literature, film, pedagogy, historiography, politics, and philosophy, has been characterized by Sudeep Dasgupta as an ‘attempt to rethink and subvert categories, disciplines and discourses’ (Dasgupta, 2008: 70). That is to say that, as Williford in particular recognizes, Rancière’s work is disturbingly in-disciplinary, falling in-between and disturbing


but on those abjects lying outside (constitutively outside) the moral and social order. This politics of writing. from discipline to discipline. presses Badiou into service as someone who is against all hope. of images (which is a bodily one: ‘communication between bodies is itself always a matter of images. and Sam Chambers has begun this conversation here. like Rancière. from image to image. Sam Chambers approaches the meaning of queer theory. This ability for the subject sous rature to imagine new forms of life – what Rancière calls their ‘aesthetic capacity’ (Rancière. Power invokes Rancière’s conception of rational equality in order to make a space for a ‘queer rationality’ that is properly political. been vigilantly attentive to those whose lives (and voices. 2002) – opens up an interval for an excessive. 2004e). Chambers looks for a crossing over between Rancière and queer theory in the work of Judith Butler. somewhat erroneously. and to an anti-statist. of the to-come. There is much to be said. 2009c: 16) is promiscuous. Williford. The promiscuous images that Cook and Williford read are ones that (like the bodies of Rancière’s proletarian workers) refuse to stay in their place. ‘Rancière’s positing of the equality of speaking beings. 2009: 63). 2009d: 15) in the ‘aesthetic revolution’ (Rancière. to a particular form of recognition. Nina Power uses Rancière rather directly to enter into a specific queer theoretical debate.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 disciplinary divisions (Rancière. and Cook. Butler has. then.’ Rancière. If Edelman is against futurity. more broadly.[11] Given that Edelman. we might side with Power when she concludes that. 2009: 78). and much more egalitarian’ (Power. 2005. radically democratic politics (see also Chambers and Carver. about Butler’s suspensive subjects and Rancière’s miscounts. as Rancière. 2008a. the transgendered. and of the assumption of an intelligence shared by all are in fact much more useful. In his essay. 2008b). Rancière is shown to be a hopeful thinker of the a-venir. for Power. to equality. 2000. Power takes issue with Edelman’s adoption of a hopeless position against reason. Jews. She does so by challenging Lee Edelman’s influential No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004). and its transformation in recent years. In her recent essay on Badiou and Rancière. a position on the other side of politics. This wandering is precisely what Rancière intends by the politics of literarity and. the intersexed. then Power and Rancière give us very good reason not to do so. bodies) don’t count as liveable (women. through the logic of Rancièrean politics. by the politics of literature (Chambers. wander from text to text. 2008c). a ‘disagreement over the role of continuity and strategy in relation to equality’ (Power. incommensurable queer politics of aesthetics. Power makes a similar case for the way in which the two dis-agree about the concept of equality. In response. 6 . queers. against Badiou’s militant notion of equality. work that has consistently shared Rancière’s attention to the miscount. Rancière. If Edelman negates the very politicality of politics and the very futurality of futurity. 2004b. a book that has inaugurated the so-called ‘anti-social thesis’ in queer theory. among others) and to fashioning a politics based not on ontologized subjects.

students and faculty sought to “save the university”.’ Two recent examples from Butler’s writing – one theoretical. she strikes an even more obviously Rancièrean note: ‘The vocal and theatrical demands of the demonstrators were not. of aesthetic articulation within the political sphere. Amidst a discussion with Spivak concerning statelessness and illegal immigrants singing the US national anthem in Spanish. and arguably to lesbian and gay politics. While Chambers re-queers queer. Developing an argument first laid out in his recent book The Political Thought of Jacques Rancière: Creating Equality (2008b). such singing takes place on the street. I want to suggest that this is precisely the kind of performative contradiction that leads not to impasse but to forms of insurgency. Butler says the following: I want to suggest to you that neither Agamben nor Arendt can quite theorize this particular act of singing. more clear. and the relationship between song and what is called the 'public'. a queer politics. (Butler and Spivak.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 (his incalculable. one journalistic – should make this link between speech and noise. 2007: 62-3) And. Todd May invokes Rancière’s logic of politics to try to develop a post-identity politics. paratactical or impossible subjects). Surely. May asserts that Rancière’s core political idea is 7 . and this is a space where Todd May’s post-anarchist thought emerges. Both Power and Chambers prioritize an untimely politics where democracy can thrive and survive. in her protest against the budgetary cuts at Californian universities. a rare solidarity among unions. but the street is also exposed as a place where those who are not free to amass.e. It would also involve rethinking certain ideas of sensate democracy. and that we have yet to develop the language we need to do so. just noise coming from another “screaming” interest group. On the contrary. Chambers demonstrates – in a manner that suggests a fundamental misreading of the concept of intelligibility by Edelman – how Butler and Rancière’s conceptions of a politics of un/representability and in/audibility mutually illuminate each other. 2009). populism and speech could be traced in this vein). Chambers argues here that Butler’s theories of unintelligibility productively parallel Rancière’s account of the democratic miscount. intelligibility and unintelligibility. i. What brings these two thinkers of precarious political subjects together is their shared interest in what Chambers calls a ‘politics of in/audibility. more pressingly. as governor Arnold Schwarzenegger quipped. in which Butler tries to formulate a nascent theory of what she terms ‘sensate democracy’ (a further link between Rancière and Spivak on subalternity. and their cry clearly struck a chord across a broad political spectrum’ (Butler. but one that remains faithful to many of the most important commitments of both Marxism and anarchism. especially as both draw on and depart from Althusserian interpellative politics and performativity/speech act theory – all in order to imagine a dissensual politics. freely do so. The first is from Butler’s dialogue with Gayatri Spivak on the nation state.

and for Rancière. to develop a post-identitarian politics means to ‘abandon the identity one has been given’ (May. worker (See also May. 2007: 128-32). queer. Žižek concludes by saying that Rancière’s thought and writings ‘offer one of the few consistent conceptualizations of how we are to continue to resist’ (Rancière. Specifically. 2008a). 2008b: 182). just as he was in Nina Power’s – a potent and (again) optimistic force 8 . see also Bowman. that book speaks directly to the question of how to have politics ‘after’ the deconstruction of identity and representation. If both May and Chambers refuse to draw a line separating political theory from political activism. politics begins with the presupposition of equality rather than with the siting of it as a goal or telos. sans papier. Slavoj Žižek also turns to Kung Fu films in his effusive afterword to Rancière’s The Politics of Aesthetics before claiming that ‘flash mobs stand for the aesthetic-political protest at its purest’ (Rancière. Against a dangerous conception of passive equality (which he associates with Rawls and Nozick among others) May argues for an active equality. Tibetan. Bowman stresses that Rancièrean politics is always about how we can ‘cause a wider debate’ and ‘induce a social convulsion’ (Bowman. If politics starts from this point then its queer potential to disrupt the existing politico-social order based on inequality. 2007b and Critchley. the presupposition that underpins any democratic politics. 2004d: 79). Bowman has elsewhere warned us about a kind of ‘street fetishism’ to be found in Judith Butler’s work (arguably one could say this about the quote about the Californian universities above).’ The Nights of Labor. Rancière thereby becomes – in Dasgupta’s hands. for May. is a process of declassification. then Paul Bowman refuses to draw a line distinguishing pedagogy and political activism. 2008: 90. lesbian. student. 2007). deconstructive) pedagogical potential is Bruce Lee. much further. is the presupposition that people are equally intelligent. mestizo. 2008b: 50) whether that is as a woman. For May. emerges: ‘It is these dynamics present in the enactment of equality and liberty that create new possibilities and not strategic goals’ (Rancière.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 one that privileges the presupposition of equality. on what would much later become queer theory. gay man. One such antiinstitutional and counter-cultural figure in whom Bowman locates an emancipatory (convulsive. By taking an implicitly queer approach to Rancière – starting with the idea of Bruce Lee as Jacototian pedagogue and working from there to the politics of Rancière – Bowman is able to remind us forcibly that the presupposition of equality May talks about. on the hierarchical police order. Politics. Putting queer theory on the Rancière stage In his contribution Sudeep Dasgupta reveals the interventions Rancière was already making in his perverse book about ‘perverted proletarians. 2004d: 79). anarchic ethico-politics (see also May. African American. a dissensual. Bowman’s lesson in aberrant pedagogy is that we need to go much.

what Dasgupta elsewhere calls a ‘conjunctive temporality’ (Dasgupta. and images are emplaced and circumscribed (Dasgupta. Here. writing. Despite the seductive possibilities offered by a whole range of Rancièrean concepts – such as demos. especially given Rancière’s remarks on Foucault and sexuality and given Rancière’s somewhat complicated relationship to psychoanalysis – a relationship that remains complicated despite Žižek’s attempts to recuperate Rancière for a Freudo-Lacanian political ontology. (see Žižek. Cf. and Rancière and Edelman. on the other. 2006. like Bowman. Dasgupta problematizes the ways in which words. mouths) and discloses how Rancière frequently questions the normative uses and proper locations of bodies. Davis and Dasgupta) Kollias constructs a slightly different argument by reading Rancière and 9 . One of Rancière’s favourite figures. see also Guenon. whose writings Rancière collected. goes on to develop a radically egalitarian queer theory committed (as Dasgupta also argues) to the words of ordinary subjects-in-the making. a queer relationality. Even though he covers similar ground to Power (and to MacCormack. seeing. It is in moments where workers (and queers) twist their bodies away from ‘the right way’ that they bring about new regimes of thinking. and converts the time of work to that of aesthetic appreciation’ (Dasgupta. 2004). Davis.’ one which demands (of queer theory) a Rancièrean challenge to heteronormativity and (of Rancière himself) a ‘setting aside’ of Rancière’s only explicit remarks on queer theory. 1999: 171-244. 2009: 16). It is in the improper bodies of Rancière’s queer worker subjects-in-the-making that Dasgupta locates new spatio-temporal arrangements and possibilities for beingwith. hands. Žižek. Hector Kollias similarly begins from the position that ours is an unlikely convocation of queer theory and Rancièrean thinking. However. but. tort. Oliver Davis also attempts to develop what he calls a ‘Rancièrean queer theory. Davis sees a certain surface irritability between Rancière and queer theory. finds a tangible irritability between the two.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 in challenging the ‘anti-social’ wing of queer theory. on the one hand. 2009). talking. Mobilizing an argument found in The Philosopher and his Poor (2004c) and The Nights of Labor. like Davis. This undermining of identity opens up another time. for an in-disciplinary (Rancière. as elsewhere (Dasgupta. As with Power. he stages his essay as a confrontation rather than a marriage between the unlikely couples of Rancière and queer theory. Like Andrew Parker in his essay cited above. 2006d). 2008). is the floor-layer Louis Gabriel Gauny. Dasgupta deconstructs the opposition between proper and improper uses of bodies (and body parts: eyes. 2007). bodies. Davis is able to claim that Rancière avoids a reproductive futurism and instead offers more livable forms of being that can queer lines of filiation and kinship without opting for narcissistic solipsism or an apolitical sinthomosexuality. Dasgupta comments on Gauny in the context of temporality: ‘the wandering gaze of …Gauny alights on the beauty of the house he should see only as a work-site. through a reading of The Ignorant Schoolmaster. Indeed. subjectivation – Kollias. Davis finds spaces of overlap between Rancière and Edelman. equality.

and signification (see O’Rourke. However. Stamp. First. As Todd May reminds us.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Edelman in terms of their dis-agreement. Phillips goes further than those surface explorations of the resonances between Deleuze and queer theory by arguing for an unexplored chain of equivalence between (at least) three entities: Deleuze’s understanding of difference (and his queer ontology of becoming). Kollias agrees with the other contributors that Rancière is a more optimistic. he shows that queerness is contingent and not assimilable to a certain kind of identity politics (the type that Chambers criticizes). it was Foucault in his lectures on governmentality in the late 1970s who first discussed the term policing as a ‘broader set of practices concerned to do [sic] with the health of the state’ (May. Rancière’s understanding of disagreement (and his queer concept of the miscount). rather are queer theorists. 2007a). even though Rancière distances himself both from Derrida’s so-called ethical turn (Rancière. Nigianni and Storr. in particular. 2009e) and. both Power and Davis choose Rancière’s position. he uses Deleuze’s concept of the virtual to point to the potentiality for those without a part in the political order to disrupt it. perhaps unsurprisingly. identitarianism. but Kollias leaves his own readers with a difficult choice: to take up the position of Edelman’s queer political subject is to accept a place outside the police order (heteronormativity) but it is also to lodge oneself in a position outside Rancière’s idea of politics. If Phillips’s is a torquing argument that produces an unlikely alliance. has received rather scant attention on this front. and the current political understanding of queer. representation. their speaking past one another. a book that lacks an obvious political engagement with questions of democracy. As we have seen. In his essay. but avant la lettre. Derrida and Foucault in Stamp’s case) who are themselves not queer theorists. Richard Stamp and Charles Phillips both bring queer theory to Rancière by way of other thinkers (Deleuze in Phillips’s case. This futural time as described by Deleuze in Difference and Repetition is pure difference. then Stamp’s is a twisting argument that queers Rancière’s relationship to figures with whom he is close (Derrida and Foucault) and yet often only nearlyproximate. when it comes to the question of friendship and equality. Phillips’ argument moves in three steps. suggests that it is Foucault whom Rancière is closer to (see also May. from the Derridean temporality of the democracy a-venir (to-come). he demonstrates that Rancière’s disagreement stems from the partitioning of the sensible in which the miscounted have no part. Phillips claims that Rancière’s democratic politics actualizes the queer virtuality already to be discerned in Deleuze’s concept of pure difference.[9] Second. radically humanist thinker and Edelman a negative inhumanist one. 2005/2006.[12] However. or fold of friendship. Difference and Repetition. to the subject. Third. Deleuze has become increasingly central to queer theory because. pure temporality untethered to identity. Stamp asserts that Rancière’s political thinking owes much to Derridean deconstruction. or. like Rancière he offers a way out of discursivity. 2009). 10 . between Deleuze and Rancière.

In particular he cites Foucault’s earlier archaeological project as influential on his thinking. perhaps – to twist the metaphor again – we should move away from centralized positions (queer as institutionalized theory on terra firma) back to the stormy sea where it ‘smells of democracy’ (Rancière. Michael O’Rourke teaches continental philosophy at Independent Colleges in Dublin. Finally. He has recently published The Queer Politics of Television (IB Tauris. 2006) and of in-betweens (in between desire and the emancipated spectator). and. then for MacCormack. where the warrior defends the city. just as Phillips surprises by choosing Difference and Repetition as a key text for queering Rancière. 2008). to argue for an ethical shift from queer understood as a political term to queer considered as a term of art. Samuel A. 2008). on the insurgent seas of queer theory. Sex. on the one hand. it was Foucault’ (Rancière. among the thinkers of my generation. then. to locate a position for ‘queer’ beyond the human. and numerous journal articles. stormy seas associated with democracy (Labelle.’ This experiment allows her. there was one I was quite close to at one point. If the demos can ultimately be kept on the shores of politics. 2003) and Judith Butler and Political Theory (with Terrell Carver. particularly On the Shores of Politics. His previous publications include the monographs Untimely Politics (NYU. on the other.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 2008b: 41). 2009). 2003b: 208-9). 2005. He is the co-editor of Love. Intimacy and 11 . in an interview with Peter Hallward. away from the terra firma. from a slightly out-of-kilter perspective’ but that ‘if. Stamp surprises by positing that it is the late Foucault on ascesis and friendship as a way of turning oneself into a work of art that actualizes a queer virtuality in Rancière’s conception of the police order and the invention of unanticipatable new modes of relationality. evanescence. admits that he has ‘read Derrida with interest but from a certain distance. If for Phillips and Stamp. then. Rancière’s politics actualizes a queer virtuality. Rancière’s ‘corporealized politics’ or his politics of disincorporated subjects is a space of excesses (outrances). the terra firma of the arkhe. Patricia MacCormack uses Rancière’s work. 1995: 2).’ In On the Shores of Politics (1995) Rancière discusses Plato’s opposition between. But. Chambers teaches political theory at Johns Hopkins University. intermittence (Gibson. the an-archic. actualizes a queer theory that ‘takes representations of subjectivity and sexuality away from centralized positions into a dissipative multiplicity’ (see also MacCormack. He is currently writing a book on the politics of social orders. respectively. Routledge. finally. his corporeal politics. edited volumes on William Connolly and Judith Butler. Rancière. the place where the philosopher philosophizes. his flesh of words. then. and where the worker works and serves. Rancière himself. 2001). In his afterword to the collection Adrian Rifkin meditates at some length upon our title ‘Jacques Rancière on the Shores of Queer Theory. fashioning in the process what she calls a ‘jubilant ethics.

a word that sounds like torquere but remains distinct. a commentary by Sam Chambers and Michael O’Rourke. As Deranty helpfully points out. the French tort comes from the Latin torquere meaning twisted. and illuminating. The English 12 . 2009). The Ashgate Research Companion to Queer Theory (Ashgate. We are especially grateful to Jacques Rancière for his encouragement and for his support of this project. 1550-1800 (Palgrave Macmillan. he sets out from the assertion that ‘perhaps the most fundamental. 3. however. we would like to express our deep gratitude to Kristen Phillips for putting the final touches to the special issue – not to mention her patience.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Friendship between Men. The etymological evidence. 2003). but neither the OED nor other Etymology Dictionaries suggest a direct link back from queer to the Latin torquere. 2009). Perhaps our greatest debt is to our anonymous external reviewers whose careful critical work quite simply makes this issue possible. and a response from Jacques Rancière are forthcoming in Theory & Event (2010). 2. A translation by Richard Stamp. which means to turn or to twist and is ‘related to thwart’ (etymonline. Acknowledgements We would like to thank all our contributors. Finally. Hallward critically anatomizes a theatocratic dimension to Rancière’s conception of equality. 2006). athwart (2003a: 154). 2006: 110). And the Online Etymology Dictionary derives queer from the pan-Indo-European twerk. The existence of both Torquere Press (publisher of Gay and Lesbian literature) and Torquere: Journal of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Studies Association certainly suggests some sort of connection between torquere and queer. This short text on Foucault is discussed by Oliver Davis in this issue. 1550-1800: Siting Same-Sex Desire in the Early Modern World (Palgrave Macmillan. Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge (The Becoming-Deleuzoguattarian of Queer Studies) and Romanticism on the Net (Queer Romanticisms) and the editor of Derrida and Queer Theory (forthcoming Palgrave Macmillan). Notes 1. not just for warming to the task of queering Rancière but for staging an encounter that far exceeded our initial vision. and special issues of the journals. dimension of Rancière’s anarchic conception of equality is that which relates to theatre – in both the literal and metaphorical senses of the term’ (Hallward. On the importance of staging in Rancière’s work see Hallward (2006) and Bayly (2009). proves somewhat thin: the English ‘queer’ derives from many possible sources. The OED traces queer back to the Latin querere. Our thanks go also to Vijay Devadas at Borderlands who shared our initial excitement. Queer Masculinities.

On queer optimism see Snediker (2009). Hatred of Democracy (2006b). and there is no doubt that thwarting has been of great interest to Rancière. j’attends d’être queerisé’ {rires} (Rancière. mais je pense qu’elle n’est pas sans lien avec ce que j’essaie de faire. We are well aware that the corpus of works addressed here is limited and that much remains to be done by queer theorists with. laughing again: ‘Oui. For a much more detailed rationale for the present issue see: http://ranciere. 8. In response to the question as to whether this interests him he replies. 4. on the politics of literature and on psychoanalysis. particularly in his recent Film Fables (2006a: 1-19). Andrew Parker (with Janet Halley) has co-edited an important special number of South Atlantic Quarterly posing the question ‘After Sex? On Writing Since Queer Theory’ (2007) where a number of prominent and emerging queer theorists are asked to reflect on what in their work is non-sexual. of course. 9. to describe the ways in which ‘the subject works back upon the structure that determines it in the first place’ (Badiou. But the possibilities Rancière offers (as Parker so lovingly delineates in the quotation above) for an anti-identitarian queer theory that is not just about sex/ sexual acts but that might have something to say about world politics right now are obvious. The positions taken up in Sara Ahmed’s special issue of new formations on queer happiness continue to polarize the field into the queer optimists and the queer pessimists.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 thwart.html 5. for example. Une revue [this special issue of borderlands] veut confronter la théorie queer avec mes écrits. does derive from torquere. Rancière doesn't figure much in the pages of that issue (the exception is Lauren Berlant’s ‘Starved’ where she briefly mentions Rancière on ellipsis and Althusser). 2008: 29). The Names of History (1994). qui est au couer de la question queer. Mais le courant queer peut devenir aussi une forme d’identification.html 7. le dialogue peut être intéressant. not to mention the works yet to be translated into English on Mallarme. The French text reads: ‘Je ne connais pas très bien la littérature queer. voilà.blogspot. même si je ne me suis pas occupé de la question de la construction sexuelle.blogspot. Le programme est de metre plus de Rancière dans le pensee queer et plus de queer dans la pensée de Rancière {rires}. Donc. Alain Badiou deploys the words torsion and torsade. For more on Berlant and Rancière see: En cela. In his Theory of the Subject. and The Future of The Image (2007). 2009b: xxxvi). Recently. But there are some thinkers who manage to stage a dialectic between the two positions: Heather Love (2007/2008) for 13 . torsion and twist.

& Spivak. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Bibliography Arditi. 2009a). London: Continuum. Bowman. 106. Post-Marxism Versus Cultural Studies: Theory. (2007). ‘Stirred and shaken: a symptomatology of the “art of the possible”’. J. Read (2007). trans. On ‘a plurality of times’ see Rancière ‘After what’ (1991a). J. vol. Rancière. Rancière disagrees with Michael Dillon’s reading of his disjointed time in his response to the special issue of Theory & Event on his work (Dillon. On the ethical turn generally see Rancière (2006c. 12-22. 2003a. On contingency and Rancière’s discussions of politics and democracy see Jodi Dean (2009). Politics and Intervention. Who Sings the Nation-State? London: Seagull Books. and politics see Jose Esteban Muñoz (2009) and the dialogue between Muñoz and Lisa Duggan (2009). 20-29. P. Berlant. South Atlantic Quarterly. no. London: Verso. ---. It will be clear that almost all our contributors share our understanding of Rancière as a thinker of the future to-come. 10. 2003. pp. Metapolitics. A. (2009). vol. London: Continuum. 433-44. Radical Philosophy. B. vol. hopelessness. (2005). Rancière. 11. ‘Theatre and the public: Badiou. (2007). Parallax. Toscano. Theory of the Subject. (2009b). no. A. 11. Bayly. trans. Badiou (2009a: 560-61). see also Dillon. 12. On hope. Badiou. ‘Starved’. B. On the points of contact and significant differences between Badiou and Rancière see Van den Hemel (2008). Deranty (2003b). Rancière (2004a). Badiou (2005: 107-23). L. S. (2005). (2007).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 example. 3. trans. 157. Barker. pp. 2005). pp. On the connection between Derrida and Rancière see Robson (2009) and Parker (2004) where he says that ‘Rancière’s differences from Derrida are as significant as their similarities’ (xvii). Virno’. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Logics of Worlds: Being and Event 2. Butler. 14 . (2009a). Bosteels. Deconstructing Popular Culture. ---. 4. (2008). ---. G.

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then. has foundered. Progressive politics has entered what might be called a post-identity politics phase. Here is where the thought of Jacques Rancière becomes useful. They seem. and others? Many of us are uncomfortable with these questions.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. Is homosexuality natural? Are there genetic or other physiological predispositions for gays.b o rd e rla n d s. bisexuals. which undercuts identities and orders. 2009 There are no Queers Jacques Rancière and post-identity politics Todd May Clemson University Much of the discussion of homosexuality and homosexual rights these days centers on issues of identity. to isolate political struggles against oppression of homosexuals from other solidarity struggles. There is good reason for this. It is rather one of equality. Although identity politics was grounded in an important insight – that not all political struggle is reducible to class struggle[1] – its trajectory took it to a place where each struggle was isolated from every other struggle. For Rancière. And. lesbians. The question for him is not one of identity. like so many questions in identity politics.[2] We have seen the damage done by identity politics. like most ‘post’ phases. any democratic politics is a collective struggle from the presupposition of equality. it is being defined by what it no longer is rather than by what it is now. and political solidarity was lost. The project of identity politics.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w . which presupposes orders and hierarchies.n e t. Indeed. This paper investigates Rancière’s view and what it might mean for GLBT political thought and resistance. And yet we wonder how to conceive such struggle without returning to the liberal politics of individualism. which I will define broadly as politics grounded in particular posited identities (whether seen as essential or non-essential). as 1 . and it no longer holds the imagination of many.

(I should note here that I use the term ‘gay and lesbian’ throughout this paper solely as shorthand. If we are to avoid both the marginalization of identity politics and the reductionism of Marxism. then we seem to be faced with a return to a single type of struggle of the kind reductionist Marxism proposes.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 early as the misnamed ‘anti-globalization’ movement. The difficulty of forging and maintaining such connections was brought home to the gay and lesbian rights struggle with the 2008 vote on Proposition 8 in California. bisexuals. like so many questions in identity politics. That is the formula of liberalism. Finally. Is homosexuality natural? Are there genetic or other physiological predispositions for gays. They seem.) And yet we wonder how to conceive such struggle without returning to the liberal politics of individualism. if we reject the reductionism of Marxism and the individualism of liberalism. The three dangers are these: identity politics. which was really an anti-neoliberalism movement. solidarity began to return to the scene in place of ghettoized identities. we find ourselves thrown toward identity politics. without it being simply an emancipatory gay and lesbian politics. Unfortunately. reductionist Marxism. and liberalism. lesbians. There must be connections to other struggles. we seem to be forced into saying that each person must be thought of and treated separately and regardless of his or her particular identity. However. not because we are squeamish. 2 . etc. something that can play the binding role that Marxism once played without the Marxist reductionism that spawned identity politics. There are three separate dangers that must be navigated. bisexual. We seek to maintain the vibrancy of an agenda committed to an emancipatory gay and lesbian politics. evidence of the difficulty of maintaining solidarity through group identity politics. the African American vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the proposition. we have yet to develop a common theoretical framework. and others? Is homosexuality found in every culture and society? What characteristics. standing also for transgendered. Much of the discussion of homosexuality and homosexual rights in particular has centered on issues of identity. each of which threatens to push us into one of the other two. are to be associated with homosexuality aside from attraction to someone of the same gender (and what do we mean by the term ‘gender’)? Many of us are uncomfortable with these questions. but because they seem somehow like the wrong questions. If we reject liberalism for its individualism and identity politics for its ghettoization of struggles. to isolate political struggles against oppression of gays and lesbians from other solidarity struggles. if any.[3] Thus we remain in the phase of post-identity politics. This Proposition overturned the legality of gay and lesbian marriages in California by declaring marriage to be solely between a man and a woman. articulating a post-identity politics faces a trilemma. or else we risk marginalizing the struggle and undercutting that agenda. Essentially.

the appeal to Jacques Rancière’s thought can assist us in finding our way forward. of course. or by the reader’s own research into his work. ‘Politics is generally seen as the set of procedures whereby the aggregation and consent of collectivities is achieved. as a mode of government. How do we recognize the irreducibility of different struggles. in addition. to which he gives another name. I will offer a sketch of that thought. For Rancière. not to mention several of its suggestive ambiguities.”’ (Rancière. of course. I believe. 1999: 28). the distribution of places and roles. the hierarchy that governs its citizens in the name of their welfare. ‘Michel Foucault has shown that. not simply the folks with guns and truncheons. the need for solidarity. is the broad administration of society. but it would be mistaken to reduce policing to the state. the organization of powers. much of what goes under the name of politics is actually not really politics at all. a logical one. The question is one of how to escape this trilemma in the context of a progressive politics. The practices 3 . The rejection of any of the two does not inferentially entail that we must embrace the third. I hope that some of what I gloss here will receive more detailed treatment by other articles in this volume. show how it navigates the trilemma. and the integrity of individual participants within the framework of a single compelling political theory? How do we avoid betraying one of these commitments when we embrace the other two? Here. explaining that. 1999: 28) The police. then. Rancière borrows the term police from the research of Michel Foucault. No quick summary can avoid neglecting or simplifying nuances of Rancière’s thought. What will be highlighted here are several central elements of his political thought that have bearing on the question of how to conceive a post-identity-politics progressive thought. these seem to be the options. I propose to call it the police’ (Rancière. This hierarchy finds expression in a number of state institutions. navigates through the trilemma of our current situation.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 This trilemma is not. and end with a couple of quick suggestions regarding the relevance of all this to gay and lesbian politics. one that. I propose to give this system of distribution another name. It is simply a matter of the hierarchical administration of society. Given the character of our political space. The police referred to here are. the police described by writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries covered everything relating to ‘man’ and his “happiness. for example of the role of corporations in transnational neoliberal capitalism – but also because non-institutional practices can play a role in creating or maintaining a police order. and the systems for legitimizing this distribution. In what follows. It is more a political than a logical trilemma. This is not only because private institutions are also contributors to a particular police order – think. Rancière opens a path toward a progressive post-identity politics with a positive content.

a matter of policing. the equality of any speaking being with any other speaking being. and the contingency of the order. in Rancière’s schema. we must look elsewhere. for instance. at the end of the day. and then there are the uncounted. depends on which hierarchy one is looking at. and perhaps more important. There are gender hierarchies. an assumption that. has no place in that configuration – that of the part that has no part…political activity is always a mode of expression that undoes the perceptible divisions of the police order by implementing a basically heterogeneous assumption. sensitive to the truth we cited earlier in regard to identity politics that not all oppression occurs along a single register. We must be careful in how we understand this counting and not counting. for the sake of clarity. particularly complex ones. by definition. As Rancière sometimes puts the point. of democratic politics. and what. Who is among the counted and who is among the uncounted. as the recent example of California’s Proposition 8 demonstrates. (Rancière. there are those who are counted and whose views count. I will call democratic politics. Rancière appeals to the idea of a speaking being 4 . The equality of every speaking being lies at the heart of any democratic politics. religious hierarchies. those who have no part to play. utilizes the concept of police in a fluid way. Societies. sexual hierarchies. itself demonstrates the contingency of the order. they concern the institutional arrangements of a particular police order. 1999: 29-30) There are several elements of this definition of politics. It is entirely possible for one to be a member of the uncounted in one part of the police order and among the counted in another part. As such. there are those who benefit and those who do not. that of the part who have no part. In addition. concern how the benefits and burdens of a society should be distributed. there are those who have a say and those who do not.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 of dating. the heterogeneous assumption. Much of what is discussed in traditional liberal theories of justice is. Rancière defines his vision for such a politics this way: I…propose to reserve the term politics for an extremely determined activity antagonistic to policing: whatever breaks with the tangible configuration whereby parties and parts or lack of them are defined by a presupposition that. In a police order. who has a part to play and who does not. help sustain and reproduce particular gender hierarchies. racial hierarchies. and others. Distributive theories of justice. It refers not to a particular hierarchy but to the various hierarchies that govern societies. function with a number of hierarchies. that are worth unpacking: the equality of every speaking being. there is not one particular body of people who are counted and another who are not. economic hierarchies. Rancière’s thought.[4] If we are to discuss what Rancière calls politics. In a given society. which dominate the liberal theoretical tradition. or else we will be tempted to read Rancière’s work as some sort of reductionism to a single class division of counted and uncounted.

Some are to order the lives of others. and presupposes their equality. not because it is right that they be there. ‘There is order in society because some people command and others obey. others to have their lives ordered. That is why a democratic politics. Which leads to the second level of the heterogeneity of the assumption: the contingency of the order itself. but in order to obey an order at least two things are required: you must understand the order and you must understand that you must obey it. But the fact of delegation itself presupposes the participation of the delegators. you must already be the equal of the person who is ordering you. They find themselves where they are. Police orders work on the assumption of inequality. The equality of every speaking being is precisely the heterogeneous assumption that every democratic politics posits against a police order. Its heterogeneity lies at two levels. Rancière writes. sex. ‘gnaws away at any natural order. gender. others to receive them. and most obvious. And to do that. Some are to give orders. Being in the position to decide for others is never justified. Thus the equality of every speaking being with every other one is an equality that undermines the claim of anyone to be entitled to give orders. It challenges the right of those who are positioned to decide upon the character of the lives of others. and even as natural. One may be in a position that permits one to give orders. 1999: 16). refuse to recognize the contingency of their divisions. Those who can speak to one another are capable of forming plans for their lives and enacting those plans alongside others. then the fact that some have a part and others do not is not a naturally justified fact. in dividing along various registers those who have a part – those who count – and those who do not. it poses equality against inequality. This does not mean that people ought never to agree to delegate authority to one or another of their members. They take those divisions as justified.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 for a simple reason. Racial. and class distinctions (and these are not all) ground themselves in the police assumption that there is an inequality between those who can order the lives of others – those who have a part – and those who do not. and the order would be no worse off for that. but a purely contingent one. In what sense must the person who understands an order be the equal of the one who issues it? Precisely in the sense that they can communicate with one another and conduct their own lives on the basis of these communications. but that position is never justified by any inequality between those who give and those who receive orders. The heterogeneous assumption introduced by a democratic politics is that every speaking being is equal to every other one. If everyone is equal. Police orders. It could well have been that they were placed elsewhere. better positioned in the police order. It is this equality that gnaws away at any natural order’ (Rancière. in positing the equality of every speaking being. but because the police order just happened to place them there. First.’ 5 . Those who fail to have a part do not do so because of some lack they possess.

grounded in the nature of things. although sometimes taken in the name of banning ‘special rights.’ just as clearly does not. that will recognize the equality out of which people act. If we define it this way.[6] uses the term with an almost opposite inflexion. this directly challenges their unequal treatment before the law. like Alain Badiou. What is a democratic politics then? We might define it as collective action that arises out of the presupposition of equality. They need not even use the term equality to characterize what they are doing. However. without reason. This supposed natural fact generates the inequality of two sets of people before the law. many of the actions of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s clearly emerged from a presupposition of equality. Participants in a collective action do not need to be telling themselves that they are acting from the presupposition or assumption of equality. There does not need to be an explicit recognition of that presupposition among the individual members of a collective process. it claims the contingency of the restriction of marriage to a man and a woman. What is taken by the police order to be a justified restriction. Rancière writes that. In order to see how Rancière’s politics point a theoretical way forward. an essence embodied in the law or a goal politics sets itself the task of attaining. And in doing so. It is. Rancière. although it is likely that at least some among them will. and has come to mean the way power circulates among daily practices in order to create people to be the subjects they are. The refusal to allow gays and lesbians to marry is presented as grounded in a natural fact: that marriage is between a man and a woman. rather. though. those who interpret the action. It is a mere assumption that needs to be discerned within the practices implementing it’ (Rancière. denies the equality of all speaking beings. by contrast. let’s take as a brief example gay marriage. Indeed that is the case. depending on how it is interpreted. It is a term that has been associated with Foucault’s work. whether participants or not. we suppose the equality of homosexuals and heterosexuals as speaking beings. the movement of the Christian right to ban equality of gays and lesbians before the law.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 In order to clarify these ideas. If. he does not. This seems to leave open the question of whether a particular collective action can be seen as democratic or not. leaving aside (for the sake of simplicity) the question of whether marriage itself is an oppressive and inegalitarian practice. we need to introduce one more term: subjectification. as we 6 . ‘Equality is not a given that politics then presses into service. we must be careful. 1999: 33). is revealed by a democratic politics to be a contingent practice that. They will recognize it in the collective actions that are taken by the group. Although we cannot linger over this point. there are certainly signposts for interpreting a collective action as being from the presupposition of equality or not. this does not mean that interpretation is purely subjective. In a sense. In fact. This does not mean that Rancière denies Foucault’s studies.[5] To take an obvious contrast.

the equality of every speaking being. after all. but the poor. no gays or straights.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 have seen briefly above. As a first approach to this. poor people as less 7 . What comes to exist is not poor people. the interruption of the simple effects of domination by the rich) causes the poor to exist as an entity’ (Rancière. a we. That collective subject – or better. It is the other way around: politics (that is. each seeking to survive as best he or she can. Where there once were only individuals. that nobody is poor before the emergence of a democratic politics. a democratic politics is declassifying rather than identifying. A democratic politics rejects the hierarchy of a police order. Rancière claims that. a collective subject taking action that challenges the police order’s presupposition of the inequality of poor people. the proletariat? This would be a mistaken interpretation of his idea of subjectification. What is it that so arises? In essence. the poor-as-equal-to-the-rich. whether that name be poor. He does not mean. and therefore does not pre-exist the action. 1999: 35). and confront the police order as such a collectivity. in another of Rancière’s examples. He defines subjectification this way: ‘By subjectification I mean the production through a series of actions of a body and a capacity for enunciation not previously identifiable within a given field of experience. women. It does not give rise to collective action. There is no black or white. It is instead. Before democratic action. collective subjectification. there were poor people. ‘Politics does not happen just because the poor oppose the rich. We might be tempted to think that with subjectification we face the return of an identity politics. one whose members recognize one another and those in solidarity with them. but only in the name of equality. then. or. a collective subject. there are no distinctions to be made. of course. The existence of the poor. Rancière uses it to describe a political phenomenon associated with a democratic politics. Neither does it arise from collective action as a consequence. While Foucault uses the term to describe particular historical unfoldings. In a striking formulation. but simply equals. is identity politics but an oppressed group taking action in its own name. not in the name of particular identities. And where all are equal. Subjectification is a production that arises through collective action. 1999: 11). but by undercutting the police categories (ex. whose identification is thus part of the reconfiguration of the field of experience’ (Rancière. within and alongside it. The difference is solely terminological. black. no women or men. It arises through such action. The poor that comes to exist as an entity is not some poorness that is possessed by people without money. since we should think less in terms of a thing than a process – is one that operates not by adding a new police category. but no such thing as a poor-as-equalto-the-rich. What. we must recognize that for Rancière. queer. is the existence of something previously unrecognized by the police order. if we can use a cumbersome locution. with the advent of a democratic politics there arises a subject of action.

we seem driven toward individualist liberalism. this would miss what Rancière is saying. Finally. in accordance with Marxist tenets. and eluding their problems. of course. an idea that works not by distinguishing one group from another but instead by undercutting the distinctions posited by a particular police order. in what that 8 . but rather to subvert a set of categories that characterize a police order. to undo the supposed naturalness of orders and replace it with the controversial figures of division’ (Rancière. but before doing that it is perhaps worth seeing how the idea of a democratic politics as we have sketched it helps navigate through the trilemma that seems to face progressive politics today. with all the attendant difficulties of creating an overarching progressive politics. A subjectification. regardless of what name is used. Rancière’s democratic politics is capable of recognizing the important elements of each of these politics. we find ourselves pushed toward a reductionist Marxism. The lynchpin for all of these is the role the presupposition of equality plays in his thought. each individual is to be treated equally by the governing institutions of a society. and Amartya Sen. then. However.’ Rancière writes. a name that could be added to the names already on offer in a given police order. ‘can thus. and it does so by invoking the concept of equality. if we want to avoid liberalism and the reductionism characteristic of many Marxist struggles. Robert Nozick. we seem to land in identity politics. The name of a political subject works not to posit another category. There are differences. he offers the basis for a larger solidarity among groups. ‘The difference that political disorder inscribes in the police order. with liberalism. be expressed as the difference between subjectification and identification. We will return to the distinction between subjectification and identity below. with identity politics. at first glance. 1999: 37). 1995: 32-3). particularly that of recent liberals like John Rawls. Liberalism seeks to protect the integrity of each individual. And.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 deserving) that are in play. taking them on board. his theory recognizes the irreducibility of political struggles. One might want to object here that a vibrant identity politics does exactly what Rancière has just claimed: it inscribes a subject name that is different from anything previously identified in a given police order. is subtended by the idea of equality. His is a theory that. If we want to avoid liberalism and seek to create an across-group solidarity that eludes much of identity politics. recognizes the importance of each individual without subsuming him or her into a larger in-group identity. If we want to avoid both the reductionism of much of received Marxism and the ghettoization of identity politics. Recall the character of the trilemma. Finally. In liberal thought. ‘The essence of equality is in fact not so much to unify as to declassify. He is not claiming that subjectification gives us merely a new name. It inscribes a subject name as being different from any identified part of the community’ (Rancière.

b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 equality consists in. it is a presupposition of those in political struggle. Equality does not arise at the same point in his thought as in that of liberalism. then. while for liberalism equality is a constraint on government in its relation to individuals. and Sen explicitly embrace this idea. for Nozick only liberty. succeeded – was to align large swaths of oppressed people under a single banner. Otherwise put. those who count. having said that. equality is bottom-up rather than top-down. one is equal to everyone else. Each speaking being is presupposed to be equal to every other speaking being. rather than being offered to individuals as individuals. For Rancière. If we can put the point quickly. which. For liberals. the term equality performs the same function. Rancière’s thought recognizes that political struggle cannot be ghettoized into particular noncommunicating identities. They press equality upon the police order. but nonetheless it served to unite many of those who have no part. For Rawls it is liberty and opportunity. Equality. is instead an element of a struggle from below. but its influence shows in his writings. It lies in the Kantian idea that nobody is to be treated solely as a means. And. It is because of the role that equality plays in Rancière’s thought that it can escape the individualism of liberal theory. who do not count. in the capitalist order. has the effect of declassifying its terms. equality. that of the proletariat. those terms that hold the hierarchical order in place. That is where Rancière’s thought breaks from liberal thought. at least when the struggle is democratic. People act collectively out of the presupposition of their equality. for a time and to a certain extent. one hopes. Nobody is inferior. for a Rancièrean democratic politics. his concept of equality protects individual integrity. What reductionist Marxism hoped to accomplish – and. both to one another and to those in the police order that are said to be superior – those who have a part. Rancière does not appeal to Kant. cuts against individualism and toward solidarity. and while for Sen it is capabilities as measured by functionings and freedoms to function. Equality arises within the arena of collective struggle. There is a common ethical root that binds both liberalism and the democratic politics we have sketched here. In that way. It structures that struggle. Rawls. Consonant with this type of Marxism. equality is what is presupposed by those who act. like them. it is closer to Marxism – at least the reductionist Marxism we have invoked here – rather than to liberalism. we should immediately note that for liberal thought the Kantian idea issues out directly into some form of individualist liberalism. equality is what must be granted and/or preserved by state institutions with regard to citizens. One might ask how accurate the term proletariat was for certain groups of people. everyone who struggles and everyone 9 . Like liberal thinkers. Therefore. Regardless of the specific struggle that one is engaged in. Therefore. In Rancière’s framework. However. Rancière also appeals to equality. Nozick. each person in a democratic politics is to be treated with equal respect.

And this form of oppression is neither marginal nor irrelevant. It is unclear. there is certainly a role for the term proletariat to play. There is. that the term equality works better than the term proletariat for creating solidarity. The first is that it is unclear who is and who is not among the proletariat. One might worry. captures more accurately the issue at stake between various kinds of oppressors and various kinds of oppressed in a given police order. can see their immediate solidarity with those engaged in gay and lesbian rights work. This is for two reasons. One might argue about whether the proletariat is exploited in the strict Marxist sense. 10 . His goal. another way to put this point. highlevel managers among the oppressors. They are aligned with the bourgeoisie. however. Housewives – at least many of them – do not count. a presupposition that crosses the boundaries of those issues. What is it that aligns housewives with the proletariat and high-level managers with the bourgeoisie? We might say that if it is not precisely their relation to the ownership of the means of production. Equality. however. whose interests are aligned with large stockholders. as long as they are both committed to a democratic politics. except perhaps indirectly. then. but are not technically owners (unless. not all forms can be given the specific economic inflection implied by the distinction between proletariat and bourgeoisie. However. would misconceive the theoretical framework of a Rancièrean politics. however. they do not have a part. Unlike high-level managers. however. for example whether exploitation requires Marx’s labor theory of value and whether the labor theory of value is true. Those who own the means of production in a capitalist economic system indeed oppress those who work for them. it is difficult to deny that large sections of the proletariat under neoliberal capitalism do not have a part to play other than to contribute their labor to sustaining it. they are presupposed by the social order to be less than equal to those better placed in the police order. how they work for those who own the means of production.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 against whom one struggles. Rancière’s political view does not deny any of this. they also receive stock options as part of their compensation). of course. Housewives are among the oppressed. The term proletariat refers to those who work for those who own the means of production. High-level managers. rather. for instance. is to point out that while all forms of oppression are inegalitarian. They share a common presupposition of equality that subtends their particular issues. it is crucial and inescapable. it is instead their place in the social order. in fact. On the other side of the coin. In our neoliberal world. This. that this way of putting things neglects what is crucial to Marx’s analysis: the role capitalism plays in sustaining oppression. many highlevel managers. do not actually own the means of production. Are housewives among the proletariat? For the autonomia movement in Italy they certainly were. In the kind of democratic politics we have sketched here. People involved in labor organizing. I would argue.

This allows it the plasticity to be invoked in a variety of political contexts while at the same time maintaining an undergirding solidarity across those contexts. Historically. And. It could be argued that this is the founding insight of identity politics. social or cultural identification of the worker which seek to make a subversive potential coincide with a certain place in a certain type of productive apparatus’ (Rancière. 1999: 37). Why can it do this? The concept of equality is not only a different concept from that of the proletariat. ‘I have in fact always insisted on the difference between worker or proletarian subjectivation and all forms of economic. By invoking the concept of equality. retaining the solidarity identity politics has found so elusive. This does not refer to a given class of people. When Rancière uses the term descriptively. are irreducible. And this is the second reason that the term equality works better than proletariat to ground solidarity among oppressed groups. but to more or less everyone. while often related. it is utilized to refer to a class in the making. he gives it minimal content. can all struggle in the name of their equality. is an appeal that has minimal referential content combined with a certain normative force. Rancière refers to the historical example of Auguste Blanqui’s invocation of the concept as a form of subjectification (Rancière. The proletariat is generally used referentially. then it is precisely the left’s rejection of a solely class-based politics that grounds it. Rancière’s democratic politics allows one to preserve this insight while.[7] However. it might be composed of people to come as well as people already existent. In a recent interview. if we see identity politics as emerging from the left’s rejection of traditional Marxist reductionism and the consequent turn to feminism. What identity politics understood is that there are a variety of oppressions that.e. a part to play in that order. It refers to a class of people. as we saw. gay and lesbian politics. As a normative concept. it refers to how people ought to interact with one another. because all of them are capable of conducting meaningful lives with one another – i. then. including particular subgroups of the proletariat. he maintains that that invocation does not refer to a specific class of people defined by their place in the capitalist order. and others. he says. African Americans. Roughly. and African-American political expression. 2008: 180).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 while technically among the proletariat. Sometimes. Women. once in his writings. The appeal to equality. Here we can see how Rancière’s democratic politics combines the insight of Marxism – the need for a democratic politics to have 11 . that is. gays and lesbians. It is also a different kind of concept. the idea is that everyone is equal who can speak with and understand one another and conduct their lives with one another in ways that are meaningful to them. are complicit along a variety of registers with a police order that denies various groups. Equality is both a descriptive term and a normative one. all are speaking beings – and all ought to be accorded and to accord one another the respect founded on that capacity.

This is the force of Rancière’s declaration that. not to any particular characteristic that some had or constructed for themselves but others did not. ‘when demonstrators in the Paris of 1968 declared.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 solidarity – with that of identity politics – the need for struggles to be irreducible. and it may structure the way they act. Whatever name subjectification goes by in a particular struggle. as long as one recognizes that those names would no longer refer to identity characteristics within a particular group. as we have seen Rancière insist. whether the action taken is reasonably seen as an expression of that presupposition. for instance. usually qualities associated with a particular police order. but to everyone as a matter of equality. it maintains the recognition of individual worth without falling into the individualism of liberalism. however. we can refer briefly to an example I have discussed at length elsewhere: the Zapatista movement in 12 . There is no bar to this. We can see these elements at work in Rancière’s concept of subjectification. buttons appearing that said. 1999: 59). ‘We are all queer. its underlying meaning is nothing more than equality.’ they exposed for all to see the gap between political subjectification…and any kind of identification’ (Rancière. the feminine. shorn from any identity. in an inversion of the title of this paper. but what is politically relevant for a democratic politics does not have to do with any of that. We might put the point this way: an identity may be motivating for political actors. In order to illustrate this point. It only has to do with whether the presupposition of equality is in play: that is. And because this politics does so at the collective level. Subjectification refers to a collective process in which each member acts with others on the presupposition of his or her equality. ‘We are all German Jews. One might wonder here whether some of the terms of solidarity used in identity politics could be constructed as names of subjectification. Is the concept of equality. whether it would really be possible to engage in a democratic politics of this kind in particular conditions when the motivating concept is bereft of all but the barest content.’ or even. ‘We are all gays and lesbians. however. What is at issue is how the politics defines itself. or at least how its unfolding reveals it to be. The order word of subjectification is not blackness. One might further wonder. One can imagine. or any other particular content. don’t we need the specific content of an identity in order to struggle against the identity imposed upon a part that has no part by the police order? Rancière’s politics does not deny that people in struggle see themselves as having particular identities. Subjectification. queerness. put another way. in the wake of the murder of Matthew Shepherd. Identification imposes qualities.’ In this context. capable of supporting a politics directed at specific hierarchical conditions? Or. is not to be confused with identification. the references of the nouns would be to equality. against all police evidence.

’ Its significance for our discussion here is manifest. cooperatives. groups in solidarity with struggles of the world people. To all who force themselves to resist the world crime known as “Neoliberalism” and aim for humanity and hope to be better. however. particularly around the area of Chiapas. and state their solidarity with other oppressed groups. as in many places. teachers. liberty. that element must be sacrificed if the movement is to remain 13 . tribes. The struggle has focused on gaining recognition of the legitimacy of indigenous cultural practices and allowing for political respect for the indigenous groups of southern Mexico. students. The Zapatista movement has not accepted this marginalization.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 southern Mexico (May. civic. women are marginalized from participation in the community. feminists. collectives. and neoliberalism in general. be synonymous of future. In the indigenous societies of southern Mexico. have marginalized the indigenous people of that region. intellectuals. and political organizations. This struggle has emphasized the ways in which the Mexican government in particular. 2010: Chapter 4). To all individuals. all the lefts known and to be known. tenants. artists. neighborhood associations. with no matter to colors. 1996) Even more relevant. The Zapatistas have struggled for indigenous rights. has been the Zapatistas’ attempt to promote equality within the indigenous population. One might refer to the various declarations issued by the Zapatistas. workers. When an element of the identity of an indigenous group comes in conflict with the presupposition of equality. youth movements. many of the leaders of the Zapatistas have commented on how their struggle has been structured by lessons taught to them by the indigenous groups. peasants. homosexuals. pacifists. This would seem to be a classic sort of identity politics. both economically and politically. bands. such as the following: The Zapatista Army of National Liberation speaks: To all who struggle for human values of democracy. movements. social. make of hope a weapon and a shield. To all who. cultural groups. musicians. alternative communication media. Moreover. and has struggled within those communities for the recognition of women as equals. However. particularly that of communal decision-making rather than avant-garde politics. indigenous people. This struggle has been called ‘the revolution within the revolution. which see their struggle as part of a larger struggle against neoliberal capitalism. lesbians. (La Journada. and justice. race or borders. This is seen especially with regard to women. it is not. groups. non-governmental organizations. ecologists.

whether there are differences in the brains of homosexuals from heterosexuals: all of this is politically irrelevant. Otherwise put. and cooking dinner. going to work. and they’ll be just like your straight neighbors. It not only can be confining for gays and lesbians. The first alternative. but also serves to isolate their struggle from that of other oppressed groups. What should be emphasized above all. whether.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 a democratic movement and not simply a movement of identity politics. whether there is or is not a gay gene. That confrontation can be constructed in many ways. however. however. the gay lifestyle involves doing laundry. The question is solely one of presupposing the equality of every speaking being. is that a Rancièrean politics offers a route between the alternatives of a liberal politics that would seek to bring gays and lesbians into the mainstream on the one hand and a politics arising solely out of gay and lesbian identity on the other. is the one of making gays and lesbians ‘just like everyone else. That gays and lesbians should have equal rights seems obvious. there are likely numerous other struggles. not because they are gays and lesbians (as the right-wing critics of ‘special rights’ claim). Rather. What this example shows is that it is possible to construct a politics that is rooted in particular local practices and traditions while at the same time presupposing the equality of every speaking being. Beyond that obvious measure. I can only gesture at some elements of this politics. of course. as some t-shirts say. Whether there are particular gay and lesbian forms of sexuality. It is also irrelevant whether gays and lesbians are just like straight people. but because they are equal. The alternative marked out by a democratic politics would not involve giving up practices that have been developed historically within and around gay and lesbian communities.’ Allow gays and lesbians to marry. with consequences that we remarked on earlier. the generality of the concept of equality does not prevent one from organizing against particular hierarchies of particular police orders.[8] The second alternative seeks to impose particular identities on people in order to give them a unique (essential or constructed) character. In the process of its construction. however. Those struggles require confronting the historical legacy that sees gays and lesbians not only as other but as somehow damaged or inferior. since its specific tasks will remain with those who struggle. and of resisting the police order at the points at which it denies that equality. but neither would it base a politics upon them. it must be kept in mind that what is at issue is not the preservation of an identity but the 14 . it would see the people involved in those practices as nothing more or less than equal to people in other practices. It remains only to ask how one might conceive a post-identity politics gay and lesbian movement on the basis of the democratic politics we have articulated here.

A gay and lesbian politics. 3. ‘The Traffic in Women’ (1975). will not be a politics of queers. are detailed in a number of works. As for the latter. and others. and Wendy Williams’ ‘The Equality Crisis: Some Reflections on Culture. And within the gay and lesbian movements themselves. and Palestinian solidarity. This loss. on very different registers. It will instead. including the anti-apartheid movement. He has been active in a variety of political movements over the past several decades. and throughout. and Feminism’ (1991). Ladelle McWhorter. 15 . the works of Seyla Benhabib. Acknowledgements I would like to thank Diane Enns. represented by what came to be called the ‘socialist’ states. as well as. Notes 1. except equality. Todd May is Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of the Humanities at Clemson University. see one another as fellow members of a police order that can incorporate and co-opt almost anything into its operation: anything. the subjectification they create must reflect that presupposition if it is to be able to address both those who are not involved in the subjectification process and those who are involved in other processes of subjectification. He is the author of ten books of philosophy. My claim here. including Contemporary Movements and the Thought of Jacques Ranciere: Equality in Action. forthcoming from Edinburgh University Press. and Diane Perpich for sensitive readings and generous suggestions on an earlier draft of this paper.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 equality of those who seek to live as they see fit. Identity politics. particularly as a rejection of Marxist reductionism. has become reductionist in practice. for example Wendy Brown’s States of Injury (1995). 2. gay and lesbian rights. if it is to be a democratic politics. and the more general difficulties associated with identity politics. manifested itself both in theory and on the ground in political practice. Mary Daly. be a politics of those who. Theoretically. is not that Marxist theory is necessarily reductionist. Gayatri Spivak. regardless of their sexual orientation and practices. some of the touchstones would be the seminal article by Gayle Rubin. but that the dominant trend Marxist tradition. of course. Judith Butler. Courts. Iris Marion Young. 4. one might point not only to gay and lesbian politics but also to the rise of the black power movement and certain forms of difference politics within feminism. Carol Gould’s Globalizing Democracy and Human Rights (2004). I discuss this idea more fully in the first chapter of The Political Thought of Jacques Rancière: Creating Equality (2008).

html May. (1995) [1992]. W. J. accessed 5 October 2009. (1995). However. The Political Thought of Jacques Rancière: Creating Equality. ---. Bibliography Badiou. Rancière analyzes Blanqui’s use of the concept to illustrate the distinction between identity and subjectification cited above. see his Being and Event (2005). C.e. Princeton: Princeton University Press. For important discussion of issues in gay marriage. Being and Event. London: Continuum.actlab. trans.’ a reduction of the political to something behind it. For Badiou’s use of the term. where he argues that Marxism is a ‘metapolitics. (forthcoming 2010). Butler.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 5. Edinburgh & University Park: Edinburgh University Press and Penn State Press. trans. A. Politics and the Ethics of Queer Life (1999). States of Injury. Here the term proletariat. trans. Meditation 35. New York: Routledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Liz Heron. Rancière’s own reservations about Marxism appear in fourth chapter of Disagreement. ‘Declaration of La Realidad’. i. Gould. see the fourth chapter of The Political Thought of Jacques Rancière. (2004). (2005). Undoing Gender. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Contemporary Movements and the Thought of Jacques Rancière: Equality in Action. La Journada (1996).utexas. On the Shores of Politics. for instance. (1999) [1995]. 16 . (2004). T. economics. http://www. footnote 10. J. see. London: Verso Press. Julie Rose. 7. Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy. (2008). Rancière. Globalizing Democracy and Human Rights. Brown. Feltham. O. 30 January. 6. 8. Judith Butler’s Undoing Gender (2004) and Michael Warner’s The Trouble with Normal: Sex. For more on this issue. although Rancière does not use it in this context. Cambridge: Cambridge University declaration. ---. would play a very different role.

Cambridge: Harvard University Press.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Rubin. The Trouble with Normal: Sex. courts. W. G. New York: Monthly Review Press. © borderlands ejournal 2009 17 . (1991). Bartlett & R. Toward an Anthropology of Women. Feminist Legal Theory. Reiter (ed. Politics and the Ethics of Queer Life. (1975). in K. ‘The traffic in women’. Warner. Boulder: Westview Press. M. and feminism’. Williams. (1999). ‘The equality crisis: some reflections on culture. in R.). Kennedy (eds).

queer is not just ‘hot’ (as Berlant 1 . The essay opens with a reading of the well-known Queer Nation chant. gay.b o rd e rla n d s. of course. It was sometimes misunderstood as the part of the excluded. links this to Rancière’s understanding of the wrong. bisexual and transgender identity politics. queer has been surpassing itself from the beginning: in an early essay within what we now might call the ‘history’ of queer theory – an essay that paradoxically helped to instantiate ‘queer theory’ as a term and concept – Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner suggested that queer was a fad that had already run its course (Berlant and Warner. and a queer politics of relationality. Rancière. relations.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. 2009 A Queer Politics of the Democratic Miscount Samuel A. I therefore conclude that Rancière’s democratic miscount is a queer form of counting and a queer form of politics. Chambers Johns Hopkins University This paper uses Jacques Rancière’s thinking of politics – particularly his distinction between la police and la politique — in order to insist upon the difference between lesbian. emphasis added) Is it possible to be ‘old-fashioned’ when it comes to queer theory and queer politics? This seems an odd question to ask of two entities whose history is still less than two decades long. ‘Misadventures of Critical Thinking’ (2008: 15. but I pose it at the start of this essay because I fear that my arguments here might be critically construed as insisting on a set of positions. on the other. I called it the count of the uncounted. I argue that Rancière’s conception of the democratic ‘miscount’ can be understood as a queering of democracy precisely because Rancière’s refusal to reduce le compte des incomptés to the marginalized or excluded produces a queer politics. and analytical distinctions that many feel have already been ‘surpassed. and then combines both with a discussion of the parallels between Judith Butler’s understanding of unintelligibility and Rancière’s conception of the democratic miscount. 1995).borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w . Today.n e t. on the one hand. the part of those who have no part.’ Of course.

heterosexual. Much more than this. or Butler. however. that queer does not and should not name an attempt to include anyone and everyone. to literally add it on. It does mean. over recent years. Indeed.’ that used to appear in feminist analysis when authors – often still working within a secondwave epistemological frame committed to and presupposing a certain universality of women’s experience – wanted to avoid leaving anyone out. queer is now completely mainstream. overlap. In this essay I wish to do more than maintain. Queer has become the ‘etc. or someday will not be. It means that the acronym LGBTQ must be refused. This does not mean that the aims and goals of LGBT politics do not often intersect. and remain intermeshed with those of queer politics. that I depart fundamentally from the idea that. I use ‘queer’ here in a way that I think is consistent with the argument of those thinkers in the early 1990s who now often serve as the ‘canon’ for queer theory (we could add de Lauretis. however. Warner. In doing so. Noreen Giffney makes the point powerfully by putting it so succinctly: ‘lesbian and gay studies does not equal queer theory’ (Giffney. I reject as a rather monstrous construction this new trend of using LGBTQ (not to mention LGBTQQ) as a catch-all to describe the identity of any and every individual who somehow is not now. we find a new trend to include queer within LGBT identity. queer politics is a challenge and resistance to dominant and debilitating norms of gender and sexuality. It shows up not only in the titles of television programmes. not arbitrarily or pedantically. 2004: 73). I wish to insist upon a distinction between lesbian and gay identities. gay men. seems to have grown popular in implicit and subtle ways. I wish to argue that queer politics is a politics that both identifies and remains committed to the impossibility of inclusivity. bisexual men and women. that we cannot collapse queer theory and politics into the frame of LGBT politics and identity-based liberal political theory. transgender and transsexual individuals. and all of those who are unsure about their sexual orientation. nor should one expect a discussion of queer politics or activism. Halperin.[2] I contend. in addition to a continuing tendency to falsely equate lesbian and gay with queer. just because ‘queer’ appears in the title of an academic paper. and a queer relation to norms. 2 . but also in just about every place imaginable within academia.[1] This means. one should not necessarily expect to hear anything about queer theory à la Sedgwick. most significantly. This is the notion that ‘queer’ is a term of inclusivity – that what queer designates is an overcoming of everything that might divide lesbian women. on the one hand.e. To put it in overly stark terms: LGBT politics is a politics of inclusiveness of diverse categories of gender and sexuality[3]. So let me go ahead and lay my cards on the table. Today. i. I am not merely rejecting the idea that queer designates a politics of inclusiveness. but precisely because it serves to enervate queer theory and activism. on the other. and others to the list started above).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 and Warner described it so many years ago) in certain segments of academic and activist communities. Now it is becoming clearer why I may sound old-fashioned. however.

[4] Primarily. anti-statist. thus. Rancière’s conception of democracy is hastily dismissed as out of touch or simply too abstract. I focus most closely on Rancière’s understanding of democracy as the fundamental miscount of politics. we’re queer. I demonstrate that each conception can productively illuminate the other. I develop this idea through the resources provided by Rancière and queer theory – analysing. some dimensions of Judith Butler’s thought. 2007: 75). that to understand ‘“We’re here. and second. Just as queer resistance can be subsumed by lesbian and gay identity politics. the names vary: Davide Panagia (2006) calls it ‘a politics of unrepresentability’ and I sometimes refer to it as a politics of unrecognisability or a politics of inaudibility. Andrew Parker (2007) has already spotted. Taken on their own. While I call the weaving together of Rancière’s logic of politics with the Queer Nation political chant a ‘queer conjunction. that queer politics is ‘anti-identitarian. In this essay. I would suggest. on the one hand. complemented by Butler’s concept of unintelligibility. 3 . I attempt in this paper to map some queer dimensions in the thought of a writer who certainly has no place now. each conception is easily misunderstood.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 To make the case for this particular approach to queer theory and politics. every attempt to name it seems to make it representable and therefore to exceed or transcend the very limits being argued for. and Jacques Rancière’s conception of democratic political speech. Parker goes on to conclude his short essay with two provocative claims: first. To trace this queer conjunction. so Butler’s notion of unintelligibility is quickly reduced to a call for liberal inclusion. in particular. The danger of performative contradiction emerges at every turn. I bring together the seemingly unrelated resources of a Queer Nation political chant. not only produces a trenchant critique of interest-group liberal pluralism but also articulates a powerful vision of a queer politics – a politics irreducible to either identity-politics or the call for inclusiveness. however. Thinking these terms together. this essay implicitly argues for the limits of any politics of representation or inclusion. and thereby bringing to the surface the queer intersection that I mentioned above. get used to it” [as] something other than a claim on behalf of an identity’ queer theorists ought to turn to Rancière as a resource for such thinking. nor even in the future. By way of a much fuller explication of the logic of the chant (mapped onto a reading of Rancière’s work) and in an effort to thwart the move toward inclusiveness. on the other. it articulates the limits of representation itself. The idea of that which cannot be included or represented proves to be a slippery one. but not elaborated on. this connection.’ Parker calls it ‘ironic’ – given Rancière’s own too-easy dismissal of sexual politics – ‘that one of the best approximations of what Rancière defines as “properly” political is the emergent Anglo-American model of queer politics’ (Parker. And like much of queer theory. [and] anti-normative’ to the extent that it resists the language and logic of LGBT politics. in that queer theory canon. For this reason. to the contrary.

b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 I. But. The chant does identify some hard-to-describe subject – ‘we’re queer. Get used to it. ‘What do we want? ____! When do we want it? ____!’ The first blank can be filled by all sorts of demands: peace. we demand equality. While the logic that links the Queer Nation chant to ‘What do we want?’ proves compelling. we find no demand here.[5] How do we read this slogan and chant. ‘we’re here. on these streets. But the last line does not fit the script. we’re queer. I will argue. popularised first by Queer Nation and used widely throughout the 1990s during marches. so gays and lesbians demand theirs. equality.’ which serves to intensify and add urgency to the demand. there is no need to go much beyond this analysis.’ where ‘here’ denotes both the geographical and political space (at this march. 1997: 112). health care. Queer Resistance We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it. protests. and offering a nice combination of political force and humour.[6] The logic is simple enough: rallies and marches need slogans and chants. Rather than. Most importantly. since the Queer Nation chant resonates closely with the most popular protest chant of them all – the one that takes the formula. Queer Relationality. we’re queer. but. easy to yell. this logic continues. it does not do justice to the chant. freedom.[7] Completing the logic. There is nothing that these queers ‘want’ and thus no timeline for their wanting it.’ we find nothing at all claimed by this ‘queer’ subject. This is not. then. give us our rights. almost invariably. and nothing at all demanded from the other. The second blank.’ rather than ‘we’re here. demonstrations. in short.[8] 4 .’ And it gives it a geo-temporal location – ‘we’re here. equal-pay. There is a seductive simplicity to this analysis. and other events? How can we hear the words and what might they tell us about so-called ‘queer theory’ today? Could the best-known slogan of queer activism actually offer some genuine insight into the possibilities for queer theory and politics? It would be easy enough to dismiss any such suggestion. shorter hours. a claim for inclusion (Jagose. it proceeds only on the basis of an almost complete disregard for the content of the chant. is filled by the word ‘now. in this polity) and also echoes the temporal ‘now’ of earlier protest chants. etc. is also easy: just as women and blacks demanded their rights. if we look closely at the Queer Nation chant we must notice the stark difference between the two. For. and Queer Nation came up with a catchy one – easy to remember. There are no specific claims whatsoever being made in this chant.

The distinction between sex and gender is constructed. Rather. through a series of regulatory norms and mechanisms that Butler names ‘the heterosexual matrix. Butler’s work. through culture. To be clear. It reveals that there is construction going on in the first place. a ‘deconstruction’ does not level or erase the distinction. implicit). Butler’s most powerful set of rhetorical questions (as any reader of Butler knows. a work that did not address itself directly to a lesbian and gay audience or subject. and that made no explicit effort to reconsider sexual identity. the deconstruction shows how the construction works. it was not that Butler wished to return to that ‘pre-feminist’ time in which there was no difference between sex and gender (this is what a literal destruction or erasure of the sex/gender distinction would accomplish). must we say not just that gender is socially constructed. In the case of sex/gender. Moreover. given (gay) identity. And her argument proceeded by way of a deconstruction of the sex/gender distinction. And heteronormativity is just another name for heterosexuality 5 . Butler wrote as a feminist. she sought to challenge the idea that the difference between sex and gender mapped on to a difference between nature and culture. the importance of queer pivoted on the difference between it and a fixed. This narrative tacitly attributed to sex the capacity to serve as a natural foundation from which (multiple) contingent gender would then develop – a development carried out through politics. Rather. but she did so in order to challenge the heterosexist assumptions built into second-wave feminism’s commitment to the universal(isable) ‘experience’ of women. At the time. 1990 – made no use of the term queer. and through historical variation. I place gay in parentheses here because one of the texts that played a crucial role in establishing ‘queer theory’ was Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble. Butler countered . this means exploring the mechanism through which the distinction is produced and maintained. it is not a destruction that would tear down what has been built. but that the very distinction between sex and gender is itself constructed? Perhaps these questions beg one more: what does this have to do with queer? But this last question is not rhetorical: its answer lies in the content of Butler’s deconstruction of sex/gender. she loves rhetorical questions) took this form: how do we get at this idea of natural sex? Do we have any access to ‘sex itself.[9] Binary gender only gets produced in the way that it does because of a primary presumption of heterosexual desire that lies at the centre of the matrix.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 I think that we can creatively and productively read the Queer Nation slogan as tapping into a number of the most crucial elements of the conceptualisation of ‘queer’ as it emerged in the literature of the early 1990s. and the binary of gender difference is maintained.and she did so with great rhetorical force – the typical narrative (it remained typical even if it often stayed in the background. like the similarly-influential books by Sedgwick and Halperin – all of which were published in the same year. Thus.’ or does ‘sex’ only emerge within and through the discourses of gender? Thus.’ and which today we might refer to as heteronormativity.

[11] And it seems worth noting the context of Halperin’s definition of queer: it emerges most 6 . it is always context-dependent (although heteronormativity almost always makes up a significant part of the context in contemporary cases). in their own way. Moreover. transgender and bisexual) both name identities based upon sexual orientation. the political problems of homophobia can be dealt with just fine using a combination of identity-theory and liberal political theory. relative. And the recent writings of Rancière and Butler converge in their insistent thwarting of this liberal assumption and in their effort to theorise the remainder (that which can never be recuperated by interest groups) of the liberal. Yet there can be no doubt that the third-wave feminist critique of second-wave feminism parallels and illuminates the queer critique of lesbian and gay identity politics. Queer theory. no one has stated this point more clearly yet forcefully than David Halperin. it now seems more urgent to recall it and consider it with all seriousness. Therefore a feminist theory cannot stubbornly insist that politics only comes after the subject.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 when it functions as a normative and normalising force (O’Rourke. Putting the psychological problems of homophobia to one side. queer is a relationality. Moreover. A theory of lesbian and gay identity would serve to locate and specify that ‘minority group. That is. rather than move beyond it. surely cannot be reduced to a mere analogy to feminism. position in relation to norms of sexuality. challenge. If the category of woman – and even the ‘experience’ of woman – only emerges within the terms of politics.’ i. But none of this would necessarily challenge or offer resistance to heteronormativity. Lesbian and gay are identities. identitybased approach. the effects of heteronormativity cannot be reduced to the idea of a homophobic discrimination against lesbians and gays. then feminism must concern itself with the production of that category. queer points to no such fixed position. queer describes a particular. The entire liberal approach starts with the idea that there is a given and known subject of discrimination or oppression. nothing permanent about queerness. however.e.[10] At this point in the analysis. On my reading. Whereas lesbian and gay (and also. the relevance of Butler’s famous early work on sex/gender becomes clear. While Halperin’s formulation is almost 15 years old. lesbians and gay men. that would be subject to the threat of homophobia. There is therefore nothing fixed. since she shows most powerfully in Gender Trouble that the category of woman cannot be presumed in advance. and must. But. Liberalism would offer a theory of minority rights and equality before the law designed to avert or lessen acts of discrimination or violence against such a minority group. I want to argue that it is precisely this assumption that a queer approach does. 2005). the problem of heteronormativity remains irreducible to the problem of homophobia. I would insist.

since what Sullivan (a self-identified gay man) wants is a normalised gayness that eliminates queerness. They may wish to reject the entire queer project precisely because what they seek is normalness itself – to insist on the non-marginal (hence non-deviant) nature of their sexual identity. But to see that many gay people are queer in this way is not to eliminate the difference between gay identity. Here the debate between Andrew Sullivan and Michael Warner proves powerfully illustrative. (Halperin. 7 . There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 strikingly not in his work on historiography or in his exploration of ancient Greek erotic practices. queer identity need not be grounded in any positive truth or in any stable reality. gay men. Queer is by definition whatever is at odds with the normal. it seems safe to say that most lesbians. though deliberately proclaimed in an act of affirmation. emphasis in original)[12] Working from this quote we can see that the question of queerness will depend upon the force of heteronormativity. bisexual and transgender people find themselves in a queer position relative to the norm. It is an identity without an essence. ‘queer’ does not name some natural kind or refer to some determinate object. and queer relationality. Thus there remains a significant political difference between gay and queer precisely as a matter of political articulation. essential identity of gayness or identifying oneself with the non-essential positionality of queerness instead. Given the power and dominance of heterosexuality as a norm in contemporary European and North American societies. Let me enumerate just a few of the most important potential distinctions: 1. may wish to deny their queerness. and even when a gay individual asserts or accepts his or her queerness (or vice versa). is nonetheless rooted in the positive fact of homosexual object-choice. Some who are gay. it acquires its meaning from its oppositional relation to the norm. which. Even if being gay makes one queer. while Warner (a self-identified queer) rejects normality and refuses fixed gay identity in favour of a radically politicised queerness. ‘Queer’. Halperin argued for a thinking of queer in the following terms: Unlike gay identity. the legitimate. this does not reduce the dramatic difference between identifying oneself based upon the fixed. 2. 1995: 62. on the one hand. but rather in his explicitly political exegesis of Foucault’s work. As the very word implies. the dominant. demarcates not a positivity but a positionality vis-à-vis the normative – a positionality that is not restricted to lesbians and gay men but is in fact available to anyone who is or feels marginalized because of his or her sexual practices. In articulating the ‘queer politics’ of Foucault. then. on the other.

Queer activism surely preceded queer theory. And Warner extends it to sex-workers. Halperin lists married couples without children or married couples ‘with naughty children’ (Halperin. not all of which are reducible to gay identity. non-monogamists. This elaboration of the difference between gay identity and queer relationality brings us back to the chant: ‘we’re here! ‘we’re queer! get used to it’. is – as should be obvious – not to equate the two nor to perversely ‘privilege’ (as in the ranking of victimisations) one over the other. But the list can obviously be extended to non-married couples (who are queer at least to the extent that they refuse the telos of marriage that is operative within heteronormativity). and really to any sex that goes on outside the sanctity and politically-constructed ‘privacy’ of heterosexual. state-sanctioned (and perhaps religiously-sanctioned pro-creative) marriage. and in struggling against efforts to deny lesbian and gay men their civil rights. Instead. Halperin’s emphasis). it should also be clear that queer positionality is not a ‘badge of victimisation’ to be claimed. non-partisan group of individuals . ACT-UP still today describe themselves as ‘a diverse. been used as a device of LGBT politics. as the response to the AIDS crisis quickly demanded a ‘coalition... and to insist upon both the importance of queerness and its difference from gayness. I argue that the slogan makes most sense as an expression of a queer resistance to the norm. and quite often effectively. the slogan itself conveys a queer struggle with the norm. 8 .’ a ‘diverse group’ who would act in the face of the challenges that AIDS posed – challenges that affect a wide swath of the population far exceeding the communities of gay men who were most likely. We must therefore be vigilant in refusing to diminish the danger of gay-bashing and homophobia. It does not assert an identity and demand recognition or rights. it articulates a positionality with respect to dominant norms. 1995: 62. There are many who are queer. to be the direct victims of the syndrome.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 3.[13] There can be no doubt that those who fit into this positional category will often not be subject to radical political disenfranchisement and will not be exposed to physical violence in the way that many LGBT individuals are. committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis’ (ACT-UP NY website). the wrong of heteronormativity cannot be subsumed by the wrong of homophobia – the latter simply cannot capture the effects of the former. And finally. performances. and it expresses a certain defiant resistance to those norms. a group that emerged out of ACT-UP (the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power). While it has surely. None of this should come as much of a surprise to those who know the history of Queer Nation. especially early on in the epidemic. and behaviours. It is simply to maintain that the power of heteronormativity serves to render queer a variety of sexual practices. Nevertheless. but not necessarily gay.

then how can we elucidate the ‘queer politics’ that it evocatively suggests? II. and as traditionally read. one which precedes politics. and therefore is possessed by the other animals as well . queer (Warner. but speech is designed to indicate the advantageous and the harmful. Aristotle opens his discussion and founds his argument in the Politics with perhaps his most famous lines: For nature. at least according to Aristotle. as we declare. while the former are endowed with logos (reasoned speech). cannot be reduced to a claim for equal inclusion. a political community.[14] Indeed. however. And Aristotle even links this argument to a certain anthropology: we always find the logos-possessing anthropos living not just in a social group (a family or a village) but in the polis. But ACT-UP did not seek any form of inclusion into a form of interestgroup politics. because the speaking animal must be heard. contests the ontological argument by showing that the difference between phone and logos cannot be constituted prepolitically. 1999). I want to stress here that the Queer Nation slogan. this would seem to be an argument not about hearing.. (Aristotle. in continuing the politics of ACT-UP. strategies and actions of national gay interest groups like the Human Rights Campaign have often been decidedly un-. it is true. if not anti-. From Demands to Wrongs Rancière would be quick to point out that the question of what and how we hear – a certain question of visibility as audibility – is the original question of politics. Aristotle says that we can distinguish anthropos (the human) from zoon (the animal). Rancière. but about speaking. hence Aristotle completes his logic by showing that anthropos is precisely a political animal because his possession of the logos gives him the ability to deliberate and to judge – fundamentally political acts. from which he is fundamentally distinguished – and whom might be found in nature or the heavens – anthropos lives in the polis.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Heteronormativity rendered the AIDS crisis invisible. does nothing without purpose. This looks on its surface like an ontological distinction. and therefore also the right and the wrong. The mere voice. in the form of making the crisis visible). But this brings us back to the original question: how do we hear the chant? If it calls not for a liberal politics of demands for inclusion. and this. There is a politics of audibility that interrupts Aristotle’s neat distinction 9 . and this mobilisation required a resistance to heteronormativity (first and foremost. Unlike the beasts or gods. ACT-UP therefore mobilised in reaction to the AIDS crisis. for it is the special property of man in distinction from other animals. because the latter have only phone (mere voice).. 1996: 1253a) On its face. can indicate pain and pleasure. and man alone of the animals possesses speech. Warner would loudly insist that the choices.

he repeatedly restates and re-animates the paradox itself by demonstrating the ultimately contingent basis of politics: ‘politics exists simply because no social order is based on nature. by not hearing that it is an utterance coming out of their mouths. Plato lists seven different ‘titles’ to rule. Rancière puts it this way: ‘the speech that causes politics to exist is the same that gauges the very gap between speech and the account of it’ (Rancière. This is a politics of (in)audibility (‘those that one hears and those that one does not hear’). the principle of randomness as the principle of rule (Rancière. Only a political conflict can determine the parties to the conflict. you begin by not seeing them as the bearers of politicalness. but this means that there are no parties prior to the conflict. and apparently ‘extra’ title: ‘a title that is not a title. 1999: 22). And Rancière’s politics. It is not an 10 . hear. like a queer politics.’ It is the drawing of lots. proves to be both paradoxical and groundless. 21) The question of speech and voice cannot be determined by a prepolitical account. through the staging of a conflict. To draw out the substantive links between Rancière’s account and the project of queer theory and politics requires engaging and activating this paradox in Rancière’s argument. This final claim to rule has no basis in a principle at all. Rancière does not resolve this paradox. And for Rancière. 2006: 40). the difference between democracy and all other political forms. 1999: 26). of recognition. it is a politics of (in)visibility (‘those that one sees and those that one does not see’). ‘Parties do not exist prior to the conflict they name and in which they are counted as parties’ (1999: 27. Rancière disrupts the tidy Aristotelian logic by identifying a ‘practical difficulty’: how one can be sure that the human animal mouthing a noise in front of you is actually voicing an utterance rather than merely expressing a state of being? If there is someone you do not wish to recognize as a political being. Rancière’s re-reading raises the question of where the ‘account’ will come from? How do we read. through the declaration of a wrong. then the difference will only emerge within politics. final. no divine law regulates human society’ (1999: 16). since it is precisely the logos that will provide a ‘hearing’ for any political articulation.[15] Rather. or see a creature as human or animal? If we cannot make the political/non-political distinction prior to politics. This oft-quoted passage from Disagreement is echoed in both earlier and later writings where Rancière explains. this means that the political account only comes about through disagreement. Logos cannot be taken as that tool that makes politics possible. (Rancière. by not understanding what they say. emphasis added). (2001: par. is nevertheless considered to be the most just.. In that canonised text. It can only be determined politically through the act of hearing. Aristotle’s logos is thus not a ground. through a reading of Plato’s Laws.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 between man and animal. Rancière focuses his reading on the seventh. but a paradox. between ontology and politics. and that ..

In the next and final section I will use Rancière’s understanding of democracy as a miscount in order to argue not only for the specificity of queer theory. that ‘parties do not exist prior to the declaration of wrong’ (Rancière. we find nothing but sheer contingency. The Queer Miscount Rancière’s approach resonates most strongly with queer theory on precisely the question of identity. demands and claims. we have the miscount that. This is why he can write. II. And Rancière also exposes the full force of such a paradoxical politics by insisting that politics is not the articulation of demands. Rancière’s argument here crosses with Butler’s queer deconstruction of sex/gender. discussed above. Politics is the declaration of wrongs. but one which demands responsible action since social orders – contingent though they may be – are also hierarchical. Politics is not the announcement or claim of identities (LGBT. And the slogan itself. just as it is in queer theory. Sometimes. Rancière uses this paradoxical language in order to insist upon his deconstructive reading of Aristotle. Logically.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 arkhe (a principle of rule). a claim is heard as a political claim (as logos). not the claims of interest groups. We will only know if the chant we hear is the slogan of a political group. When this occurs. but a kratos (a mere prevailing) (Rancière. And just as queer theory can easily accept and account for a lesbian and 11 . The declaration comes before they exist. defines democratic politics. and then later in the text. but also for queer politics as a democratic politics in Rancière’s sense. perhaps often. will also constitute the party to the wrong. Rancière thinks identity in relation to the political moment. as Rancière insists. Identity is therefore relational for Rancière. can never precede the political declaration of a wrong. at precisely this political moment. if we hear that chant as a political articulation and not as mere babbling. Yet for both Rancière and Butler this is not a nihilistic conclusion. Just as Butler refuses to allow the contingency of gender to be grounded in the solidity of sex. so Rancière resists the temptation to give politics any ontological grounding. and Rancière’s politics leaves ample room for the possibility of failure. the wrong is itself that which constitutes the party that would declare it – and if both the constitution of the party and the declaration of the wrong come about through the action of politics – then the politics involved here can never be based on identity. But the process cannot be guaranteed in advance. for Rancière. Identity. and often violent. as he does in the quote above. and with it interests. If. This is not mere double-speak. the staging of disagreements that serve to constitute the very parties of politics. however. that which declares the wrong. 1999: 39). At bottom. 1995: 94). a slogan or chant constitutes nothing more than mere noise (phone). the declaration of the wrong must precede those parties who would declare it. and it thereby serves to articulate a wrong. or any other) by pre-given parties. This means that sometimes. Whereas queer identity must always be grasped in relation to norms. exclusionary.

in Rancière. If queer is that which resists 12 . Politics is the interruption of the police order through a declaration of a wrong.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 gay identity as articulated on a model of fixed sexual orientation.’ But a queer identity can only be articulated within the context of particular norms. a ‘police order’ (Rancière. Rancière calls this order in which identities. our distance from ‘them.’ are announcing is our deviance from the normal. And the presumption of equality that is demonstrated through political action amounts to a queering of the police order. the illocutionary force of the phrase resists this process of normalisation. when chanted on the streets. Rancière defines politics in contrast to all that the police order subsumes. and positions are distributed. wherein that which was once ‘at odds with the normal’ becomes less so precisely because we are ‘used to it’. But I would insist that. politics occurs when a logic of domination is confronted by a logic of equality.’ as those who hear the chant. rather. policy-making. a gay identity can be established through an expressive act – the declaration of coming out.[17] Of course. After all. The Queer Nation chant must be seen as the articulation of political voice by the voiceless – a declaration of a wrong that brings about a party that does not exist beforehand. 19–21). Rancière’s radical and polemical rendering of the original Aristotelian political scene can thereby be used to throw into stark relief the distinction between a lesbian and gay identity politics. visible. is a queer moment. But it does not bring out the visibility of this new human animal with logos merely to have that animal articulate a demand. As is well-known and much discussed in the literature. roles. and hierarchical. cf. are supposed to ‘get used to’ is precisely the fact that ‘they’ are queer – not that they are like us but that they never will be. particular sets of power relations – that is. given that heteronormativity would. one could plausibly argue that ‘getting used to it’ names precisely a process of normalisation. ‘I am gay.[16] Rancière’s argument also highlights the difference between a (mis)reading of the Queer Nation chant as a set of demands by a given interest group. it insists on a certain distance from the norm – get used to it – and thereby refuses to be absorbed within the terms of that norm. on the one hand. ‘Get used to it’ is not a call for recognition as normal. on the other. As I have argued previously. on first reading. and a queer politics. Rancière.’ who hear the chant and who are thought to occupy a place closer to the median point on the normal curve. The political moment. 1999: 28. within a specific political context. but rather an insistence that deviation from the normal will persist. so Rancière’s understanding of the police makes space for a conception of social identity as given.’ who yell ‘get used to it. literally saying. The slogan must therefore be heard as a resistance to heteronormativity. what ‘we. 2001: pars. What ‘we. render queerness invisible or impossible. and an interpretation of this slogan as a queer political articulation – a declaration of wrong that brings into existence the queer party to politics. and all of interest-group competition and compromise. and this includes legislation. fixed. ‘We’re here! We’re queer!’ makes the invisible or impossible queers.

the ‘party of the poor’ that has a part only when ‘there is politics’ does not initiate political action but rather is brought about by political action. And this paradoxical formulation can be elaborated (if never quite ‘explained’) when we see that unlike any other political system. I have previously glossed this argument of Rancière’s by referring to ‘democratic politics as the taking-part of those who have no part’ (Chambers. To include the excluded would be merely to count differently. In other words it is only politics ‘that causes the poor to exist as an entity’ (Rancière. within it. the political subject par excellence) as ‘le compte des incomptés’ – the count of the unaccounted-for. emphasis added). we might say. 1999: 11. and it is also why democracy. 2006: 69–73). In other words.[18] then getting used to it must mean not normalisation but a persistence of queerness. ‘There is politics’ argues Rancière. For Rancière. instead. cf. emphasis added). is the regime that can’t count properly. it would not amount to a ‘fundamental miscount’ (Rancière. democracy involves a form of rule in which there is no title to rule. but it flirts with the danger of overstating the willed participation of a party prior to politics. take part). 2005: par. rule by the rich. 1). There is therefore something about the Queer Nation chant that does not add up. This translation has the benefit of expressing the point in its properly paradoxical form (those who have no part. democracy is rule by anyone at all. As Rancière stresses in the epigraph to this article. the poor – as ‘the class of the uncounted that only exists in the very declaration [account] in which they are counted as those of no account’ (Rancière. in truth. Rancière describes the democratic subject (thus. who ought not. But this is why democracy always involves a miscount. 1999: 38). Rancière. And as Rancière stresses. ‘the part that has no part’ must not be ‘misunderstood as the part of the excluded’ (2008: 15. The title to rule in democracy is the lack of any title whatsoever (Rancière. count – inscribing ‘the part of those who have no part’ (Rancière. with a different translation of le compte des incomptés). It introduces a new term into the equation. This ‘miscount’ 13 . indeed. Democracy. rule by the best. since it always amounts to ‘counting’ those who do not. but without balancing out the equation. Rancière describes the proletariat – the excluded. It is not aristocracy. 1999: 6). 1995: 94). and take a part. 2006: 41. a part or party of the poor’ (Rancière. 2007: 99). For this reason. This is precisely what makes democracy a space or moment of impropriety. such ‘fuzzy math’ is the very stuff of democracy. it is not oligarchy. Democracy is a miscount because democratic politics only comes about when those who have no part in the social order stake a claim. only ‘when there is a part of those who have no part. is not a regime at all (Rancière. it establishes the new variable precisely so as to throw the equation out of balance. 1999: 11.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 normativity. it runs the risk of returning us to the liberal interest-group politics that I have been at pains throughout this essay to distinguish from Rancièrean politics.

emphasis added) And we can easily draw the connection that Butler leaves implicit here: to find yourself rendered unintelligible.. To be oppressed you must first become intelligible.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 is therefore not a failure to count properly. We can add: politics occurs when the unintelligible make themselves intelligible. When politics occurs – and Rancière consistently reminds his readers that such occurrences are infrequent – the conflictual conjunction of the logic of equality with the logic of domination serves. to render that order of domination visible and. you are there as a visible and oppressed other for the master subject . (Butler. and Butler herself has recently expanded her theory to think about ‘rogue viewpoints’ that are rendered unthinkable and unspeakable by norms of legitimacy as well as by governmental policy (Butler. To be unintelligible means to exist in a zone of inaudible. The struggle against oppression will surely be an important one. the miscount demands a more rigorous understanding of ‘the problems’ of democracy. some sexualities. invisible marginality. such that norms of gender and sexuality make one illegible. Deranty. To find that you are fundamentally unintelligible (indeed. on the one hand. is surely to find yourself in a queer relation to dominant norms. to expose (as intelligible) the very subject of politics that had previously remained unintelligible (cf. and it surely is not that which calls for a recount. But it seems to me that Butler’s specific arguments here fit well with the broader and more abstract frame in which Rancière theorises politics. 2003). The miscount names an irreducible remainder. that the laws of culture and language find you to be an impossibility) is to find that you have not yet achieved access to the human. Butler calls this ‘unintelligibility’. Butler shows. put in the language of queer theory. it points to a persistent unaccounted-for within any count. She writes: To be oppressed means that you already exist as a subject of some kind. as Rancière says. Thus. But. Democracy cannot solve all problems merely through inclusion or recognition (cf. 14 . 2004: 30. some nationalities) legible and intelligible. but with the sense that you are not. render some lives (some genders. Butler frames the issue in terms of norms. Butler on dissent). politics occurs through the democratic miscount. some races. And certain norms create a zone of indiscernibility that goes beyond a question of recognition. this means that politics both exposes the norm and questions its dominance in the name of that which it would make queer. on the other. particularly trans-genderism. but democratic politics both precedes and exceeds the problem of oppression. to find yourself speaking only and always as if you were human. In line with the thinking of queer that I articulated in the opening section..[19] Like Butler’s theory of unintelligibility. 2009: 795). Norms. Butler’s own theory of unintelligibility emerges within the specific concept of theorising marginalised genders and sexualities.

But just as the argument for ‘queering’ Rancière’s arguments. to remind us of the importance of maintaining a space for a potential moment of politics that might disrupt and thereby rearrange the police order. or the victimised. and I owe a large debt to one reviewer for insisting I push my argument further in the direction it was already headed and for locating a mis-reading (my own) that I 15 . fits Rancière’s definition of police perfectly. I hope very much to meet him one day. Samuel A. 1999: xi) – Rancière also maintains a fidelity to queerness. These claims can make sense. What I mean by this is that in maintaining a fidelity to dissensus. I thank both anonymous reviewers for their careful readings and patient. again. also – politics itself. edited volumes on William Connolly and Judith Butler. 2009).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 It is precisely his insistence on the miscount that makes Rancière’s a very queer thinking of politics. instead it serves. His previous publications include the monographs Untimely Politics (NYU 2003) and Judith Butler and Political Theory (with Terrell Carver. the marginalised. of queer politics. even if often (and necessarily so) unrealised. Rancière consistently queers democracy. respectively. of course. This is the case to exactly the extent that LGBT politics can and should. And there can be no doubt that much of what travels today under the name of mainstream LGBT politics. He is currently writing a book on the politics of social orders. especially in the USA through the institutions of Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal. to a marginality that cannot merely be included within the dominant frame of the current police order. not only for thinking up the idea for this special issue in the first place but also for his tireless work and ceaseless intellectual generosity. only if we maintain the distinction for which I argued at the outset: between a lesbian and gay identity politics. to the possibility of disagreement – a situation of conflict not over the object of speech but ‘over what speaking means’ (Rancière. By refusing any conflation of le compte des incomptés with the excluded. and numerous journal articles. be subsumed under the category of the police. or of LGBT politics in general. critical engagements. Acknowledgements I am deeply grateful to Michael O’Rourke. He has recently published The Queer Politics of Television (IB Tauris. and a queer theory of both relational identity. for reading them with and through the lens of this queer understanding of norms and relational identity. and – it would now seem. Routledge 2008). Chambers teaches political theory at Johns Hopkins University. from Rancière’s perspective. so too does the reading offer further independent support for holding on to such a distinction.[20] The democratic miscount is a queer form of counting and a queer form of politics. just as this approach depends upon the distinction between LGBT and queer. Such is the promise. This serves as neither an explicit nor an implicit critique of these groups in particular.

see Carolyn Dinshaw (2006) ‘The History of GLQ.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 had somehow transformed into a mis-translation (of Rancière). LGBT needs the ‘etc.000 for ‘lgbtq’ and 10. I am. For example. Transgender. but simply as a banal instance of the normalised usage of LGBTQ. 3. I cite Dinshaw not as an object of critical scrutiny. 2009). in debt to Rebecca Brown for reading various drafts along the way. Censorship. nationality. 1990. sexuality. The project developed here has important affinities with. 4. 2007).780 hits. Arditi. 2000). 2006.1: 5–26. a Google search for ‘lgbtqq’ turns up 8. Notes 1. Indeed.’ which posits the ‘intersection’ of gender and gender oppression with race.000 for ‘lgbt. as always. class. Gay. both Wendy Brown’s interrogation of the discourse of tolerance and Benjamin Arditi’s engagement with populism develop important critiques of interest-group pluralism (Brown. but it seems most prominent within the theory of ‘intersectionality. My spring 2009 graduate seminar at Johns Hopkins provided an excellent atmosphere to think through the conclusions of this argument. As of 22 January. For just one prominent example from current work. etc.’ While this extended acronym has yet to appear regularly in academic literature within lesbian and gay studies. 5.’ appears in a variety of works in the 1990s. but it emphasises a dimension that has been overlooked: the crucial contribution that queer theory and politics can play in this broader project. 2.’ GLQ 12. it has grown in usage and popularity among lesbian and gay support groups.’ For spurring me to think about this acronym. and Other Transnational Problems. Early versions of arguments that found their way into this essay were first tried out on audiences at the University of Essex in 2006 and at Johns Hopkins University in 2007. Queer. 1992. Bisexual. For those unfamiliar with the term. I thank Kathryn Trevenen (Trevenen. but I am certainly not the first to analyse this slogan. a significant body of recent work in contemporary political theory that converges on a critique of liberalism.’ – used to identify and criticise the epistemology of this approach – is mine. 2009.700. My argument operates in parallel with works such as these. ethnicity. but my concerted search for the original source has come up empty. Volume 1: LGBTQ Studies. Duttman (1997) 16 . From here on I offer an extended reading of these seven words.’ that ‘queer’ has recently come to stand in for – it needs to become the ungainly LGBTQ precisely to achieve the goal of including everyone. (see Collins. and therefore takes shape against the background of. The ‘feminist etc. my thanks to all members of the seminar for their hard work and vibrant intellectual energy. LGBTQQ stands for ‘Lesbian. compare with 483. I do not believe the phrase ‘feminist etc. and Questioning.

then there’s not much hope at all. In either case.’ After all. 17 .. that the realms of academic theory and direct action on the street remain irreconcilably distant. Duttman explores a certain negative dialectics of recognition through his extended meditations on the chant. Arditi and Valentine interpret Duttman (rightly. as I discuss in detail in the text below. we see in certain political leaders a vision of politics as something that greatly exceeds the actions and decisions of those in power. of course. and many more would implicitly assume or tacitly imply. To read it otherwise is to run the risk of reducing it to the standard formula of minority identity politics. But what I’d like to call the ‘academic political lament’ – the enunciation of the worry that writing and argument never changes anything – always seems to constrict the realm of the political and to severely constrain the concept of ‘change. hands-on illustration of the tactical uses of this slogan. shouldn’t we theorists be able to resist it as well? 7. my emphasis remains very much distinct. Both texts offer rich accounts from which I see no need to take a critical distance. Nonetheless. I think) as arguing that ‘on the surface. the issuing of executive orders.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 provides a detailed and lengthy exegesis in the context of theorising the politics of recognition. Their proof for this position often appears to amount to the evident fact that essays and arguments published in journals and books are not the same as the passing of legislation. That. who wants to cede politics to politicians? If they are our only hope. Movement Education website. Thought from the other side of the equation. while Arditi and Valentine (1999) draw from Duttman’s own work to help them render their crucial distinction between polemic and’ to the slogan that ran for over a year on candidate Barack Obama’s website. the signing of laws.. the ones who think that politics does have something to do with the people? From JFK’s ‘ask not what your country can do for you. But I would contend that even ‘on the surface’ the Queer Nation chant resists this reading. if those doing the politics can refuse a radical theory/practice dichotomy.rollingearth. which tells its visitors that it is they who hold the power of change. this is a demand for recognition’ (Arditi and Valentine. http://www. see the Rolling Moreover. Some would argue. 1999: 1). and in other words. or the judgement of judges. is true. For an interesting. but on my account the slogan itself refuses the dialectical game of recognition in the first place. aren’t the best politicians the ones who refuse precisely this move. we might also recall the ‘unscientific study’ conducted by Halperin of ACT-UP activists who unanimously reported the inspiration and argument provided to their politics by the writings of Foucault (Halperin 1995: 15-16). 6. The strategic arguments about using the chant provide good evidence for my reading of its politics in the form of demands for equal rights and inclusion. and its blog post on ‘What do we want? When do we want it’ (accessed 29 October 2008.

could the positionality of queer be included within the identity space of LGBT? I would argue that the ‘Q’ in LBGTQ functions in an utterly antithetical manner to the ‘Q’ in the journal title. Indeed.’ I argue that these concepts can be fleshed out with the language of heteronormativity. and sexual desire. an imperative sentence. gender. 10. In Gender Trouble Butler shows that it is the heterosexual matrix that binds together sex. this is surely not to say that the statement ‘get used to it’ does nothing. to let queerness do whatever work it could. In a potentially tangential line of inquiry. and she articulates the workings of this matrix through the complementary concepts of ‘regulatory practices’ and ‘gender intelligibility. GLQ. And one might go on to argue that in letting the Q slide. 1993: iii–iv). cf. it tells others what they have to do. as coined by Warner (1993). It slides. ‘get used to it’ declares a powerful distance between those who occupy the dominant position and those who chant the slogan. For a great deal more on the ‘remainder. rather than requesting something of the dominant power structure. 11. then. but the Q is a sliding signifier’ (Dinshaw. since it refuses to reify or even respect heteronormativity. And the changes within the norms that are announced by the imperative must be brought about by those who occupy the centre of the norm. Halperin and Dinshaw make it queer in a more significant way: by refusing to let its position be fixed. The name of the journal. in distinct contexts. 9. I would ask directly at this moment: how. However. 2006: 9). ‘Get used to it’ is also. It signals a refusal by those on the margins to move to the centre. For some of my earlier explications. GLQ.’ especially as it distinguishes distinct approaches to the political within the field of political theory. and it refuses an opportunity to close down that difference. is not an acronym. The G and the L do stand for gay and lesbian. It asserts that those on the margins will continue to be who they are – namely. notably. as Halperin and Dinshaw explain in their original editorial statement. This serves as a partial explanation for why I myself return again and again to this now-famous Halperin quote. I would argue that it does a great deal more than to assert the claims or demands of interest-group liberalism. Chambers and Carver (2008). 12. then. see Chambers (2003) and Chambers (2009). See Chambers (2007). see Honig (1993). Rather than making a claim of inclusion. As Dinshaw explains when discussing their decision not to call the journal ‘Queer Quarterly’: ‘we did hang on to one Q in the title. queer – and argues that any alterations will have to come about by way of broader changes to the norm.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 8. by refusing to make it correspond 18 . This is therefore a potentially subversive claim. between quarterly and queer (Dinshaw and Halperin. In previous work I have made the full case for reading Butler’s concept of the ‘heterosexual matrix’ through the later-developed language of heteronormativity.

and thus eradicates it’ (Arditi and Valentine.e. or better. essay ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ (Spivak. For Butler. For Rancière. As an anonymous Borderlands reviewer has insightfully and helpfully pointed out to me. and always unproblematically using LGBTQ as an identity category. The insistence on resolving the paradox always diminishes any effort to think beyond inclusion. and broadly misread. Butler and Rancière formulate their own paradoxes. But rather than queering what comes before. in Rancière’s own words ‘conceptualis[ing] democratic practice as the inscription of the part of those who have no part’ (Rancière. 1999: 2–3. of ‘the part that has no part’ – simply lead to a new police order that can now count those who were previously of no account? And. 16. 15. For a much more detailed account of this distinction. see Chambers (2003). 14. we might say that the paradox amounts to ‘counting’ those who do not count. It cannot queer anything. 17. And well before folks like Warner and Halperin helped to make the distinction in this language. Dinshaw’s own article illustrates this point. the Q in LGBTQ serves as an all-inclusive remainder. but in becoming a placeholder it loses its positionality. It is a broad and loose category. 2007: 99). emphasis added). since she carefully explicates the sliding signifier in GLQ while repeatedly. ‘any reliance on a topography of minorities and majorities as the referent of the dispute becomes counterproductive. Butler and Rancière converge at exactly the paradoxical formulation of politics that animates Spivak’s famous. 13. 1988) Spivak was formulating a critique of the politics of inclusion (within the context of postcolonialism).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 to any particular name. haven’t Rancière’s own privileged examples of parties that declared a wrong (‘workers’ and ‘women’) simply become part of the police order? In this light I would suggest that my own effort in this 19 . a placeholder for everything else. consistently. it reduces it to a politics of inclusion. the case of queer/LBGT poses in specific form an important general question to Rancière’s work: is the effect of politics merely to constitute a new police order? I see such a question as crucial to any exploration of Rancière’s work on politics. particularly as it relates to theories of language. but her question and answer title and essay led to a misreading of her work within the terms of a politics of inclusion. As Arditi and Valentine argue. it means coherently discussing the unintelligible (i. it means. as the reviewer also asks. 1999 [1984]). without thereby rendering them simply intelligible). It simply reduces the incommensurability of the opening to a common measure. as is the case with the sliding Q of GLQ. and I would elaborate it as follows: does the irruption of politics into the police order – the emergence of parties to a wrong. Gayle Rubin laid the groundwork for it in her pioneering work on normalisation and/of sexuality (Rubin.

and the Constitution of Athens. B. L. (1996). 19. pp. & Hill Collins. ‘What does queer theory teach us about x?’. ‘Fidelity to the Disagreement. W. The argument contained within the conference title and blurb can probably be attributed to Benjamin Arditi. J. Race. (1999). 110.perhaps even more so. Thanks go to an anonymous reviewer for reminding me of this important point. Here it should be noted that queer resists not just heteronormativity but all normativity. The Politics. Arditi. S. M. and LGBT ‘identity politics’ (the phrase is a contradiction in terms when thought through Rancière’s political logic). Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire. 20 . New York: Wadsworth. M. Politics on the Edges of Liberalism: Difference. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. such dissensus. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. N. Populism. on the other. (1999). I again thank an anonymous reviewer. (2007). 2nd edn. Here my language echoes the title to a conference on Rancière’s work. 3. & Warner. B.: Princeton University Press. and Gender: An Anthology. Agitation. Butler. (1995). London & New York: Routledge. Berlant. & Valentine. 18. Aristotle.L. and maintain space for. held in London in 2003.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 essay to maintain a distinction between queer politics as a Rancièrean disruption of the police order. Polemicization: The Contingency of the Commonplace. Bibliography Andersen. New York: Cambridge University Press. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. no. on the one hand. & Everson. PMLA. Brown. it attempted to articulate an element of Rancière’s writing in which he not only describes politics as dissensus. (2006). 20. P. 343-9. Arditi. can therefore be thought as an attempt to prevent consolidation of a new police order – to keep the possibility of queer politics alive. and in many contexts this means that queer stands opposed to homonormativity as well .’ The name for this conference offered more than a placeholder for various academic engagements with Rancière’s writings. J. Revolution.J. but himself attempts to honour. Cambridge. For pointing me toward these passages in Rancière and for insisting on the unassimilable nature of the unaccounted. Class. Princeton. A. (1992). vol.

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it fundamentally changes the overall constitution of the police order.’ This phrase was later expanded to include both bisexuals and transgenders. Phillips Johns Hopkins University This article uses the work of Jacque Rancière and Gilles Deleuze as resources for reorienting the theoretical underpinnings of queerness as a political idea.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. then there is no need to theorize queer – its meaning is and will continue to be readily available. As additional identities become more solidified and recognized. I distinguish queerness from competing neoliberal attempts to deal with sexuality. I begin by looking at Rancière’s notion of disagreement as stemming from the (mis)counting of ‘parts’ in a political order. they are added to the end of the growing acronym.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w . If.n e t. 2009 Difference. there is something politically salient to queerness as a concept that deserves theorizing. Specifically. it was thought to stand in for the lengthier phrase ‘lesbian and gay. Despite the prevalence of the term ‘queer’ in academic and activist circles. broadly construed. resulting in the acronym LGBT. If this is the full extent to which queer will refer in the future. the term queer vaguely refers to any individuals whose identities fall outside the heterosexual norm. I use Deleuze’s understanding of difference and Rancière’s description of disagreement to describe queerness as contingent. By placing it under this Rancière-Deleuzian lens. It is simply shorthand for a general category of identities that stand apart from the sexual norm. and averse to certain modes of identity politics. Sometimes a ‘Q’ is tacked on the end to refer to any other identities that the term may have neglected under the umbrella ‘queer. its meaning remains unclear. At one point. Deleuze’s conception of pure difference coming from the creative realm of the ‘virtual’ helps provide a genetic principle for the unanticipated inception of these groups.’ From this perspective. Disagreement and the Thinking of Queerness Chas. however. A group that is not counted (and therefore does not exist as a political entity) ‘comes to be’ through the declaration of a wrong. it must stand apart from this mode 1 . creative. As this group emerges or actualizes.b o rd e rla n d s.

Deleuze’s work helps fill in the gaps before a group comes to be in Rancière’s work. and that more work needs to be done to understand queerness in specific terms. Queerness emerges from their work with a turbulent creativity. It is also important to admit and preserve the substantial differences between Rancière and Deleuze’s work before attempting to work across these differences. Queerness both exceeds and challenges the limits of LGBT politics. 2009). an articulation that views queerness as distinct from neo-liberal or interest group approaches.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 of LGBT politics. and inclusion coming from the neo-liberal camp. I turn to the work of Jacques Rancière and Gilles Deleuze in order to theorize queerness as difference and disagreement. because both thinkers believe that groups emerge as the recognizable result of a process which started with that 2 . Nigianni/Storr. This paper does not treat queerness as if it is an already existent concept that needs modification. Thus. There is. including a regression back to queer as a substitute for LGBT. and it does not take Rancière or Deleuze to be queer thinkers per se. and Rancière’s work articulates the way an order is ruptured and reconstituted in a rare moment of politics. just what its meaning is remains a question that has not been answered with any specificity. In many cases. 1995. Their differences – however significant – do not preclude using these two thinkers in tandem for this project. Here I describe a more nuanced understanding of normativity and I offer a more complex and mobile approach to the way that lived experiences are positioned with relation to norms. the way mainstream gay and lesbian movements have defined non-normative sexualities via their own usage of the term queer. recognition. It must be something more than. a mode of politics that is otherwise unavailable. Duggan. I contend that there is something more to queerness that warrants theorizing. This ambiguity has been detrimental to locating what it is that is politically salient about the concept of queerness. In both cases. they approach different questions from different metaphysical standpoints. (See Brown. substantial overlap in several areas that I find productive for thinking about queerness as a political idea. identity politics appears insufficient. but also show why queerness is important to us politically. I argue that Rancière and Deleuze provide valuable resources for conceptualizing queerness anew (See O’Rourke. and it does so in part because it does not yield to the cries for tolerance. and more generally. This analysis will not only delineate queerness from LGBT. The fuzziness associated with the term is a problem – it has left the term susceptible to broad interpretation. however. This conceptualization understands queerness as something uniquely political. 2003) By combining Deleuze’s analysis of actualization stemming from pure difference with Rancière’s description of an infra-group’s declaration of wrong (and the ensuing reconstitution of the societal order). If queer does signify something more substantive. we can begin to think about queerness as being distinct from a traditional conferral of rights or privileges to those who fall outside a sexual norm. Rather. 2005. neoliberal identity politics. and most likely opposed to.

It is on this suddenly-shared stage 3 . The miscount is the ‘major wrong’ that points out the existence of a non-existent part.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 which we could not recognize. and one that does not exist. queerness) is misunderstood if it is confined or relegated to the recognized order of a given polity. the existence of those parts. Politics (and. Policing is the attempt to eliminate this conflict. while the major wrong occurs when an unfounded claim that there is a common stage is made by a party that does not exist on that stage until after this claim is made. The ‘part of those who have no part that is nothing and everything’ (Rancière. queerness retains a creative and contingent characteristic that is critical to its political operation. 1999: 27). something that may not happen often.’ Politics is used instead to indicate the radical disruption of this order by those who have no place in it. the counting of different parts in the order and. ‘It must first be established that the stage exists for the use of an interlocutor who can’t see it and … for good reason because it doesn’t exist’ (Rancière. This discrepancy results in a confrontation between a party or order that exists. Only the former can cause a true breach of the order – a political moment. 1999: 15) is the political paradox around which Disagreement turns.’ the ‘count. rather than rooted specifically in the incommensurable conflict over the count. on the other hand. The discrepancy built into the order escapes the ordinary measurement of things and comes to a head at a particular moment. as I will argue. because order is antithetical to politics. Disagreement Politics occurs ‘very little or rarely’ (Rancière. I want to show how a queer politics looks and feels different from the LGBT politics that we often see today. Order. like those who are part of the order. The minor wrong occurs upon a common stage. This realm is what Rancière calls the ‘order. relies on one fundamental claim that is the ‘negation of politics: there is no part of those who have no part’ (Rancière. and engage with the system of distribution in order to obtain more of that in which they are interested (see Gibson. negotiate over resources. A political moment is witnessed only when a discrepancy arises between. 2006). exposing this miscalculation of parts equaling a whole. Order is the background from which politics emerges. whereas a ‘minor’ wrong may be the inequality that is inevitably reflected within the count. 1999:14). When read through the lens of Rancière’s miscount and Deleuze’s conception of virtuality. The moment of disruption is what interests Rancière. contrary to many schools of thought. 1999: 17) because. This is both the mode that politics takes and the way in which something new becomes included in the count – where before it simply did not exist. This is the rare political moment for Rancière. reconstituting the ruptured arrangement of parts.’ or the ‘police. After working through their works more specifically. ‘politics’ does not denote that realm in which subjects pursue interests. on the one hand. ‘Political order’ is thus a contradiction in terms.

Those that are included as a result of the disagreement may then begin to negotiate for common goods within that order (a negotiation that may be successful or unsuccessful). then the order would have no way of knowing who to exclude. The uncounted do not ask to be counted. and then rectifies this situation. Certain distributions are certainly more favorable than others. Both the have’s and have-not’s are within the count. if they truly had no part. in so doing. This type of intentionality would indicate that the excluded are to some degree within the order from which they are being excluded. For Rancière. Each subsequent count is inevitably another miscount. bring themselves into existence by making themselves of some account in the emerging order. however beneficial for those it would include in the order. Politics exists because those who have no right to be counted as speaking beings make themselves of some account. For Rancière. Rancière explains that the inequality that exists in a given community is a result of the mutual acknowledgement that all parties have for each other as part of their participation in the community. but this does not equate to those that are of some account and those that are of no account. the burden rests on those who do not exist: those with no part must declare the wrong that is the miscount and. That is to say. there can be radical inequality in the system of distribution between the have’s and the have-not’s (and this may be unjust). reconstituting the order in which the parts are counted on a common stage. Rather. Rancière is very clear that this is not a situation in which the order realizes that it had inadvertently overlooked a subject or group. (Rancière. though it may include additional parts that previously had no part. there can be nothing ‘between’ those with a part and those without a part. In fact. Such a correction. and so those without must forcibly make a 4 . is not a political moment. however minimally. because the ability to ask would indicate that they are somehow already part of the count. the contradiction of two worlds in a single world. 1999: 27) Paradoxically. setting up a community by the fact of placing in common a wrong that is nothing more than this very confrontation. the count is everyone who exists. but also a shared language between those non-parts and the dominant order. inequality within the count is a result of a more fundamental equality: everyone who is in the order is equally existent. but this is again irrelevant to politics as such. 1999: 27) in order to correct a miscount. the type of disagreement between them is of a different nature. Nor is it a political moment when subjects ‘place their interests in common’ (Rancière.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 that the miscount is revealed as a major wrong. Rancière is also not discussing situations where the powers that be (the police order) are intentionally excluding certain groups or subjects. not everyone who is included. Making such a request would require not only mutual acknowledgement of the existence of parts without a part.

Difference from is reducible to a model of recognition. 2004). the way gays are often described as different from ‘straights’). Difference in itself views sexuality in terms of a pure continuity. in his 1968 work Difference and Repetition. Subjectification is the term that Rancière chooses for this process of coming to be on the political stage. offers a philosophical analysis of pure difference and complex repetition that problematizes the notion of identity. this presupposition is selffulfilling.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 declaration even though they have no business doing so. Second.’ for instance. politics names: whatever breaks with the tangible configuration whereby parties and parts or lack of them are defined by a presupposition that. in which newness can emerge unexpectedly from unanticipated places in unforeseen ways (Deleuze. by definition. 2004: 12). As they make this declaration. has no place in that configuration – that of the part of those who have no part. in which the number of ‘sexualities. In a political moment. 5 . This political operation is valuable for understanding the way in which new political groups emerge. It can be sensed as part of the ‘distribution of the perceptible’.’ (Deleuze.g. (Rancière. Therefore. ‘Difference is not diversity. This new emergence forces a recomposition of the order that had failed to acknowledge the existence of those without a part. the configuration (the order) is tangible. a phrase Rancière uses to describe that which can be sensed and that which falls beneath the realm of the perceptible (Rancière. 1994: 250). rather than difference in itself. and thus away from the elements upon which a politics of identity relies. His understanding of difference lends itself to this project because it moves beyond a politics of recognition and diversity. they surge into existence. This distribution ‘reveals who can have a share in what is common to the community’ (Rancière. are contained within definable range of (diverse) distinct identities. 1999: 29-30) Two important points are made here: first. difference does not emerge amongst different parties (e. For Deleuze. it appears immanently from the actualizing party itself. Difference Gilles Deleuze. rather.[1] This emergence is exemplified by Deleuze’s description of the way in which the virtual – that realm of Ideas and pure differences – becomes actualized into realizable and manifest beings. the political moment requires the part that has no part to make a presupposition that they are not supposed to be capable of making: they must posit that they have a place in the order in spite of the fact that they do not. diversity describes difference from. Rancière describes politics as a ‘determined activity’ that appears in utter conflict with the police order. particularly because it does so without appealing to the universal and without fitting into a traditional description of the liberal distribution of groups. 1994: 222) because diversity describes only the already-existing.

though they exist on neither side. comes to be. Intensities come from the differential elements on the side of the virtual. On this point. Differentiated is difference that is pure – difference that comes from the realm of the virtual. ‘…we know intensity only as already developed within an extensity. The term differenciated is used to describe those differences that show up in the realm of extensity – they are the qualities and quantities that ‘cover over’ pure differences. while Deleuze does not refer to this process as ‘queer’ (a term that would be coined many years after Difference and Repetition is published). and render something perceptible on the side of the actual. purely differentiated. such an encounter cannot accommodate the emergence of the new. a differenciated encounter is one in which agents and groups remain relegated to a politics of recognition. it is that which precedes the realm of the sensible (Deleuze. The sensible is the result of a relation of different intensities that have at some point joined the realm of the actual. I turn again to Deleuze’s understanding of the way in which ideas become manifested in the world. Rather. Difference in its pure form yields what will become sensible once it is actualized. 2000: 207-12). he makes a delineation between the two different types of difference described above. Actualization is not a process of becoming in which something that has yet to be. 2000: 223). 2000: 140). They both work toward the emergence of something perceptible – Deleuze through a philosophy of actualization and Rancière through political irruption. Deleuze is looking for a genetic principle for that which exists – a principle that moves beyond already-existing objects and their perceptible qualities or quantities.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Deleuze’s work on difference is important because I believe that a queer encounter is one that is. These differenciated objects are what we are most accustomed to encountering. Toward this end. (Deleuze. to use his term of art. and that which is incarnated and can be perceived and experienced). but not as far as a Kantian transcendentalism. and as covered over by qualities’ (Deleuze. In order to better specify what Deleuze means by difference. It is this difference in which he is most interested. Deleuze argues that we experience intensities indirectly through that which they yield as extension. He refers to this as a process of actualization: the realm of the virtual moving into the realm of actuality. By extending Deleuze’s logic to this discussion of queerness and LGBT politics (something he does not do). And. Rancière’s work is not so distant. Pure difference is not immediately accessible in the sensible world. but we do not sense 6 . this is indeed the meaning of queer that I am conceptualizing. Intensities are the elements or forces that bridge the gap between the virtual and the actual (that which can potentially become actual. 2000: 140). Intensities are catalysts of sorts – they are the lit fuses that impel something from the virtual to burst into the actual – but they remain unidentifiable. ‘It is not the given but that by which the given is given’ (Deleuze. We identify and sense the qualities that we perceive in extension. in which something novel unexpectedly emerges as queer. or sub-identifiable. it is a creative process stemming from pure difference that can often yield unexpected results.

individuation occurs prior to the categorization that is devised for identity politics. The second stage of the process of actualization is what Deleuze calls Individuation. intensities play their most integral role. because they are completely and utterly differentiated from each other. Individuation is the process in which differential elements from the virtual begin to produce singular beings or singular objects. Queerness is not synonymous with actualization. Deleuze argues that underneath each actualization lie the intensities from which it was actualized. Each of the four stages is critical to Deleuze’s understanding of how something is actualized in the world. but creative actualization is a productive tool for thinking queerness. that of species. the realm of differentiation. It is important for Deleuze that this process precede any general notions or concepts – e. moving from differentiation – the realm of Ideas and the virtual – toward differenciation – the realm of actualized extension. If queerness is to reflect the new and growing forms of relations between people. but not yet actualized into existence. They have what Deleuze (following Leibniz) calls distinct relations. 213). The constellation of these different points. The realm of the virtual is rich terrain (far richer than the realm of the actual) because there exists an ever-present potential for something to actualize in creative and unexpected ways. Chambers and Carver. they are the differential elements that are clearly defined. emerges with a totally unique perspective. because it remains confined to the space of the count – in the already-actualized realm of differenciation. Individuation exposes the rights-based liberal model of LGBT politics as insufficient for the form of queer politics that I am advocating here. In the first. (Deleuze. Applied to the realm of thinking queerness. Here. This is much like a finite number of letters coming 7 . categories. 2008). 2000: 165.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 the genetic nature of those objects. as they constitute a complex curve or structure. they are ‘obscure’ because they have yet to incarnate in the realm of the actual (Deleuze. it has to think prior to these stale. The individual points may not be unique when isolated. This virtual realm of ideas has to be the place from which queerness comes to be. Deleuze divides this process of actualization into four overlapping categories. virtual relations of differential elements swirl around each other. as objects move closer to the threshold of being actualized. 1978. Deleuze describes the process of individuation as the drawing together of a certain number of points that make up a series. One cannot think queerness through the world of the recognizable and categorizable identities because these identities are precisely what queerness is upending. and artificial categories (Foucault. but the specific combination of these elements provides a perspective unlike any other. But. The points are derived from the realm of the virtual. strict. 2000: 247).g. Queer politics as I am describing it here is related to this creative emergence of newness from the rich terrain of the virtual. 2000: 246). or universals (Deleuze.

but obscure because they had yet to be incarnated – to clear and confused. they are ‘imprisoned in individuals as though in a crystal’ (Deleuze. and purely differentiated. ‘Actual terms never resemble the singularities they incarnate’ (Deleuze. 1994: 247). because it is not merely the unfolding of the yet-to-be. dramatization would remain impossible to predict or control. it cannot be sensed or recognized. These manifested objects are the result of pure difference and intensity. Deleuze reiterates that the sensible qualities or individual characteristics of those beings that have already been incarnated are not primary. we do not recognize clearly each particle. Even if it could. what we hear is the overall sense of their sound in concert. Some thing becomes incarnated as a result of a certain trigger. we would not be able to hear the wave at all if it were not for the individual particles making their imperceptible noise. Sub-sensual intensities begin to bubble to the surface. or. and eventually new and unique ideas – complexity arising from simplicity. Something begins to come together without us being able to recognize or identify it – this is intensive emergence. but the relations 8 . The third stage bridges the gap between the virtual and the actual. This process is again unpredictable and creative – that which is produced is more than or different from the sum of its elemental points. 1994: 189). in which a certain combination of disparities comes to be and form the conditions of possibilities for something actual to emerge. or what Deleuze sometimes calls Spatial Temporal Dynamism. 1994: 246). It is the process of dramatization. Dramatization is the trigger stage for the individuated virtual structure (Deleuze. but they are no longer in a realm that involves pure difference in any direct way. Deleuze (again borrowing from and then revising Leibniz’s formulation) explains that their differences have moved from the distinct and obscure – distinct because their relations had been totally determinable in the virtual. The wave is clear and confused: we can clearly hear the wave. This is a moment of crystallization or coagulation (Deleuze. They are ‘clear’ because they are now sensed in actuality. determined. Deleuze uses the example (also from Leibniz) of a wave crashing on a beach. an extensive element or being comes to be in a moment of crystallization. Because dramatization begins in the realm of the virtual. put differently. sentences. Rather. The constellation that was purely virtual begins to actualize. in which the actual can be sensed as such. And. until they finally condense into an actualized. ‘…it is always a question of pre-individual singularities distributed within the Idea. But. 1994: 245-6). extensive object at a particular moment. Elements in this stage have now become incarnated and can be differenciated from one other (‘different from’) rather than differentiated (‘pure difference’). each with their own singular principles.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 together in combination to form words. 1994: 212) The timing is also unpredictable. The noise made by the crashing wave is constituted by a myriad of individual and particular particles. It is unaware of the individual’ (Deleuze. The fourth stage is one of actualization or Differenciation. paragraphs. yet they remain ‘confused’ because their relations are no longer defined.

or drawn outside of itself into extensity (Deleuze. understood as pure difference in itself… (Deleuze. 1999: 35. 2004. whose identification is thus part of the reconfiguration of the field of experience. With some work. one can make their separate vocabularies and approaches fit tenuously together long enough to serve as a resource for thinking queerness as a contingent. both Rancière and Deleuze are needed. (Deleuze. 1994: 252. emphasis added) And Deleuze claims: The object of the encounter is… the imperceptible…from the point of view of recognition. 1994: 228. Rancière writes: By subjectification I mean the production through a series of actions of a body and a capacity for enunciation not previously identifiable within a given field of experience. but an element which is in itself difference…This element is intensity. creative. 2008. 1994: 140) For it is not figures already mediated and related to representation that are capable of carrying the faculties to their respective limits but. 233. when the process of Deleuzian actualization is applied to the way a group comes to be. and unstable process. politics. Difference-Disagreement As mentioned above. and this is why their work can be used to rebut neoliberal identity politics. It is unclear as to whether Rancière believes there is something prior to 9 . there are substantial differences between Rancière and Deleuze’s metaphysics. Both Rancière and Deleuze formulate productive critiques of neo-liberal strategies in their separate ways. For instance.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 that constitute the wave are confused. Pure difference cannot be identified and determined in actualized elements. but the actualization cannot occur without the realm of virtual ideas that are purely differentiated (Deleuze. 266). The individuated elements that exist prior to the actualized wave exist in pure difference: their relations are differential until they emerge in combination as the actualized wave. free or untamed states of difference in itself. In order to adequately specify queerness as a unique and important political operation. (Rancière. 2006). 253). 1994: 144) Both thinkers are critical of approaches to philosophy and politics that focus solely on the already-constituted. not qualitative opposition within the sensible. and thinking. This is why Deleuze sometimes says that pure difference is ‘cancelled’ once it is actualized. 238. it looks much like Rancière’s description of subjectification. Connolly. They expose how traditional models are incapable of doing the innovative and creative work that is required for a vibrant and pluralizing form of democratic politics (Chambers and Carver. on the contrary. But the gap is not insurmountable.

I argue that the rupture that reconfigures the entirety of the order would not exist if it were not for something like the Deleuzian virtual. ‘[Individuation] is unaware of the individual’ (Deleuze. Next. 1994: 169). For Deleuze. 1994: 236-7). If this is the case. the irruption would not be political if it did not originate from a sub-perceptible level. However. each series of points begin to consolidate into infra-groups with unique perspectives derived from the realm of the virtual. Adjusting the distribution of rights. along the lines of differenciation and within the qualities and extensities it creates. 1994: 246).’ Understood accordingly. Deleuze believes that everything that is required for a group to exist is already present in the immanent field from which it emerges. From this tumultuous and fluctuating environment. just as the declaration of a wrong 10 . The virtual is the resource upon which actuality draws in order for an infra-group to emerge as a group from this virtuality. it is clear that he does not write about it at any length. It is a realm in flux. Borrowing from Simondon.[2] With a little coaxing. Deleuze explains that individuation arises from ‘metastable’ systems. But. with a fluid distribution of elements of different degrees of disparity on different orders providing a heterogeneous climate from which intensive potentialities will actualize (Deleuze. in which there is no secure unity or static environment. It is prior even to the stage in which groups are struggling to ‘come to be. is antithetical to this understanding of politics and to this understanding of queerness. in Deleuze’s stage of individuation. virtuality is the realm that is responsible for all that becomes actualized and recognizable without itself being recognizable or sensed (Deleuze. 1994: 246) may occur. then a discussion of group inequality. this might just conform to Rancière’s approach: nothing sensible exists prior to the declaration of the wrong from the perspective of the police. but these conditions do not arise from something external or transcendental. If the disparities are of a certain degree. (Deleuze. or resources. as many neoliberals advocate. They grow from the object itself – from the group in itself (Deleuze. Deleuze explains that Individuation is the act by which intensity determines differential relations to become actualized. we can view Deleuzian virtuality as simply the world that preexists the recognizable count that Rancière describes (Deleuze. it is necessary to explore the conditions of possibility for the emergence of the new. 229).’ and ‘…intensive quantities are individuating factors’ (Deleuze. and if the right combinations of elements are involved.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 the sensible emergence of a group. certain resonances may develop involving one or more of the disparities between certain elements. 1994: 246). ‘the actualization of a potential and the establishing of communication between disparates’ (Deleuze. is literally apolitical for Rancière. while important and interesting. ‘Individuation is essentially intensive. 1994: 228. 1994: 246). privileges. 1994: 246) Rancière notes that individuation occurs before the individual is actualized – prior to subjectification.

11 . as determined by intensity. 1999: 11-12. Queerness is founded around relationality rather than beings. 18. We cannot see or understand what groups will come to be. Realization is the process in which that which does not yet exist. 35. this latter concept can be valuable for thinking about queer politics. and only the real can emerge from the possible. emerging subjectivities must be described after they emerge from the creative and rich potentiality that is contained in the process of actualization. The latter is the logic of the police. is never known in advance. I contend. the potential for actualization grows more likely. 2008). or around what issues they will organize. the more we know about this causality. The virtual conditions from which each actualized object arises are not only insufficient for predicting what will be incarnated.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 occurs without a subject to declare it. they join a count that had previously not recognized them as existing. comes into existence. Intensity is that which determines which relations of the many involved will be actualized and differenciated. the only difference between the possible and the real is their status as existent – which is not enough for Deleuze (or. The only difference between the two is whether it exists yet. on the other hand. While subjectification and individuation cannot simply be reduced to emergent queerness. As this happens. Deleuze’s discussion of how a process of actualization is unlike one of realization bolsters Rancière’s position. This is again why the virtual is so much richer than the actual (not to mention the possible or the real). When groups are actualized in unanticipated ways. if we could. the existing order is radically disrupted and then reconfigured (Rancière. Individuation develops from the array of ordinary and distinctive points. By drawing upon both Rancière and Deleuze’s work. the categories and generalities that are constructed to organize subjects emerge after subjectification. A process of actualization. This disruption and reconstitution would never occur if groups are merely realized from their already-recognized possibility. only the possible can emerge from the real. when a certain unique combination will resonate together to form a particular perspective involving the necessary degree of internal difference (Deleuze. When this happens. the more able we are to predict reductively what will exist in the future. 1994: 246). The world of the possible arises from a world of linear causality and known quantities. it holds the potential for a myriad of different manifestations to appear in unexpected and creative ways. What will actualize from the world of virtual elements. 33). Queerness is anti-identitarian because it occurs prior to the development of the individual. As Deleuze notes. but also sub-perceptible until after their pure difference is cancelled and they are actualized. they would already be in the realm of the recognizable and therefore existent in the order (Chambers and Carver. This is why identity politics is insufficient for theorizing the new. Queerness is the process of reconstituting the order around the emergence of a being or group of beings that actualize from unique perspectives – perspectives that stem from the realm of the virtual. for Rancière. is one in which strict causality is insufficient for predicting what will emerge. In a world of the real and the possible. or for queerness).

The two in tandem can be used to (re-)orient the theoretical underpinnings of queerness. may occur at any time. Rancière’s declaration of a wrong is the trigger that moves an infra-group from the realm of the virtual to the realm of the actual. i. the spectator. In addition. because (despite their differences) they resist recognition-based identity politics as the source of political natality and offer a vision of subjectivity that preserves the creativity latent in queerness. or the count shifts suddenly or over time. several groups. Dramatization is the Deleuzian stage that is most relevant to Rancière’s work. Difference for Deleuze. 1994: 192). The differential elements that constitute what will become a group after the declaration crystallize in such a way that they make themselves of some account in the order. like disagreement for Rancière. Rancière’s groups become actualized immediately after the declaration of the wrong. The eternal return is the ever-present chance that something innovative will be creatively actualized.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 while the former is the logic that disrupts that police order. Both Rancière and Deleuze understand this moment as one of radical theatre or drama. The now-actual group joins the count. Its pure difference is cancelled. This group can now be differenciated from other groups based on its now-actualized constitution. and its interests are in some way reflected in the way that the order distributes common resources to identifiable parts. and the creative process of actualization occurs again and again. Deleuze draws on Nietzsche’s image of the eternal return to recast this understanding of newness. As soon as groups are differenciated in the count. Deleuze understands Nietzsche to mean the eternal return of difference – pure difference. Rather than understanding the eternal return as a cycle of repetition. politics (Rancière.e. 1994: 189). and not one of simple representation. Deleuze explains that it is theatre that does not leave the identity of the thing. the shift may develop from a set of circumstances that appear to be inexplicable. In order for this to be the 12 . or the character intact (Deleuze. Finally in the fourth stage. This crystallization is the bridge from the unrecognizable to the recognizable – the same one that Deleuze describes as a crisis point (Deleuze. The declaration might be incited from one or more of the following shifts stemming from intensive differences: the environmental conditions surrounding a group. The political moment. but its actualization would have been impossible without the pure differential relations found in the realm of the virtual. The revised count that now includes the newly recognized group is inevitably a miscount of another set of parts that have no part. changes made within the count make the potential for an infra-group to incarnate more likely. 1999: 33). the addition or subtraction of certain elements within the infra-group or within the count that the infra-group joins. or the repetition of the same. Rancière’s moment of politics is over. though rare. is a mode of bringing something new into being (becoming). the author.

a new complex curve of different relations of points forming a unique perspective. 1996). emphasis added). Such a rejection destabilizes norms based on sexualidentity and allows for the creation of new cultural forms and new ways of becoming. but one that destabilizes the foundations upon which identity and sexuality are constructed (Halperin. Deleuze pushes Nietzsche in this direction because he believes that pure intensities make up the will to power. If the eternal return is the return of difference. But. in another moment of drama. Newness emerges immanently – that is. and. then all that returns is the pluri-potentiality for becoming. They will. the potential remains for something new to emerge from an encounter with the unrecognizable.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 case. This ever-present potentiality is how Deleuze reads Nietzsche’s eternal return. When it is exposed as a powerfully organized recognition-based matrix of categorized identities framed in relation to reproduction-based relationships and structures. and on the other. from elements that already exist but are joined anew under different conditions or in different combination. 1994: 41. 1994: 41) Identity presupposes a world of relations that is already being in a stable mode of the count (instability in the world would prevent these identities from coagulating). …The eternal return does not bring back ‘the same’ but returning constitutes the only same of that which becomes. The return of these identities is thus the return of the identical. then this norm (and many others) can be creatively rejected by acknowledging those lived experiences that do not fit cleanly within this matrix (as well as those that are yet to creatively develop). politics would become mired in the return of the same (something Rancière believes is anti-political). 1995). Destabilization at this level is not a purely negative 13 . It is critical to locate a way of thinking about queerness (of thinking queerness) that not only avoids the artificial stability and stale intransigence of that which already exists. interrogating the very nature and composition of sexuality itself (Jagose. (Deleuze. these points are not exhausted by this new becoming because they are not limited to a single deployment. if understood through this ethos. Eternal return cannot mean the return of the identical because it presupposes a world … in which all previous identities have been abolished and dissolved. Such an analysis provides the difference between on the one hand including same sex couples (who abide by heteronormative terms of relationships) in the rights/privileges of marriage. becoming must be emphasized over identity and a politics of recognition. be pulled apart and rearranged in a different curve with the addition and subtraction of any given number of individuating factors. The encounter is a moment in which intensities jostle certain individuating factors to contract into something unique and new. Because they are not confined to the individual. and it is these ‘mobile individuating factors’ that are ‘unwilling to allow themselves to be contained within the factitious limits of this or that individual’ (Deleuze.

Nietzsche’s eternal return as read by Deleuze is a productive approach to dealing with sexual practices as they emerge in lived experience. When sexuality is investigated under the Deleuzian-Rancièrean matrix. Thinking sexuality requires remaining within the politics of recognition and identity. (Deleuze. Understanding the manner by which newness unexpectedly comes to be in a political arena can help us develop new political strategies that are more suitable to a less stable world. 1999). new adaptations. Warner refers to this creative potentiality as the possibility for ‘world-making’ (Warner. This is why Rancière and Deleuze’s work can lend itself to queer thinking. drafted from the mobility of differentiation. One alternative to this politics of identity is found in the Deleuzian-Rancièrean analysis above: queer politics as a moment of creative rupture in which something new comes to be (becomes). 1999: 31). This is also how queerness serves a broader set of objectives that are important for political theory. But. 1999: 59).’ which ‘has chosen to articulate the politics of identity rather than to become a broader movement targeting the politics of sexual shame’ (Warner. Warner argues that even if this was the case for early humans. Only the eternal return of pure difference can sufficiently deal with sexuality as a multiplicity. 1996: 74). Queerness understood as difference-disagreement propels us toward new and creative pluri-potentialities (in our thinking and our becoming). but in the ability to create new functions. by exposing categories via identity politics as constructed (though 14 . normal/abnormal practice of reproductive coupling. 1994: 250) The excesses of sexual practice overwhelm the categories that seek to compartmentalize their varieties into identity-based claims located in proximity to the norm. It will be difficult to identify these strategies in advance. rather than confining ourselves to the pre-determined limits of the already-recognizable (and therefore. Queerness. cannot simply be a substitute term for ‘gay and lesbian’ because it undermines the type of sexual identity those words describe (Jagose. thinking queerness requires leaving them behind in favor of a politics of difference-disagreement. un-queer).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 development reacting against the norm – it is ‘positive and dynamic and creative’ (Halperin. In response to the argument that reproduction is a natural evolutionary norm that is in place to ensure the survival of the human species. The problem of comparison between animal and human sexuality consists of finding out how sexuality ceases to be a function and breaks its attachments to reproduction. new conditions’ (Warner. 1995: 66). ‘it remains the case that health lies not in repetition of those functions for all persons or for all time. We might be able to develop new and important strategies for this type of world-making if we draw from Rancière and Deleuze’s framework. it appears very different than when it is viewed as a natural/unnatural. Practices are and have always been invigorated by difference and by becoming in fluctuating contexts. It is for this reason that Warner is critical of the ‘official gay movement.

Queerness becomes important for thinking about politics. Without these imperceptible areas of difference-disagreement. 2005). nothing new – nor anything political – would ever occur. and individuating factors to be distributed in pure intensity’ (Deleuze. It may seem difficult to include in our thinking groups. thinkers might find themselves more sensitive to emerging forms of political subjectivities. At the end of this retracing of crumbs. But this is exactly what I read Rancière to be insisting upon: we must respond to the call that these rare political moments issue. we reach ‘those regions where the Other-structure no longer functions.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 powerful) groupings. it is possible to suggest some experimental approaches that might foster this sort of thinking. Theoretical analyses that do not attend to these elusive spaces are not merely incomplete: they sometimes smother the creative life of becoming out of the political world. 1994: 281). An order that 15 . and being/becoming when it draws its theoretical substance from Rancière and Deleuze’s work. It can feel uncomfortable and risky to try to attend to intensities that are still beneath the level of being. But this is only the end of a long series of events. these analyses neglect politics entirely. 1994: 281-2). Deleuze explains that we tend to treat other groups as if they are able to integrate the ‘individuating factors and pre-individual singularities’ into the limits of their group as it is perceived in a field of representation (Deleuze. beyond the Other as a definable entity. this sort of challenge can impinge on some of our most basic existential commitments (Connolly. we can trace the genesis of these groups back to the creative singularities that propelled them toward recognition in the first place. the call to see a relationship between two worlds that cannot relate to each other (Rancière. It encourages us to theorize from a position of contingency rather than from the security that comes from apodictic claims about stable identities or a monolithic and univocal norm. Rancière would describe this realm as prior to the declaration of the wrong – the moments prior to a group making itself of account in the recognizable arena of the order. ideas. and things that do not yet reveal themselves within our perceptible range. our thinking is invigorated and vitalized. By acknowledging that subjectification can and does occur in places that we cannot see. By moving beyond the recognizable group and its counterpart subjects. making the count more susceptible to the creative emergence of a new group. And. we might encourage fragility within Rancière’s order. there is only difference – the space in which tiny elements combine in unique structures to provide creative new perspectives. identity. 1999: 42). while it is difficult to outline concrete tactics that might stem from difference-disagreement. Difference and disagreement impel us to realign our thinking toward the level of the virtual – the moment just before the rupture in the count – and to be sensitive to its arrival. For Rancière. as they congeal into subjectivities. a series that can be followed in reverse.’ a place where ‘singularities are free to be deployed or distributed within pure Ideas. When we invest in this queer ethos as theorists. By using difference-disagreement as a provisional space for theorizing.

23. Bibliography Chambers. Deleuze’s work can provide a useful and resonating addendum to Rancière’s description of politics – I do not find the two to be incompatible. Durham: Duke University Press.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 operates on the presupposition that its count is mistaken could increase the likelihood of a group surging into being from just below the perceptible surface. It will undoubtedly mean that emphasis must be placed on those creative processes that emerge in a world of volatile becoming. New York: Columbia University Press. Charles Phillips is a PhD student at the Johns Hopkins University in the Department of Political Science. & Carver. Difference & Repetition. But queerness cannot persist without this level of contingent creativity. Connolly. Speed. (2005). Judith Butler and Political Theory: Troubling Politics. (2008). by definition a good thing. But. and ought not to be neglected simply because not every actualization is a queer actualization. His dissertation focuses on queer theory and pluralism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. P. fragile terms. ---. Theory out of bounds. I argue the movement from the virtual to the actual is important for this understanding of queerness. Notes 1. American Style. London & New York: Routledge. (1994) [1968]. It is also possible that Rancière does not believe that there is anything we can know about a group before it comes to be. W. Deleuze. and his broader research interests include materialism. Pluralism. subjectivity/agency. 16 . (2008). Neuropolitics: Thinking. where he studies Political Theory. fascism can creatively and unexpectedly actualize as easily as queerness. Difference-disagreement means we must include the realm of the virtual in our understanding of the way groups come to be. and affirm the incomprehensible path that ideas take on their way toward actualization. Capitalism and Christianity. ---. Durham: Duke University Press. 2. and reconstituting it again in contingent. and media studies. we have to plan on the unexpected. Even if this is the case. (2002). Culture. trans. shattering the order. Actualization is not. v. Patton. This could be a good or bad thing – and it will not necessarily be queer. T. G. S.

R. Halperin. Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography. The Trouble with Normal: Sex. Beckett and Badiou: the Pathos of Intermittency. Hurley. and the Attack on Democracy. D. The Twilight of Equality: Neoliberalism. H. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. (1999). (2006). Deleuze and Queer Theory. Queer Theory: An Introduction. Warner. (2005). (2009). vol. London: Continuum. New York: Vintage Books. New York: Oxford University Press. (2003). Politics. Gibson. Rockhill. (1996). J. L. & Storr.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Duggan. © borderlands ejournal 2009 17 . Dis-agreement: Politics and Philosophy. ---. ‘Queer theory's loss and the work of mourning Jacques Derrida’. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Jagose. Rose. A. trans. G. (1990). Spring. Nigiani. M. (1999). 10. New York: New York University Press. O’Rourke. A. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. (1995). The Politics of Aesthetics. and the Ethics of Queer Life. Ranciere. Volume 1: An Introduction. (2004). trans. J. trans. Foucault. Boston: Beacon Press Books. Cultural Politics. M. The History of Sexuality. M. C. Rhizomes.

Foucault and psychoanalysis. It goes on to outline a Rancièrian queer theory which is methodologically egalitarian in its commitment to taking seriously the self-understandings of ordinary queer subjects and which remains true to Rancière’s scepticism about ‘theoreticism’ and his critical perspective on disciplinary formation. It finds in Rancière’s critique of progressivism and the value he places on singularizing self-realization in the present the sources of a queer understanding of futurity and kinship in certain respects consonant with Lee Edelman’s. The article then argues that Rancière’s formalist account of political subjectivation is open to a queering which allows his assumptions about queer theory to be set aside. by Rancière and the other members of the Révoltes Logiques collective. the intriguing suggestion is that in the susceptibility of the epidermic surface to irritation is to be found both something essential about May 68 and 1 . For it is in the touchiness of our skin’s sensitivity [la sensibilité des épidermes] that we are perhaps most confident of having preserved. of a special issue of the journal commemorating the tenth anniversary of May 1968. epidermic [épidermiques]. amid the daily round of compromises and the carnival of modish transgressions. so to speak.n e t.b o rd e rla n d s . 2009 Rancière and Queer Theory On irritable attachment Oliver Davis Warwick University. and by questioning Rancière’s own view of queer theory. 1978: 5)[1] In this opening presentation.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w .a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. [I]n our examination of left-wing politics today we have been superficial or. something of what changed in 68. The article concludes that the affective disposition and relational mode implicit in Rancière’s practice of irritable attachment offer queer theory the vision of a less fraught and more liveable response to ambient heteronormativity. (Rancière et al. UK The article begins by examining the obstacles to an encounter between Rancière’s work and queer theory.

structures and modes of kinship known to queer theory as ‘heteronormativity’. in the expression ‘le partage du sensible’. an ‘allergic’ awareness. its close adjectival relative denoting sensitivity first figures a susceptibility to irritation.[2] Superficiality is salvaged from ordinary language and tentatively advanced as a methodological principle.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 the basis of an enduring attachment to its notoriously elusive spirit: their task. 5). it will. self-appointed. is at once a distinctively queer and a characteristically Rancièrian form of relationality and one which better captures the nature of much of our affect-laden and embodied social and political experience than ‘disagreement’ and ‘dissensus. are queer theorists in the making. without exception.’ the sensory. I shall argue. naturally. it will seek to elaborate distinctively queer forms of filiation and influence which work beyond heteronormative conceptions of parenting. an emotional disposition capable of bearing historical and political meaning. 2 . it will argue that his account of the radical contingency of existing political structures necessarily includes the array of practices. As well as being premised on and generated by irritable attachment. it will be radically egalitarian in its assumption that. yet it will also trust the surface. specializations and cases of ‘theoreticism.’ the more detached and rationalistic conceptions which prevail in Rancière’s mature work. all queer subjects. independently of Rancière. Before ‘le sensible’ becomes synonymous in Rancière’s work with the sensory. it will seek to explore and foster the complex self-understandings of non-academics and non-specialists while avoiding deterministic and sociological modes of inquiry. and before. 1978: 6. irritability or touchiness is reclaimed from the conventional archive of negative affect as the basis of a new epistemology. Irritable attachment. as well as to certain forms of gay and lesbian identity politics. perception stood in an essential relation to the touchiness of the skin’s surface [la sensibilité des épidermes]. is to remain ‘“epidermically” sensitive’ [‘“épidermiquement” sensible’] to hierarchy and authority and to see past the temptation of unspecified forms of ‘modish transgression’ (Rancière et al. occupies its pivotal position in the seamless assertoric formulations of Rancière’s mature politico-aesthetic thought. Some of these traits are already established within queer theory. and they will be identified.’ including those of queer theory itself. it features in the key connecting term of his new politics of aesthetics. it will challenge established academic disciplinary formations. a raw exposure to potentially excoriating trauma and also a mode of transmission or filiation: in our irritability lies our fidelity to May 1968. defy consensus within and beyond the university. just as everyone thinks. the Rancièrian queer theory I shall go on to elaborate will have the following characteristics: it will start by demonstrating that the logic of Rancière’s own formalist account of political subjectivation allows some of his more problematic assumptions about queer theory to be set aside. with that which is available to perception. Before ‘le sensible. it will offer a critique of the ‘progressive’ as a concept central to heteronormativity.

’ in which he begins by asking the ‘apparently idiotic’ question of what Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés has in common with the work of the German industrial designer. who conceived the clean Modernist lines of AEG’s domestic appliances. The obstacles: Foucault and psychoanalysis There is plenty for a queer theorist to find irritating in Rancière’s work and Rancière. a theory elements of which are already present in earlier work but which is most fully elaborated in the first volume of his History of Sexuality.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Before elaborating this Rancièrian queer theory.’ this is a single isolated point of congruence. however. 2005a: 183-7). has expressed openly what it is only fair to describe as ‘irritation’ with queer theory and specifically with the use allegedly made of Foucault by US queer theory. 1976a: 89-97. entitled ‘The Difficult Legacy of Michel Foucault’ [‘L’héritage difficile de Michel Foucault’] (Rancière. 2007 [2003]: 92). 1980: 134-45 and in Morris and Patton. In the interview Foucault argues for the superiority of his account of power over a binary and unidirectional model of oppressors dominating the 3 . So incongruous may the pairing of Rancière with queer theory seem that it looks not unlike the guessing game he plays in ‘The Surface of Design. Indeed it would be difficult to find a contemporary French thinker less overtly interested. Rancière’s work tends to navigate very carefully around territory already marked out as Foucauldian. in a short journalistic article marking the twentieth anniversary of Foucault’s death.[3] The piece is notable because it constitutes one of few direct engagements by Rancière. 1979: 49-58). I want first to try to account for the apparent incongruity and spell out what I take to be the risks inherent in any such encounter. Before closing the distance between Rancière and queer theory. with a thinker whose intellectual preoccupations and some of whose political sympathies lay very close to his own. translated in Gordon. engineer and architect Peter Behrens. again. this one similarity aside. in his work. or partnering. for his part. for an earlier example of so direct and sustained an engagement with Foucault we must return. of both of these unlikely pairs. to the 1970s.[4] The fourth issue of Révoltes Logiques contains a written interview with Foucault in which he presents an overview of his theory of power as productive and multiple. in either sexuality or indeed sex. buildings and advertisements of the early twentieth century (Rancière. For. I want to explain why any encounter between Rancière’s work and queer theory is destined to be fraught with a certain amount of mutual irritation. There is something methodologically queer about the marrying. published that same year (Rancière et al. despite the striking resonance of his formalist account of political subjectivation with the moment in the history of gay and lesbian liberation for which the US symbolic shorthand is ‘Stonewall. albeit at twenty years’ distance. Indeed. at first sight Rancière may seem irrelevant to queer theory and vice versa.

1977: 6) The editorial is remarkable for its refusal even to register the specific context of this theory of power in a history of sexuality. In the opening editorial of the journal’s next issue. especially in the United States. of individuals by the state and of labour by capital? (Rancière et al. Later in the article.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 oppressed. (Rancière. the philosopher has found himself beatified as the patron saint of the queer movement [mouvement queer]. the possibility of a critique of minoritarian identity politics premised narrowly on sexual object choice was precisely what Foucault. in my view mistakenly. the worker who is made to work for the state or the Communist local councillor. does this very play of multiplicities not itself depend on the overriding relationships of oppression which operate. can no longer plausibly just ignore the specific object of Foucault’s last works. denouncing the play of sexual identities constructed by homophobic tradition. Yet it does so in order roundly to contest the legitimacy of their endeavours. the specific object of Foucault’s inquiry in the first volume of his history of sexuality. Foucault’s ‘saintly’ patronage of ‘le mouvement queer’ and the role his work has played in critiquing minoritarian sexuality identity politics are continuous. state and capitalist oppression goes hand in hand with its reluctance even to mention. Conversely [à l’inverse]. that minoritarian sexual identity politics are invalid. He suggests that queer theory has relied unduly on late interviews and has this to say about Foucault’s answers: All his answers.[5] While it should be said that this rejection of Foucault’s theory of power is not attributable simply and solely to Rancière but expresses the view of a collective of which he was a leading member. marking the anniversary of Foucault’s death. all of a piece. the opposing uses to which his theorization of the ‘repressive hypothesis’ have been put in the US: It has readily been used to draw the conclusion. we clearly sense [nous le sentons bien]. 2005a: 183-4. which I have underlined. underlining added) The ‘conversely’ [‘à l’inverse’]. Rancière tries a different approach. first by pointing to what Rancière takes to be. as interpreted by Halperin and notably by the surprisingly unmentioned Judith Butler. little has changed in his view of Foucault by the 2004 article. the collective begs to differ: However great the multiplicity of the power relations may be which hold captive the woman who asserts her rights. in one direction only: oppression of women by men. with David Halperin’s Saint Foucault. The collective’s triple reassertion of the primacy of unidirectional patriarchal. brought to queer theory. let alone engage with. in the final analysis. betrays what I respectfully submit is a misunderstanding of Anglo-American queer theory’s engagement with Foucault: in fact. sexuality. and does mention the uptake of Foucault’s work by queer theorists. This article. in some respects. its interest is nonetheless more than merely historical: for it would appear that. are just so many traps [autant de leurres] which reintroduce the position of 4 .

The significance of the GIP for the history of intellectual activism lies in its unprecedentedly egalitarian conception of the role of intellectuals and other experts and their relationship to those on whose behalf they were campaigning: rather than the haranguing conscience of the nation or the spokespeople of a particular class. He singles out one of the two principal editors of Foucault’s posthumously published Dits et écrits. or that of the emancipation of the masses or a new ethics of the individual. Rancière’s silence about Defert is all the more surprising given the discussion in this article of the GIP (le Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons). a radical prison campaign group founded by Foucault and others. lures or decoys? These interviews. like his other work.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 mastery his work had entirely discredited. in 1984 no less. and describes him as ‘the official theorist of the employers’ confederation’ [‘le théoricien attitré du syndicat des patrons’] (Rancière. The same can be said of all those rationalisations which draw from his work the principle of the queer revolution [le principe de la révolution queer]. the GIP marshalled relatively non-hierarchised networks of experts and specialists whose objective was not to speak on behalf of prisoners but to exploit their own prestige as recognized 5 . Butler and numerous other prominent queer theorists are concerned. intended to rehouse former members of a banned gauchiste revolutionary party. 2005a: 184). The GIP was in part a radical political formation. of the French HIV-AIDS charity AIDES (Martel. La Gauche Prolétarienne (GP). (Rancière. François Ewald. Yet not only was Defert Foucault’s lover but the founder. are so enormously wide-ranging: how could the two contradict one another as straightforwardly as Rancière pretends here? What exactly is the basis for ‘our’ strong intuition (‘we clearly sense’) about the unreliability of these interviews and what assumptions are being made about those capable of sharing in this intuition and the subject position it presupposes? If it were true that these late interviews had generally been used naively by queer theorists in the US either as a substitute for a careful reading of the work.[6] Yet as far as Halperin. then Rancière would certainly have a point. which may have been short-lived (1971-2) but nonetheless constituted a critical moment in the history of political activism by French intellectuals. as Sartre had often been. illusions. it was a response to the authoritarian crackdown which followed May 68. Foucault’s thought cannot form the basis of a new politics or ethics. 1996: 252). this is manifestly not the case. and in part a group campaigning for prison reform. in the course of which hundreds of GP activists had their first experience of imprisonment. the other principal editor. is not even mentioned. While Ewald’s subsequent activities are used to insinuate that Foucault’s intellectual legacy lends itself to reactionary political projects. Daniel Defert. or as an authoritative extra-textual interpretation of that work in terms of authorial intention. Rancière’s treatment of Foucault’s legacy in France is no less perplexing. 2005a: 187) No argument is offered in support of these assertions but how could anyone be so sure that ‘all’ of Foucault’s answers in these late interviews were ‘just so many traps’.

Rancière. Psychoanalysis is not at all prominent in Rancière’s work. in order to let prisoners themselves speak and be heard (Artières et al. arguably. 1998). moreover. Given his evident sympathy for the GIP and his familiarity with the group. Mauger. As a gesture of recognition. While Rancière is indeed reading Freud in this superficially unassuming but actually rather 6 . D. a Foucauldian continuity between the GIP and AIDES. 1996: 252. After Foucault. or more precisely the prominence of references to it in the work of most queer theory and the success of new queer Lacanianism in recent theoretical debate (Dean. to which Defert himself draws attention: When. to especially probing coverage. Edelman. I forced myself to find a name which could have two meanings. in projecting the queerness of Foucault’s legacy outside French national and linguistic borders and occluding his relation to the struggle against HIV-AIDS. the second potential obstacle to an encounter between Rancière and queer theory lies in psychoanalysis. the piece is one-sided. Nonetheless. Artières et al. 2000. he might have mentioned that a prominent member of the GIP was Defert. we founded […] the Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons (GIP). 1999) in mainstream French discourse on AIDS of the 1980s and early 90s. their own cultural capital and institutional connections. in L’Inconscient Esthétique. Moreover. Even where he engages most directly with psychoanalysis. a word which contains both the French word ‘aide’ (assistance) and AIDS. he drew my attention to the fact that the ‘I’ was there to mark the iota of difference which intellectuals were to introduce into the practice of the Gauche Prolétarienne […]. There was. 1996.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 public figures. Admittedly it is only a short journalistic piece and such a format does not lend itself to complete or. 2001a). suffice to overturn Rancière’s assertion in the article that there is a basic disjunction between Foucault’s thought and his activism. So much so that the reader is left wondering for whom exactly Foucault’s legacy is ‘difficult’. the impression it would have conveyed to its Brazilian readership both of Foucault’s legacy in France and in US queer theory was misleading: not only is the characterization of US queer theory’s use of Foucault inaccurate but also. the article recalls the same tendency identified by Murray Pratt (Pratt. Rancière’s interest lies principally with aesthetics as he argues that the aesthetic revolution at the beginning of the nineteenth century paved the way for the Freudian unconscious (Rancière.. 2004). (Martel. with Michel Foucault. 2003. The point I do want to make is that Rancière’s article on Foucault’s ‘difficult legacy’ is problematic. 2003: 320) This anecdote does not. I disagree with this characterization and would argue instead that their relationship is more plausibly construed as one of mutual implication but this is not a discussion I can pursue further here. given that he mentions Ewald and the GIP but not Defert and AIDES. though nor is it excluded or viewed with especial hostility. in itself. This is how AIDES came into being.

In the sixth of his ‘Ten Theses on Politics’ he states that ‘political litigiousness has as its essential object the very existence of politics’ (Rancière. psychoanalysis is only ever briefly referenced. as Eric Fassin has argued persuasively in the case of France. Let me now show in more detail how Rancière’s politics are open to queering. pornography. with its restrained treatment of ‘thin’ examples. not unlike Rancière in Thesis Six. As French sociologist Eric Fassin has argued. 2001b: 17). to psychoanalytic discourse has given such arguments unduly strong purchase on political decision-making (Fassin. since the late 1990s sex and sexuality have been increasingly politicized in debates about prostitution. the pacs (civil partnership) and gay and lesbian parenting. on the right and particularly the left. In the rest of Rancière’s work. One of the intriguing things about this discussion is the way it has drawn out the ultimately heteronormative bearing of some superficially radical psychoanalytic thinking: left-leaning psychoanalysts for whom ‘there is no sexual relation’ might have been expected to support the extension of adoption rights to gay and lesbian parents yet many have come out with spurious but superficially sophisticated homophobic arguments in favour of heteronormative family and kinship structures. Heteronormativity depends for its existence on the assumption that the norms which constitute it are not political and are therefore not open to political reconfiguration. Queering Rancière’s radical egalitarian politics One advantage of the formalism of Rancière’s account of political subjectivation. 2003. but not inaccurately. it is difficult to see how it could not be read as such and moreover as an attempt implicitly to downplay the originality and significance of Freud’s new discourse. in these psychoanalytic fantasies the Symbolic dictates that children must be brought up by a daddy and a mummy. Fassin calls this ‘sexual democracy’ and argues.[7] Its formalism leaves it open to a queer ‘turning’.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 provocative essay. 2008: 14). debates which have demonstrated that some of the well-established norms of heterosexist society are in fact open to political interrogation (Fassin. is that its analytical frame can readily be applied to a wide range of concrete egalitarian political projects. 2008). One potential advantage for queer theory of Rancière’s relative detachment from psychoanalysis is discernible in the context of ongoing French public debate over the right of gay and lesbian parents to adopt (the issue known in French as homoparentalité). 7 . 2008: 86-7). Put simply. sexual harassment. that ‘the battle being fought is over the extent of the political sphere’ (Fassin. the susceptibility of the educated urban elite in France. Although he denies that the essay is intended to be a contribution to work on the prehistory of psychoanalysis. however. he concentrates mainly on the writings on art. irrespective of whether Rancière himself envisaged such a move. Yet.

by the police order. Identification. 2002: 107). through such performative provocations as the slogan ‘CRS=SS’ (Ross. adapted). in the France of the 1960s. The object of the ‘impossible identification’ (condition three) in this case is clear. it involved a ‘theatrical’ element (condition two). an assertion of an identity which simultaneously repudiates a pathologizing and insulting identity assigned by others.’ a space in which the rational and performative demonstration of equality can be enacted in front of others (Rancière. but an acute sense of the theatricality of political protest has been integral to countless examples of queer activism: ‘politics is theatre.’ as Butler (1993) notes. 1992: 64. an expression also used by Rancière in Disagreement (Rancière. the ‘heterologous’ character of Rancière’s politics of radical equality consists in the way it involves otherness in three different ways: first. and Subjectivization’. political subjectivation ‘always involves an impossible identification’ (Rancière. with the bodies of the Algerian French demonstrators massacred ‘in the name of the French people’ in Paris in October 1961 (Rancière. it need hardly be said that queer theory and queer activism have always been attuned to the theatrical and the performative. Rancière. 1999: 36). is an exemplary case of a word which is a sign of the refusal of the other’s negative identification. Not only is performativity central to one of the founding texts of queer theory (Butler. namely that of the French citizens in whose name the massacre had been perpetrated. 1999: 28-9). namely the dead Algerian demonstrators. Van Sant.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 In the essay ‘Politics. Neither of the first two conditions is remotely problematic for queer theory: the very term ‘queer. not just in the marches and other actions to demonstrate solidarity at the time but also in the way that a political consciousness of the extremes to which police repression was prepared to go in 1961 led to the anticipation and strategic incitement of the police response in May 68. 1992: 61). moreover. accounts of queer politics which simultaneously address Rancière’s first and second conditions: for example. 1993: 228. but rather ‘a polemical common space for the processing of the wrong and the demonstration of equality. adapted).[10] There are. political subjectivation is never simply the assertion of an identity but involves the repudiation of an identity assigned by others. 1999). the ‘impossible identification’ is the politically formative identification of his generation of left-wing activists.[11] The third condition in Rancière’s account of political subjectivation is more complex and may be harder for queer politics to satisfy. 1989). In the first of two relatively thinly treated examples he gives of political subjectivation in the aforementioned essay. it involves the construction of a common ‘theatrical’ space.[8] Second. not of consensus or necessarily of dialogue.’ as Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) is heard to remark in the recent film (Dir. 1992: 62.[12] This involved a ‘disidentification. The second example of political subjectivation in the essay is potentially more problematic: 8 . by what Rancière would term the ‘police’ order (Butler. And as for the second condition.[9] Finally. José Muñoz’s theorization of queer political performativity by queers of color in terms precisely of what he calls ‘disidentification’ (Muñoz. Rancière asserts. 2008).’ or the repudiation of an identity (satisfying condition one).

1999: 39). It is in the name of this wrong that the disadvantaged make their claim for equality. or look outward to. 1999: 16). namely to ‘process’ [traiter] them (Rancière. then in Disagreement the emphasis falls more on the ‘wrong’ (what Aristotle calls the blaberon). other forms of oppression. knowledge or any other obvious superior quality’ (Rancière. So if the account of the third condition. is that ‘the act of governing appears to be entirely contingent.[13] An outline of Rancièrian queer theory The starting point must be Rancière’s assertion of the absolute contingency of the social and political order.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 that signalled by the May 68 slogan. If the account in ‘Politics. consonant with post-structuralist critiques of identity and. in Rancière’s account. must involve establishing a connection with the incommensurable oppression of a different group. I would argue that queer politics. it is vital we insist that Rancière’s assertion 9 . its residual investment in identity means that queer politics risks being subsumed under the police order. as I have noted. including his more recent political writing (Rancière.’ in the earlier essay implied a potentially problematic overemphasis on hybridity and mixity. for any given group. not based on any entitlement of birth. 2005b). ‘impossible identification. ‘We are all German Jews’ (Rancière. Identification. 2005a: 180). The ‘scandal’ of democracy. 1992: 63). Conditions one and two are satisfied (they are French and they are demonstrators) yet this example seems to imply that political subjectivation. with the widespread mistrust of minoritarian politics in mainstream French political discourse. which has made it difficult to accept for social theorists since Plato. surprisingly. the sheer contingency of the social order’ (Rancière. in his account of politics as ‘heterology’ in this essay. otherwise it dissolves into a sea of undifferentiated altruistic ethical concern. it looks as though. will always involve an irreducible element of identitarian self-assertion.[14] Even though Rancière’s work. age. however much it seeks to embrace. The possibility of politics in his sense of the term is coextensive with this anti-foundationalism: ‘[t]he foundation of politics is not in fact more a matter of convention than of nature: it is the lack of foundation. Although Rancière never makes clear precisely how important this third condition is and what exactly the criteria are for its being met. in Disagreement the assertion of the need to attend to the grievance of the disadvantaged in order to ‘process’ it is consistent with any queer politics which has a critical understanding of identity and no more than a provisional investment in it. gives no specific encouragement to do so. Subjectivization’ emphasises an undoing of socially-given identity positions. This continued attachment to identityas-wrong would only be provisional because politics needs to attend to these wrongs if it is to accomplish the role Rancière reserves for it. this is consistent with a queer politics which retains a provisional investment in identity in so far as identity is formed by the repeated social and psychic wrongs of a heteronormative police order.

Such projects are political because ‘politics revolves around what is seen and what can be said about it. deterministic. it will also seek to honour the commitment to radical methodological egalitarianism which emerges from Rancière’s disagreements with Althusser and Bourdieu on the nature of pedagogy. disciplinary. Judith Halberstam’s work.[15] Just as Jacotot’s method of intellectual emancipation starts out from a presumption of intellectual equality which it seeks to demonstrate. as well as the ‘alienating’ effects of queer theory’s theoreticism (Halberstam. 10 .[16] Halberstam’s investigation of what she refers to as ‘archives’ of queer subcultures in In A Queer Time and Place is attentive to the way in which queer subcultural practices aspire to modify the space and especially the time of heteronormativity by giving prominence to forms of immediate gratification and exploring ways of lending non-pathologizing significance to the ephemeral. knowledge. of the visible and the invisible. Moreover. Rancièrian queer theory will take seriously the complex self-understandings of ordinary queer subjects and seek to investigate what follows from these. of speech and noise. her approach is far from flatly sociological in the narrow. 2004: 13). If Rancièrian queer theory will posit the absolute contingency of the heteronormative social order. A Rancièrian queer theory must remain true to the resistance his work embodies to the political selflegitimation of knowledge-based elites. for example. as Halberstam analyzes them. This may include dancing (as opposed to ‘dance’).’ Some of this is already happening in queer theory. to his democratic and egalitarian questioning of authority rooted in technocratic claims to specialist ‘expertise. around who has the ability to see and the talent to speak. as well as from his key work on Jacotot (Rancière. are capable of being egalitarian laboratories of a certain kind of political subjectivation. are capable of exploring ‘a delimitation of spaces and times. These are all activities which can imply and assert a new vision of what Rancière calls ‘le partage du sensible’: queer subcultures. slam poetry. while Halberstam’s work takes seriously the radical intellectual equality of non-academic queer subjects and expresses a scepticism of theoreticism and a critical awareness of disciplinary history which is relatively rare within queer (and gay and lesbian) studies. has already questioned the usefulness of queer theory’s analytical frame in a manner which recalls Rancière’s critique of Bourdieu’s sociological determinism. that simultaneously determines the place and the stakes of politics as a form of experience’ (Rancière. This implies a rejection of ‘theoreticism’ and an enduring scepticism about the status and value of professionalized academic. 2004: 14). drug-taking and relentless sexual experimentation. I do mean scepticism rather than nihilism. 1991). around the properties of spaces and the possibilities of time’ (Rancière.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 of the an-archic contingency of the social order include recognition of the contingency of heteronormativity. 2005: 4). sense that would be problematic for Rancière.

One question which this ‘anti-social turn’ in queer theory raises is whether the repudiation of ‘reproductive futurism’ inevitably leads to queer subjects being marooned on an island of self-fulfilling selfsatisfaction. envisages a form of kinship between student and teacher which is radically egalitarian rather than subordinating. highly particularized. Joseph Jacotot. angry and arguably ‘masculinist’ homoness. politics is rare – but rather that some of what already takes place in queer subcultures is already Rancièrian in a meaningful sense. It also presents a conception of futurity which shares some of Edelman’s scepticism about the value of deferral. bound up as they usually are in their prominent socio-cultural expressions with heteronormative patterns of reproductive inheritance. 1991 [1987]). while also offering an understanding of the affective disposition necessary for self-realization in the present which is less fraught and more liveable (Rancière. he rejects a prominent traditional model of pedagogy as the transmission of knowledge from teacher to student 11 . are intellectually equal.’ an assault which seeks to identify and reflect back the excoriating violence of a heteronormative society organized around a sacralization of the figure of ‘The Child. in any case.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 There is undoubtedly a risk of complacency here and I make no attempt to conceal the fact that my sketch of the political potential in queer subcultural experience is an optimistic one. may well resemble the sort of fascinating. still less every instance of drug-taking. Futurity and the progressive are problematized by Rancière and have always been difficult categories for queer theory. Lee Edelman (2004) launches a blistering attack on what he calls ‘reproductive futurism. immured in a pristine. or every ‘addict. careful. assume their equality. I am not suggesting.’ is ‘political’ in Rancière’s terms – and for Rancière. or every piece of self-described ‘queer’ performance art. I am also asserting that the methodologically Rancièrian approach to queer experience is to start with the complex selfunderstandings of ordinary queer people. by any means. including the students and their teacher. or every slam poetry competition. analyses which fill the pages of Révoltes Logiques.’ yet which paradoxically inflicts on its flesh-and-blood children ‘a near-universal queer-baiting intended to effect the scarification (in a program of social engineering whose outcome might well be labeled “Scared Straight”) of each and every child by way of antigay immunization’ (Edelman.or sex-club. though they need not be flatly empirical.[18] Jacotot proceeds on the basis of the presupposition that all. that every dance. and ask ‘What follows?’ By its very nature there can be no overarching general or theoretical answer to this question of ‘What follows?’ and the form of these investigations. filiation and kinship which take a different path from Edelman’s declaration of narcissistic self-sufficiency? Rancière’s ventriloquizing reanimation of the maverick nineteenthcentury pedagogue. 2004: 49). Edelman’s challenge in No Future is to imagine forms of political arrangement which are free of the heteronormative focus on the child.[17] Can we look to Rancière for an alternative to heteronormative modes of thinking the future.

as interpreted by Rancière. in the case of Jacotot and his students. even when its explicit purpose is the socially ‘progressive’ one of bringing about greater equality in the end. collective. Most institutional education. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that there is an unresolved. this tends to mean that its countervailing movement towards singularization is neglected. my translation) 12 . 123. serves in practice to reinforce and legitimate inequality. declared and verified. the power each man and woman has to translate in his or her own fashion what he or she perceives. The critique of ‘reproductive futurism’ mounted by Edelman. as well as ruling over the entire city. educate and select their successors. conception of emancipatory politics and an emphasis on singular self-realization by individuals. the emphasis is on the extent to which individuals are capable in the present of an emancipatory self-realization which sets them apart and. Rancière often stresses that political subjectivation is the realization of singularity (Rancière. This productive tension between the collective and the singular surfaces in Rancière’s description. 2005a: 118). (Rancière. a connection which goes back as far as Plato’s account of the elite of philosopher-guardians who. Jacotot’s egalitarian model of intellectual emancipation as something which takes place most readily outside established educational institutions supposedly dedicated to the transmission of knowledge is a major challenge to the connection between power. only in so far as it sets them apart. of the power of the declaration of intellectual equality as. unites them. 2005. disturbs the dominant model of the transmission of knowledge and power and points to an egalitarian rather than a subordinating kinship between student and teacher. in The Emancipated Spectator. If the future-oriented collective mode is consonant with a heteronormative understanding of filiation and kinship. Davis.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 in favour of one in which the student’s intellectual equality is presupposed from the outset. Rancière. Jacotot. May. productive. Hewlett. to connect it to the singular intellectual adventure which makes that man or that woman resemble every other to the extent that this adventure is unlike any other. 2008. By suggesting that any individual is capable of intellectually emancipating another. While sometimes this singularizing movement describes the self-realization of collectivities. Jacotot/Rancière argue. While those who want to argue for Rancière’s ‘usefulness’ for a range of emancipatory political projects tend to stress the collective side (Chambers. 2007). as indeed do those who are disappointed that it does not lend itself more readily to such projects (Hallward. who refuses to conceive of the future in terms of heteronormative filiation. 2010a). 1989 [1981]). 2005. knowledge and pedagogy. the singularizing tendency towards self-realization in the present can be thought of as queer. echoes an important but undervalued aspect of Rancière’s work. tension in Rancière’s thought between a future-oriented. 2008: 23. 1999: 99. as with many of the extraordinary workerpoets discussed in The Nights of Labor (Rancière.

Sartre’s vision of the role of the intellectual and Bourdieu’s suspicious analysis of art.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 And the affective disposition of the Jacototian pedagogue who seeks to exploit the power of the declaration of intellectual equality may fairly be described as ‘irritability’: he or she is enjoined to be ‘intractable’ [intraitable] and to manifest ‘unconditional exigency’ (Rancière. in his or her uncompromising irritability lies the substance of the teaching. 1991: 38). The attachment of the Rancièrian teacher to the student is thus an irritable attachment: an attachment in which the distance and the friction between the parties is part of their bond. Rancière’s own intellectual trajectory. although rejected. the stimulus to the student’s realization of his or her potential for intellectual singularity. is suggestive of the methodological or epistemological possibilities of ‘irritable attachment’ for queer theory. His work. this may well count as an achievement. Marx and Sartre). While there is no doubt that Rancière is often concerned with the logic of collective political projects. Irritability can signify the affective and cognitive expectation of disagreement. Looking back at May 68 after ten years. The tenacity with which Rancière’s work retains an attachment to these rejected accounts which. once the transmission of knowledge has ceased to be part of the teacher’s role. Indeed. Just as a gauchiste consciousness of the mid-70s would have found manifold occasions for irritation (for where is there not evidence of authority and hierarchy?). especially in his formative engagements with Althusser and Bourdieu (as well as Plato. these rejected positions are not simply discarded or repudiated. as is Althusser’s view of the primacy of theory and the importance of pedagogy. like Edelman’s. is unsurprisingly marked by numerous examples of irritable attachment. what the concept and practice of irritable attachment in Rancière’s work suggests is a less fraught and perhaps therefore more liveable queer relational mode. are frequently rehearsed and serve as the negative foundation of Rancière’s own positive account of radical equality. has a narcissistic dimension in the strict rather than the pejorative sense. a propensity to take offence but not the excoriated woundedness of victimhood or the curse of paranoid anticipation. his work also articulates the demand for what I take to be a queer form of non-progressive self-realization in the present. Yet whereas in Edelman’s case the associated affective disposition is one of angry self-detachment. Queer subjects will always be surrounded by and variously attached to the heteronormative so it may be better in the long run to want the irritation which this 13 . literature and education. If all that heteronormativity is is irritating then. in historical and global terms. so queer theory and queer subjects today cannot readily escape the irritations of heteronormativity. Rancière and the other members of the Révoltes Logiques collective dared not only to admit that their sensitivity to authority was excessive and their political analyses were superficial but to reclaim this sensitivity to and of the surface as both a methodological virtue and a form of political filiation. For while Plato’s account of politics in the Republic is rejected by Rancière.

The book will present a reconstruction and comprehensive critical analysis of Rancière’s work from 1965 to the present. literary-critical methodology (in particular la critique génétique and issues in psychoanalytic criticism) and queer literary politics in France. The members of the collective are also committing themselves here to being ‘oversensitive’ to hierarchy: ‘“épidermiquement” sensible’ 14 . As a form of filiation and a mode of relating to other people and other ideas. For all that touchiness implies a propensity to take offence. I would suggest. It is a queer mode well established in Rancière’s work. selfpitying and over-emphatic. which is scheduled to appear with Polity Press in their Key Contemporary Thinkers series early in 2010.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 predicament implies. but also in the often underplayed singularizing tendency which emphasises individual self-elaboration in the present at the expense of what can be bequeathed to class or community. always has to anticipate the worst and in so doing fails to see anything but that. works on the surface and is not incompatible with trust. This and all subsequent translations where no published translation is cited are my own. Acknowledgements With thanks to the editors and anonymous readers of this special issue and to Emma Campbell for comments on earlier drafts. polemic. 2. though nor is it naïvely optimistic. Notes 1. or to the future. He has published on modern and contemporary French fiction. Irritable attachment must be part of the experience of reading Rancière’s work for a reader with attachments both to queerness and to Rancière’s thought. irritable attachment is. at the risk of appearing oversensitive. as Sedgwick (2003) has observed. struggle and the Oedipal drama. unlike paranoid hyperaesthesia. one which moves outside more heteronormativelyinflected models such as inheritance. Oliver Davis is currently writing a critical introduction to the work of Jacques Rancière. a productive and distinctively queer way of thinking about the human propensity to form attachments to even the most problematic of influences. it can be distinguished from paranoid knowing which. He teaches in the Department of French Studies at Warwick University. or the ‘suspicious’ analyses of Bourdieu and Althusser. to the struggle. Perhaps it is preferable to be attached to irritability. particularly in its relationship to the intellectual influences which form the negative bedrock of his account of radical equality. self-dramatizing. If Sedgwick is right that life in heteronormative society predisposes queer subjects to paranoid forms of knowing and feeling then perhaps it may even be time to aspire to irritability and its attachment to the surface. Irritability.

Yet ‘subjection’ in Butler’s sense credits power with the productive role Rancière and his collaborators denied to it in their abovementioned response to Foucault’s interview in Révoltes Logiques. 12. 1996: 24-5). Foucault famously denied the relevance of authorial intention to interpretation. Queer theory tends to adopt the Foucauldian conception of what Butler usually calls ‘subjection’ (her rendering of his ‘assujetissement’). 1989 [1981]: 90-1). example would be the sudden interruption by queer activists of a television talk show entitled ‘L’homosexualité. The adaptation of this and the next citation are to bring them in line with the French text of this talk in Rancière (1998). which is simultaneously ‘both the becoming of the subject and the process of subjection’ (Butler. Butlerian ‘subjection’ is therefore markedly different from what Rancière. 8. indeed foundational. 1999: 11-13). 1997: 83). 6. or ‘touchiness. 11. Consistent. although Rancière remains committed to a different understanding of the role of power in subject-formation from that of much queer theory. In the French context another good. 4. I shall render Rancière’s ‘subjectivation’ (French) with the English ‘subjectivation’. 10. in 15 . I am leaving aside. a glancing acknowledgement in the context of Rancière’s elaboration of his theory of the police order (Rancière.’ 3. For their discussion of Rancière’s analysis of it see 200-201.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 refers literally to the sensitivity of the skin and figuratively to excessive sensitivity. Muñoz’s understanding of ‘disidentification’ is derived from Althusser’s later work (after Rancière’s break with him). 9. Kristin Ross offers a rather different interpretation of this same interview and the collective’s response (Ross. The definitive account of the massacre is now House and MacMaster (2006). See Burke (2008). 5. 2002: 127-8). The articles collected in Rancière (2005a) originally appeared in the Brazilian daily newspaper Folha de São Paulo. 32) and a passing objection to Foucault’s analysis of the prison (Rancière. For examples see Chambers (2005) and May (2008). le Front Homosexuel d’Action Révolutionnaire (Martel. ce douloureux problème’. 7. 13. as mediated both by linguist Michel Pêcheux and subsequently by Judith Butler (Muñoz. 1999 [1995]: 28. the inaugural performance-protest of the activist group le FHAR. in the intervening period.

P. S. 14. L. 2005: n. (1989). is the intermittent. 16 . ch. 2008: 78-99). precarious and readily reassimilable breaking away from power by way of the presumption. 15. Burke. London: Routledge. 2). The expression ‘anti-social turn’ is taken from Dean et al (2006) and Halberstam (2008). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. in Rancière’s sense. M. 16. 2008: 143). Indeed Halberstam’s approach to the subcultural archive has certain striking similarities with the archival practice of the Révoltes Logiques collective. 17. Butler. (2003).’ This is not primarily a question of how to render his term in English. 3rd edn. & Zancarini-Fournel.. As Todd May has indicated. Political subjectivation. his emphasis on the absolute contingency of the socio-political order. although this can and has been done in a number of different ways (see Chambers. ch. I am not persuaded by Halberstam’s argument for the second of these claims. 1970-72. ‘subjectivation. in English. J. ch. who led a workshop entitled ‘New Trends in Queer Theory’ at Warwick University (17 February 2009). See Nordmann for Bourdieu (2006) and Davis (2010b) for Bourdieu and Althusser. 1). Le Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons: archives d’une lutte. I identify and explore other affinities between this tradition and Rancière’s work in the field of pedagogy in Davis (2010a) and (2010b.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 French. 18. 2). aligns aspects of his political thought with elements within the communist anarchist tradition (May. but rather of distinguishing conceptually between two understandings of subject-formation which involve very different understandings of the role of power in that process. For a fuller discussion of the former see Davis (2009). Foucault and Derrida. Quéro. See also Davis (2009) and Davis (2010b. 1). Bibliography Artières. terms ‘subjectivation’ and what I am calling. Halberstam is troubled by the ‘masculinist’ overtones of Edelman’s work and claims furthermore that it ‘coincides uncomfortably with a fascist sensibility’ (Halberstam. Paris: IMEC. Rancière’s anti-foundationalism. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to discuss the work of the collective and some of the other issues raised in this article with Judith Halberstam. assertion and demonstration of equality. (2008). For more on the latter see Davis (2010b. The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Fassin. Jacques Rancière: A Critical Introduction. (forthcoming as 2010a). vol. French Studies. vol. ---. Ewald. ---. Paris: Amsterdam. Subcultural Lives. vol. no. Edelman. (2008). Gordon.. Paragraph. ---. Halberstam. J.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 ---.. 28. 3. no. S. Dean. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings. pp. 2 (1970-75). & P. Theory & Event. 223-42. ‘Critically queer’. (2003). May. Durham. J. Alienation and Alterity: Otherness in Modern and Contemporary Francophone Contexts. Beyond Sexuality. ‘The politics of literarity’. sexualités. 2nd edn. M. (2008). CA: Stanford University Press. 819-28. no. Stanford. New York: Pantheon. (2005). (1997). (1993). T. Fassin. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. T. pp. Chambers. & Fabre. (2006). ‘Jacques Rancière and the subversion of mastery’. vol. vol. Lagrange. NC: Duke University Press. (2000). L. J. in Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’. L. pp. London: Routledge. (1994). Chicago IL: Chicago University Press. The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. ---. O. ‘The radical pedagogies of François Bon and Jacques Rancière’. pp. 2. (1980). 121. Davis. 26-45. 5. Vassallo. (2005). ‘Is there room for trash in the queer subcultural archive?’ in H. F. 1. 3.. New York. P. E. Defert & J. (forthcoming as 2010b). PMLA. Liberté. pp. Paris: Gallimard. égalité. Cooke (eds). Graduate Journal of Social Science. ‘The anti-social turn in queer studies’. 1972-1977. Dits et écrits. Foucault. C. ed. Halberstam. 140-56. & Edelman. 8. 59-76. L’Inversion de la question homosexuelle. R. Paris: Belfond. Caserio. Hallward. Cambridge: Polity. C. 17 . Oxford: Peter Lang. In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies. (2005). Muñoz. (2004). NY: New York University Press. ‘The antisocial thesis in queer theory’. D. no. Dean. (2009). E.

Hewlett. and Memory. Rancière. Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography. D. issue 5. J. J. Le Rose et le noir: les homosexuels en France depuis 1968. 5. (1998). no. & MacMaster. Pratt. & Patton. special issue of Les Révoltes Logiques. The Political Thought of Jacques Rancière: Creating Equality. ---. Les Révoltes Logiques. (1999). M. no. ‘Brève histoire du Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons (GIP). Sydney: Feral Publications. (1989) [1981]. P. NY: Oxford University Press. revue de sociologie et d’anthropologie. Les Révoltes Logiques. issue 2. Paris: Seuil. Muñoz. M. Winter. ‘Un nouveau Représentations. 51-77. J. Strategy.. Rancière: Rethinking House. Fraisse. G. Paris 1961: Algerians. (2006). Spring-Summer. P.. Spring-Summer. ‘The defence of the straight state: heteronormativity. Balibar. pp. Paris: Amsterdam. and the space of the nation’. trans. Rancière. Minneapolis. (1976a). (1977). Bourdieu/Rancière: la politique entre sociologie et philosophie. MANA.. J. ---. 3. N. P. G. (1978). & Vermeren. Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Rancière. Vauday. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. AIDS in France. (1979). N. Emancipation.. Souletie. Saint-Germain. P. no.. ix. (1995). Truth. French Cultural Studies. Les Lauriers de Mai ou les chemins du pouvoir 1968-1978. (1996). C. D. Les Révoltes Logiques. (2007). Martel. Nordmann. Borreil. The Nights of Labor: The Workers’ Dream in Nineteenth-Century France. 18 . issue 4. 1971-1972’. (2006). (1999). (1996). pp. London: Continuum. Sociétés et May. Badiou. (2008). Drury. Michel Foucault: Power. T. J. (1976b). New York. M. militantisme’. Mauger. MN: University of Minnesota Press. February. Morris. J.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Halperin. ---. Oxford: Oxford University Press. State Terror. Philadephia PA: Temple University Press. 263-80. F.

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---. (1999) [1995], Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy, trans. J. Rose, Minneapolis MN: University of Minnesota Press. ---. (2001a), L’Inconscient esthétique, Paris: Galilée. ---. (2001b), ‘Ten theses on politics’, Theory & Event, vol. 5, no. 3. ---. (2004) [2000], The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible, trans. G. Rockhill, London: Continuum. ---. (2005a), Chroniques des temps consensuels, Paris: Seuil. ---. (2005b), La Haine de la démocratie, Paris: La Fabrique. ---. (2007) [2003], The Future of the Image, trans. G. Elliot, London: Verso. ---. (2008), Le Spectateur émancipé, Paris: La Fabrique. Ross, K. (2002), May ’68 and Its Afterlives, Chicago IL: Chicago University Press. Sedgwick, E. (2003), Touching Feeling: Affect, Performativity, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Van Sant, G., dir. (2008), Milk. Pedagogy,

© borderlands ejournal 2009


e -jo u rn a l w w w .b o rd e rla n d s .n e t.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2, 2009

Words, Bodies, Times
Queer theory before and after itself Sudeep Dasgupta
University of Amsterdam

Both queer theory and Jacques Rancière’s work have articulated critiques of identity. These critiques however, have taken place in very different institutional and disciplinary contexts, and are also marked by very specific histories. In this essay, close readings of specific essays (Edelman, Bersani, Dean, Butler) in queer theory are related to arguments developed by Rancière in order to bring out clearly the very different modes through which critiques of identity have been developed. In particular, the themes of language and representation, and ethics, provide the two perspectives through which both the conjunctions and disjunctions between queer theory and Rancière’s work are explored. Representation and ethics in both bodies of work, the essay argues, provide for a comparative and mutually illuminating perspective on the articulation of words, bodies and images.

A lesbian and gay defined by multiple boundaries that make the question who is and who is not ‘one of them’ not merely ambiguous but rather a perpetually and necessarily contested issue. (Warner, 1993: xxv) The demos is forever drawing away from itself, dispersing itself in the multiplicity of ecstatic and sporadic pleasures. (Rancière, 1995: 15)

Conjoining Rancière’s understanding of politics with Warner’s definition of sexual borders might open one to the charge of constructing superficial connections and tenuous homologies. For the demos and the ‘queer’ cannot be simplistically linked through the discourse of ecstacies, pleasures and multiplicities. To do so would be to ignore the crucial differences between Rancière’s discussion of, and queer theory’s relation to, politics. On the other hand, framing the one through the other might productively enable thinking a


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relationality between Rancière’s understanding of politics and queer theory’s critique of identity. Both share, minimally, a critique of the stabilization of identity through hegemonic discourses: in Rancière’s case, through a powerful archival reading of workers’ intellectual and political practices (Rancière, 1989), for queer theory, through a critique of the assumed essentialist notions of identity of the gay and lesbian liberation movement (Seidman, 1997). Michael Warner’s commentary in Fear of a Queer Planet sees belonging, based on sexual orientation, as necessarily contested and always subject to dislocation, while Rancière, in On the Shores of Politics argues that the demos is ‘forever drawing away from itself’ (emphasis added). Warner’s ‘multiple boundaries’ and Rancière’s ‘shores,’ call attention to the crucial instability of identity and the motility of borders. However, the fields of knowledge within which both critiques take place, their specific modes of argumentation, and the conceptual resources furnished to substantiate their respective arguments are not the same. By marking the differences between them, and at the same time, producing points of contact, the essay connects specific arguments in Rancière’s œuvre to crucial developments in queer theory. In particular, by weaving the two into and out of each other’s specific arguments around representation and language, and ethics, I will argue for Rancière’s relevance for a politically productive revisioning of queer theory, whose substance is being questioned in some quarters (Halperin, 2003). At the same time, if Eve Sedgwick is right that ‘queer is the unstable solvent that dissolves all stable identities’ (1990: 85), then the disruptive instability that much queer theory articulates might bear a specific relation to Rancière’s resolutely anticonsensual understanding of politics. To think queer theory ‘before itself,’ is to argue that Rancière’s writings, both prior to and after, queer theory’s emergence, position us in the double sense of evaluating queer theory’s presence, and ours before it, and constellating a nexus of temporalities of a before and after, which might provide new insights around representation, language and ethics. Rancière’s relevance then, lies not just in an asynchronous relation to, and before queer theory (Nights of Labour was translated into English in 1989). His in-disciplinary interventions were also formulating a politics before the subject, including the queer subject (Rifkin, 2005), whose deconstruction by queer theory in the academy came after the subject had been consolidated politically and intellectually. Constellating the time of the subject, and the times of its theorizations reveals productive disjunctures and conjunctions in thinking the relation between bodies, words and times. Language and representation Foucault’s History of Sexuality: Volume 1: An Introduction (1978, original French publication in 1976) was experienced by many, particularly in the U.S. (see Rubin and Butler, 1997) as making


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possible a theoretical critique of the ‘naturalness’ of homosexual identity. His theorization of the discursive production of subjectivity moved the terms of the gathering internal debate in gay and lesbian studies in the early 1980s away from the expression of an innate identity to a recognition that the very language and expression of sexed subjectivity was solicited by a power-knowledge nexus deployed through discourse. The argument that an ‘incitement to discourse’ (Foucault, 1990: 17) produced an identity caught within the power relations it sought to resist, suggested a shift from theorizing or positing homosexual identity to analyzing its mode of production. The shift from the language of homosexual identity and experience, to a focus on how ‘same-sex sex acts have different cultural meanings in different historical contexts’ (Jagose, 1996: 9, emphasis added) however, shifted the focus from the discursive construction of homosexuality toward a theoretization of meaning, language and representation. The post-Saussurean critique of the sign came to figure prominently in the shift from identity to identification. Thus the Foucauldian influence in U.S. queer theory coincided with the rising influence of Derridean deconstruction and Lacanian psychoanalysis, which on the surface at least, could not be easily reconciled with Foucault’s work (Davidson, 2001). I am not arguing that reconciliation of different theoretical interventions (Foucault, Derrida, Lacan) is necessary or desirable. It is important to note this nexus however, since it relates to the ex-centric relation of Rancière to queer theory, as we shall see. Both Rancière and Foucault are indebted to a Kantian understanding of the reduction of the multiplicities of experience to categories, and despite their differences of focus, how they analyzed the effects of this categorical imperative, I would argue, were significantly distinct from the Derridean and Lacanian influence that came to mark much queer theory. Queer theory developed what I am tempted to consider a ‘paradigmatic’ discourse, where the destabilization of the sexed and sexually-desiring subject, was theorized through a Derridean understanding of écriture and a Lacanian reading of Freud. At issue was the inadequacy of representation, the inability of language to fix the subject, which instead gets spoken through a language which destabilizes it. The discursive production of the homosexual subject, queer theory argues, is marked by incompleteness, ambivalence and instability precisely because of the inability of representation either to adequate the object it refers to, or to control the discourse-effect it engenders. Most, though not all the essays in Inside/Out: Lesbian theories, Gay theories (Fuss, 1994), for example, problematise the stability of identity through deconstruction and psychoanalysis. In ‘Seeing things: Representation, the Scene of Surveillance and the Spectacle of Gay Male Sex,’ Lee Edelman (1994: 173-91) intricately explicates Freud and Derrida by deranging the equalization, through ‘ocular proof,’ of sexual identity with sexual acts. Edelman’s virtuoso reading figures the ‘infectious indecency of sodomy’ backwards, as it were, to analyze the structural ambivalence of representational adequacy and scopic certainty. His argument is predicated on the


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centrality of doubt in Freud’s understanding of ‘the powerful ambivalent tendencies in the pre-genital phase, which from then on become attached to every pair of opposites’ (Freud, 1972: 77, qtd. in Edelman, 1994: 190). If same-sex sodomy is one defining character of homosexual identity, then pre-genital ambivalence infects the binaries generated by ‘normative’ sexuality. The scene of gay male sex (sodomy) as the ocular proof of homosexual identity is destabilized by ‘the indeterminacy of the primal scene’ (Edelman, 1994: 190). The turn to Freud, which suggests a description of the doubt-ridden ambivalence of binary sexual identity is immediately deliteralised by turning to Derrida who argues that turning one’s back (to Plato) becomes ‘a very amorous position’ (Derrida, 1987: 178, qtd in Edelman, 1994: 191). By bottoming up the ‘P’ of ‘Plato, Philosophy and phallogocentrism’ into the ‘D’ of ‘Derrida and deconstruction’ (1994: 190), Edelman’s psychoanalytic deconstruction of sexual identity undermines the epistemological certainty of sight. He reveals seeing sodomy as just ‘seeing things,’ and conceptualizes writing itself as sodomitical – ‘writing, performing a sodomitical reversal, gestures towards the persistence of a ‘pre-genital’ indeterminacy that the law of castration would deny through institutional categories of present and not present’ (1994: 190). The ‘figuration of sodomy’ rather than its self-evident transparency, replaces sodomy as cause and homosexuality as effect with the ‘(il)logic of metalepsis that refutes the possibility of defining clear identities or establishing the security of fixed positions’ and ‘discovers, instead...the sodomitical (il)logic of the primal scene that comes always both before and behind it’ (Edelman, 1994: 191). Sodomy as a bodily practice then, far from defining identity, embodies the essential figurality of sexual identity. This figurality undermines binaries of presence and absence, and writes indeterminacy into the text of sexual identity. At issue is both the critique of identity and the mode through which the critique was conducted. Despite the differences between Derrida and Lacan, a complicated and often reworked (Butler, 1997) conjunction of the two got deployed in queer theory. The night of light The relationship of bodily practices and identity was crucial to Rancière’s œuvre, particularly since the 1981 publication of La nuit des prolétaires (translated into English as Nights of Labour: The Worker’s dream in Nineteenth-century France in 1989). A decade’s worth of archival research into workers’ struggles in nineteenthcentury France reveals that worker-being is not found through an equation between labour as practice and ‘worker’ as category. Questioning the overlap between the ‘order of thought’ and ‘the “social order”’ (2003 [1983]: xxv), Rancière sardonically observes that the historian’s ‘heartfelt love for science and for the common people’ (1989: 11) assigns to the worker ‘not words, [but] deeds; not heroism, the daily round; not impressions, numbers; not images, the real thing’ (ibid.). Nights of Labour demonstrates, that is, shows, that the worker was engaging precisely in what was not his/her preserve – employing words, attempting heroism, registering impressions, producing


and following from the first.’ Rather than the ‘’importation’ of scientific thought into the world of the worker’ or ’the affirmation of a worker’s culture.). while for the historian. The French workers of the nineteenth century ‘created newspapers or associations. versifiers. Secondly. Hence.’ Rather. if workers act as workers should not. The worker. Rancière’s ‘showing’ is not a depth-hermeneutic that plunges below the surface of deeds and daily drudgery to reveal the truth of worker ‘consciousness.claiming the status of fully speaking and thinking beings. with others. the historian’s ‘strange fascination for the truth of the popular body. Firstly. emphases added).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 images. the flux generated by the proletarian (as pure production.. This mode of showing does three things at once. who by taking part ‘in the work of perversion’ fail to incarnate ‘on (their) proletarian bodies the truth concealed by the daily religion of commodity exchange and word exchange’ (ibid. and indulgers in sophistry whose notebooks serve as a replacement screen in the mirror of reality granted and appearance withheld and whose falsetto voice creates dissonance in the duet of mute truth and contrite illusion. but a before-identity in the process of being made (composed) and unmade (decomposed). It is a polemical configuration of the social precisely because it links together self-othering with community rather than common-selves with community. wrote poems or joined utopian groups. Perverted proletarians whose discourse is made up of borrowed words’ (1989: 15). This is a process of becoming-worker by becoming other.’ there was ’a transgressive will to appropriate the ‘night’ of the poets and thinkers. these workers produce a gap between their bodies and the discourse of truth which confers 5 . assigned to incarnate the discourse of truth of the historian – he ‘who can know neither it [the discourse of truth] nor himself but who cannot help but manifest it in his words and his action’ (1989: 12) – never arrives at such a conjunction of body. reasoners.). What is shown is not the completion of stable identity..’ and hence also his condemnation of those ‘‘unclassed intellectuals. time and space on which this discourse is predicated. and therefore undermine the categorical imperative of (identity as) juridical identification. By registering impressions and borrowing words and images. What proletarian nights reveal is the coming-together and decomposition of the figures of ‘worker-dreamers. this undermining coordinates a counter-commonality – a coming together which destabilizes the social order by disrupting the border between self and other. he announces ‘[We] are not going to scratch images to bring truth to the surface. pure unascribed and unassigned proliferation of bodies) is ungraspeable by the historian’s desire for the worker’s body in its stable purity as incarnation of the labour of his theory.’ ‘petty bourgeois ideologists’’ (ibid. we are going to shove them aside so that other figures may come together and decompose there’ (1989: 10. to appropriate the language of the other’ (2003: 219). Thirdly. these nocturnal figures produce a being-together before the subject (worker) is made. the theory of labour must coincide with the labour of his theory by coming together and decomposing. prattlers.

the effects of language borrowed and circulated. The unattainable stability of the self and the disruption of a social order are linked in the temporality of the present continuous. 1983) document the activities and words which interrupt the discursive production of a subject and manifest this transgression through the disordering of bodies. a counter-intuitive relation between bodies and words in the production of an antagonistic community-in-themaking. refiguring the community through ‘antagonistic subjectivation’ (2003: 226). as a response to an official discourse. (2004: 13) Thus we have: the deployment of words by bodies then. rather. What are the consequences of this figuration of proletarian perversion for re-thinking queer theory’s deconstruction of the sexual subject? Firstly. words and times. By stealing away to wander aimlessly without knowing who to speak to or who not to speak to. not by a deconstructive reading of the subject as effect of the errant signifier but by the errancy of words traversing different bodies. images) by these proletarian subjects-in-the-making is not a response to an incitement to discourse but the manifestation of a ‘transgressive will’ that violates the ‘order of discourse. What is common to the community is made and unmade through the becoming-subject of the worker. emphasis added). they derange a discourse which assumes the incapacity of workers to do anything but work. the production of resistant nocturnal 6 . rather than the dissolution of identity through a textual reading of the body.’ La parole ouvrière (Rancière and Faure. rather than a linguistic paradigm destabilizing the subject.’ (2001: 44) is populated by shadowy figures whose making and unmaking undermine the lived experience of ‘identity’ as self-embodiment. If the textuality of sodomy writes the body as the site of the failure of representational adequacy. rather than the movement of the signifier textualizing the body. for the relationship between the effects of language and the positions of bodies in shared space. This process Rancière charts in 1983 parallels what Foucault in 1981 (English translation 1989) described as the radical threat that homosexuality poses not by asking the question ‘Who am I?’ (1989: 308) but by exploiting the paradox of a social order traversed by ‘affective intensities’ that both ‘keep it going and shake it up’ (1989: 309. the meanderings of proletarian bodies and hybrid speech function less as figurations of representational failure.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 on those bodies a mute intentionless speech unbekownst to the worker. The intellectual labour of these workers is not solicited. 1976) and Louis-Gabriel Gauny: Le philosophe plébéien (Rancière. speeches. writing destroys every legitimate foundation for the circulation of words. rather. it is striking that the proliferation of discourse (words. ‘Askesis’ as the ‘work that one performs on oneself’ but that one ‘happily…never attains’ (1989a: 309) figures a self-in-the-making which shakes up a social order by redrawing the affective intensities traversing it. which Rancière later in L’inconscient esthétique will call the ‘domain of the aesthetic unconscious. This gap between incarnation and mute speech.

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bodies is figured through a play between words, bodies and the world, and their historically-specific conjunctions and disjunctions. Queer theory’s turn from a critique of identity to identification as a process, poses the question ‘what comes after the subject?’ Rancière’s historiography ‘recovers’ an unstable present in the past where subjectivation is taking place in the temporality of a before-thesubject. Hence he argues that in that period (the early 1980s) ‘I did not want to define natures of subjects but processes of subjectivization’ (2008a: 75). ‘Subjectivization’ in queer theory is often related to Foucault. Judith Butler’s Althusserian reworking of the concept in The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection (1997: 83-105) points out the paradoxical process by which the subject produced by a discourse is dependent on that very discourse to resist it. Asujettissement is the word that captures this dialectic of subjection and agency. Queer theory, like Rancière, clearly was not interested, in arriving at the “nature” of the (homosexual) subject, but its deconstruction of the subject posed the question of what came after the subject had been deconstructed. When Rancière uses the word ‘subjectivation,’ the emphasis is not on how the subject is produced by discourse but on how subjectivation is the process of self-othering in the precarious temporality before any subject is stabilized. The temporal vectors of subjectiv(iz)ation move in opposite directions. Further, this process of subjectivization is not tied to any identity. However, if queer theory argues for a politics of difference based on the instability of a sexuality traversed by language, for Rancière the focus is on the polemical configuration of bodies, words and times through equality. In ‘Politics, Identification and Subjectivization’ he argues:
The process of emancipation is the verification of the equality of any speaking being with any other speaking being…enacted in the name of a category denied either the principle or the consequences of that equality: workers, women, people of color, or others. But the enactment of equality is not …the enactment of the self, of the attributes or properties of the community in question. The name of a community that invokes its rights is always the name of the anonym, the name of anyone. (1992: 59-60, emphasis added)

Acts of emancipation equalize anyone with anyone else. They fissure the social yet produce a community of equals not by positing the equalization of identities but by producing polemical countercommonalities in the temporality of an always-arriving subject-in-themaking. Rancière focusses on the demonstration of acts of subjectivation rather than a theorization of the subject’s pyschic structure or its citational capacity. The refusal to theorize the subject is integral to his critique of the politics of theory, which he developed in La leçon d’Althusser (1974). Less the ‘application’ of a theoretical paradigm from the Olympian distance of an intellectual vantage point (‘the


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labour of theory’) Rancière’s early interventions were intimatelyinvolved with the material, sometimes producing a ‘strange idiom’ (2008b: 174). In his book on Joseph Jacotot, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Emancipation Rancière conjoins different languages and epochs to produce ‘ironic’ (2008b: 186) lessons rather than straightforward paradigms. This is not rhetorical flourish but a politically-motivated activation of the critique of intellectual mastery by blurring the boundary between one speaking subject (the theorist) and another (Jacotot). When compared with much of queer theory’s deconstruction of the subject, the difference becomes very apparent: in the latter a fully-developed theoretical model often precedes or anchors a specific reading in the narrativization of the argument. Paradoxically then, where queer theory deconstructed identity as the subject-effect of discourse (Foucault), it went on to produce an imposing counter-discourse of subject-formation. Lee Edelman’s Lacanian case for sinthomosexuality (2004: 33) is one of the most recent deployments of this theory-object relation. Rancière, particularly in his early work, explicitly rejects this temptation. If the historian’s ‘love for the common people’ motivates the production of the worker’s body as incarnation of his truth, Rancière’s figuration of subjectivation ignores the traditional intellectual temptation of providing a theory of the subject. No theory of the subject emerges either après-coup or before the subject to be deconstructed. The subject is not a self theorized before-hand, but a before-the-subject in its (un)making. Short Voyages to the Land of the People (2003) exemplifies best this dis-embodiment of ‘the people’ from any discourse that produces it. One could argue, particularly in the ‘readings’ of Wordsworth and Rosellini’s Europa ‘51, that the writing matches the precise unfolding, overlap and disjunction between a moving subject-in-the-making and a world. This is also queer, a queerness not delineating a subject where the body incarnates an identity but the jeu-croisé of bodies, words, images before-the-subject that ‘happily never arrives.’ How do these subjects-in-the-making acting through emancipation ‘in the name of an anonym’ relate to Sedgwick’s understanding of ‘queer’ as the solvent of all identities? If queer is the name for a critique of all identity, the resonances with Rancière’s interventions seem apparent since emancipation is the equalization of anyone with anyone. On the other hand, how might queer theory’s critique of sexual normativity, partly through psychoanalysis, relate to Rancière’s anonymous subjectivations – given that the sexual or any other dimension does not lend any substantive identity to the bodies of the anybodies? A short excursus around the psychoanalytic reading of the subject might suggest a relation between anonymous subjectivation in Rancière and sexual dis-identification in queer theory. The differences between them will tellingly figure the themes of ethics, community and commonality with which the essay closes.


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Ex-cursus around the subject Queer theory’s reading of Freud centralizes sexuality (particularly around desire), the drives and fantasy, as crucial to the formation and de-formation of the subject. This process is often read linguistically through the ‘early’ Lacan of the Symbolic, and the later Lacan’s emphasis on the Real. In his Beyond Sexuality, Tim Dean (2000) develops a Freudo-Lacanian theory of sexuality ungrounded in sexual object-choice, similar at first glance to Foucault’s argument for the ‘desexualization of pleasure’ (1989b: 384), that is the delinking of pleasure from genital excitation. By linking the Freudian unconscious with the Lacanian real, Dean argues that ‘queerness is always relational, oppositional in the subversive sense, rather than the substantive’ (2000: 231). This relationality is not substantive because the subject is ascribed neither a sexual identity nor a desire directed at a definite object. By distinguishing between ‘two kinds of Other’ (1997: 910) Dean argues that sexuality does not lend a substantive core to the subject’s being, but is a destabilizing structure which generates a drifting of the subject unanchored to any specific other. This reading of psychoanalysis, already emerging in Leo Bersani’s Culture of Redemption as an ‘ethical-erotic project’ (1990: 3), aims precisely at the dissolution of subjectivity without positing either gender, sexual object-choice or sex acts as determinant of sexuality. By taking sexuality beyond sexual object-choice, Dean also returns sexuality to a temporality of the past, of the uncoordinated sexual drives before becoming-infant, and whose polymorphous effects determine the future of all adult life (‘homosexual’ or otherwise). Reading Lacan’s concept of the ‘real’ as a concept designating ‘everything that resists adaptation’ (2000: 230, emphasis in original), Dean evacuates the subject of a specificity based on sexual intelligibility. Dean goes on to argue that precisely because ‘the real has no positive content, it has more to do with sex and death [than the symbolic or imaginary]’ (2000: 230). By understanding sexuality beyond object-choice, and coupling it to the Lacanian ‘real,’ which has no positive content, Dean’s Lacanian reading of the subject installs indeterminacy at its heart. Two points are important here. First, this rendition of sexuality makes psychoanalysis tell the truth of the nonsubstantive, relational drifting of the subject-that-never-arrives. In this sense, paradoxically, sexuality – by forming the core of the psychic subject in the unconscious – evacuates queerness of sexual content. This formulation comes close to my reading of queerness in Rancière, since no ‘identity’ structures his subject-in-the-making either – the acts of emancipation are not acts of the self but the enactment of an anonym. Non-identity, negativity as productivity and potential – all these bear a relation to Rancière’s peculiarly non-substantive beforethe-subject. For Dean and Bersani this desexualization of sexuality generates a relation to the self as self- (un)making via the ‘impersonality’ of the Other in the sense that neither the subject nor the Other is substantive but the site for the figuration of impersonal drives. Their arguments are routed via psychoanalysis through the subject and beyond sexuality, while Foucault does not take recourse to psychoanalysis, though like them he also underlines


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desexualization as a potential practice of freedom. Rancière’s understanding of potentialities are based neither on sexuality nor its desexualization, and enable thinking queerness outside any reference to psychoanalysis. For Rancière the ‘queer,’ in my reading, could be seen as the process of antagonistic subjectivation rather than a theory of the subject’s dissolution as effect of an ambivalent psychic structure. Here the proximity to Foucault’s account of S/M (1989c: 322-34) for example is evident. That is, no theory, psychoanalytic or otherwise, is depended on, or constructed, to explain the conditions of possibility for the subject’s dissolution. Rancière deliberately skirts around the subject of ‘subject.’ The ‘transgressive will’ which activates subjects-in-themaking, however, is neither unmediated nor simply auto-affirmation. (Here, the relation with Foucault is more complex, as we will see below). Because no privileged subject-position is elaborated, the transgressive will is the possession of anybody, which does not mean the subject is substantively empty – it means the subject is always before any substantialization into a ‘self.’ If in queer theory the sexual subjectivation of the subject produces queerness by desexualizing the sexuality at its core (‘the primal scene’), Rancière’s queer ‘anybody’ is not based on any core, even a non-foundational core of sexuality without sex. Parenthetically, although Dean and Bersani also argue that sexuality destabilizes everyone and thus anybody, not just homosexuals, their examples privilege same-sex male sodomy, nonreproductive sex and the male particularly in relation to gay male barebacking. The unspecified body’s potential, for Rancière, is exercised only specifically, and in this sense, his arguments are not made by recourse to the signifier (Lacan/ Derrida for Edelman, 1994), or fantasy (Lacan/ Žižek for Dean, 2000) but in the present in which it equates two specific times – the time of sleep with the time of dreaming, the time of labour with the time of times (see Dasgupta, 2009). Althusser’s reminder that there is no ‘time’ of Capital, but ‘invisible times’ (1977: 99), becomes relevant here. Rancière’s demonstration of the articulation of temporalities by the nineteenth-century French worker however, shows that the proletarian perverter of worker identity does not need the philosopher (Althussser) to uncover the ‘errors of classical economics’ (1997: 91) through the ‘concept of time…constructed out of the reality of the different rhythms’ (1977: 99) of different types of capital. Rancière’s ‘transgressive will’ is not uncovered through the right reading strategy (Althusser’s Reading Capital) or performance of writing (Edelman’s Homographesis); neither is it an unmediated, ahistorical ontology of the subject (Nietzsche, Deleuze). It is a situated exercise of the potentiality of an always arriving subject-in-the-making. Here, again, the adjacency of Rancière and Foucault in thinking resistance is noticeable. As Butler (2002) argues, Foucault’s ethics of the aesthetic stylization of the self is always situated. But ‘it becomes unclear whether Foucault, like Deleuze, is arguing for an ontology of desire that approximates the Nietzschean will-to-power…or whether he is adequately depicting an


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historically conditioned, un-precedented form of desire’ (Butler, 1999: 227). Is Foucault’s ‘plenitude of the possible’ (1983: 145) an ontological given of productive desire that manifests itself historically or is it a historically conditioned desire (Butler, 1999: 227-9)? And how does this relate to Rancière’s ‘transgressive will’? Ethics and figuration
The self is a practical convenience promoted to the status of an ethical ideal (Bersani, 1990: 4)

Rancière (1999) emphasizes that the very absence of an arche to the social order, of which the demos is the proof, enables a politics of the possible. The transgressions of perverted proletarians are both an effect and a manifestation of this fundamental an-archy of the social order. Similarly, Foucault argues for the paradoxical dependence of the social order on affective intensities traversing and undermining it. However, as Judith Butler astutely notices, the Nietzschean ‘will-topower’ manifested in the self acting on itself in Foucault’s argument is ‘historically occasioned’ rather than ‘determined’ (Butler, 2002: 228). In that sense Foucault’s examples of transgressions, by being events in history rather than acts of resistance made possible by certain historical circumstances (Butler’s point) lean toward an ontological argument, and like Deleuze, emphasize non-subjective productive desire as a constant, a pure potential shorn of historical specificity and its conditions of possibility. Rancière’s anarchy of the social order, theorized through a critique of Plato and Aristotle, for example, emphasizes the inability of philosophy to escape the de-structuring core of the polis rather than an ontological purity of the desiring becoming-subject. In Nietzschean vein then, Foucault’s undermining of the subject is thinkable because ‘at the root of sexuality’ (2000a: 72) is ‘transgression,’ as ‘the act that carries [all existences and values]… to their limits and from there, to the Limit where an ontological decision achieves its end’ (2000a: 75). The end of the act is both a goal, and a death, the goal of transgression becoming the death of the subject which traces the ‘great skeletal outline’ (2000a: 71) of the death of God. Ethics as a transgressive ‘practice of freedom’ (Foucault, 1994: 281-301) is not the redrawing of the community through the dialectical negation of a social order but the pure transgression of a self which in transforming itself leaves all considerations of ethics as community behind. The light in the night Some two decades before Foucault’s book made its presence felt, primarily in the U.S. academy, in an essay in honour of Bataille, he developed a nexus between the subject, sexuality and transgression, in which language was crucial. The deconstructive paradigm in queer theory largely by-passed this argument though it was engaged with by scholars like Leo Bersani and others some years later. In thinking transgression through literature (Sade, Blanchot, Bataille) Foucault


dissipates it. and the self. or in Blanchot’s terms ‘contestation. it must ‘be detached from its questionable association to ethics. from the beginning of time gives a dense and black intensity to the night it denies’ (2000a: 74). where light and night. not as the negation of anything but through the evacuation of meaning. Subjective interiority. and restores it to the empty purity of its transgression’ (2000a: 70). whether it be sexual identity. for Foucault. is not an affirmation of identity. Importantly. explode in the non-referential sacrificiality of sexual activity.. and language. as we saw in Dean (2000). ‘The language of sexuality’ after Sade. it is both so pure and so complicated. The night is illuminated with lightning flashes of a transgressive language beyond the sovereign subject.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 describes the ‘singular experience…of transgression’ (2000a: 72) which ‘affirms limited being – affirms the limitlessness into which it [limited being] leaps’ (74). it is not ‘the experience of contradiction…for dialectical thought’ (2000a: 72). or any other form. which returns transformed through the ‘desexualization of pleasure’ in S/M. Sexuality. Foucault identifies the experience of dissipation and exhaustion with the ‘spectacle of erotic deaths’ (2000a: 83) in Bataille’s Le bleu du ciel. In this 12 . and the obscurity of a language that spews out ‘a wavelike succession of words to infinity’ (99) will be linked to the self-relating subject’s dissolution. and where all our actions are addressed to this absence in a profanation that . In sexuality resides no truth of the subject to be released from (Christian) repression. in queer theory. he argues that the experience of transgression is not opposed to anything. and suddenly volatilized in philosophical turbulence’ (2000a: 76).’ Contestation is not a ‘generalized negation. a radical break of transitivity’ (Foucault. gender identity.’ In other words.. Ethics. The singularity of transgression is ‘like a flash of lightning in the night which. sexuality is generalizable in its field of effects and experiences. Foucault argues ‘has lifted us into the night where God is absent. Art. is the event of pure difference. giving birth to an obscure but dominant figure where death. the mirror and the double enact their roles’ (2000b: 99). rather. it does not negate any social ordering or ethical community. ‘this language which is sometimes immobilised in scenes we call ‘erotic’. into the exorbitant subject and a language appearing ïn a lightning flash. the Kantian nonpositive affirmation. but an affirmation that affirms nothing. transgression is not arranged against anything. and the aesthetic experience are located within this ethics of the self. exhausts itself in it. Transgression. emerge as the disappearance of the self in the polymorphous profusion of languages without meaning. for it returns in queer theory’s coupling of ethics to sexuality. The ‘enactment’ of death will appear again. pure materiality devoid of sense (meaning). after the death of God. Foucault affirms the need to resuscitate this ‘non-discursive language’ of transgression.’ and ‘a divided world. ‘sexuality is a fissure – not one that surrounds us as the basis of our isolation or individuality but one that marks the limit within us and designates us as limit’ (70). This pulsional extimacy of language and transgressive experience that ‘affirms nothing’ is crucial. Instead. 2000a: 75). turning the interiority of the subject wielding language as representation.

The first of this pair. an ethnos and therefore an ethics. attributed to Hegel and Schelling is ‘a spirit’s odyssey outside of itself’ (2009: 14) in a to-and-fro with the specific materiality of arts it is opposed to.’ is readable according to an aesthetic regime ‘in which art is defined by its being the identity of a conscious procedure and an unconscious production. Aesthetics and ethics are related to each other in Rancière’s work too. bodies and acts combine polemically. An ethics of the self.’ Art. Instead of embodying a truth which it unknowingly manifests itself. Bersani’s ethicoerotic project. then. that disincarnates the truth it must unknowingly manifest. psychoanalysis does not function as a clinical paradigm for establishing the truth of the subject. a ‘paradigmatic’ one. It is also through a reading of Bataille’s Le bleu du ciel.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 sense. a community. Rancière shows that Oedipus. Bersani and Dean give this a decisively psychoanalytic cast. produces another body and the wrong kind of language. figures this pulsional dissipation of the subject. What this refiguration of Oedipus provides us with is an understanding of aesthetics as the idea of art and of thinking through the identity of opposites. His reading of Oedipus in Freud produces psychoanalysis as one among many modes of thinking about thought. For Rancière. coupling the aesthetic and art in a subterranean world deprived of meaning (sens). In short. the identity of logos and pathos will henceforth be what attests to the existence of art’ (2009: 14). the body produces in the candle-light of the night a language that establishes a commonality. is an acting on the self. which Foucault famously characterised as the use of pleasure beyond its normative sexualization. that the ‘aesthetic revolution’ (2002: 133) makes possible. in a game of incomplete embodiments which 13 . the language of sexuality – what Foucault describes with the notion of sexuality as a ‘fissure’ – in Dean’s psychoanalytic reading suggests an aesthetics and an ethics of the self working on itself through the play of dissipation and exhaustion. and art. death and language are interrelated. of course. like the ‘true Homer. Sophocles’ Oedipus. which also manifests without knowing a truth it embodies. Through Vico’s reading of Homer’s Odysseus. of a willed action and an involuntary process. The worker ‘who can know neither it [the discourse of truth] nor himself but who cannot help but manifest it in his words and his action’ (12). a pure transgression of any substantialization of the subject in identity. recently developed in intimacies (2008) is traceable to his critique of art as the agent of a ‘culture of redemption. that Bersani (1990) redeems culture from the positive futurity of redemption through the pulsional densities of Bataille’s Nietzschean language. and the domain of works of art and literature can be defined as the privileged ground where this “unconscious” is at work’ (Rancière. where sex. In the time of the night and candle-light. words. He argues ‘if it was possible for Freud to formulate the psychoanalytical theory of the unconscious. like psychoanalysis. There is another body. and the essential ‘impersonality’ of sexuality. it was because an unconscious mode of thought had already been identified outside of the clinical domain as such. 2009: 2).

The self-presentation of a community establishes. a community as a form of being – together. While the former sees the aesthetic as the field of art. subterranean and nonsensical world of the thing-in-itself’ (2009: 15). and of joy in suffering. Rancière’s understanding of the aesthetic.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Hegel argues culminates in Romantic poetry. propulsed by pulsions of joy and suffering. on the other hand. that of Hölderlin. as that which is shared and which divides. Bataille and Blanchot is clearly identifiable with this latter odyssey. that fissures the community where everyone is assigned their rightful place by philosophical discourse. Art then ‘is a production. produces sensible configurations that derange ‘the system of a priori forms determining what presents itself to sense experience’ (2004: 13). emphasis in original). Rancière figures ethics as community within the suspended moment of the impossible unity of form (sense as meaning) and matter (sense as pure. Where the ethical turn in queer theory reads the aesthetic (literature primarily) as the evacuation of sense as meaning. will maintain the indefinite play between representation and figurality.. the Nietzschean/ Schopenhauerian movement which ‘turns its back on the appearances and the lovely causal order of the world of representation in order to face the obscure. Opposed to this conjunction of pathos and logos is another odyssey. emphases added. 2009). ‘Schiller’s aesthetic state. as we saw in relation to the proletarians of 19th century France. aims at breaking down – with an idea of art – an idea of society based on the opposition between those who think and decide and those who are doomed to material tasks. that queer theorists picked up.. Rancière. literature in particular. A partage. the identification of a process of material execution with a community’s self-presentation of its meaning’ (2004: 44. the pulsional force ex-orbiting the subject into figurality. this suspension of work’s negative value became the assertion of its positive value as the very form of the shared effectivity of thought and community’ (2004: 44. This is the language of transgression. a commonality. Dasgupta. The transgressive experience. formless materiality). and language of sexuality encountered in Foucault’s Nietzschean reading of Sade. where the self dissipates itself through the language of sexuality pushing beyond representation into nonmeaning. deeply indebted to Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man. and in Rancière’s thought becomes evident here. Rancière sees the aesthetic as an idea of art where the suspended dialectic between passive materiality (non-meaning) and active subjectivity (producing meaning) produces a partage du 14 . The pure materiality of the language of sexuality intertwines sex and death producing figurality rather than representation. the odyssey of imperfect embodiments between spirit and materiality (Hegel/ Schelling) and the Dionysian pulsions of pure will that affirm nothing but themselves (Nietzsche/Schopenhauer).’ Rancière argues ‘by suspending the opposition between an active understanding and passive sensibility. The difference between ethics and aesthetics in queer theory. could be thought to fall between the two meanings of the term ‘sense’ in English – as the sensory and as meaning.

Barebacking and breeding is thus a ‘manifestation of a sexualized death drive’ (Bersani. 2008: 45)...’ Rancière’s target. that will dissipate the self. It is a sociality with strangers that produces a community within the self to be selfdestructed. Rather. or community in both formulations. It is the political and aesthetic staging of community as a contentious being-together that produces a selfpresentation of community to itself. a conjunction of the sensible (meaningful) presentation of the community and its material execution.. at least temporarily. egoconsolidating futurity. the other is transforming in the aesthetic and political presentation of community.. Bataille and Flaubert. Bersani’s target is the sovereign subject. Bersani’s culture of narcissism which produces a self-shattering. turns into an impersonal narcissism through the ‘ascestic sacrificiality’ of barebacking. and his weapon the jouissance ‘‘figured’ in writers such as.. transforming itself.[which] brings people together only to plunge them into a self-shattering and solipsistic jouissance that drives them apart’ (ibid. Comparing some instances of these two forms of subjects-in-their(un)making illuminate the differences. it is the ordering of bodies in space. An ethics of narcissism is based on a ‘sexuality [that] is socially dysfunctional. or driving the people brought together apart.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 sensible. There is thus a motility of the subject in both queer theory and Rancière. whose imperfect embodiment of truth he has already shown to be a convenient fiction.Baudelaire. Bersani argues. a womb for breeding not life but the very unviability of life in its normative. The relational self in Bersani’s argument is essentially one of ‘narcissism. ‘Community’ becomes internal to the self. and ethics as the formation and de-formation of community through a partage du sensible is identifiable in the relative emphases on sociality. erases the sacrosanct value of selfhood’ (1990: 4). reading a scene where semen collected from anonymous men is funnelled into the bottom’s rectum. The difference between ethics as an acting on the self by the self in queer theory. and the distribution of words. Community destroys a substantive relationality through an act of the self on the self mediated by 15 . that is. It is the making visible of subjects previously consigned to the dark where the self emerges as other. time and spaces that his understanding of politics targets.).. of a given that is heterogenous to it’ (2003: 226). In a reading of Tim Dean’s (2008) analysis of a Paul Morris film. but because it ‘is the production. It is contentious not because it undermines a sovereign subject. Ethics is not the shattering of the self.dissolves the person and thereby. but where one is dissolving in the aesthetic experience of jouissance. sensible world. on the other hand. as an equal participant in a redrawn community from which it was excluded. within a determined. 2008: 45). impersonal narcissism rather than inter-personal sociality. carried by the self as a time-bomb. Bersani (2008: 47-9) argues that ‘breeding’ (ejaculation in a bottom) turns the rectum into the place for ‘conceiving death’ (Bersani. is less the subject.’ where ‘self-jouissance . The porn video figures community without substantive relationality. that this act establishes a community of viruses within the self (the bottom).

2008) understanding of ethical relationality and counter-intuitive alliances is closer to Rancière here. the conception of death in the rectum). The distance between provides the space where the temporalities of the before and the after might further novel configurations of queerness.. social intelligibility is precisely what is at stake in politics. Queer theory’s interrogation of identity toward an ethics of the self and community and Rancière’s argument of the subject-in-the-making through a disputive commonality spiral around each other.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 unknown others. but precisely through intelligibility and the dialectic of subjection and agency based on recognition (a term. For Rancière. and others’ are enactments of polemical equalization. Through a reading of New Gender Politics. Instead of dissolution of the self. Butler thinks sociality here. queer. However.the multiple forms of ego-driven intimacy’ (2008: 55). which is missing in Dean and Bersani’s theorization of a beyond to sexuality). Perhaps Butler’s (2004. community is formed by the wrong body citing the norm perfectly. on the equalization of the intelligence of anybody with anyone else through the exercise of potentialities. and being understood as words rather than noise. Ethics is not the ascetic spirituality of egodissolution. and the separatism they sometimes generate. she interrogates the seeming opposition between feminist. through borrowed words spoken by improper bodies. Forging relationalities through alliance politics here however. not enactments of distinct communities). 16 . for Rancière. not through the figural destruction of meaning (the death drive.. inter and trans-sex theory and politics. The impersonality of this narcissism is figural since the ego’s self-shattering plunges it into nonmeaning instead of social intelligibility. The annihilation of the ego in the Culture of Redemption becomes the self-expansion of the ego to the point of dissemination in intimacies (2008). Like Rancière’s subjects-in-the-making. the subject for Butler is continually negotiating (admittedly more in the Hegelian than the Kantian sense) with the spatial and temporal organization of bodies. In Undoing Gender (2004). however. The potency of words derives from the possibility of incarnating themselves in anybody and all bodies. the expansion of the contingent self’s relationality. For Rancière. workers. Further. where for Butler. and focus. Butler’s sociality through imperfect citation and Rancière’s relationality through counter-intuitive equalization come together and apart around the representation of community. dis-identification arises from the non-normative body citing the norm differently. Butler argues that commonalities can be forged by identifying their minimal points of intersection. He interprets barebacking as a ‘mode of ascetic spirituality’ that ‘implicitly critiques. is predicated on both the assertion of difference and the forging of a commonality. It is the production of intimacy through a being-together by subjects constantly in-the-making. for the presentation of the community and its meaning is based on comprehension. then. alliance-politics would still assume a minimal identity (recall that acts of emancipation by ‘women. people of color.

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and heterosexuality (straightforwardly) with reproduction in a bid to ward off the threat of collective organisation and action. historically dispiriting. rationality with a naïve concept of progress. 2009 Non-Reproductive Futurism Rancière’s rational equality against Edelman’s body apolitic Nina Power Roehampton University. internal to the social. Rancière’s conception of politics will be presented as capable of avoiding many of the main targets of Edelman’s attack. The paper will also draw on empirical historical examples of certain left-wing and alternative political movements. This paper argues that to write from ‘the space outside the framework within which politics as we know it appears and so outside the conflict of visions that share as their presupposition that the body politic must survive’ as Edelman puts it. involves deliberately superimposing various ‘political’ categories with various non-political categories. he isolates and critiques the idea that ‘life’ is the central category of contemporary politics.n e t. collectives and groups that explicitly refused reproduction. but that nevertheless were most definitely political. but is nevertheless ‘rational’ in a specific way.b o rd e rla n d s . Thus Edelman elides democracy with the Child. the resistance.’ Introduction Lee Edelman’s attempt to subtract queer theory from any positive political project is both incredibly compelling and. to every social structure or form’ 1 . such as early kibbutzim. dispiriting because Edelman thinks that we ultimately need less politics. that ‘the queer comes to figure the bar to every realization of futurity.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. not more. Compelling because. and quite often ‘queer. in his words. UK Lee Edelman’s recent queer theory polemic against ‘reproductive futurism’ seeks to align his project against all reason and against all politics. along with recent theorists of biopolitics. as not being committed to a notion of politics that is based on reproduction. Against Edelman’s attempt to rid thought of all politics.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w . at the same time. or.

2004: 153). 2002: 59)). but most of these things have been relatively subsumed into a wider culture of permissiveness. has been the very ordering principle of our recent political reality.’ incorporates. 2004: 75) symbolises. on its own terms. is the child-as-future really the only image of all political desire? Edelman’s polemic. for Edelman. and for a kind of rationalism that escapes Edelman’s equation of ‘reason’ with futurity. according to him. Edelman. what Alain Badiou calls the imperative to ‘live without ideas’ (Badiou. what Marcuse called ‘repressive desublimation’ (Marcuse. not jouissance. But. The queer. 2004: 11).’ one predicated on subtraction and a non-futural power to disrupt (it is politics that disrupts. In fact. for all the talk of disruption and a paradoxical outside. this paper will argue for forms of politics that are not predicated on the overlap of reproduction with the future. the main text examined here alongside Edelman’s No Future. the mopping up). an overly earnest. In a very real sense. ‘we are no more able to conceive of a politics without a fantasy of the future than we are able to conceive of a future without the figure of the Child’ (Edelman. the idea that there is no alternative. all political thinking about the future. The main term of opprobrium that Edelman repeatedly uses. Against Edelman’s powerful but overly general attack on politics. The queer is thus anti-social. Hedonism may not be exactly what Edelman means by jouissance. This epochal de-politicisation of politics is also identified by Jacques Rancière in one of his major works. 2007: 117). as welcome as it is within a certain (albeit highly American) context. ‘reproductive futurism. the concerns of politics as a whole. and no future (in the sense of new ways of living) is possible. ‘the other side’ of this image as it were. 2004: 2). but it has certain structural similarities: a disregard for what comes next (the hangover. If there has in fact been a widespread feeling of ‘no future’ it is because it has been impossible to imagine anything different.’ far from being a rallying cry towards some subversive celebration of a pleasure that destabilises and yet subtends the political order. The image of the child (the ‘fascism of the baby’s face’. take drugs and engage in risky sex. ‘no future. the source of many of his examples of reproductive futurism? Is the only obvious alternative. there is something overly neat about Edelman’s formulations. well-meaning and equally futurist left humanism? In other words. a certain self-satisfaction and insularity (jouissance cannot be universalised) and disruptive in a relatively containable way (it may have been ‘subversive’ at various points to watch porn. is at the same time depressingly compatible with a general epochal turning away from politics. whilst queerness ‘should and must redefine such notions as “civil order” through a rupturing of our foundational faith in the reproduction of futurity’ (Edelman. anti-society and above all anti-natal. Rancière will instead be invoked as thinker of a tentative ‘queer rationalism.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 (Edelman. disrupts the social and takes pleasure in its pleasure: ‘to the threat of the death drive we figure with the violent rush of a jouissance’ (Edelman. despite 2 . capitalism depends upon the reproduction of sameness in the guise of difference. Is politics really exhausted by the formulations of the Christian right. the come down. 2004: 16-17). Disagreement.

b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Edelman’s argument that disruption is the most antithetical movement to politics as a whole).” the defenders of futurity. as we shall see below. 2004: 153). finally. its secret agents too. The final section will in a sense return to Edelman’s claim that the defenders of futurity are indeed dependent on ‘the threat of the death drive. It points. It is indeed the case that the ‘death drive of the social’ is the truth of the ‘they. relate directly to the way in which states articulate the relation between their subjects (or citizens) as workers and as parents. first we will turn to Edelman. But “they. which explicitly refused reproduction but were nevertheless most definitely political. to the threat of the death drive we figure with the violent rush of a jouissance. The paper will also draw on empirical historical examples of certain left-wing and alternative political movements. For Rancière. ultimately. The logic of political hope. which only returns them. depends upon desperately trying to exclude from the social order the negativity of the 3 . Rationality or anti-rationality? We are dealing with two very different notions of rationality in Edelman and Rancière. to understand the role the critique of political reason plays in his position. the sinthomosexuals who figure the death drive of the social. as Edelman describes it. buzzed by negating our negativity. must accept that we will be vilified as the agents of that threat. to the death drive in spite of themselves (Edelman. but that irrationality and repetition is the very stuff of political and social life: Rationality – true politics – is. But.’ but the real secret of contemporary politics is not that the death drive and its queer jouissance is its hidden truth. in their ideological and properly political definition. There are three main areas of argument here: the concept of rationality and anti-rationality at work in the politics of Rancière and the anti-politics of Edelman. in the name of life. namely the queer. to something much more subversive. and quite often ‘queer’ from the standpoint of the norms of the social order. a more polemical and speculative claim that contemporary politics’ relation to the child is far less that of its future than of the mundane spectre of its always-dying. extremely rare. 1. For Edelman. as Rancière points out. such as the early kibbutzim movement in Israel. properly political rationality must precisely address itself to the question of who gets to speak and how: ‘rationality’ is thus to be understood beyond the narrow meaning we tend to associate with ‘normal’ discourse. political rationality is always on the side of the future. however unknowingly. is irreducibly associated with the image of the child and heteronormativity and haunted by that which it tries to repress. a discussion of the anti-reproductive stance of various left-wing political movements and positions that complicate Edelman’s claim that all politics is by definition reproductively futural and. in the name of the future. in the name of humanity. reacting. The definitions of reason and rationality.’ Edelman makes this claim in the following way: We. ironically. are themselves.

we know that in practice politics. as they point to something beyond the symbolic. for example. ‘the persistence of something internal to reason that reason refuses’ (Edelman. Edelman could of course protest that his is not an empirical point. and so on. Political reason is thus characterised both by its relentless positivity and by an endless struggle to fight off the meaninglessness that Edelman characterises as ‘queer. and making a profit are frequently at odds. Edelman presupposes that there is an intimate connection. there empirically exist extremely diverse kinds of family arrangements. the conflict between paying for maternity leave. it is not necessarily in the same way. There are obvious imperatives behind these tendencies. if the 1971 census is to be believed. the negative). They concern far less the symbolic role of the family in the political imaginary and far more the contradictory relationship between economic demands and ideological pressures: if the image of the child and the fantasy of futurity are shared by both politics and the economy. have extremely contradictory attitudes towards families. As Barrett and McIntosh put it in The Anti-social Family: If there were a direct correspondence between the imagery of the family represented in the media and the actual composition of households. But these economic contradictions complicate Edelman’s picture somewhat. 2004: 5). slashing budgets for crèches here. and beyond the sheen of ideology. we would find the majority of the population living in nuclear residences of children and their parents.’ But what if. fewer than a third of Britain’s households were enmeshed in such an arrangement and only one in ten was organized in the normatively sanctioned pattern of paternal breadwinner and maternal full-time housewife (Barrett and McIntosh. but in the short term.’ in the wake of Edelman’s analysis. it is clear that in practice ‘the family’ is often badly treated by the very same governments who claim to defend it. for example. reproductive 4 . or. Yet. and have done for a long time. 1982: 32-3). against Edelman’s opposition between the reproductively futural and the queer. 2009). and the policies of elected governments. But. Whilst it is true that politics in the main presents itself as defender of the family (although this is perhaps less the case outside of the right-wing framing of some American discourses). it is politics and reason that have become dislocated and that what is ideologically positioned as rational is. Furthermore. the very opposite? That is to say. and there is certainly something enlightening about being able to ‘spot.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 symbolic. the queer. in fact. in practice. as he puts it. a kind of structural isomorphism between the ideology of the family (and the child) and politics. and that politics will always represent itself via a certain image of the family as a war of warding off what it fears (the non-futural. permitting only the most minimal of paternity leave there. which explain why. but a symbolic one. pregnant women are often picked out for redundancy over their childless co-workers (Gentleman. of course. Capitalism may in the long run need future workers.

Can you have family arrangements of those who take care of children but nonetheless are not ‘fighting for the children’? Can one have a generic attitude towards children. Edelman makes clear that he is not talking about really existing families and actual children. Politics is so pro-child in theory because it is so anti-child (and anti-woman) in practice. Does Edelman fall too far into the rhetoric of the Christian Right by associating women too quickly with childbirth and some sort of supposedly natural maternal desire that in turn is supposed to characterise reproductive futurism? Edelman seems to assimilate all notions of the family with notions of the future. but it must be noted that Edelman sometimes slips from the figural to the literal. rife with contradiction. not in the least bit reconciled to either its image of the child. or at least certainly seems to position the woman on the side of the children in a rather dubious way. plenty of children being raised in situations where very little was staked on their future. and of the child taken care of by the father’s wage and the mother’s domestic care. seeing as the image of the family presented by (primarily right-wing) politicians is. and plenty of family structures in which caring for young people is far more a question of pragmatics than of ideology.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 futurism whenever it rears its smiling. irresistible head. in practice. however non-child oriented. reactionary entities to be opposed by identity-shaking queer negativity. big-eyed. It seems more likely the case that the ideology must be so extreme in order to cover over the real truth of the family as the economic support for an increasingly precarious labour market. or to its image of itself. If ‘queerness names the side of those not “fighting for the children”’ (Edelman. a male breadwinner’s wage was enough to support an entire ‘classical’ family. even as women still fail to earn as much as their male counterparts. or has the logic of reproductive futurism filtered all the way down such that it is impossible to think of children as anything other than ‘special. and neither the state nor the classical family seem able to do it effectively and affordably. The supposed futural ‘reason’ of representative politics is in effect profoundly fractured and contradictory. as noted above). It’s not a seamlessly ideological one either. But in the light of the relative empirical paucity of this normative notion of the family. a question arises as to how far Edelman’s notion of the ‘queer’ extends. In the 1950s.’ as ‘little angels’? There are. Who looks after the children is an increasingly complicated question. As Fraiman puts it in her reading of Edelman: ‘Figurations of women’s bodies … are subtly de-eroticised and assimilated to the figurative child’ (Fraiman. 2004: 3) it must by definition exclude any family arrangement. however. But what is the ‘identity’ of the family as such? It’s not a real one in the sense of being the majority composition of living arrangements (at least in the British case. Edelman’s notion of the queer nevertheless seems to depend on an overly 5 . and to reify families as solid. now both partners must (in most cases) work to earn anywhere near the same amount. If women are now fully included in the workforce it is because men’s wages have been depressed. 2003: 131).

As John Brenkman puts it: ‘Edelman compounds his reductive concept of the political realm by in turn postulating an ironclad intermeshing of social reproduction and sexual reproduction’ (Brenkman.’ which in essence is not rational at all (the idea that a vote every four or five years exhausts people’s political desires. Rancière posits a far subtler understanding of rationalism and irrationalism. By neglecting the contradictory economic imperatives at work in political conceptions of the family and fusing politics with reason Edelman leaves no room at all for what we could call a ‘queer reason’– queer from the standpoint of representational politics. 1999: 43). It is here that Rancière’s ideas are relevant. those events and occurrences that interrupt the everyday flow of a political discourse which thinks it’s being practical but is in essence incredibly unstable. 2004: 3) involves deliberately superimposing various ‘political’ categories onto various non-political categories.. in fact. then it is to these moments of rational disruption. it is important to separate out two different kinds of rationalism. representational politics is only unreasonable. from ‘the space outside the framework within which politics as we know it appears and so outside the conflict of visions that share as their presupposition that the body politic must survive’ (Edelman. Against this notion of ‘rationalism. or else the violence of the irrational (Rancière.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 homogenous picture of the social world. In a section in Disagreement entitled ‘The Rationality of Disagreement. Contemporary parliamentary politics is predicated on this notion of a ‘certain rationalism. To write. (Rancière. but wrong to insist 6 .’ the realpolitik of the everyday whereby some order is better than no order at all. which he discusses in terms of the ‘very equality of speaking beings’: For the idea that speaking beings are equal because of their common capacity for speech is a reasonable-unreasonable idea . that a true kind of queerness emerges – Edelman is thus entirely right to highlight the importance of disruption against the existing order.’ Rancière states the following: Political rationality is only thinkable precisely on the condition that it be freed from the alternative in which a certain rationalism would like to keep it reined in. Edelman conflates democracy with the child. which Edelman refuses to do. Thus.. either as exchange between partners putting their interests or standards up for discussion. 1999: 55) If. where the threat of real public violence hovers like a shadow over a pessimistic and jaded acceptance of the venality of public life. rationality with a naïve concept of progress and heterosexuality with reproduction. 2002: 176). sweeping away the possibility of collective organisation and action. and neither committed to the child nor to sexual essentialism. as Edelman claims to. for example). If a ‘queer reason’ is to make any sense. The assertion of a common world thus happens through a paradoxical mise-en-scène that brings the community and the noncommunity together.

’ even in some of Edelman’s own senses: it is unwanted. negative.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 that it must always be on the side of unreason or anti-reason.’ Rancière argues that: Politics only exists through the bringing off of the equality of anyone and everyone in a vacuous freedom of a part of the community that deregulates any count of parts. Rancière recognises instead the subversive and disruptive nature of politics: ‘What makes politics an object of scandal is that it is that activity which has the rationality of disagreement as its own rationality’ (Rancière 1999: xii). wherever the whole of the community is reduced to the sum of its parts with nothing left over’ 7 . this ‘rationality of disagreement’– in other words the contention that politics.. that is to say a place viewed as useful. 1974: 256) This idea of ‘wrong in general’ exceeds the description of civil society with its regulated classes and parts: ‘Wrong’ does not refer to a group of people that have somehow been ill-treated but something structurally in excess of the very identity of groups or classes. Unlike Edelman’s conception of the queer. is predicated on a dissensus. (Marx. The equality that is the nonpolitical condition of politics does not show up here for what it is: it only appears as the figure of wrong. etc. if there are some invisible. but that some cannot even be heard. which is purely negative. a class of civil society which is not a class of civil society. As Rancière puts it: ‘Politics ceases . 2004: 79). the police. the possibility of German emancipation could only arise: [i]n the formation of a class with radical chains. and are identified as such by sociology today. and that this is where secure identification of individuals comes undone: For Rancière. it is because they do not participate in the public (political) life of the city (the mechanisms for dividing up legitimate shares. (Rancière. In the chapter entitled ‘From Archipolitics to Metapolitics. perhaps even individualistic. It is not merely that human beings can disagree with one another. it is because although they have an acknowledged place in society. 1999: 61) The figure of wrong (to be opposed to the ‘right’ of classical political philosophy and jurisprudence) could. the ability of speaking beings to disagree with one another – appears as decidedly paradoxical and threatening.). far from being a secure foundation. a class [Stand] which is the dissolution of all classes. and not comprehensible from the standpoint of the existing order and the set demarcation of places. From the standpoint of the supposedly ‘rational’ state. Rancière explicitly stresses the role that equality plays in his conception of politics. be understood as ‘queer. however. they are nevertheless excluded from legitimately speaking out (Déotte and Lapidus. a sphere which has a universal character because of its universal suffering and which lays claim to no particular right because the wrong it suffers is not a particular wrong but wrong in general.. nameless and disenfranchised people. As Marx originally put it.

both left and right. His central implication is that politics. 1999: 123). it refers not to place but to the placeless or out-of-place. Except that for Edelman this ‘site’ would somehow be radically opposed to politics as such. Its actual eclipse is perfectly real and no political science exists that could map its future any more than a political ethics that would make its existence the object solely of will. 2004: 2) But the question of a ‘queer’ (that is. It places: an ideological limit on political discourse as such. As Hallward puts it: According to Rancière. not to class but to the unclassifiable or out-of-class. 1999: 139) Politics for Rancière literally has ‘no future. (Edelman.’ classical political philosophy and consensus. equality is not the result of a fairer distribution of social functions or places so much as the immediate disruption of any such distribution.’ or at least not one that is predictable. then. in its specificity. it is clear that ‘reproductive futurism’ has come to subsume all kinds of politics.’ The next section looks at one of these attempts to rethink both the child and politics using the 8 . 2004: 3)). (Hallward. When Edelman talks about queerness as ‘the site outside the consensus’ (Edelman. preserving in the process the absolute privilege of heteronormativity by rendering unthinkable. to authenticate social order. some ways of thinking about alternative conceptions of politics vis-à-vis the child have been cut off from us: in that sense. 2004: 3). is conservative. which it then intends to transmit to the future in the form of its inner Child’ (Edelman. there is politics as disruption. non-futural) resistance to communal relations has in fact been an issue for various twentieth century political movements. There have been various kinds of ‘queer’ resistance to the organising principle of heteronormativity. Edelman argues that politics ‘works to affirm a structure. on the other. by casting outside the political domain. As Rancière states: Politics. In a sense they have been different responses to the very problem that Edelman identifies as ‘reproductive futurism. On the one hand. other ways of thinking about a politics that has ‘no future.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 (Rancière. historically. It may be the case that. (Rancière. For him. there is the politics that he associates with the ‘police. and disagreement (or dissensus). But Rancière’s position is less stark: there are two orders of politics and two orders of rationality. It is always local and occasional. as Rancière’s work suggests. 2006: 110) There are indeed. which have at the same time been explicitly political projects. Edelman’s work can be seen as registering the end of a sequence of political possibilities. in its very nature. the possibility of queer resistance to this organizing principle of communal relations.’ despite Edelman’s insistence that all politics is futural (‘The Child remains the perpetual horizon of every acknowledged politics’ (Edelman. 2004: 3) he comes very close to Rancière’s conception of politics as exception. is rare.

that . but they certainly didn’t come from any ‘natural’ desire for the child. 2004: 134) is undone here: politics is the untying of the break between collective life and reproduction.. some politically motivated groupings are nevertheless not explicitly motivated by the desire for children (whether ideal or empirical). 1969: 18-19) Whilst these instances of the kibbutzim project are unusual (most of the other kibbutzim were embodiments of an openly reproductively futurist Zionism). thus releasing a certain kind of rational politics from the vice-like grip of reproductive futurism. future-negating force of a brutal and mindless drive’ (Edelman. they do provide a ‘queer’ response to the problem that Edelman thinks can no longer be answered politically. Most of the settlers did not even want to marry. it is children who will get in the way of politics: ‘they were afraid that comradeship would be less steadfast. as Edelman characterises the queer.. how can we have children?’ The intimate link Edelman identifies between politics and futurism. ‘the only politics we’re permitted to know’ (Edelman. So what is it? The antichild kibbutzim nevertheless highlight the difficulty Edelman has in assimilating all politics to the image of the child. comradeship would be less steadfast. because “living as we do . Discussions of abortion can also be seen to have historically taken place in very different frameworks than Edelman allows.” Therefore it was seriously proposed that all members should oblige themselves not to marry for at least five years after joining the kibbutz. a study of child-raising and education in the early kibbutzim: As Joseph Baratz (1954) tells the story of Degania. but it is not reproductively futural either. As Bettelheim goes onto explain.. In fact... Whilst the kibbutzim cannot be said to clearly express a Rancièrean politics as such. Politics against reproduction As unusual as it might seem. the original kibbutzniks (of whom he was one) wanted no children in their community. there is a clear indication that the very serious political project at stake (how to live and work collectively) is being addressed without positive reference to reproductive futurism of any kind. and clearly self-defeating in the long-run (how would they replenish themselves without bringing in people from outside the community?). Our women didn’t know how to look after babies. 2004: 127)..’ ‘living as we do . or any special attention paid to the children: When the first child was born in the kibbutz “nobody knew what to do with him. The following is a quote from Bruno Bettelheim’s The Children of the Dream.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 examples of the early kibbutzim of the mid-twentieth century and historical discussions of abortion rights. especially on Edelman’s reading. 2. when children were eventually born there were serious questions to be answered. in the case of the anti-child kibbutzim. because “they were afraid that children would detach the family from the group.” But 9 . how can we have children?” (Bettelheim. The project of these early kibbutzim is certainly not ‘the arbitrary. the first kibbutz.

2006b: 90). Elsewhere. it is certainly not the case in other parts of the world that abortion is defended in the name of those children already born. 2004: 3). Edelman’s desire to conflate all politics with reproductive futurism does an injustice to the politics behind some of the historical shifts in the way abortion... But. but with us [at Degania] they stay at night in their parents’ quarters .. And so this system developed and was afterwards adopted in all the kibbutzim. Only recently have we built a hostel for children over twelve where our own children live (Bettelheim. discussions about abortion took place in broader contexts that stressed abortion alongside questions of the equal right to work. it is the rationality of the woman. But how does the kibbutzim relate to Rancière’s notion of politics? Isn’t it too overcoded by divisions and roles. her ability to make economic and pragmatic decisions that feature foremost in any debate about the rights and wrongs of abortion. Historically. i. we didn’t hire a nurse. the Soviet Union under Lenin was the first to provide free and on demand abortions. for example. Somebody proposed that the kibbutz should hire a nurse .. It is interesting to note that Bettelheim’s entire argument about the kibbutzim regards the extremely low incidence of mental illness coupled with very high rates of academic success: what turns out in the end to be a kind of reproductive anti-futurism is incredibly effective at de-neuroticising the bearers of the future that Edelman argues characterises all politics. has been conceived. but not with the family first and foremost in mind that troubles the way in which Edelman links politics to reproduction so cleanly.. Even in the examples Edelman himself gives of anti-reproductive movements. but we chose one girl to look after the lot of them and we put aside a house where they could spend the day while the mothers were at work. Before Stalin repealed the laws. politics only exists in intermittent acts of implementation that lack any overall principle or law’ (Rancière. Politics for Rancière is ultimately anarchic: ‘In its strict sense. however ill worked out? Perhaps... with the difference that in most of them the children sleep in the children’s house. By the time there were four children in the settlement we decided something must be done. But there is something of the kibbutzim’s attempt to reorganise communal life along the lines of politics. How were women both to work and look after her children? Should each mother look after her own family and do nothing else?” The men did not seem to feel strongly either way. he is quick to state that these campaigns for abortion rights frame the argument in terms of a ‘fight for our future – for our daughters and sons’ (Edelman. too. whilst it is true that the anti-abortion debate (especially in America) is often played out on the territory of the right (where the rhetoric of pro-life reigns). trapped in the framework of reproductive futurity.. But the women wouldn’t hear of giving up their share of the communal work and life . 1969: 18-19). progressive notions of family structure and so on.e. It was a difficult problem. These laws were couched not 10 .b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 eventually “we saw it couldn’t go on like this .

(Goldman.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 in terms of ‘life. Take the discussions surrounding in vitro fertilisation. but only those it chooses to keep out of a pragmatism enabled by technology. it is generally regarded as a practical option for infertile couples. In the first section I tried to identify some of the contradictions between the contemporary family and the demands of capitalism. it would cease to exist entirely. early artificial insemination was regarded as a ‘paganistic and atheistic’ practice (Barrett and McIntosh. exposes aesthetic culture – the culture of forms and their reproduction. the culture of Imaginary forms – as always already a “culture of death” intent on abjecting the force of a death drive that shatters the tomb we call life. 1993: 11) Unless the family is considered in its social and economic function. (Edelman. its particular pathway to jouissance … This. Goldman puts it: Soviet theorists held that the transition to capitalism had transformed the family by undermining its social and economic functions. despite the wastage of potential viable embryos in the process. 1982: 11). Edelman talks about the ‘morbidity inherent in fetishization as such’ when opponents of abortion use photos of foetuses to highlight the proximity of the foetus to the ‘fully-formed child’ (Edelman. Under socialism. however powerful this image might be. however. is easier to undo with reference to history and practice than he seems to think. and unregenerating. is the ethical burden to which queerness must accede in a social order intent on misrecognising its own investment in morbidity. He is right that morbidity and the politics of life seem to go hand-inhand. 2004: 41). Edelman ultimately concedes far too much to a very narrow ideological image of the family that. and repetition: to inhabit the place of meaninglessness associated with the sinthome. but then proceeds to argue that it is the queer alone that has a duty to remain true to this morbidity. sexuality whose singular insistence on jouissance. while above I gave examples of politics not based on reproduction and reproduction not based on futurity: what follows from this is that there are important historical shifts in the way in which the family and the image of the child comes to shift in and out of focus. fetishisation. As Tim Dean puts it: ‘the polemical ire that permeates No Future seems to have been appropriated wholesale from the rightwing rants to which he recommends we hearken’ (Dean. I suggest. it would wither away and under communism. Here the contradictions of contemporary social feeling towards children is exposed once again: reproductive futurism turns out not to be invested in all children.’ but in terms of pragmatism predicated on a notion of political equality. whilst pernicious. to expose the ‘misrecognised’ investments of ‘sentimental futurism’: The subject … must accept its sinthome. to figure an unregenerate. As Wendy Z. First viable as a reproductive practice in the late 1970s. rejecting every constraint imposed by sentimental futurism. it makes no sense to speak of its power as an image. 2004: 47-8) 11 . Now. 2008: 126).

statistics reveal that. he makes it clear that: 12 . then. Whilst a certain strain of leftist thinking does pursue this demystificatory line (arguing. in order to shoehorn all politics into a single vision to which he then opposes his notion of the queer. Edelman reduces the left position on sexuality to a simple question of acceptance. to deal with ‘life’ rather more pragmatically than we might otherwise believe. quite often. as indicated above. As Brenkman puts it: ‘To grant the Right the status of exemplary articulators of “the” social order strikes me as politically self-destructive and theoretically just plain wrong’ (Brenkman. Rancière’s notion of political equality (‘Politics … is that activity which turns on equality as its principle’ (Rancière. 2008). as a way of arguing that the queer can mean nothing to the left. Alan Sinfield has questioned whether we should really conflate all political aspirations with Edelman’s conception of reproductive futurism: ‘perhaps reproductive futurism is capturing and abusing other political aspirations and they should be reasserted’ (Sinfield. for example. whilst having a strong argument about the shape that the ideology of the child takes. We live for the most part in pragmatic acceptance of this culture of death. 1999: ix)) neither concedes ground to politics as it appears (the ordering of the state. It hardly shocks us when. non-ideological way) and about politics.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 This does not exactly seem like a revelation. as ‘nothing more than a sexual practice in need of demystification’ (Edelman. 60% of women who had abortions had already given birth to at least one child (Sharples. We must ask: is all politics conservative by definition? Does negativity or resistance to existing power structures always translate back into some stable and positive form? The examples of the kibbutzim and the various contradictions in the ideology and practices of contemporary reproduction make it clear that Edelman. has to ignore the unstable compromises that the contemporary world has already made with itself regarding life and death in reproduction. Edelman polemically dismisses the ‘left’ attitude to the queer. a supposed consensus) nor does it think that politics is impossible or nondesirable. There are genuine moments of historical and political importance in terms of thinking about the family that seem to escape Edelman’s dismissal of politics as inevitably futural. whilst still accepting that the image of the child is a massive ideological obstacle. 2004: 28). It is not. the police. We do not need to give up on politics altogether. in 2004. But there are. that all politics is reproductively futural. quite different ways of thinking about the family (in a non-futural. as Edelman does. but that this image has come to pervert other political desires. 2002: 177). and other attitudes towards the family. When Rancière discusses the ‘subject of politics’. and the two together. 2005: 50). for example. Edelman has to ignore historical and current examples of abortion rights campaigns. Those people most identified with children – mothers – turn out. which may have a more complex relationship to children and a progressive conception of humanity. that many forms of sexual expression are ‘natural’).

ironically. one more structural element of Edelman’s argument will be addressed: that of the death drive. Edelman’s argument is extremely clever on this point. nor with the identities defined by constitutional texts. the sheer everydayness of abortion even by those who are already empirically on the side of reproductive futurism) that are fully recognised. we are all eventually returned. it seems clear that there are forms of repetition and meaninglessness (the discarded embryos of IVF. be these identities determined by social relations or juridical categories. as opposed to ‘the contradictions generated by ideology and the conflicting demands of capitalism’ (which is admittedly much less catchy). All drives are death drives. of course). but is ultimately complicit: ‘negating our negativity … only returns them. Before turning to a brief summary of this tentative queer rationalism. undead.’ this idea of the interval seems to indicate a site of noncapture that could be described in a certain sense as ‘queer. narcissistic and meaningless as the death drive that animates the queer – it is. even though he retains the very concept of politics that Edelman rejects.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 The subject of politics can precisely be identified neither with “humanity” and the gatherings of a population. perhaps. there is a very-well understood relation to narcissism (choosing the children you want to survive in your own image) and the senselessness generated by arbitrarily picking one foetus to live over another. at heart. is. queer or otherwise. but it seems clear that beyond the pro-life fury and killing of abortion doctors. Rancière’s way out of the identities determined by social relations or juridical categories is much less dependent on any pre-existing identity. 2002: 181-5). Thus reproductive futurism. at the same time as reclaiming a notion of rationality away from the categories of the state. even (or especially) the ones that have little smiling children as their mascots. to the death drive. as I have tried to argue in section two. 2004: 153).’ In Edelman’s response to John Brenkman he states that: ‘Sexuality refuses demystification as society refuses queerness’ (Edelman. But. as it avoids the conclusion that the queer is something different in kind from the social order or the symbolic. 3. This is not a 13 . Edelman oddly substantialises it. Death and the child One aspect of Edelman’s argument is the idea that in some sense. They are always defined by an interval between identities. and the politics (all politics) that bears its mark. (Rancière. as repetitious. We may not want to call this ‘irony’ as Edelman does. Reproductive futurism does its very best to ward off the threat of meaninglessness that the queer supposedly presents. just the case that the queer enjoys this more (ironically. There seems to be no reason why the subject of politics for Rancière couldn’t be a ‘queer’ subject in Edelman’s sense. 2006a: 59) Could this ‘interval between identities’ be the jouissance that Edelman aligns with the queer? Whilst Edelman’s psychoanalytic subject could in no way be understood as a similar (non)entity to Rancière’s ‘subject of politics. By reifying sexuality as something that ‘refuses’ meaning. to the death drive in spite of themselves’ (Edelman.

the place of children. but about the way in which the symbolic order creates certain subjects capable of living with these contradictions. But this meaninglessness is not a kind of jouissance. realising that its own structure is indeed a ‘Ponzi scheme. but without the thrill of being meaningless enough. however rare. that the politics of reproductive futurism does not just try to ward off the horror of queer jouissance.’ However. (Kureishi. into the body. marriage. a Ponzi scheme in which even the people at the top don’t really get to enjoy themselves for very long. the avenir as opposed to the venir. This is the ‘way out’ of Edelman’s world that Rancière permits us to see: Rancière’s notion of politics. to think that politics is exhausted by its futurity. sexuality. As the writer Hanif Kureishi argues in relation to Intimacy. The contemporary relation of the family and reproduction in relation to capitalism does indeed resemble the Lacanian death drive in certain respects. reveals that perhaps what is even less thinkable than queer negativity is the social itself. to abort – acknowledge in their very repetition the meaninglessness of those very choices (or at least their arbitrary nature). among other things. comprised as it is of the unstable split between the public and the private: if ‘society’ really cared when and how individuals had children. 2001) The relation between the public and the private. but resents it because it shares the same structure as the meaninglessness of contemporary reproductive behaviour. Conclusion Reading Edelman alongside Rancière reveals a shared concern with the interval between identities. we would no longer regard these choices as personal decisions. to go further than Edelman. if we have not yet worked out what that futurity might be. which seems uncontrollable. Rancière’s double conception of politics permits a certain conception of rationality to survive. but. Perhaps what Edelman refuses in the end is to think of a future that is radically undetermined. but rather as factors to be understood in the context of politics more broadly.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 moral point. and a defence of the ‘out-of-place. of private need. to have IVF.’ whether it be Rancière’s ‘wrong’ or Edelman’s ‘queer. a film which explores. of gender. The politics of personal relationships. undead world of queer jouissance that Edelman 14 . Reproductive futurism may in fact resent the queer. It may well be the case. it is merely the acknowledgement that children are always-dying so that others may live. but not the whole picture. allows us to think both beyond the ironic. which avoids the simple fusion of reason with both the existing order and with politics tout court. unlike Edelman’s conception of queerness. this looks very much like a form of meaninglessness that lacks jouissance.’ as Edelman describes it. Why? Because all these decisions – the supposedly private choices to reproduce. or between the social and the personal. the banality of affairs: If Britain seems hedonistic and politically torpid. it might be because politics have moved inside. have replaced that of society. It is compelling.

Durham & London: Duke University Press. rather than as a hollow. The Anti-Social Family. ordered futurism. The Guardian. Cool Men and the Second Sex. She is the co-editor of Alain Badiou's writings on Beckett and has published several articles on Badiou. Bono. Fraiman. 5 June. A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy. Dean. (2003). in J. (2004). M. OneDimensional Woman. futurity and the death drive’. trans. Brenkman. none would be heralded as the archetype. Déotte. (1969). She has also published articles on Iran. (2007). education and vintage pornography.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 invokes and the everyday world of pragmatic. Sartre and theories of the subject in 19th and 20th century philosophy. ‘An impossible embrace: queerness. 10. Edelman. New York: Columbia University Press. A. vol. Narrative. (2002). B. M. It does so without reducing either reason or queerness to enemies of themselves or each other. L.-L. egalitarian politics of those unseen and unheard by the mainstream and that understands by ‘reason’ something other than ‘well-ordered. SubStance. 1. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. J. but in a positive way. Barrett. is out in November 2009 (Zero Books). Plonowska Ziarek (eds). New York: Fordham University Press. (1982). and whatever jouissance there might be left. we could start to think its disruption collectively. ‘The differences between Rancière's Mésentente (Political Disagreement) and Lyotard's Différend’. it would treat them as nothing special. Of all the myriad family structures that exist. Gentleman. S. 2. A. (2004). R. Her book on feminism. (2008). London: Verso. A (2009). Dean & E. ‘Employers “targeting pregnant women for redundancy”’. Feuerbach. J. issue 103. ‘Queer post-politics’. The Children of the Dream. Bibliography Badiou. A queer rationalism would precisely reconcile the best elements of both thinkers: a disruptive. T. & Lapidus. vitalist understanding of children as bearers of the future. Toscano. 15 . Cambridge: Polity. Nina Power is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Roehampton University. Bettelheim. The Century. no. T. & McIntosh. vol. London: Thames & Hudson. selfish negativity.’ In place of a sentimental. no. 33.

Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Marcuse. K. ---. Jan/Feb. (2008). The Politics of Aesthetics. (2001). J. Early Writings. but not equally for all women’. Nov/Dec. trans. Kureishi. © borderlands ejournal 2009 16 . ---. (2006). S. trans. Radical Philosophy. One-Dimensional Man. ‘Abortion rate falls. pp. London: Continuum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. trans G.Z. Marx. ‘Staging equality: on Rancière’s theatrocracy’. (2005). trans. Rose. 49-51. Time. The Guardian. 31 January. H. London: Routledge. Rockhill. 23 September.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Goldman. Review of Lee Edelman’s No Future. Sharples. no. (1999). (2002). (2006a). Corcoran. H. 134. Rancière. London: Penguin. T. (1974). New Left Review. R. (2006b). The State & Revolution: Soviet Family Policy & Social Life. Hatred of Democracy. London: Verso. Dis-agreement: Politics and Philosophy. J. 1917-1936. P. Women. Hallward. A. (1993). ‘Our beautiful project’. Livingstone. Sinfield. W.

to meet the political thought of Jacques Rancière. thus highlighting an optimistic (Rancière) and a pessimistic (Edelman) conception of the queer political subject.’ and also outside what he calls ‘politics’ altogether.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. It is with this expansive. But the degree to which this meeting will prove 1 . inclusive thrust that queer theorists have now been called upon. and subjectivation for an articulation of queer politics. Starting by investigating the currency of Rancièrian terms such as the demos. equality. King’s College.n e t. equality. subjectivation. 2009 How Queer is the Demos? Politics. queer theory has sought to branch out from the narrowing confines of sexuality studies and identity politics to embrace the big bad world of minoritarian solidarities. and collective struggles. sex.b o rd e rla n d s . and equality Hector Kollias Department of French. the article moves on to argue that Edelman’s notion of the queer as a figure constitutively outside politics may be located both outside what Rancière calls ‘the police. before arguing for the necessary though impossible choice queer theory is faced with when considering these two seemingly opposed viewpoints.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w . locating it in the psychoanalytic configuration of the queer subject. 1993: vii). The article then considers the fundamental difference between Rancière’s and Edelman’s conceptual worlds. and emancipation speaks loudly to queer ears attuned to the noises of strife and recognition. if not before. whose radical articulation of politics. particularly as reconfigured recently by Lee Edelman with his Lacan-inspired notion of the ‘sinthomosexual’. Ever since then. In his introduction to Fear of a Queer Planet Michael Warner asked: ‘what do queers want?’ The answer was ‘not just sex’ (Warner. interdisciplinarity. London This article stages a confrontation between Jacques Rancière’s political philosophy and the figure of the queer. if only by the editors of this volume. all of which should also by rights be seen as the fruitful continuation of a much longer tradition of queer activism and politics.

thus effectively giving the lie even to this most elegant and most credible conception in Rancière’s work? It should be evident as well that in this particular encounter between Rancière and Edelman. will ultimately depend on what it is that one means by queer. what kind of political. precisely since it encourages the negotiation of several crossroads before it can even hope to reach a conclusion. social. one that will allow something to come out concerning the impact of queer theory now. It is. Rancière’s notions of politics and emancipation become rather more problematic. what it is that queers want. there are intermediaries whose voices are crucial in the understanding of any disagreement here presented. I shall also. or indeed. subjects of the police order. 2004: 3). I shall not try to present a concise and coherent account of the complex relationship Rancière has with psychoanalysis. content capitalist citizens and consumers. and Freud (and to a lesser degree Lacan) as understood by Rancière on the other. other than a few words on his engagement with it in his book L’Inconscient esthétique (Rancière. 2 . the extent to which Rancière’s carefully developed political philosophy is a match for the multifarious desiderata of queers. in order to see how we square up with Rancière’s trenchant and indefatigable egalitarianism. however. In what follows I shall try to trace such moments within the queer past and the queer present. Is this the space outside the police order that would be confluent with Rancière’s politics proper? Or is it a space outside even Rancière’s universal presupposition of equality as the condition of all politics. aiming to reach a potential ‘impossible identification’ between what lies at the core of Rancière’s concept of equality. allowing for a Rancièrian interpretation of queer political events and achievements. Clearly this is not the easiest path to take in organizing a meeting between Rancière’s political thought and queer theory. its future expansion or contraction. I am here referring to queer as reconceptualized in Lee Edelman’s No Future as the figure of the sinthomosexual. failing which there is nothing to stop queers being. like the rest. sexual or other subjects queers make. like the others. however. like everyone. who programmatically resides ‘outside the framework within which politics as we know it appears’ (Edelman. and the Lacanian Real necessitated by Edelman’s provocations of the sinthomosexual. its politics and its logic. And inversely. and there are clashes of vocabulary which could end up being far more than merely terminological inconsistencies. or even wilful members of the multitude obsessed with its own unification. argue that given a certain denomination of the meaning of queer. The elephant in the room here is psychoanalysis: Lacan as understood by Edelman on the one hand. 2001).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 to be felicitous. Instead I shall begin by looking at queer politics with Rancièrian eyes and gradually allow psychoanalytic conceptions and interjections to creep in. as well as the ramifications of what Rancière intends by what he calls the ‘ethical turn’ in contemporary politics. Rancièrian eyes will only see in the various provocations of queer theory a glimpse of the elusive political subject at certain moments with certain preconditions.

a process whereby an entity which was never suspected to enter into the arena of political categorisations demands entry. 2001b). and the demos that is born with it. The inaugural moment of politics thus becomes the moment in which those who have no part and cannot be counted make a claim for this part. no qualification for being taken into account’ (Rancière. 1999: 36). He cites two such subjectivations that allowed for the creation of new political identities. Subjectivation then. the one who part-takes [prend part] in what s/he has no part in – that person belongs to the demos’ (Rancière. 3 . But political subjectivation forces them out of such obviousness by questioning the relationship between a who and a what in the apparent redundancy of the positing of an existence.and how it had hitherto failed to function as political subject.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 The queer demos and the queer ochlos The demos is the term Rancière uses to designate ‘those who have no part’ in what he calls ‘the distribution of the sensible. Thus. ‘workers. or the fact of ruling and being ruled]. It is a nos sumus. Subjectivation does not create political identities ex nihilo but it does introduce new political identities into a unified sphere of experience (what Rancière often refers to as ‘the One’). those who have no qualifications to part-take in arkhe [rule. 1999: 35).’ ‘the process by which a political subject extracts itself from the dominant categories of identification and classification’ (Rancière.’[1] In his ‘Ten theses on Politics. 1999: 36) The ‘new’ political subject that emerges from this process is thus a subject that names the division. which is therefore no longer the same as it was. whose identification is thus part of the reconfiguration of the field of experience’ (Rancière.’ and ‘women’: “Workers” or “women” are identities that apparently hold no mystery.’ declaring itself as a political force. defeminized subject – that measures the gap between an acknowledged part (that of sexual complementarity) and a having no part.[2] In Disagreement. one of the two sexes . Anyone can tell who is meant. (Rancière. of naming. 2004b: 92). 2001b). the gap between how it is ‘naturally’ perceived – a woman. effectively ‘taking part’ by demanding its own part: ‘Any political subjectivation holds to this formula.’ he states: ‘The one who speaks when s/he is not to speak. This moment coincides with what Rancière calls ‘subjectivation. and gains it insofar as its ‘new’ identity transforms this arena and creates a new political agency. nos existimus’ (Rancière. and of categorisation. It is a process wherein a group of people ‘stands up to be counted. is also a process of sense-giving. having no right to take part in the exercise of power as a woman. Rancière makes clear that this process of subjectivation effectively produces hitherto unnameable and unimaginable political subjects: ‘By subjectivation I mean the production through a series of actions of a body [une instance] and a capacity for enunciation not previously identifiable within a given field of experience. the demos for Rancière ‘designates the category of peoples who do not count. In politics “woman” is the subject of experience – the denatured.

the opening up of a subject space where anyone can be counted since it is the space where those of no account are counted. removal from the naturalness of a place. to the forceful ‘correction’ of a ‘wrong.’ an example of which is the slogan heard during the May 1968 revolution according to which ‘We are all German Jews’ (Rancière. The ‘wrong’ is thus. in this instance. do so not out of their position as the sexual counterpart of men. an a priori that becomes the locus of disagreement and dissensus. and can show us how a certain kind of gay or 4 . 2004b: 93).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Subjectivation for Rancière also entails two other crucial moments. This is what Rancière calls an ‘impossible identification. involves reorganizing the given classifications of a society by appealing to an element that transcends classification. that of ‘gay men and lesbians’ at the moment which in shorthand is called ‘Stonewall’. 2004b: 92). 1999: 36). as Gabriel Rockhill has it. that of a ‘wrong’. and equality for Rancière is not an equal distribution of rights but. ‘a specific form of equality’ (Rancière.’ The wrong [le tort] is that over which the demos finds its voice and challenges the established order’s categorisations and classifications: ‘The mass of men without qualities [propriétés] identify with the community in the name of the wrong that is constantly being done to them by those whose position or qualities [dont la qualité ou propriété] have the natural effect of propelling [the mass of people] into the nonexistence of those who “have no part in anything”’ (Rancière. manifest all the signs of what Rancière means by the emergence of politics.’ the wrong of disallowing assembly and recognition to a category of people who were therefore devoid of rights given to ‘everyone else. One can read in ‘Stonewall’ all the facets of a Rancièrian subjectivation. From this it would not be a stretch to imagine the emergence of another political subject. and arguably also the struggles over HIV/AIDS politics in the eighties and nineties.’[3] The inaugural moment of gay liberation. 1999: 9). Disidentification is thus also an identification with other peoples and parties of those ‘who have no part’ between whom there is no possible identification under the terms of the system in place. where a connection is made between having a part and having no part’ (Rancière. but out of their equal share in what was hitherto unacknowledged as the principle whereby the right to vote is bestowed: humanity as such. That moment did indeed entail the creation of a hitherto unimaginable political category. ‘Correcting’ the wrong then. from the revolt against a police order (and against the actual police) intent on disallowing homosexuals from presenting themselves as a unified political community. and that of an ‘impossible identification. Women asking for the right to vote. and it did entail the transformation of the categories applied to homosexuals. Therefore the subjectivation of ‘women’ entails their disidentification from their ‘natural’ gendered identity in order to effect an identification in a space which has hitherto not been identified: ‘Any subjectivation is a disidentification. without gender distinctions. as we shall see in more detail later. Those who have no part ‘discover’ in this equality the means whereby they can contest the distribution of rights in the name of a universal equality that is shared even by those who have no share.

categorized and classified in a given political system. sorting out what is proper and what is improper. whether or not a dispute in the name of sexuality can bring forth the recognition of a group hitherto unimaginable as political agents (as was the case with HIV/AIDS). or not merely. I shall try to elaborate how more recent struggles (and acquisitions) on a subject such as gay ‘marriage’ or civil partnerships are more ambiguous when looked at through the prism of Rancière’s thought. ‘the polemical verification of equality’ (Rancière. We could be asking the question as to whether or not the disputes we are engaged with are confluent with impossible identifications (as they surely were when these identifications were with blacks or women in the sixties and seventies). and does so by appealing to a wrong and an equality which the police order cannot categorize. Rancière may offer queer politics a way to circumvent the dilemma presented by the opposition between a strict sexual identity politics and the inclusive tendencies of queer theory towards dissemination into any number of other political fields. even less for gay marriage. and with what recourse to an improper. had not been distributed by the police order. and entails a logic of heterology insofar as. The police functions as a distribution and classification machine.and right-giving and those who are not. as I have to confess I do. The police. or police order for Rancière is not. 2004b: 86). or rather as merely the addition of a new group of people on whom these rights are bestowed. namely sexuality. What is more. the demand for ‘gay marriage’ as a wish to be unified with those who 5 . Emancipation is a moment concomitant with that of subjectivation. the police. Thus the police represents what is already set out. To do this I shall have recourse to a few more of Rancière’s terms. for those who have no part to demand a part amounts to a re-distribution of parts in the name of something improper to the logic of parts. the enforcement of law. already existing classifications of the police order? It might depend on whether one views the acquisition of legal rights by same-sex couples as radically reconfiguring the existing institutions of rights pertaining to couples. If one understands. But I am not certain the same can be said about the rights to civil partnership. Reading queer politics with Rancièrian eyes. it seems to me. which had not until then been recognized as a political category. does not always lend itself to celebratory conclusions. and the ochlos. those of emancipation. ‘Stonewall’ is a moment of emancipation in that it is a moment when the demos constitutes itself in the name of something. 2004b: 89). heterogeneous element? Is it not rather the case that demanding such recognition is precisely a demand to accede to full recognition within the proper. It could be argued that the demand for legal recognition of same-sex relationships is tantamount to Rancièrian emancipation in that it would entail the levelling of the distribution of legal rights between gay and straight partnerships – but in whose name.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 queer rhetoric is very much capable of being read in Rancièrian terms. but ‘the general law that determines the distribution of parts and roles in a community as well as its forms of exclusion’ (Rancière. it represents the distribution of roles and rights within that system as well as the borders and partitions between those who are included in the role.

The demos might well be nothing but the movement whereby the multitude tears itself away from the weighty destiny which seeks to drag it into the corporeal form of the ochlos. the ochlos is. are by necessity classified under the existing categories set up by the police. In what follows I shall try to read Edelman’s polemic alongside Rancière’s political theory. Rancière differentiates the two in the following way: If the ochlos from the outset is not the disordered sum of appetites but the passion of the excluding One – the frightening rallying of frightened men – the relation [between demos and ochlos] must be conceived otherwise. I am even tempted to read an analogy between what Edelman calls ‘the impossible project of a queer 6 . 1995: 31-2) If the ochlos is the throng desiring its incorporation into the One. In contradistinction to the demos. 2004: 3). then the outcome is that the group who is demanding this would be. in Gabriel Rockhills’ gloss ‘obsessed with its own unification’ (Rancière. or when he writes that ‘the only queerness that queer sexualities could ever hope to signify would spring from their determined opposition to this underlying structure of the political’ (Edelman. the whole of society. 2004: 3). and acceding to such a status. just as married couples. which is entirely concomitant with the police order and not at all concomitant with the divisionary disagreements necessitated by the politics of the demos.’ but also to consider the possibility that Edelman’s project may actually undo or subvert Rancière’s commitment to democracy and equality. (Rancière. 2004b: 88). it would be quite appropriate to interpret ‘politics’ and ‘the political’ as what Rancière identifies with the police. at the cost of divisions and differences.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 already have that right. into the safety of incorporation into the image of the whole. saying that the queer ‘struggle’ for same-sex partnerships to be legally recognized is reminiscent of the ochlos may well ring alarm bells. looks more like capitulation than emancipation. Civil partners. What is at stake in Edelman’s analysis is a structure of consensus. my project stakes its claim to the very space that “politics” makes unthinkable: the space outside the framework within which politics as we know it appears’ (Edelman. much less a demos and more an ochlos. where it is polemically stated almost at the very start: ‘Impossibly. but it resurfaced most trenchantly in Lee Edelman’s No Future. from a Rancièrian perspective. When Edelman writes that ‘queerness names the site outside the consensus by which all politics confirms the absolute value of reproductive futurism’ (Edelman. Queer: outside politics or outside the police? Such an injunction for queer politics to be placed not within but resolutely outside the political/police order is certainly not new in queer studies. firstly to understand whether Edelman’s claim to the space outside politics corresponds to what Rancière would understand as ‘outside the police. 2004: 13). against all reason. in Rancièrian terms.

political self-destruction: ‘perhaps. organization and stability.’ And this does entail that it would be less than self-evident that Rancière would concede to a description of the order of the police as an order of fantasy. names the struggle to effect a fantasmatic order of reality in which the subject’s alienation would vanish into the seamlessness of identity at the endpoint of the endless chains of signifiers lived as history’ (Edelman. as Lacan’s engagement with Antigone in Seminar 7 suggests. or worse. this would lead us to accept the troubling thought that queer politics should mean an abandonment of all politics. that is to say. precisely. if Edelman’s polemical tone and the negativity in which No Future seeks to inscribe itself are taken in earnest. an organisation. political selfdestruction inheres in the only act that counts as one: the act of resisting enslavement to the future in the name of having a life’ (Edelman. but only insofar as it compels us to experience that reality in the form of fantasy: the fantasy. creating subjects to this police order but not subjects of politics.’ ‘alienation. located in a no-man’s-land where emancipation itself would prove impossible? The temptation to do this is strong. words such as ‘fantasy. 7 . of an order. once again.’ ‘imaginary. but as going beyond politics itself.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 oppositionality that would oppose itself to the structural determinants of politics as such’ (Edelman. 2004: 8). and this should also mean outside the definition of politics announced in Rancière’s work. (Edelman. the work of categorization. Let us consider the possibility that Edelman locates the queer in a space not simply outside the regulation of the police order but untouched by any politics whatsoever – what would the ramifications of such a gesture be? First and foremost. read ‘police’ for ‘politics’ in what follows. that is. thereby constituting a political emancipation and subjectivation in Rancièrian terms. what if what he terms ‘queerness’ and defines as implying a ‘determined opposition to [the] underlying structure of the political’ were indeed to be understood as going not merely beyond the police order. But what if we were to take Edelman at his word. 2004: 30). it seems to me. that assures the stability of our identities as subjects and the coherence of the Imaginary totalizations through which those identities appear to us in recognizable form. 2004: 4) and Rancière’s ‘impossible identifications’ that take place at the moment of emancipation and make of the demos a force which in essence does ‘oppose itself to the logic of opposition’ (ibid). Edelman’s injunction is to think the possibility of locating the queer outside any political field. 2004: 7) This is indeed the work of the police order. However. And if we. it may make perfect Rancièrian sense: ‘Politics. It would also be plausible to suggest a congruence between Rancière’s analysis of the police order and Edelman’s understanding of the involvement of fantasy in politics in the following: politics may function as the framework within which we experience social reality. of form as such. glaringly absent from a Rancièrian appropriation of the above statements would be all the words lifted from the vocabulary of psychoanalysis.

Edelman himself is lucid both about the frighteningly negative dimensions of this task and about its value as a demystification from all salutary social and political theories (including Rancière’s) that would seek to avoid it. which is what should be understood. a queer subject. but his key idea of the distribution of the sensible functions in the same way as the Symbolic does for Lacan and Edelman. salutary vision of politics and deliver us queers not to emancipation. by the Lacanian term ‘the Symbolic’. that attending to the persistence of something internal to reason that reason refuses.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Therefore this is a task that would give the lie to Rancière’s ultimately hopeful. however queer. Rancière posits the emergence of a political subject through subjectivation at those choice moments when a reconfiguration of the field of experience can take place. (Edelman. the hopeless place where queers may be located. Equality and the Real: the uses of catachresis It would seem that an impasse has been reached. Or better: can expose the constancy. even if that order can access its constant access to jouissance only in the process of abjecting that constancy of access onto the queer. is the place of a terrible ethics: ‘queerness attains its ethical value precisely insofar as it accedes to that place. And Edelman knows. Obviously Rancière does not use this term. that turning the force of queerness against all subjects. whose function is to figure the very limits of this field of experience. the inescapability. the Symbolic is grounded on an internal fissure issuing not from the Symbolic but from the order of the 8 . that the place ‘outside’ politics. The resistance whose figural status is discussed here may admit an analogy to the supernumerary resistance that subjectivation brings to the political in Rancière’s thought.[4] More importantly. emancipation. politics itself has no place. 2004: 5) I shall be coming back to this long and difficult citation. accepting its figural status as the resistance to the viability of the social while insisting on the inextricability of such resistance from every social structure’ (Edelman. much less the embrace of the police order. Edelman stakes a hopeless claim for the positing of a subject. 2004: 3). can afford an access to the jouissance that at once defines and negates us. in a general sense. but to something altogether darker and more cruel. In Lacan. of such access to jouissance in the social order itself. He calls it: a truly hopeless wager: that taking the Symbolic’s negativity to the very letter of the law. but the insistence on the inextricability of such resistance may be read as pointing towards a space where subjectivation. as a Lacanian would. a conceptual trait shared very distinctly by both Lacan and Rancière in their articulation of the Symbolic or the sensible in its distribution is the fact that it is grounded on an element that is heterogeneous to it. but for now I trust it illustrates the force of this ‘hopeless wager’ aiming for the transcendence of the political altogether in order to expose the hopeless wager inherent in all politics of hope.

1992). ultimately grounded in something that is not of the order itself’ (Edelman. Rancière also ‘founds’ politics both in relation to the police. potentially paralyzing the subject as indicated in the discussion of the symptom in clinical psychoanalysis. but its entry into this order is predicated on an element. or which can only be symbolized through terms that succeed in designating its anonymity’ (Valentine. but it clearly points to what Jeremy Valentine argues: ‘Rancière’s position seems to imply that the political arises from the existence of that which cannot be symbolized by the police. What comes from the Real. Yet this element is also included in the Symbolic in some way. Its sole principle. the symptom of psychoanalytic practice. This order is. At the same 9 . is not peculiar to it [ne lui est pas propre – not proper to it] and is in no way in itself political’ (Rancière. But it comes from the Real. it is always bound up with the latter. the Real. one could say. Rancière uses the concept of equality to signal the process whereby an element completely heterogeneous to the distribution of the sensible effected by the police is called upon to reconfigure and change that distribution. which is to say it is bound up in it. to undo the supposed naturalness of orders and replace it with the controversial figures of division’ (Rancière. equality. which at first looks like the clearest analogy for Lacan’s Symbolic. The sinthome lies ‘within’ the Symbolic. 1995: 32-3).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Real. and this is of course the basis for Edelman’s reconfiguration of the queer as the sinthomosexual. and as incorporating a principle completely heterogeneous to it: ‘if politics implements a logic entirely heterogeneous to that of the police. Equality may not quite be a symptom – but it comes from a field totally heterogeneous to that of the police (the Symbolic). The subject Edelman refers to is a subject of the Symbolic order. the unsymbolizable. and it represents in the Symbolic the very rift in symbolization that the Real effects. 2005: 47). the sinthome. This need not be taken to mean that politics is the police order’s sinthome. from the Real. also extensively theorized by Zizek as a political factor (see Zizek. thus levelling the field and giving rise to the moment of emancipation and subjectivation: ‘The essence of equality is in fact not so much to unify as to declassify. This striking analogy between the structures of Lacan’s and Rancière’s conceptualisations allows for a remapping of the dispute between Edelman’s and Rancière’s notions of politics. 1999: 32). and this is equality. since it is crucial for the division between what is proper and improper that political subjects come to identify. This is crucial to the formation of subjectivation and of the moment of politics. Edelman cites Dominick Hoens and Ed Pluth: ‘The subject is able to take its place in the Symbolic order by means of an element heterogeneous to that order. representing a remnant of an entirely different order. but which in no way belongs to it. it comes. then. For Rancière. is frightening. 2004: 36). The element in question is what Lacan terms the sinthome. politics has a principle on which it is based. Politics is also implicated in a relation with the police order. The reason for this is simple: politics has no objects or issues of its own. for Lacan and even more so for Edelman.

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time, it is this fear and paralysis that, if allowed to be interpreted with and in language, that is to say if allowed to be symbolized, will anchor the clinical subject in the Symbolic providing its ‘point de capiton’, its quilting point.[5] What comes from the Real is both enabling, then, and disabling. My contention is that, within the framework now set up, the disagreement between Edelman and Rancière can be articulated in terms of enablement and disablement. The very role that Edelman’s sinthomosexual is conceived to play is that of a stultifying reminder of the limits of the Symbolic, it is a disabling role, not in that the subjects called sinthomosexuals are in any way themselves disabled, but in that they figure disablement for and in the Symbolic, they represent the excessive jouissance that threatens it with annihilation. Edelman’s polemical point is that queers are sinthomosexuals; their function is to represent – that is queerness’s ethical value – the internal threat that the Real poses to the Symbolic. In Edelman’s terms: ‘Sinthomosexuality [...] brings into visibility the force of enjoyment that desire desires to put off. In doing so, the sinthomosexual reveals, unendurably to the subject of the law, enjoyment’s infiltration of, its structural implication in, the very law of desire that works to keep jouissance at bay’ (Edelman, 2004: 86). A political subject, for Rancière, does the same thing in relation to the police order: it makes visible the constitutive part of the distribution of the sensible that nevertheless the entire police order is constructed to keep at bay – equality. But it is clear from Rancière’s entire work that he intends this process of political subjectivation to be the most enabling form of agency, allowing for new distributions of the sensible, for new conceptions of the demos, for new police orders to be challenged again by the same salutary process. The optimistic thrust of Rancière’s work is unmistakable. Contrast this statement about the role of sinthomosexuals from Edelman: ‘such sinthomosexuals would insist on the unintelligible’s unintelligibility, on the internal limit to signification and the impossibility of turning Real loss to meaningful profit in the Symbolic without its persistent remainder: the inescapable Real of the drive’ (Edelman, 2004: 106-7). Sinthomosexuals, queers, are not there to open up new avenues for the better distribution of the sensible allowing for equality to shine. They are there as a persistent reminder of a Real debt figured in the (death) drive, they are there as a nagging insistence that the Symbolic will never be completely filled with the light of order and signification. Perhaps the best place to observe Edelman’s persistent assertion that queerness as sinthomosexuality is designated to figure a limit in the distribution of the sensible rather than a point at which this distribution can be reconfigured by a series of subjectivations and emancipations is his trenchant critique of Judith Butler’s reading of (Lacan’s reading of) the figure of Antigone (Butler, 2000). Butler goes against the antipolitical thrust of Lacan’s reading of the Sophoclean heroine’s actions and fate by insisting that Antigone’s fateful act can be reincorporated in the workings of a new system of kinship and law, even a new conception of the human. Antigone represents or figures the limits of the Symbolic order, the limits of the system of kinship and symbolic


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exchange that bestows social intelligibility and coherence. For Butler this is the limit of the Symbolic, and Antigone’s act and claim figuring it means that the Symbolic itself is subject to a potential transformation: ‘If, as Lacan claims, Antigone represents a kind of thinking that counters the Symbolic and, hence, counters life, perhaps it is precisely because the very terms of livability are established by a Symbolic that is challenged by her kind of claim’ (Butler, 2000: 54). Therefore Antigone’s act and claim are fundamentally political. Butler names this action whereby the Symbolic is challenged and potentially transformed ‘political catachresis.’ Antigone becomes an oddly triumphant figure, heralding the potential of a new dawn of kinship and a new future for humanity: ‘If kinship is the precondition of the human, then Antigone is the occasion for a new field of the human, achieved through political catachresis. She acts, she speaks, she becomes one for whom the speech act is a fatal crime, but this fatality exceeds her life and enters the discourse of intelligibility as its own promising fatality, the social form of its aberrant, unprecedented future’ (Butler, 2000: 82). Edelman’s critique consists of recalling that catachresis, as Butler understands it, is precisely the way in which the Symbolic order works, and that therefore ‘Butler’s Antigone, far from transforming Symbolic law, repeats it – and repeats it, in fact, as nothing less than the law of repetition by which our fate is bound to the fate of meaning’ (Edelman, 2004: 105). How may this debate about catachresis inform our understanding of Rancière’s theories of emancipation and subjectivation? I would suggest that these moments when a political subject emerges are precisely moments of ‘political catachresis,’ the moments when the order of the distribution of the sensible is challenged by an act that reconfigures it. Butler’s reading of Antigone appears in this light as Rancièrian, in that she sees in Antigone’s act a radical reconfiguration of the field of human experience that leads into the salvation of the ‘promising fatality,’ the ‘aberrant, unprecedented future.’ Clearly Rancière does not use such exalted vocabulary but the main elements of his own ideas on the ever-changing reconfigurations of the political field by the irruptions of different kinds of demoi share both the structure of aberration and the mode of the promise with Butler’s reading. Edelman is far less promissory and far less ‘hopeful,’ seeing in the reconfiguration of the Symbolic only the deathless repetition whereby the Symbolic will incorporate the challenge it was facing, precisely by reconfiguring itself, but with such a repetition yet another figure of ‘those who cannot be counted’ will always emerge again:
No doubt, as Butler helps us to see, the norms of the social order do, in fact, change through catachresis, and those who once were persecuted as figures of “moralized sexual horror” may trade their chill and silent tombs for a place on the public stage. But that redistribution of social roles doesn’t stop the cultural production of figures, sinthomosexuals all, to bear the burden of embodying such a “moralized sexual horror”. For that horror itself survives the fungible figures that flesh it out insofar as it responds to something


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in sex that’s inherently unspeakable: the Real of sexual difference, the lack that launches the living being into the empty arms of futurity. (Edelman, 2004: 107-8)

Nothing in Rancière comes close to this conception of ‘the living being’, and this is not only because his preoccupation is with political subjects, peoples, and not sexual subjects, or even what Lacan would have called ‘pure being.’ But the disagreement between Edelman and Rancière can now be seen not merely as a matter of stress, enabling versus disabling, hope in the future versus the deathless repetition of the same, but rather as two versions of that element which subtends political or Symbolic experience but which is heterogeneous to it. I would want to argue that Edelman’s (and Lacan’s) Real is structurally analogous to Rancière’s equality, but reversed, flipped over into a form of negative, impotent, and yet constitutive and effective equality. If for Rancière equality is what is called upon whenever a political subjectivation occurs and a reconfiguration of the field of experience takes place, for Edelman/Lacan the Real is the point at which every inexorable attempt at radical reconfiguration will clash with the persistence of a repetition that never ceases. This is no longer politics: it is the political and polemical manifestation of an impasse of politics, which we may as well call ‘political self-destruction.’ Aesthetics versus ethics: why Rancière is not a Lacanian Despite all the analogies that can be drawn between the conceptual frameworks of Rancière and Edelman an unbridgeable gap, a rift of incommensurability remains, and it bears the name: psychoanalysis. Edelman is not only ‘borrowing’ Lacanian vocabulary (Butler is very often doing just that as well), but he is resting the entire political and moral weight of the figure of the sinthomosexual on Lacan’s work – after all, Edelman’s book is subtitled ‘Queer Theory and the Death Drive.’ I have thus far attempted to ‘Lacanize’ Rancière’s conceptual world, possibly even contorting it to a degree in order to allow for similarities and differences to be discerned in what is the main issue here: queer politics, and whether there can be Rancièrian queer politics. But it is time to address the issue of why psychoanalysis as such is considered politically suspect by Rancière. His most sustained engagement with it is in the as yet untranslated L’Inconscient esthétique, and this deals entirely with Freud. Lacan features very briefly in the later Malaise dans l’esthétique, but it is possible to discern his shadow behind a lot of the criticisms levelled at what Rancière calls ‘the ethical turn.’[7] In his book on Freud, Rancière pretty much immediately intends to subsume the unconscious into a more general paradigm shift, which he identifies elsewhere (see Rancière, 1998) as a paradigm shift between a ‘regime of representation’, and an ‘aesthetic regime’ of thought.[8] He writes: ‘My hypothesis is that the Freudian thought of the unconscious is only possible on the basis of this regime of the thought of art and of the idea of thought which is immanent to it’ (Rancière, 2001a: 14). The Freudian unconscious is made possible by


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a general shift in the understanding of the relation between thought and art, which psychoanalysis utilizes to erect the theoretical edifice of the Oedipus complex, the theories of the drive, the hermeneutics of the symptom and the dream. Freud’s thought is therefore both contextualized historically and also subsumed under the rubric of the aesthetic regime, the unconscious becoming a property of this regime, to be called ‘the aesthetic unconscious’: ‘The aesthetic unconscious, which is consubstantial to the aesthetic regime of art, manifests itself in the polarity of this double scene of mute speech: on the one hand, the speech written on bodies, which must be restored to its linguistic signification by the work of a deciphering and a rewriting; on the other hand, the deaf speech of a nameless power lying behind all consciousness and all signification, to which a voice and a body must be given’ (Rancière, 2001a: 41).[9] These two sides of the unconscious map onto two tendencies, consubstantial but contradictory, in psychoanalysis, namely the aspect of psychoanalysis dealing with the interpretation of speech in the symptom and the dream; and, on the other hand, the aspect dealing with giving voice to the effective but mute drives, including of course the death drive. And here is the rub: Rancière clearly valorizes the former over the latter, clearly advocates the Freud who is a brilliant decipherer of bodily symptoms, dreams, and ‘symptomatic’ texts such as Jensen’s Gradiva; and he clearly berates the Freud who is a speculative theorist of the drives, the Oedipus complex, or the discontents of civilization – Freud the reader over and above Fred the thinker. What is crucial is the reason why such a valorization takes place – a political reason. Rancière associates the Freud of the drives and speculation with a surrender of hermeneutics and therefore of dissensus, a surrender to a mute but effective Law of alterity which he also associates with the ethical. This Freud:
must valorize the mute power of the Other’s speech, irreducible to any hermeneutics. That is to say he must vindicate the nihilistic entropy determined to transform the ecstasy of the return to the original abyss into sacred relation to the Other and to the Law. This Freudianism thus executes a turning movement around Freudian theory that brings back, in Freud’s name and against him, this nihilism that Freud’s aesthetic analyses never ceased to do battle with. This turning movement affirms itself as the challenge against the aesthetic tradition. (Rancière, 2001a: 77-8)

This turn is closely related to the distinctions Rancière draws between the ethical and the aesthetic. ‘Aesthetic’ and ‘ethical’ become two competing visions of the field of experience, of the responses available to thought when faced with equality and political action. And for Rancière ‘ethical’ responses, responses in the name of the Other who is not present to be counted, by definition run counter to his own emancipatory political ideas. An ‘ethical’ community is: ‘raised on the ruins of the perspectives of political emancipation [...] It is an ethical community revoking all project of collective emancipation’ (Rancière, 2004a: 33). Rancière’s politics is resolutely an aesthetic politics:


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Politics consists in reconfiguring the distribution of the sensible that defines the common of a community, in introducing new subjects and new objects to this community, to render visible that which was not, and to allow the voice of those who were only perceived as noisy animals to be heard. This work of creating dissensus constitutes an aesthetics of politics (Rancière 2004a: 38-39).

Rancière thus sides squarely with a vision of the political imbued with the necessity of division, dissensus, and what he calls ‘impurity’ (Rancière, 2004a: 173), an aesthetic vision going counter to the ethical vision of a politics indebted to an intractable Law of the Other. In so doing, he distinctly dissociates his project from the speculative enterprise of Freudianism (as opposed to its hermeneutics) and thus from Lacan, who paid such attention to the mute force of the drives, and also Edelman, who sees his queer/sinthomosexual subject as the avatar of the death drive. Conclusion: forced choices, impossible identifications Rancière would surely reject Edelman’s claims for the sinthomosexual because of the necessary appeal, made manifest in Edelman’s calling for queerness to attain an ethical value, to the Law of the Other that is revealed in the sinthomosexual’s ‘constant access to jouissance,’ as Edelman’s ‘hopeless wager’ has it in the passage I promised to return to (Edelman, 2004: 5). He would reject, perhaps in favour of Butler’s notion of political catachresis, Edelman’s opposing idea that ‘rather than expanding the reach of the human, as in Butler’s claim for Antigone, we might [...] insist on enlarging the inhuman instead’ (Edelman, 2004: 152). Rancière associates the inhuman directly with Lyotard (see Lyotard, 1993), but a statement like Edelman’s certainly sounds as if it could easily be painted with the same Rancièrian brush. Besides, it is certainly true that queer need not mean, as Edelman intends, sinthomosexual, that queerness may take on the mantle of political catachresis that Butler wants it to. In this case queer theory can, and probably should look to Rancière’s invaluable exploration of political subjectivation, and the queer demos may rise again. What if, on the other hand, Edelman’s very different take on what happens when a subject, the sinthomosexual, figures the persistence of an element within the political constellation that lies resolutely outside politics, is allowed to reveal another side, an underside, to Rancière’s notion of equality? What lies outside the Symbolic is the Real, and what persists in the Symbolic as a cipher for the ‘constant access to jouissance’ of the drive is the sinthome, and the sinthome can also be read as a negative Rancièrian equality. Edelman may be advocating the enlargement of the inhuman, but he does so in a way which I take to be less congruent with Lyotard’s appeal to the Law of the Other, and more akin to a nagging reminder that ‘the inhuman’ persists not only when the police order attempts to subsume it through


and we are.’ This 15 . rather that the moment we have come to identify as ‘Stonewall’ represents. He has published articles on Genet. a demos. and Dustan amongst others. 2. an equality that has nothing to do with the political catachresis effectuated by the emergence of the demos? ‘What do queers want?’ In wanting ‘more than sex. For ease and continuity of use I shall be referring to the definitions and translations of key Rancièrian terms offered by Gabriel Rockhill in his ‘Glossary of Technical Terms’ (Rancière. that queer theory is. the role of embodying the threat of inhumanity repeated in any moment of political subjectivation when ‘the voices of those who were only perceived as noisy animals’ are heard. Is there a choice here? Are queers faced with what in psychoanalysis would be called a ‘forced choice’. addressing. 3. But. the moment of emancipation when the subjectivation of queers as sexual ‘subjects’ happens through and as the correction of a ‘wrong. in wanting sex.’ For reasons of clarity and fidelity to the original French I am keeping ‘subjectivation’ throughout. Rancière. the sinthomosexual. The French ‘subjectivation’ is also translated by Julie Rose in Disagreement as ‘subjectification. 2004b). perhaps. we want. and is currently working on a book about the psychoanalytic concept of perversion and its uses and misuses in queer theory. What if those noisy inhuman animals were the subjects of equality. or should be. emancipation and the hopeless wager of a terrifying ‘ethical value’? It is this forced choice. citizenship and sex. Hector Kollias completed his PhD in Philosophy and Literature at the University of Warwick before being appointed Lecturer in French at King’s College London. or rather in wanting. claim. and at other times and places will continue to be. Nancy. we want to be human. claiming and being claimed for by that incessant repetition of the intractable Real of jouissance. and are claimed by an inhumanity that makes us equal to non-queers just as well. I am not here suggesting that before ‘Stonewall’ queers did not have a place assigned to them by the police order through the criminalisation of queer sexualities. an impossible choice between the human and the inhuman. a choice which is at the same time never exactly present as an empirical choice and still always there in the very persistence of what queer may actually mean. in Rancièrian terms. in demanding a part in a political configuration that gives or gave us no part. Notes 1.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 political catachresis but also when that same police order (the Symbolic) assigns to a figure. It is in this unfeasible but inexorable meeting of Rancière’s radical humanist politics and Edelman’s insistence on the value of the inhuman that queer theory finds its own impossible identification. were.’ in demanding an equal distribution of rights.

Edelman. H. 5. Translations from both these works are my own. (2000). 7. Norton & co. L. 8. Rancière. J. several commentators see no problem in bringing the two conceptual worlds together. (2007). Zizek (1989). For the quilting point [point de capiton]. New York: Columbia University Press.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 also involves the disidentification of queers from the criminal category of being ‘against nature’ and their transformation into political agents because of their sexuality. 9. and also the afterword to Rancière (2004b)). Zizek (1991). 16 . but see also Valentine (2005). (2004). (1995). New York: W. other than to say how they affect Rancière’s reading of Freud. Heron. 30. trans. (1993). Lacan. 4. 2. The term ‘mute speech’. Paragraph. 82-97. no. B. Antigone’s Claim: Kinship between Life and Death. NC: Duke University Press. see Lacan (2007). J. ‘Taking sides: Jacques Rancière and agonistic literature’. dangers which I have already pointed at and will have the chance to encounter further. The reader is referred to Rockhill’s glossary at the end of Rancière (2004b). Bibliography Butler. 2008) refers to the ability of writing under the aesthetic regime to present itself in a double way. (2007). Durham. J. For more on this crucial aspect of Rancière’s thought on aesthetics see Kollias (2007). Kollias. translating one of Rancière’s key concepts. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Despite the dangers that are entailed in bringing together the vocabularies of Rancière and Lacan. Fink. The most obvious one is Slavoj Zizek (see Zizek (2000). pp. The Écrits: the First Complete Edition in English.-F. and the title of one his books (Rancière. The Inhuman: Reflections on Time. a Lacanian term that is key to Zizek’s thought on the subject of ideology. London: Polity. Lyotard. trans. On the Shores of Politics. L. or at least to incorporate Rancière’s thought in fundamentally Lacanian or structuralist-inspired frames of reference. London: Verso. J.W. vol. There is no space to explain adequately the meaning of these two terms here.

Paris: Galilée. (1991). ---. The Sublime Object of Ideology. (1998). no. Paris: Gallimard. Valentine. trans. ---. Paris: Hachette. La Parole muette: Essai sur les contradictions de la littérature. Theory and Event. Fear of a Queer Planet: Politics and Social Theory. Dis-agreement: Politics and Philosophy. pp. 46-59. M. trans. (2001a). ---. vol. (1993). 1. J. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Zizek. ‘Rancière and contemporary political problems’. London: Verso. (2004a). (1989). London: Verso. 28. Rockhill. London: Continuum. D. ---.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 ---. (1992). (2004b). (1999). Enjoy your Symptom: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out. L’Inconscient esthétique. 5. London: Verso. ---. (2005). (2000). © borderlands ejournal 2009 17 . ---. S. ‘Ten theses on politics’. G. no. The Politics of Aesthetics. ---. Malaise dans l’esthétique. vol. For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as Political Factor. (2001b). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. The Ticklish Subject: the Absent Centre of Political Ontology. London: Verso. Warner. Paragraph. Panagia. ---. 3.

As Rancière corporealises politics. 1995: 19). but at its core the human is used as a vindication for the search for affirmation of the powers inherent in those who seek their own categorisation as worthy subjects who simultaneously decide who counts as human and who does not. opening out the possibility of a realisable utopia. The future of the image and the flesh of words are found through their seduction in excess of meaning as anticipation.’ The evanescent moment is defined as the event of ‘the philosophical realisation of the art of politics’ (Rancière. politics and philosophy coalesce to transform themselves as in-between discourse they emancipate the evanescent moment from being an ideational or mythic impossible utopia.’ jubilance not being an ethics found in the unrepresentable but nonetheless encountered. The parameters of the human offer liberation to their oppressed when alterity is included in the subsets of different possibilities of being human or when the other achieves 1 . is ‘not knowing. In On the Shores of Politics Rancière describes the task of politics as giving substance to the evanescent moment which regulates the multiplicity of ecstatic pleasure found in the demos. not the potentialities of existence.n e t.b o rd e rla n d s.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. As these three trajectories of art. Genius. The category of the human seems a broad and ambiguous category. so too queer theory takes representations of subjectivity and sexuality away from centralised human positions into a dissipative multiplicity. These ideas have many resonances with queer theory. The concept precedes selves to coalesce multiple intensities into categories prepared for the possibility of existing. Evanescence is found in the ‘in-between. 2009 Inhuman Evanescence Patricia MacCormack Anglia Ruskin University. and ‘becoming-inhuman … is the very language whereby aesthetic fiction is opposed to representative fiction’ (2007: 126). UK. gesture and effect.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w . what he calls a ‘jubilant’ ethics. according to Rancière. Cambridge. Rancière’s exploration of the philosophical encounter between art and politics shows that the effacement of a centre effaces the concept of the subject as not empirical but constitutive.

2003) and Deleuze (1994). or the art cannot emerge. because politics is about risk. potentiality beyond possibility. queer is beyond the human. either for purposes of evaluation or existence. they simply demand the ‘we’ that perceives after.and inhuman gifts the comfort of being a subject to possible encounters with the outside – within self and connected to other elements as a band of consistency. Blanchot (1993. Concepts of the inhuman and a-human do not oppose the human. It is before. a-signification and a-human. A-humanity is neither human nor not human. this article will explore the suggestion by many philosophers. The inhuman shows the hypocrisy of history evaluating worthy. while the human is refined in its capacity for unethical behaviour and the amorphous not-human (usually animal) is maligned as representative of the unethical qualities which make us human. This mode is formulated by all orders of signification and all things having to be signified so they may be ordered. a-desire. not through what Rancière critiques as nihilistic humanism. The prefix a-. perception beyond what we believe is able to be perceived (and how). and thus by being art. between and beyond. The scariest part is that we continue to exist when there are no categories. Becoming a. jubilance and gesture. The very category itself is no longer available. The gift of self should be scary. Unethical behaviour is described as inhumane. played out in a theatre of material expression which replaces any adherence to the pitfalls of the idea of performativity. Foucault (1997). A-humanism does not seek additions.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 acceptable levels of registers of being human enough. that art belongs to and makes us inhuman and a-human. We seek catalysts to become inhuman and a-human in order to go without. thought beyond knowledge. A turn 2 . Rancière’s ethics offer techniques of regulating the risks and limits of queer and the politics of sexual aesthetics – the evanescent inbetweens of desire. rational and civilised behaviour premised on the spectre of the category human being register of the qualities of actions and knowledge. seduction and the body as anticipation. an enfleshed corporeal aestheticisation of politics. Art offers us the connection with asignifiable particles that demand either we perceive beyond human comprehension. Guattari (1995). I will lead this to a configuration of queer subjectivity as an artistic mode of expression – queer as art. negotiating the very premise of the human. such as Lyotard (1991). leading to the difficulty of thinking a community of queer. but which we rationalise as not human because we have the power to name them as such. Through Rancière’s elaborations of the art of words and the art of images. Nothing escapes. opposites or radical others. Sexuality is an example where becoming-inhuman requires a not-knowing and not-being. Being human can be said to be capable of one kind of perception and perceptibility. A democracy of queer raises a series of issues which both address the past political mobilisation of a queer voice and queer addressee. ‘A-’ prefixed terms are no less concrete or material for being such. denotes without connoting. not a series of empty shopping-list perversions. but the human becoming-aesthetic. most importantly without signification and opposition.

optimistically. Liberation comes in my use of Rancière and other theorists of the inand a-human through the falling away of the human rather than the becoming-human which is still needed but along a different trajectory of enquiry. Butler considers Foucault’s persistent troubling analysis of sex as taking the category of sexuality as a ‘monolithic unity’ (1994: 3). Discussion often limits itself to what has been (experience) and what is to come (sometimes inclusion. Thus early queer theory paved the way for discussions of what could. 2007). for example. be called activist queering of ‘real life’ experiences. particularly from theorists such as Judith Butler. 2007). but will not explicitly deal with. Butler’s critique seeks to take one of the key thinkers of Continental Philosophy out of that canon and into the. race. where discourse and activism were not bifurcated. the concept of political. AIDS (the number of authors dealing with both these issues are enormous) which has been extended to other modes of illness (Diedrich. as well as an alternate trajectory to the queer theory of the 1990s and today. problematically. Here lies a necessary contradiction. The inception of queer theory was marked by its adamant inflection with politics.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 toward queer desire in thought potentialises an inhuman and thus ethical mode of desire. it is the very philosophers who risk the criticism of fetishising and subsuming queer and feminine alterity which need to be addressed in order to disorient these risks. which is through the ‘canon’ of Continental philosophy and. Michelle Le Doeuff. 2006) amongst many other elements of subjectivity. lines of queering through Continental philosophy comes from the rich body of work. streets. at least discursive. Lee Edelman demarcates that ‘the most crucial and constitutive dramas of human life are those that can never be viewed 3 . Teresa de Lauretis. sometimes a radicalisation of modes of perception). these feminists’ work on art and within Continental philosophy. This essay will take Rancière as part of the group of theorists of the inhuman cited above to show that not only can all texts be queered but we can. activist and subjective freedom (Winnubst. Eve Sedgwick. and arguably most. effects and perverse relations between theorists and subjects to open up futures. why I have not chosen feminist Continental philosophy for my queering which could occur through. Luce Irigaray. Arguably. These despotic elements of alterity colliding with queer add on to multiply elements of singular constitutive paradigms which elicit oppression so that the other is now emphatically more than one. disability (McRuer. Where does Rancière’s work fit in with the more established paradigm of the constitution of queer theory as a theoretical and activist movement? The catalyst for my. queer all theorists to dissipate and make dissonant the uses. especially in light of the crucial role feminism had to play in the inception of queer theory. so this essay can be considered. Hélène Cixous and Julia Kristeva. one which comes from. David Halperin and others. This leads to the question why I have chosen a very specific trajectory within which to contextualise the queering of Rancière. which has prevailed especially since the early 1990s. These feminists have done precisely this.

However it is an undeniably unfortunate sacrifice. The demos is there. Queering. The Enlightenment thought she criticises herself for seeing as a necessary residue toward ethics is precisely what Rancière and other philosophers of the inhuman forsake. His mastery of Freud is one of anally (re)productive philosophy. Art as a-human catalyst is experienced beyond systems of logic and so can be used to navigate Butler’s recognition that reason makes us human and we are human because we claim that truth is found through reason. constituted by the affirmation of the possibility of the human which precludes the search. is retarded. She states that responsibility ‘cannot be tied to a conceit of a self fully transparent to itself . reason’s limit is the sign of our humanity’ (2005: 83. which Irigaray’s work would dismiss as a phallologic search premised by female sexuality/genitalia as having nothing to see or seen as nothing only through a human gaze (Irigaray. The proliferation of trajectories and the strange relations they create. before the performance of a philosophy. those that can never be taken in frontally. Seeking the dramas is a ruse for actualising the human.. The original publication dates and the spirit of their writing are. Rancière claims equality is not democracy and justice not the management of wrong (1999: 63). they are very much part of their own concrete political moments. Edelman urges theoretical transgression within activist discussion and vice versa. By claiming his work resists gay theory as based on ‘human experience’ (1994: xvi) Edelman emphasises the problems with both terms. Butler’s connection between the difficulties of rationality as it is responsible to actual corporeal human beings can be seen in her discussion of Levinas. The place of demos. even if it is one of performance over registering. 1994: 175). such as May 1968. my emphasis). but only approached from behind’ (Edelman. 1985: 47). like all philosophical enquiries. Butler’s connection resonates with that of queer activism needing to be rational in order to be perceived at all. beyond the scope of this essay. the paradoxical revelation of the dispute by a part of the community 4 . rather than their commensurability or incommensurability with ‘activism’ and ‘identity. the Gulf War and so forth.’ is a queer manoeuvre.. While I suggest their concepts seek a-humanity as an ethical turn. sadly. radical and historically significant real life events. is formed of a constellation of specific territories which intersect to create their own unique terrains. and only when philosophy replaces politics can politics be achieved. the unequal count of this people that is both whole and part at the same time. Continental philosophers were often writing as a response to remarkable. with its three features: The erecting of a sphere for the name of the people to appear. however he insists on gay identity. the Reale Law. The traditional relation of politics to philosophy posits philosophy as an analysis which comes after the political sphere. Edelman claims the front on gaze sees nothing.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 head on.

bisexuals. not because each queer participant is different but because the tenets of the category itself are neither forthcoming nor deferential to particular conditions of possibility that ensure the structure by which the future may emerge. ‘The field of knowledge is thus structured as a weaving of questions and answers that do not belong to each other but whose very disparity is an earnest of sufficiency: an enormous reserve of answers to bad questions waiting for good questions’ (Rancière. When the demos demands a response by the oppressed to the question which does not yet exist. transgender and so forth – did identify with the oppressor as the politics first incepted the peopling of the oppressive regime with recognition of new kinds of people who had been ‘wronged. as Rancière laments of politics. The fight for recognition would then homogenise queer while ghettoising it as other. queer both challenges the subjectivisation of sexual alterity and the space of the demos.’ To be righted was to be made a minority with an ambition to be subsumed. These three features themselves are what define humanity and thus humanity is simply a pre-formed space of occupation which occurs when the material actuality of certain flesh is occupied by these features. Beyond lesbian. The expression of queer is a voice without commonality. because only humans can populate a political democracy and only by being acknowledged in this place of demos can we count as human. which then became an incremental inclusive politics of the ‘add-on’ – lesbians. lesbians and other 5 . what Rancière points out is the ‘emergence of a part identical with the whole’ (1999: 61). A queer politics is prevented from emerging as a philosophy of queer when the queer community comes into being only through the context by which it could emerge in the antecedent order of signification. (1999: 62) The place of the demos describes our condition of emergence and recognition as a human one. Gays. it performs the elliptical function of subjectivisation of which Rancière is so critical in his negotiation of Althusser. not paradigmatic shifts. Queer would find its political position transgressed through the elements of the antecedent order and seek to identify with the dominant order so that it may count as part of that order. It demands encounters with desire which are not. into the majority. Righting the wrong atrophied the other through the system of the same and subsumation vindicated the system itself by only offering inclusion.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 that identifies with the whole in the very name of the wrong that makes it the other party. but still always as a minority. beginning with the fight for equal recognition and rights of gay men. This justifies the conditions of oppression because it seeks those conditions to no longer oppress the now reified community of queer. by virtue of these three features. Many issues arise here which refer back to the very conditions of possibility by which queer theory emerged in the 1990s as a necessary and combative politics. gay and transgender theory. 2004: 133) . participation without interference – but of expression and multiplicity. The politics of homosexuality. a community of the uncommon. in the mechanisms of emergence. the result of policing – righting the wrong.

2007: 131). 6 . metapolitics. whatever it might be’ (Rancière. Rancière sees the bearing down of structures upon the events through which they are incarnated as irreducibly singular. A politics of queer is impossible within this logic of speech. There are no longer any inherent limits to representation. did queer do to this system? Rancière sees philosophy with politics as encompassing ‘phrased chaos. or politics as art. What Rancière’s redemption of Lyotard offers is the idea of a submission (Rancière. it is unrepresentable and the event of our experience of it unthinkable (Rancière. the risks of hyper-performativity or what he calls exaggeration of elements of alterity. Rancière’s attention to the incommensurable notion in Lyotard’s critique of a structuring of the sublime laments the impasse in creating a relation between unrepresentability and un-thinkability as itself establishing a dialectic of indeterminacy. which is where disagreement differs from Lyotard’s differend (Rancière. Their structure was a question to which the answer existed and thus their political liberation was already its own new form of oppression. to its possibilities. 1999: xi). whispers and other vocal aberrations inclines toward a queer mode of expression as one of art not politics. 2007: 136). not one with a different content. A unified voice of the oppressed or non-included must be a different kind of voice. ‘Anti-representative art is constitutively an art without un-representable things. This boundlessness also means that there is no longer a language appropriate to a subject. Rancière both extends and circumvents Lyotard’s sublime beyond as a fidelity to an original debt. 2007: 136) – by the object and presumably the event itself.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 sexual minorities were allowed political inclusion when their questions fitted with the pre-formed answers awaiting them. By enhancing alternative modes of expression without privileging any one mode or one constitutive expressive form. This is what Rancière demands when he calls for a political philosophy as politics without politics. as planes of expression. which are transgressive or considered inherently more arty or unrepresentable than any other. linkages without syntax. the politics of gaps and the beyond. The object of representation is there. a painful experience of desire because we must bear witness to the impossible without renouncing the event. 2007: 130-31). What. 2007: 137). However. whispering. music and other expressive voices’ (2007: 58-9). undeniably. irrefutably. The shift from speech to sonority. calls ‘an ethical logic of denunciation of the very phenomenon of representation’ (Rancière. For Rancière discourse is never extricable from events. timbre. Lyotard invokes the contradiction in the sublime where we must bear witness to what cannot be apprehended as testament to itself but which is indeterminate. then. The ethical turn occurs when the jubilance toward possibilities and impossibilities of art simultaneously addresses what Rancière. perhaps even devastatingly. Rancière circumvents. It is not a shadowy simulacrum which revels in the perceived lack of its own presence. not the speech (the perversion of which will necessarily follow). and offers a salient warning against. Here Rancière sees Lyotard offering a way out of Hegel’s end of art. discussing Lyotard. where the beyond insinuates ‘bad infinity’ (Rancière. It is the ‘subject’ of the speaking subject that must change.

Political collectivity is apolitical. the constant state of queer as desiring. It is better then to understand desiring as a-desire. its mode of subjectivisation or voice. like queer desiring. nonetheless accounts for its affects and shows fidelity to its own paradoxes. like the event. Ethical address comes from the distancing of self from self to momentarily slow the space-state of ecstasy to allow the self to recede. perception and expression. as discussed above. In a political philosophy of queer. desire is voluminously present but without the possibility of re-presentation because it is never the same as itself. is immanent. It is what the subject is. It cannot be reflected upon as an externalised and reified strategy of address – a desiring relation between two. the specificity of new conditions produced. Certain terms arise which seem antithetical to post-structuralism’s repudiation of essence. Extricating itself from the syntaxes of desire – for the object. It presents. but it is precisely where these emerge that Rancière redeems the vacuity of much post-modern thought and art and reminds us of the material ethics post-structuralism seeks. but only insofar as it is a living paradox. the answer which cannot find a suitable question. we queers are desiring. concrete affective qualities and brings into being. not what the subject is in. it is everything as object. The conditions of presence are altered. The interval is the point of reflection but because events of ecstasy are un-representable ethical reflection can only ever be a fleeting relation of proximity and affectivity. Rather than. through the unique qualities of its ecstasies. The grave question of how to activate politics as a living paradox beyond these two temptations is also the question without answer. It is beyond causality and pre-formed futurity. new patterns of possibility. Such a configuration of the event resonates with queer desire which. limit or consciousness. or. as the necessary impossible of observing. But it has very definite. only acknowledge and reflect on. emergence through recognition-representation and most crucially for the appropriate question to which the self-object is the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ answer – queer desiring is ecstasy. the effects and dissipations of objects through desire without ever being able to be an observer. permanently present. 7 . A-human beings seeking alternate revocations with perception and relation. as Rancière critiques. like art. not an aberrant object. beyond object. Art is politics without syntax. Here is where the ethics of the shift from queer as political to queer as art occurs. activism paradox through ecstasy. Ecstasy. It is adamant in the relations it creates but queer as a state of desiring cannot represent or describe. neither unified nor multiple. vocalising a desire for representation which leads to the perils of performative exaggeration. the noun itself becomes verb. Beyond a politics of inclusion with the risks of the three tenets of the demos queer is absolute. As queer we are neither the same nor disparate. with the emphasis on life – neither metaphor nor analogy.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Correspondence between representation and aesthetics is repudiated for correspondence as a paradoxical event that encounters the event of its own system of making the desiring aesthetic moment possible. not as nomenclature but indeterminacy with accountability. while being indeterminate and outside traditional sexual dialectics.

knows no limits. Continental philosophy’s queer subject is neither subject nor queer-subject. but there is no ‘we’ and no identity. Subjectivity serves also the division between logic and alogia. Thus by not privileging queer as expressive force against the dominant as atrophied group. which Rancière states serves subjectivity. arepresentation does not follow an art/subject divide. is incommensurable with residual subjectivity as a desiring subject. while encompassing the kind of activist philosophy often necessary for pragmatic alterations in. Desiring as and through these is how queer desire emerges. for example. remaining faithful to the perceived extrication of logos from the mechanical animal of Aristotle. 1999: 72). as art. Rancière suggests ‘the power of art [equates with] the obliteration of the boundaries between the human and the inhuman. 1999: 59). actualise and incant. To adhere to this division. pleasure/pain. the grouping of the oppressed is unsatisfactory for a turn toward the evanescent demos. art as politics hurts as much as it pleasures. right/wrong – thus the in-between and the beyond takes as its first moment the forsaking of duality. is neither good nor bad. as actual flesh which virtualises new possibilities of further actualisations of constantly new flesh. So the speech of queer politics is simultaneously animal and logical. like politics. between alterity itself and the dominant takes risks if the dominant is also not acknowledged as an expression of force – a kind of style. forcing all engagement to alter their tactics and thus the nature of their grouping. A-human logic sees no animal-human division of sense-thought. 2007: 27). The relations this logic makes are tangible and its effects are irrefutable. Logic comes from the a-human non-we but is logical as it uses language to elaborate and think. 1999: 43).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Like ecstasy itself. measurement and policing. all alike merged in the density of the sentence or the thickness of the pictorial paste’ (Rancière. law and rights. Queer as a self. against the politics of inclusion. thus it must be a-human. Queer manifests as politically real. the division of ‘man’ as machine with rationality. Rancière sees political speech as ‘at once argumentative and poetical’ because we are no longer the ‘“we” nor the identity assigned to it’ (Rancière. What much Continental philosophy has offered in its own negotiation of subjectivity is precisely why none have dealt with sexuality as object. and. and a-reality accepts material reality without signification or reification. the animal and the mineral. Political rationality comes from a freeing from choice – good/bad. Rancière makes clear the in-between space as decentring both elements. the living and the dead. however. right nor wrong. The extrication. More correctly. whose adaptability to offer the answer which demands the oppressed choose the correct question in order to be included. and thus the opposition itself dissipates. The shift is not simply for the minority because as stated above. even if it is an expressive power of self. allocation. as we find in Rancière’s work the shift from noun object to adjectival element (Rancière. stays with the arithmetic of the animal as plane of exchange and allocation. 8 . It also cannot serve its own subjectivity as the subject is mobilised. but ‘the double specificity of political dialogue’ (Rancière. Queer can neither be allocated nor exchanged.

while acknowledging itself as art. but will be all. But it does not oppose the norm with the not-norm. but in no way one which seeks to make commensurable the elements of the image with that of queer. the traditional with the subversive. so even the notion of both and neither becomes unsatisfactory. So the question asks how do we shift politics from oppositional activism to dance? As dance is gestural art. Art is not different to politics but understanding politics through and as art may allow differing modes of expression of alterity imperative to all. The dance of the transgressive (but never for their own sake) with the dominant is precisely that: a gestural dance where the making evanescent of the spaces of the dance – the territory or demos and the puissance of the conjugal relations of bodies as political matter – is the focus. As my interpretation of Rancière argues. or two plus the space between as a privileged third site. The ostensive image. spaces and tempos rather than demarcated entities. The naked image refuses any possibility of resemblance as it testifies to an absolute reality thus does not define itself as art. neither of which are extricated from nor de-politicised: the image. 2007: 105-6). The density and consistency matter (and materialise the matter). claims a pure presence without need for a signified. The political ethic tries to address (but not answer) the question of the specificity of relation without breaking it into one of two. Thus Rancière in his collapse of binaries names them boundaries. 2007: 105). does politics shift the demos? Two elements are emphasised in the work of Rancière. The question is how can we queer the organisation? By way of a tactical explication of resonances. If the naked image testifies to absolute reality then the ostensive does so to pure art. The question is not what but how? How. Where all are queer none are queer-ed but all desire becomes accountable as its own affective specificity and power.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 The phantasy of the collective insinuates a relatively straightforward wiping out of that group. and the word. how can these three organisations show the possible emergences of a queering? The first organising principle addresses the human most directly. The binaries which collapse do not privilege the space between but the consistency of the qualities of relations when their categorisation disappears. it is part of two art forms Rancière focuses on – poetry and the image. Pure art and impure art are not two principles but differing organisations on the same plane (Rancière. creating localised singular consistency. The matter of elements is a question. This creates a resonance with the aims of queer as de-fetishising sexual alterity to demand an acknowledgement of the constant state of desire present within all subjects and relations that simultaneously demands accountability. which encompassed anything that is visually apprehended (or aapprehended). Rancière demarcates three orders of the image. For this reason I will survey the naked image in that it may help negotiate 9 . it is a plane of disfiguration or ‘shared surface’ (Rancière. The metaphorical is always a relation. the inhuman will be not opposed to the human. The metaphorical image is defined by dissemblance and delimitation. when queer is art.

10 . But. Our presence thus must be imagined as real in front of the image whose event-reality lacks in us. Some issues which could express a naked relation of queer are most obviously the acts and results of the refusal of rights for sexual others. These images are testament to a particular configuration of the organisation of elements. It is precisely because the territory is seen to be ‘human’ only in so far as certain persons are understood as counting or not counting as human that these events of violence happen. Thought incited through the encounter with an image demands a response to the conditions of the territory by which an event occurred. demands our belief in that reality. It is a rare case when ‘death of what’ as a post-structural negotiation of subjectivity loses its force. What I am concerned with here is not the issue of testaments of violence per se but of territories which result in it. The subject and authenticity need to be retained to an extent. Derrida (1992) and Nancy (2000) among others). This insipidly insinuates that both everything that is not human is inhuman. say. Testimony to naked reality is a difficult but perhaps necessary phantasy of relation. while the reality of the event. Most often these events are never about the image or even testament to its reality. I think it essential to raise the issue of ‘real life violence. Rancière sees the imperative to take the word as real in its affects as both absurd and annihilating the very flesh of the reader. The human organises the territory and the witnessing of that image. as a wound.’ As queer (as opposed to. falsity/truth or presence/lack but of the effects by which a turn to this kind of image taken as real can show the horror of the powers of a certain treatment of other emergences of ‘life’ upon a specific territory of relation. ‘one must annihilate oneself and also annihilate one’s claim to be an interpreter’ (Rancière.’ the suggestion that for something to be inhuman means it is nothing more than a brutish devaluation of the human. and that the human should be valued more than anything. It refers to one of the few ideas which are irrefutable. and this organisation is precisely that which is most traditionally understood as human. namely death. poverty stricken in its lack of us at the moment of its reality. The political territory is not one of reality/phantasy. (This argument raises many complex and impossible issues addressed by Lyotard (1988). The real is neither the event of the image nor the authenticity of the spectatorial relation. as Rancière points out. 2004: 85).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 the crucial.’ to which most naked images testify. Indeed. Knowledge of an event does little. problematic and ultimately indecidable issue of ‘real life’ politics and queer as ‘theory. Witnessing an image of the absolute reality of an event requires a belief in that event without our presence. Frequently these kinds of images are testifying not to a reality – they are rarely ordinary – but a horrific event and lamentation of ‘inhumanity. while still acknowledging the suffering of bodies. thus brutal. the use of a politics of desire in most Continental philosophy) came from specific issues of the rights of certain bodies and the irrefutable violence perpetrated upon the bodies of these minorities. This offers a way in which Rancière’s work on art can help queer theory as political philosophy to go beyond the reallife/theory split.

b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 The focus on rights creates an unsatisfactory demos of subsumation and simultaneous expulsion. Rancière claims of art that it is always a slippage. Queering our relation with the naked image as one of art over raw testament is the only way ethical consequences can emerge. Just as we may ask ‘what do queers have in common’ which demands a homogenisation of an oppressed group. Queer was both a term which includes all and fights against the increasing taxonomy which came about through gay (and lesbian and transgender and… and… and). A queer art. Fiction which alters terrains queers desire for conservative economies of knowledge toward passions of thought. no matter how adamant and eventually ‘recognised’ we are. which in this essay posits queer as an art politics. from binary to boundary. Covertly sexual rights came from the demarcation of certain desire and queer saw the problems with shifting from counting to not counting. since they do not go beyond the imaginary situation. 1999: 42). (Rancière. queer doesn’t name its inherent qualities – not what we are but that we are.. 2004: 88-9) We must believe in fiction as testament to its effects rather than as describing it as reality. Queer emerged as a direct and radical repudiation of any grouping of persons based on shared sexual standpoint politics. Fiction forms part of reality as a particular space-time in which socially acceptable laws (passion drives one mad) produce fantastic consequences with which one can amuse oneself without trouble. The naked image sees art and reality as incommensurable and thus risks 11 . Only thinking – imagining – the conditions of potentialities which made them emerge can apprehend the territory in order to acknowledge the gravity of the event. Irreducibly separating fiction and reality institutionalises the image as real but without any inflammation that demands we act. always essentialized in order to find the appropriate space). can be testimony to an event in that it neither accepts nor refuses. Like the image which doesn’t necessarily name the victim of violence. Queer then was an escape. If the naked image demands testament without imagination it is because the events are unimaginable. we also ask what benefits are gained by bearing witness to the oppression of ‘queers’? A relation of art with the naked image insinuates naked qualities of the oppressed. As it is difficult to understand queer extricated from a binary of being opposed to another term. If the human is the ubiquitous category for every subject then counting as human necessitates a categorisation (always within a hierarchy. He says books are: attestations to the existence of what they discuss . the slippages of artreality are denied. Fantastic consequences – ethical revolutions – can come only through realising the image as unimaginable but no less real for being so. and when it is given an impermeable genre or ‘institutionalised’ as unreal.. Rancière emphasises liberty comes only from incommensurables (Rancière. queer offers an escape route from the problems of categorisation Rancière sees as working against a political philosophy.

as rudely subsuming. The power of literature is the power ‘of indeterminacy or metamorphosis … [transformation] is indeed literal and at the same time it is not so’ (Rancière. without genesis or destination.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 turning from liberty. The metaphorical image refuses art as extricated from other spheres as it functions as a playing on ‘the ambiguity of resemblances and the instability of dissemblances’ (Rancière. expresses a labour which indeed plays on the ambiguity of resemblances in that it obstinately challenges its fellow desiring schemas to insert it. 1999: 42). 12 . ‘a fresh sphere of visibility for further demonstrations’ (Rancière. art ‘is no longer framed by an autonomous history of forms or a history of deeds changing the world. a labour (but without capital). here I wish to take Rancière’s use of art to its limit. 2007: 105). yet failing to be and being beyond. all other desires. However. the space where queer fights its contestations. If queer desire exploits ‘incorrect’ object choices then queer desiring shows a space of incorrect desire as ubiquitous. circulation and the absence of being a metaphor for anything else. Through the metaphorical image. Queer desire is always and nothing more than the devastating rupture of concepts of desiring subjectivity and dialectics. for Rancière. 2004: 153). The ostensive image may seem more appealing in ‘confessing’ itself as art. queer as art and no less activist for being so. For political philosophy. Queer doesn’t resemble anything except its place within the broad category of desire. Art is a practice of thought or. Thus art is led to query the radicalism of its powers. After Rancière art could be the queery that is a response which comes from desiring radicalisation without simply becoming a radical. Modes of resemblance are challenges which may assist deconstructing traditional dialectics of desire. rather than exemplifying a mode. and the point of desire which incepts a need for queer political philosophy. having no relations. While painting and words express. Here we are reminded of the pitfalls of allocation and exchange discussed in Disagreement. 2007: 24).’ The speaking queer subject. even when understood as an expressive art manifestation. are all necessary residues if we are to think the difficult task of queer as both grave and limitless. 2007: 24-5). If queer is the infinite in-between which knows not the binaries it is between. extend and occupy different spheres. The collapses which invoke art as slippage perform for Rancière a perversion. nor the nature of its own between-ness. they share the nature of art as ‘the abolition of allocation’ (Rancière. so its resemblance is always a dissemblance. to devote its operations to more modest tasks’ (Rancière. Queer as desiring. while the experience of the metaphorical image demands incommensurables as the very principle of opening new futures. then it can offer a form of art in that it is made of ‘an articulation of two contradictory operations’ (Rancière. which is. transformation still needs to come from some ‘where’ or some ‘thing. 2007: 71). The metaphorical image performs a double function – to cause rupture and to de-nullify the image’s reduction to one of exchange.

as we are compelled by Rancière to fight beyond the established system. Desire that lacks wants a thing. like our inevitable need for certain things – food. an object and to be an object. because it is an irresistible must. water. after Lacan. both with strange bedfellows (non-art. Rancière’s modest tasks of art are modest political spheres. a goal. and most importantly inconclusive. as already suggested. So it goes beyond and cannot be allocated to a certain system. yet it is also necessary. adaptive. At best the desiring other can become a fetishised transgressive who gets a place only because they are coveted for their powers which can at anytime be either replaced or slaughtered. This space of apparent real life politics is anti-politics for Rancière. It has no opposite and thus its desiring project also has no other to covet. But. made equivalent. Only modest little tasks can open spaces for new political philosophies. At worst the desiring other is ghettoised. This is true of both its self and its want. shift the territory of the world because this is an operation of replacement. we are sustained by… what? The ‘what’ is the trickiest point of political philosophy. the desire and the self both belong to the space of the desire=lack. Queer is neither in opposition with nor equivalent to. It must be material enough to mobilise but amorphous. Desire for equality. It seeks its own allocation through the functioning of desiring operations which place the object of desire in its own correct place. an expressive. like the oft cited example of a drop of water in a pond. for ‘counting’ is the double task of being enough like and enough unlike the dominant. dissipating the territory without creating new allocations. want=object systems. for reparation. and doesn’t seek to. The need for desire means we no longer count as human. Like art. it is accountable. They show art itself as performing resemblances and dissemblances.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 To return to the crucial element of Rancière’s understanding of art however. It is a new need. Queer will. Indeed. Queer queries its radicalism. allocated. In capitalism. real-life – the naked) and with themselves (without metaphor – ostensive). Its powers of transformation are inevitable. yet ironically they can be lamented and resisted only when the sexual other is signified. gestural political philosophy or. queer is a creative expression of what is possible in that it expresses possibility itself – 13 . images are metaphorical in that they perform actual operations but without being inherently present to themselves as art or to us as naked. we are fighting for and toward nothing we can apprehend or think. Queer need isn’t a return to an infantile or atrophied state. Queer can’t. the shift from need to want is the crucial moment of being incepted as human. as this so called real life political desire to count comes only via being signified. access to any concept of desire beyond lack is compelled to negotiate with desire as everything. and can never. But it is nonetheless a deeply political philosophy. a shift back from want to archaic need. Yet. a dance between rather than within spheres. Like children – not pre-adult but pre-signifying – we have to have. an a-semiotic need. count because it can’t be counted. it comes about because we must still fight for a political philosophy. Slaughter and ghettoisation when we finally come to count are real issues with corporeally devastating actual effects resistant to signification.

art as falsity and transparency. nature is the a-human. (Rancière. 1995: 15) Queer is a contradiction. not a desiring subject but nothing more than ‘a’ desiring and a-desiring. but the seductions of art create the openings that show us. Rancière calls the poet the ‘wanderer’ (Rancière. This does not preclude or exclude self as part of nature. 2004: 14) because freedom comes as a result of the freeing up of the allocation of concepts to perception. can here be seen as a politics of art. Accessing nature through imagination affords liberty. not a special artistic space. nor even between dominance and alterity. Crafting a queer self takes the self as the first point of nature which makes self an inextricable part of all territories and queer perception as an artistic plane. 1995: 18). The tasks occur within all space as the same. emphasises that the freedom to perceive comes with ethical accountability. topics. The demos is forever drawing away from itself. at a distance from itself. it seduces us with elements as minute as they are grand.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 potentiality. Art makes the ordinary extraordinary. The reconciliation between nature and liberty is the moment of politics. without homogenising the specificities of each also include his work on art. movement. and queer as political philosophy. Mimesis does not copy in relation to the perceived self but neither does it fail to acknowledge the external 14 . 1995: 13). frames. Nature is not its own sphere but simply that which must be perceived as it is in relation to us. particles which take our breath away. the non-representative’ (Rancière. but always coming from and associated with a politics of desire. and rarely what. Not between the binaries of desire which occur in reference to acts or objects. not what is there to be seen. differing only in speeds and consistencies. The art of politics must regulate the intermittency of the demos by imposing intervals which place its strength at a distance from its turbulence. Rancière’s project of thinking a political philosophy could. but that the possibilities of seeing and modes of desiring are infinite. without recourse to notions of authenticity. When politics becomes art: The art of politics is the art of putting the democratic contradiction to positive use. Quiet moments of political tasks are tactical intervals. requiring imagination. the demos is the union of a centripetal force and a centrifugal force. Poetry is the free play of imagination. We don’t know why or how. Politics occupies ‘the non-signifying. He raises the beautiful concept of meaning without sense but as sensory. like the metaphorical image. The aesthetic revolution abolishes ‘the distance between the eidos of the beautiful and the spectacle of the perceptible. the living paradox of a political collectivity formed from apolitical individuals. the ability of the beautiful to make itself be appreciated without concept’ (Rancière. by being not noun but verb. If nothing else. Art. Rancière discusses the lyrical mode of expressive speech as having a potentially democratic function as it speaks through the ‘I’ and mimetically. Queer elucidates the inevitable contradiction between being human and being overwhelmed at all moments. dispersing itself in the multiplicity of ecstatic and sporadic pleasures. To love art is to love as art.

of the activity of a will that wishes to realise its idea and a nonintentionality. Rancière calls sublime art the unthinkable: Between what is visible and what is intelligible there is a missing link. perversion. It cannot because it doesn’t know itself. Like desiring. It encounters as ‘communication of feelings and of natural associations of ideas in a state of excitement’ (Rancière. of thought and non-thought. excitement. seeking liberation and political ethos as much as the ecstasy of self as art. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ethics. opposed to any norm. These words. acting and suffering. not of things. body modification. The Infinite Conversation. the expected and the unexpected . Bibliography Blanchot. There is all of the world and what can materialise in it through the infinite tools available.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 element as compelling a form of perception. Patricia MacCormack is Reader in English. There is no object to know. queer theory. 119) Queer desiring is often maligned for not knowing what it wants. as the very definition of art. In it the artistic phenomenon is identified as the identity. they are states because the beautiful causes excitement without conversion. Genius is an active power of nature. Queer thought not only incarnates in a physical form but its radical passivity shows an insurgent grace. trans. the known and the unknown. the post-human and horror film. M. only that it is a wanting self. voluminously so. Hanson. sensation and sensuality – are not objects eliciting results. Here liberty could be found both in political philosophy and because of the difficulty of the task of political philosophy. 2007: 112-13. But a genius is also someone who does not know what he is doing or how he does it … the aesthetic revolution establishes this identity of ignorance and knowledge. To lose oneself in this way is a form of grace. She has published extensively in the areas of Continental Philosophy. Grace may be encountered as the loss which is not felt as loss but as production of ecstasy. a radical passivity of being there (Rancière. a specific type of interest capable of ensuring a suitable relationship between the seen and the unseen.. 15 . that is wanted and to be wanted by. no concept to subsume.. The a-human risks the self it does not know and this is why it is jubilant rather than sacrificial. (1993). primarily thought. indeed because there is no conversion. because connections occur that no longer expose meaning through the abyss between self and other. Communication and Film at Anglia Ruskin University. in a physical form. 1995: 19). It wanders. Cambridge. which is its own norm. It gifts itself nonetheless without debt or demand. associated inevitably with desiring – the beautiful. S. She is the author of Cinesexuality and the co-editor of Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Cinema. desiring subject and object. They describe the experience of philosophy. observer and art.

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© borderlands ejournal 2009 17 . C. The Flesh of Words. London: Verso. Indianapolis: University of Indiana. ---. Queering Freedom. trans. Elliot. S. (2006). trans. The Future of the Image. G. Winnubst. (2004). (2007). Mandell. Stanford: Stanford University Press.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 ---.

(Rancière.b o rd e rla n d s . this paper demonstrates that whilst Rancière’s political thinking is very close. both taken from texts published in English translation in the same 1 .borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w . his polemical conception of politics aligns him more productively with Foucault’s later work on friendship as ‘a way of life. (Derrida. (Foucault. By reading Derrida’s (1997) figure of ‘virile homosexuality’ in terms of a problematically exclusionary logic.’ the ‘proper’ (police) ordering of classes and identities by inventing new and always particular sequences of relationality. Foucault’s slogan for the inventiveness of queer cultures of friendship is given a political form as that which interrupts. 1999: 18) There is a peculiar relation between the first two of these epigraphs. friendship and democratic citizenship. or ‘twists. Foucault and Rancière Richard Stamp Bath Spa University This paper intervenes in the contemporary re-evaluation of the work of Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida and in queer theories and historiographies of friendship – particularly in the influential work of the late Alan Bray – by arguing that Jacques Rancière’s conceptualisation of politics as wrong (or ‘tort’) offers a crucial ‘twist’ to queer critical-deconstructive approaches to politics. even indebted to Derridean deconstruction.’ Re-read through Rancière. 1997: 136) This double exclusion of the feminine in this philosophical paradigm would then confer on friendship the essential and essentially sublime figure of virile homosexuality.n e t. 1997: 279) The torsion or twist that causes politics to occur is also what establishes each class as being different from itself.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. 2009 The Torsion of Politics and Friendship in Derrida. The development toward which the problem of homosexuality tends is the one of friendship.

Volume One which will dominate such discussion in the next twenty years. which prefaces his contribution to a collection of conference papers on ‘love. or better.’ One might be tempted to characterise this divergence in terms of Foucault’s endeavour to (keep) open a relation between these two terms. The reasoning of this intervention will in turn provide the basis for arguing that Jacques Rancière’s conceptualisation of politics as ‘tort. of which I can only provide an outline here.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 year. it has become the ‘defining moment […] which drew together those uncertain ethics of friendship that had unmistakeably reasserted themselves by this point at the end of the 2 .’ Such a reading would require a far more careful interpretation of Derrida’s text. appear to conjoin ‘friendship’ and ‘homosexuality’ in parallel yet divergent ways. not least from the perspective of Foucault’s relative absence from it. In his ‘Introduction. twisting that shared inheritance of politics. and the codification of fraternity in the French republicanism. particularly in the influential work of the late Alan Bray. sex. an exemplary ‘figure. but this divergence gives some leverage to intervene in the current reevaluation of Foucault and Derrida in queer theories and historiographies of friendship. democracy and equality that might be most productively affiliated with the later Foucault’s articulation of ‘friendship as a way of life. Hence the third epigraph: for what Rancière’s historical tracking of the utopian dream of a ‘community of equals’ opens up – through a reconceptualisation of politics as the torsion that interrupts the ‘proper’ ordering of orders. a line of ‘development. even indebted to Derridean deconstruction. and Derrida’s strategic closure of this relation into a ‘sublime figure.’ reviewing the gradual emergence of historical scholarship of friendship across a range of disciplines.’ Bray confesses that reading Derrida’s book made him realise that they were both ‘asking at root the same questions’ (2003: 8).’ (84) This claim of a historical shift is repeated and reinforced in Bray’s posthumously published book. The Friend (2003). classes and identities – is the possibility of another way of recontextualising. intimacy and friendship between men’ in the early modern period. each in their way central to each thinker’s respective argument. which is capped by two references to Politics of Friendship. Michael O’Rourke and Katherine O’Donnell (2003a) recount the moment in his talk when Bray predicted that ‘it will be Derrida’s Politics of Friendship and not Foucault’s History of Sexuality. and both originally published in French three years earlier. the Christian ‘spiritualisation’ and institutionalisation of brotherhood.[1] What strikes me as peculiar is that these two statements. and at the end of his ‘Afterword. friendship and democratic citizenship. Where Foucault sees this conjunction as a tendency.’ offers a crucial supplement to queer critical-deconstructive approaches (whether ‘Foucauldian-Deleuzian’ or ‘Derridean’) to politics. In their moving tribute to Alan Bray. friendship and equality routed through philia. I will argue that whilst Rancière’s argument is very close.’ or a ‘wrong.’ Derrida sees it as ‘exclusion’ from a paradigm.’ This recontextualising intervention begins with an anecdote retold by one of the editors of the present edition of this e-journal. there are significant disagreements over the relation of politics.

The ethical uncertainties of that stance were pivotal in the ethics of the world I have described. the emergence of modern civil society and institutions meant that friendship has ‘not been perceived as a public matter. ‘of which sexuality has been one. 1998). emphasis added). 2002). gay and lesbian. use or connect any of the crucial terms involved in such debates – not simply ‘sexuality. Bray immediately distances The Friend from being confined to such a ‘narrow’ debate. but the ethics of friendship have an archaeology. or more precisely ought not to be so. what are the questions that Derrida holds in common with Bray – and what constitutes ‘those uncertain ethics of friendship’? If Politics of Friendship ‘bookends’ The Friend it is because Bray finds in Derrida a companion analysis of a historical shift. None of these terms can ultimately provide the ground for all the rest. 2000). ontological ground of social relationality. friendship was ultimately inalienable from the particular loyalties in which it was begun. not to mention the concepts of ‘ethics’ and ‘politics’ themselves. but only one. it’s peculiarity – that made it both the object of suspicion within the institutions of modernity and the site of contemporary experimentation with para-institutional forms of living. strand’ (2003: 8.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 twentieth century’ (2003: 322). by recasting it ‘within a broader contemporary crisis in the ethics of friendship’ that touches upon overlapping questions of identity. 2002). So. He explains this imagined companionship in terms of a shared interest in the peculiar ‘uncertainties’ of friendship: In the traditional cultures I describe. and others within an emergent inter-discipline of ‘friendship studies.’ pre.’ in the ethical and political position of friendship in ‘late modern culture’ (2003: 2). and queer theoretical and political activisms have made sexuality central to conceptions of political citizenship. Bray identifies this ‘increasingly’ public reassertion of friendship in late modernity with feminism and the attendant critique and apparent ‘crisis in masculinity. For although feminist. 3 . ‘kinship’ (Butler. ‘public’ (Berlant and Warner.’ it is friendship’s particularity – or better. Bray seeks to show that where once friendship had played a ‘significant’ public role in ‘traditional. Interestingly. that can be recovered… (2003: 8) In a narrative common to an expanding body of contemporary friendship studies. if I may put it that way.and early modern cultures. There is.’ but also ‘family’ (Budgeon and Roseneil. in particular in the redrawn division of ‘sexuality’ and ‘friendship.’[2] he is surely right in this respect. For Bray. across the range of disciplines he mentions. of course. ‘friendship’ (Bell and Binnie. Not least because the political challenge posed by each and all of these activisms is how we are to understand. Yet increasingly it is’ (2003: 2). or ‘turning point. it would be a mistake to make it the sole. as in the contemporary world on which Derrida reflects.’ but he concedes that it has found its ‘most contested form’ in claims that homosexual friendship constitutes an alternative form of family (2003: 2). no return now to the friendship of traditional society. Although Bray’s shift of focus has itself been contested. Also in common with others. loyalty and collectivity.

A queer-friendly democracy (to come) 4 . and the imperative within (and without) queer cultures to expand and invent ‘new relational possibilities’ (Halperin. showing oneself. To make a truly unavoidable challenge of the question: what can be played? (1997: 139-40) In what follows I will take up this question of what might be played. ‘Friendship as a Way of Life’ (1981). friendship features both as a Greek solution to the precariousness of sexual desire.’ Foucault returns to this need for invention by making the political point that to invent a ‘mode of living’ entails demonstrating the fundamental groundlessness of what counts as intelligible: There ought to be an inventiveness special to a situation like ours and to these feelings. Indeed. which lies at the heart of their ‘aesthetic morality’ (1984: 221). for such and such reason intelligible but not necessary.’ Tom Roach (2005) succinctly summarises Foucault’s strategy as ‘refus[ing] to tell his gay audience what to “do” with friendship nor does he tell them exactly what it “is” or “means”’. in which friendship plays such a crucial role. a ‘mode of life’ that Foucault defines as ‘a historic occasion to reopen affective and relational virtualities’ across an entire ‘social fabric’ (1997: 138). for Bray. It might be that. Foucault and Rancière. We have to dig deeply to show how things have been historically contingent. given its incontestable influence in the formation of the disciplinary field of queer studies. The Uses of Pleasure (1984) and The Care of the Self (1986). this need that Americans call ‘coming out’. We must make the intelligible appear against a background of emptiness and deny its necessity. or thought out. and that it ‘in the end seems an utterly amorphous and malleable relation that can become just about anything’ (2005: 58). the name and work of Foucault is too closely bound up with the categorial privileging of ‘sexuality’ at a certain historical moment in queer studies. such as the interview. insofar as it is dissociated from any ‘intrinsic qualities of the homosexual.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 This desire to ‘widen the debate’ might explain Bray’s reticence about the first volume of Foucault’s History of Sexuality (1979). that is. the image of friendship that Foucault sketches is peculiarly open in this interview. in the always-particular (even peculiar) political relationality of friendship as it figures within and between the work of Derrida. In the less often cited conclusion to ‘Friendship as a Way of Life. This is crucial to understanding the creative potential of friendship that Bray also explores in The Friend. Hence why it is so strange that he makes no mention of the second and third volumes of Foucault’s unfinished history. The program must be wide open.[3] In and across these texts. or other later texts. a connection that David Halperin makes when he draws on both texts in the context of discussing the ‘impoverished’ relationality that characterises the heteronormative weave of modern social institutions. We must think that what exists is far from filling all possible spaces. 2004: 35). and as a kind of becoming of homosexuality.

therefore. ‘almost always’ associated with equality and freedom in the ‘republican motto’ (1997: viii). The problem lies in the configuration of this exclusionary logic.”’ he not only pulls at threads of the dialectic of family and State.[4] His argument that a certain ‘configuration of politics’ through friendship and fraternity has always accompanied a specifically French genealogy of the concept of democracy. but also thereby opens up paths by which queer theory might analyse the political ramifications of heteronormative filiation. his reading also works. via those by Montaigne. trans. Derrida’s deconstructive reading of a certain philosophical tradition of friendship works patiently and persistently to question the hegemonic schema of ‘a familial.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 This observation about the fundamental groundlessness of the political is what makes Politics of Friendship so important for future direction(s) in queer theories and politics of friendship (O’Rourke. but this hegemonic configuration of fraternity as the ‘principle’ of the political is (1997: viii). but also in so doing opens up further possible paths for future queer interventions into discourses of ‘community. implicates not only the values of political citizenship. 2005. 1993).[5] Derrida’s deconstructive reading of the philosophical tradition of fraternal friendship as the exemplary political figure is in many ways a gift to queer theory. community. right up to thinkers who would count among Derrida’s closest philosophical friends. since framing his enquiry in terms of the ‘double exclusion of the feminine’ – that is. friendship between women. such as Bataille (2001). Kant and Nietzsche. 1986. The ‘schematic of filiation’ that runs through the political accentuates the linkages of State. Plato and Cicero.[6] However. fraternalist and thus androcentric configuration of the political’ (1997: viii. Blanchot (1988. family and especially fraternity. 1997). much more problematically. 1987. and Nancy (1991. sovereignty. which he had already started (and goes on) to unravel elsewhere (1983.’ ‘friendship’ and ‘the political. may not be entirely novel within his work. civil society. This shoring up occurs when Derrida configures that queer figure of the brother-friend as exclusionary. Not that the identification of ‘exclusions’ is itself the problem. for example – and the seemingly ubiquitous reference to ‘confraternity or brotherhood’ in the discourse of democracy (1997: viii). with Derrida drawing equivalence between the non-dialectical remainder of ‘the life of the family and civil society’ within the dialectic of the State – one of his recurrent concerns in Glas (1986). 2004).’ This attention to the brother and the filial. at the same time. Derrida identifies such exclusive ‘fraternization’ with the ‘essential and essentially sublime figure of virile homosexuality’ (1997: 279). since it provides a way of tracking these homosocial tropics across canonical texts ‘on friendship’ by Aristotle. 2006). to shore up this tradition. and friendship between men and women – allows Derrida to expose the structures of the constitutive boundaries and assumptions of this hegemonic paradigm. So when Derrida asks why the figure of the friend would be ‘like a brother’ and whether ‘the politics of such a “beyond the principle of fraternity”’ would ‘still deserve the name “politics. Why? This formulation (as given in the epigraph above) is itself 5 . the institution of the couple and of sexual difference. modified). allegiance.

insofar as such ‘virile virtue’ binds the politics of friendship to a classical metaphysical schema of activity and passivity. marked by the ‘teleopoietic’ call of Nietzsche: ‘the addressees are brothers. he points out. which he states is never very far away in Aristotle’s Ethics (1988: 633). Blanchot and Nancy. Montaigne proclaims the ‘incapacity’ of women for the ‘holy bond of friendship. are species of the genus brother’ (1997: 156). if there are any.[7] The stakes are high but the phrase itself is surely problematic: so what does Derrida mean by ‘virile homosexuality’? First. Nietzsche reaffirms the political strength of ‘virtue. and cheerfulness”’ (1997: 61-2). to decide or to act – what Derrida refers to as ‘the other’s decision in me’ (1988: 634-5). virility (Männlichkeit). which lies at the heart of every conception (and perversion) of virtuous friendship in this philosophical tradition. this exclusion of the feminine (and of sexual difference) would make it ‘impossible to address inequality between the sexes within politics.’ This virile autarchy. for Derrida. the political and the domestic. Derrida thus tracks an equation of friendship with the ‘virility’ of sovereign. the actual and the virtual.’ even (or particularly) when he perverts and hyperbolises the inherited concepts of ‘friend’ and ‘enemy. who lack the ‘capacity’ for it. first published in English. Alex Thomson underscores this point when he argues that. in which he argues that the ‘exclusions of the feminine would have some relation to the movement that has always “politicised” the model of friendship at the very moment one tries to remove this model from an integral politicisation’ (Derrida. public virtue from Aristotle to Nietzsche (and beyond). The virility of virtue is what binds friendship to this privileged brotherhood at every level: from Aristotle’s praise for loving rather than being loved to Montaigne’s spiritual union that excludes women. The Gay Science […] says that declared enemies are indispensable for men who must “rise to the level of their own virtue. the adjective ‘virile’ refers us to ‘manliness’ and ‘masculinity’.’ because their souls do not ‘seem firm enough to 6 . but also to the power of (sexual) potency. would entail an extensive analysis of the gendered distribution of public and private. This is Derrida’s argument: ‘Sisters. Derrida’s conjunction of this ‘double exclusion’ and a ‘virile homosexuality’ is both consistent and consequential for his analysis of the very possibility of a just politics. except at the cost of reducing the sister to a brother’ (2005: 21). and even to the inversions and ruptures of a certain ‘community without community of thinkers to come’ (Bataille.’ It is for this reason that the citizen-brother couples of Montaigne’s text provide the principle defile for Derrida’s formulation.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 unchanged from an earlier paper.’ which Derrida quotes at length in a footnote. 1988: 642). for example). and their coming virtue remains virile.[8] In a famous passage from ‘Of Friendship. is nonetheless shot through with traces of a more originary passivity: an ‘immemorial’ and ‘minimal’ friendship that always already structures the very possibility of assuming the responsibility to speak. A certain passivity thus haunts the potency and sufficiency of friendship’s ‘virile virtue. Mapping the effects of such a movement of (de)politicisation. potentiality and self-generation.

This famous passage. the cause of women’s claimed inadequacy for friendship ‘lies less with marriage than in woman.’ by urging us ‘to stop speaking simply of exclusion’ (1997: 290). 6). dismisses the possibility of such a perfect combination of physical with spiritual love existing between men: ‘And that other Greek license is justly abhorred by our mores’ (Montaigne. in which reference to homosexuality is almost entirely absent. However.’ unable to stifle their own deconstruction. it seems that it is a spiritual fault that rules ‘women’ out of a ‘more full’ form of ‘loving-friendship’ – ‘if it were possible to fashion such a relationship.[10] This attentiveness to fraternal friendship as a ‘virile’ figure of exclusion itself excludes from consideration any other ‘other. But this gesture comes too late in a text built upon a conviction in the hegemonic homosocial functioning of friendship.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 withstand the clasp of a knot so lasting and so tightly drawn [assez ferme pour soutenir l’etreinte d’un nœud si pressé]’ (Montaigne. n. for Montaigne and the hegemonic tradition which he is made to exemplify. by laying out this system of exclusions along divisions not only between ‘femininity’ and ‘virility. the exclusionary figure of a ‘virile homosexuality’ is the (at least provisional) answer.[9] On closer examination. Yet Derrida seems to ignore or obliterate the fact that Montaigne. but whose domination becomes ‘all the more imperious’ as a result (1997: 277). provides the initial evidence upon which Derrida builds his argument that. in her sex’ (Derrida. Derrida notes that these canonical oppositions constitute ‘an unstable domination undermined from within. According to Montaigne.’ Derrida allows the rhetoric of ‘exclusion’ to overlay a grid of positions in which sexuality is discounted at the very moment it matters most. For this is Derrida’s own overriding question: The principal question would rightly concern the hegemony of a philosophical canon in this domain: how has it prevailed? Whence derives its force? How has it been able to exclude the feminine or heterosexuality. in the sentence directly following this passage. 1997: 191. it would appear that Montaigne discounts both heterosexual and homosexual relations from this paradigm of friendship because he aligns each with the body and with desire. save as the figure for the ‘double exclusion of the feminine.’ ‘éros’ and ‘philia. 1998: 315). it seems. noting the ‘not yet’ with which both Montaigne and Nietzsche undercut the apparent hegemony of ‘the double exclusion of the feminine. with its famously virile image of a taught knot. 1998: 315).’ he adds – that would encompass the union of both body and soul (Montaigne.’[11] Such a strategy may even have the effect of making the tradition appear all 7 . friendship between women or friendship between men and women? Why can an essential inventory not be made of feminine or heterosexual experiences of friendship? Why this heterogeneity between éros and philia? (1997: 277) A series of questions to which. it is only towards the end of Politics of Friendship that Derrida pauses to reflect on what he sees as the politico-rhetorical infirmity of such exclusion.’ Indeed. 1998: 315-16).’ but also between ‘heterosexuality’ and ‘homosexuality.

and the task of retracing the fragile spaces and times in which queer cultures of friendship might have made themselves felt. one cannot help but wonder whether feminist historical scholarship of female friendships – such as Lillian Faderman’s Surpassing the Love of Men (1980) which was an essential reference point in Foucault’s late thinking of friendship – would have made any impact upon Derrida’s strategy. A democracy-tocome is deconstruction’s virtualised. First.[16] This is an absolute break. he brings about a wrong by figuring that exclusion in terms of ‘homosexuality’ (‘virile’ or not). it is the future of ‘a certain democracy’ that is the promise of any deconstruction – to think an always-other possibility. perhaps?). Indeed. to moral reason and political reason’ (Derrida. for example). it never exists. it is never present.[14] This exclusionary figure of ‘virile homosexuality’ is thus central to the way in which Derrida chooses to read this French idiom and inheritance of the political as phratrocentric ‘democracy’ – a figure that encompasses a ‘tradition’ from Montaigne and Michelet to Blanchot and Nancy. this wrong (in Rancière’s use of tort. such that even on the very final page of Politics of Friendship.[12] At the same time. non-presentable surplus. nor to deny that this tradition has ‘explicitly tied the friend-brother to virtue and justice.[13] it remains the case that he chooses not to speak about them. such as Thomson) fail to notice it – or transpose it (like Byrne and McQuillan). When Derrida states. that the ‘Greek model of philia could never be “enriched” otherwise than with that which it has violently and essentially attempted to exclude’ (1997: 300).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 the more invulnerable (or more virile. it remains the theme of a non-presentable concept’ (1997: 306). we might note that the 8 . Instead. In fact. in relation to Blanchot’s peculiar tribute to Foucault. This question in itself performs an interesting series of gestures. strategically at least. it is the deconstruction of such a tradition that allows for the articulation of ‘another equality’ that can only come from the other. although I am not so certain that Derrida doesn’t allow for such fissures or interruptions. a twisting or wringing of a given discursive formation or conceptual schema)[15] is what opens up the politics of friendship at the very moment Derrida (and his commentators. It is precisely because Derrida pins the history of democracy to the hegemonic ‘closure’ of an exclusively fraternal figure of politics that he can speak of the promise of an other democracy that always remains ‘to come’: ‘even when there is democracy. 1997: 277). So. this insistent identification of the virile virtue of fraternal friendship as exclusionary effectively shuts out any question of the positive and possibly liberatory social and historical relations of homosexuality and friendship (precisely the kind of social history pioneered by Bray. Derrida can only ask: ‘Is it possible to open up the ‘come’ of a certain democracy which is no longer an insult to the friendship we have striven to think beyond the homo-fraternal and phallogocentric schema?’ (1997: 306). The issue here is not that Derrida is wrong to state that women and ‘the feminine’ have been excluded from a political-philosophical tradition of thinking about friendship. from the other who is both to come and always already presumed in the very act of proclaiming his or her absence.

in the shape of hybrid beings. mongrels of various aspect.’ and so on). 1995: 80) The concept of ‘democracy’ has always been linked to insult. if it is anything. It is not strictly nor simply the ‘homo-’ of an ontological sameness or similitude.’ manifested in complaints about everything from Muslim students wearing headscarves in French schools to homosexual marriage ceremonies (2006: 1). status. what is (thought) ‘beyond’ has itself long been subjected to ‘insult.’ which 9 . Democracy for mongrels Community wanted to forge equals through brotherhood. wealth.’ insofar as it names a relation marked by negation that transforms another subject (into ‘the insulted. As Rancière never ceases to point out.’ proportionate distribution of places or qualification for rule – whose origin would lie in age. The problem was that it had equals already. Pulling at this thread. it begins as ‘an insult in the mouths of Athenian aristocrats’ (2009: 116). this formulation of ‘insult’ is highly problematic for similar reasons as the rhetoric of ‘exclusion. What is the rhetorical-political force of this ‘insult’ operative in this canonical ‘homo-fraternal and phallogocentric schema’? Who has been insulted? Who feels it? And who.’ As with the figure of exclusion. Derrida is content to call to a time in which there would ‘no longer’ be such an insult. Rancière defines democracy as neither institution nor power. is first a ‘polemical name’ that interrupts the proper. If Plato’s inaugural critique of democracy as rule by the ‘drawing of lots’ is always his point of reference it is because it shows that democracy. it is this anarchic ‘government by chance’ that consequently makes democracy the only available form of political government. 2007: 90). parenthood – the democratic ‘drawing of lots’ represents ‘the paradox of a qualification which amounts to the absence of all arkhê. or what inflicts it? Because ‘insult’ is of a piece with ‘exclusion. for it provides the only available form of political qualification common to both rulers and ruled: the absence of all qualification for rule. ordered distribution of places and meanings.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 displacement of ‘virile homosexuality’ by ‘the homo-fraternal and phallogocentric schema’ renders the sense and state of the ‘homo’ undecidable here. since the possibility of thinking friendship ‘beyond’ it can only refer us back to Derrida’s preceding formula. all of which bear the stamp of inequality… (Rancière. to a “qualification without qualification”’ (Rancière. egalitarian presupposition: the equality of anyone and everyone. education.’ ‘the excluded. but rather as the ‘an-archic’ principle of equality that restates this absence of any arkhê. What he refers to as the ‘hatred of democracy’ thus arises precisely because democracy is first of all the ‘paradoxical condition of politics.’ insofar as Derrida’s question concerns the possibility of its eventual cessation (‘no longer an insult’) as much as the history of its effects. Disturbing any ‘proper. whose echoes he finds in contemporary critiques of a democratic ‘illness.[17] Paradoxically. Second. Democracy becomes coextensive with a conception of politics that arises from a radically anarchic. which means that anyone can rule.

which both appropriates elements of Derrida’s conceptual lexicon (‘X sans X’) and expropriates the logical schema of its staging. Like Bray’s account of the ‘anxious ethics of friendship. In other words. it is the disruption of any such power. 2007: 99). Although we might ask whether Rancière’s formulation is. which both legitimises and delegitimises every set of institutions and the power of any one group of people’ (Rancière. It might be objected that this is a polemical (mis)reading of Derrida. although he claims to present a more ‘radical’ conception of democracy than that of Derrida’s ‘auto-immunity. whose inclusion demarcates the horizon of a “democracy to come”’ (2007: 91). so very far removed from Derrida’s own aporetic relation to alterity and decision. Indeed.’ Rancière’s account of the ‘democratic paradox’ lays claim to a ‘common ground’ with Derrida’s ‘aporetic structure of democracy’ (2007: 84). This principle precludes the self-grounding of politics and turns it into the site of division. grounding power.[19] The point of difference. Democracy is not the power of a self. it remains the only conception of ‘democracy’ with which to oppose this oligarchic ‘state practice’ (Rancière. this anarchical principle must be presupposed.’[18] Rancière remains very close to Derrida in this formulation of democracy as a ‘supplementary. Democracy means the disruption of the circularity of the arkhê.[20] But having ‘set up’ Derrida in this way. Rancière makes his ‘simple’ objection: Otherness must not come to politics from outside. Politics has its own otherness. Rancière refuses what he sees as an ‘ethical overstatement of otherness’ in the messianic 10 . in fact. it is worth noting Rancière’s unambiguous refusal of its unconditional. If politics is to exist at all. whose articulation of ‘the other’s decision in me’. as we have seen. according to Rancière. which might be able to account for the ‘process of political subjectivisation’ (2007: 98) that generates new forms of political speech and intervention. it confronts us with the uncomfortable recognition of the fundamental inequality and illegitimacy of any social order or community. lies in their respective conceptions of the relation between democracy and alterity. on the contrary. is far queerer than Rancière concedes. 2007: 91). Democracy is precisely this principle. he worries that Derrida’s opposition ‘between an institution and a transcendental horizon’ loses sight of ‘democracy as practice’. or ‘hauntological. In other words.’ structure. its own principle of heterogeneity.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 confronts us with the foundational violence of every act of institution: it is ‘the point where every ultimate legitimization is confronted with its ultimate lack of legitimacy’ (2006: 94). Rancière reads Derrida’s calls for an otherness ‘which must come from the outside’ in terms of ‘a thread from the pure receptivity of the khôra through to the other or newcomer. (2007: 92) Ranciere’s objection is that whilst the fractured time of a ‘democracy to come’ (as promise and an ‘infinite openness to the other’) allows Derrida to keep his distance from any triumphalist declarations of liberal democracy.

Derrida’s phenomenological aporia remains a ‘curiously static formula’: the friend. both Derrida and Rancière locate friendship and community.’ of the sensible-perceptual field is the place where politics can intervene. 2003: 120). emphasis added). precisely around the reconfiguring of the relation(s) between equality and fraternity.’ insisting instead on the political power of a ‘heterology’: ‘[t]here is not one infinite openness to otherness but many ways of inscribing the part of the other’ (Rancière. When Derrida argues that to think ‘an alterity without hierarchical difference at the root of democracy’ means to ‘free a certain interpretation of equality by removing it from the phallogocentric scheme of fraternity’ (1997: 232). But suspended between promise and immemorial past. to the One. an ineffaceable friendship. in which the ordering. to come must represent an ‘absolute’ future in order to retain the other’s force of radical ‘irruption’ of the self’s finite horizons (Webb. But where Derrida’s configurations of exclusionary friendship and a democracy to come remain perched between two unconditional temporalities. According to Rancière. one that breathes in a shared language (past or to come) and in the being-together that all allocution supposes’ (Derrida.’ Derrida pitches the aporia of fraternal friendship between the infinite alterity of the promise held in a ‘democracy to come’ and the ‘absolute past’ of ‘a friendship prior to friendships. At a point of almost absolute proximity to Derrida.’ (Halperin 2004: 35) For both Foucault and Rancière it is a matter of thinking the becoming of an aesthetic politics.’ that is decisive – both for Rancière’s political thought and for its possible contribution to queer theorising of friendship. Derrida’s deconstruction of political ontology in this ‘post-foundational’ hauntology of a democracy to come risks ‘substantialising the “otherness” that undermines the foundationalist project’ (2003: 12). but to refuse to fix the positions in a given political dispute within an ontological relation of exclusion. this equality – the inclusion of the excluded – is always marked as ‘to come. Rancière sees democracy as a ‘process of political subjectivisation’ (2007: 98) – an invention of ‘new voices’ and ‘new objects’ that creates ‘a specific time. within a paradoxical (or aporetic) political sequence of ‘equality’. and in that it makes audible what used to be inaudible. 1997: 236). I tried to conceptualise democratic practice as the inscription of the part of those who have no part – which does not mean the “excluded” but anybody or whoever’ (2007: 99. or friendship.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 promise of the other ‘to come. community and democracy. How so? At one level. or multitude. It inscribes one perceptual world within 11 . Rancière states: ‘For my part. This is not to oppose an ontology of the multiple.’ to ‘the part of those who have no part. via fraternity and democracy. or ‘distribution.’ (2007: 99) This conception of politics as the ‘intermittent’ invention of new relations of emancipation echoes Foucault’s articulation of a queer ‘inventiveness special to a situation like ours’ (1997: 139). ‘Politics is aesthetic in that it makes visible what had been excluded from a perceptual field. 2007: 99). fundamental and groundless. It is this shift from ‘the “excluded”’ to the ‘anybody. in which contingency of the intelligible is both demonstrated and opened up to the political demand for ‘new relational possibilities. a broken time and intermittent legacy of emancipation.

Jean-Philippe Deranty (2003) emphasises the 12 .’ which should not be conflated with a resolvable dispute between parties. or ‘tort. These two incompatible ‘distributions of the sensible’ are politics and police: the latter is ‘the division of the sensible that claims to recognise only real parties to the exclusion of all empty spaces and supplements’. or ‘staging. it is the unthinkable aspect of community’ (Rancière. or thwarts (a favourite trope). or the paradoxical effectiveness of the sheer contingency of any order. such as a lawsuit. The demonstration of this fundamental equality ‘“takes place”’ in the staging of a wrong. politics is aesthetic because it operates at the level of appearances: ‘it makes visible what had been excluded from a perceptual field. and most importantly.’[22] Such a definition of politics means not only that it is a rare occurrence. insofar as it is defined as ‘what muddles community. A wrong is thus what measures the incommensurability of these two orders or communities – police and politics. Politics is therefore synonymous with an interruption of the regular ‘police’ ordering of the social. politics rarely happens: Politics only occurs when these mechanisms are stopped in their tracks by the effect of a presupposition that is totally foreign to them yet without which none of them could ultimately function: the presupposition of the equality of anyone and everyone.[21] and the former is ‘the mode of acting that perturbs this arrangement by instituting within its perceptual frames the contradictory theatre of its “appearances”’ (2004: 226). It is crucial to grasp that the staging of a wrong constitutes a process of twisting. for Rancière. Drawing upon the etymological roots of tort. what continually reduces it to its own messiness. for example. police problems and so on’ (Rancière. by rephrasing and restaging social issues. but also. or ‘the declared political community and the community that defines itself as being excluded from this community’ – by making ‘the part of those who have no part’ appear on the political stage as ‘those of no account’ (1999: 38). but ‘“takes place” in the space of the police. For Rancière. 1995: 67). it is that property which always interrupts. 2003: 8). In this way. In other words. a wrong is not procedure brought about by two parties. (1999: 17) It is for this reason that Rancière argues that democracy is incommensurable with every institution of community. Rancière uses the concept of politics to name an irreducible supplement to any given social order or community.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 another’ (Rancière. 2004b: 226).’ the equality that every hierarchy must presuppose in its attempts to justify itself. and […] makes audible what used to be inaudible’ (2004: 226). the coherence of ‘police. This means that. or wringing the police order of the social. demonstrating it’s contingent foundation by (re)introducing. but a process of naming subjects whose existence had not been registered in society prior to its declaration. that it is always ‘local and occasional’ (1999: 139): ‘Politics only occurs when…’ This is because politics’ ‘exceptionality’ does not have a ‘specific place’ of its own.

2005). but insofar as the wrong consists in what the politics does to the police order. Todd May takes it up as an example in his account of Rancière’s political thought: A politics of gay rights. Here. a verification that consists in twisting together ‘a relation of inclusion and a relation of exclusion’ (Rancière. As can be seen here. for instance. while at the same time this inequality is only logically possible on the basis of radical equality. confronts a world that preaches but does not live equality with a singular construction of the universality of equality. Rancière provides numerous cases of this ‘double relation of inclusion and exclusion. 2004. 2002.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 interrelatedness of politics of the police in Rancière’s logic of the wrong: The social order is wrung because it must produce ontological inequality since hierarchy is its basic arkhe. we might usefully link this ‘double relation’ to the way in which the paradox of demanding equal rights for gay men and lesbians to have their union recognised (legally. but merely verify an equality denied them by conjoining ‘the world where those rights are valid and the world where they are not’. but what Rancière’s conception of politics introduces is an insistence on the logic of tort at work here. Butler.’ where ‘new subjects’ – such as proletarians. 2003: 12). heteronormative institution of marriage (and the equally institutionalised form of ‘the couple’) as the (exclusive) form of social relationality. in this 13 . the play on the word tort (from tordre. not in a fixed ontological relation of antagonism (pace Marchart (2007)). Roach. What Deranty neatly describes as Rancière’s twisted ‘anti-ontology’ (2003: §5) implies the superimposition of an egalitarian logic over the police order of the community. and a twisting of. Indeed. as ‘counted. 2000. Returning to the example of arguments over ‘gay marriage. political subjects do not enact a pre-existent identity. Halperin. in this demonstration. ‘There is no ontological gap but a twist that ties together the contingency of equality and the contingency of inequality’ (Rancière. bring about a solution to the contradiction between the supposed fullness of the police distribution of the social and the lack of the ‘part that has no part. This twisting of the social fabric does not. (§5) Politics wrings the police ordering of the social.’ indicated in the introduction. workers and women in the nineteenth-century – stage their inclusion in a given social distribution by ‘setting up the gap between their supposed inclusion and their real exclusion’ (2003a: §17). now. both a wrong within.’ since the verification of equality is always occasional and cannot form any social bond in its own right. It can only demonstrate and verify this contingent equality of ‘anyone and whoever’ by including it as excluded. This paradox is part of a debate well rehearsed across a range of political positions from within queer studies (see Bell and Binnie. emphasis added). to twist). however.’ As such. institutionally and socially) leaves in place the institutional. 2004a: 304. the ontology of the social field is the key to Rancière’s political ontology.

momentarily. it is by shifting our attention from the exclusionary legacy of a fraternal politics of friendship to the twisting of places and properties in the staging of political dissensus (the inclusion of the excluded and the exclusion of the included). this utopian politics of an always contingent equality might be described as ‘the art of warped deductions and mixed identities’ insofar as it only ever stages ‘the local and singular construction of cases of universality’ (Rancière. As David Webb argues with regard to Foucault’s later work on ‘the care of the self’. it is a shift in focus that alters the relation of ‘community’ and ‘politics.[24] rather. over and against the police order that at once posits and denies equality. the universality of equality is constructed. but reopens the gaps whereby new ‘affective and relational virtualities’ might be invented. 2002: 21). always concrete. For Foucault as much as Rancière. Or rather. it does not just demonstrate such a contradiction over ‘rights. sexual contacts.’ (2003: 138) If Foucault claims that friendship is the ‘development toward which the problem of homosexuality tends. ‘Gay marriage’ is not reducible to the exposure of the lie lived by a ‘world’ that doesn’t practice what it preaches.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 wedding ceremony. that Rancière’s work makes available a language of relationality sensitised to the ‘relational virtualities’ at the heart of Foucault’s unfinished work on friendship. 1997: 140).[23] In the final analysis. now. (2007: 112-13) Although he rightly underlines the always-occasional nature of the ‘singular universal’ – ‘here. friendship possesses ‘no form of its own.’ it is because he defines ‘homosexuality’ is an ‘always particular’ task of becoming. which may open the way to ‘rework and revise the social organization of friendship. rather than the discoverable truth of an identifiable sexuality (Foucault. in this act of love. ‘Fraternity’ and ‘Equality’.’ which comes to emphasise the invention of particular sequences of relationality – and most particularly. and unlike those of any other. But this is not a showdown between two republican mottos. variable colors. 1997: 136). imperceptible movements and changing 14 . The task of inventing ‘always particular’ relations does not necessarily invalidate existing institutional forms of social relationality. 1999: 139). and community to produce non-state-centred forms of support and alliance’ (Butler. puts into play the more utopian possibility of inventing forms of social relationality. In other words: that ‘homosexuality’ names the trajectory by which the inclusion of those excluded doesn’t restore a social fabric. or invention. of rights and of institutions. and so the singularity of friends results from the fact that the conditions of each friendship themselves are always particular. friendship. quite different from those currently existing: to ‘think that what exists is far from filling all possible spaces’ (Foucault.’ It also crucially. but it cannot but interrupt or ‘short-circuit’ their assumed coherence and plenitude: Institutional forms can’t validate these relations with multiple intensities. in this demonstration’ – May does not go far enough in explaining the relevance of Rancière’s insistence on ‘wrong’ in this instance.

the exclusion of ‘heterosexual’ friendship by a dominant ‘virile homosexuality’ not only ignores the sexual ambivalence of certain hegemonic texts on friendship and democracy. Once again. engaged in an ongoing creation of equality’ (1995: 80. Thus. the community of equals must always remain ‘an insubstantial community of individuals. 1997: 137) As Rancière argues with regard to the two modes of distribution of the sensible.’ or even this way of conceiving the hegemonic role of friendship in the philosophical tradition is necessarily homophobic. homosexual. within the institutional rule of law and habit. the excluded. the virtuality of new forms of social relationality. (Foucault. if the community of fraternity always works to disguise the division of the equal-unequal that it institutes. which it excludes. or ‘muddles. So we might modify Derrida’s problematic adherence to an exclusionary figure of homosexuality. without a sense that another tradition. for Rancière. ‘deconstruction. the place of women in this history is defined solely in negative terms of their effective absence or silence. brother. that ‘bear the stamp of inequality’ (1995: 80). man. emphasis added). but also effectively silences the historical-political precariousness and persecution of queer friendship cultures. politics and the police. These relations short-circuit it and introduce love where there’s supposed to be only law. ‘Political subjects exist in the interval between different identities.’ the excluded.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 forms. the effect of these new forms of relationality lies in demonstrating the inclusion of a lack.’ which is why there is ‘never one subject’ of democracy but rather multiple ‘forms of subjectivisation 15 . It is rather to show that something is wrong with the central argument of Politics of Friendship.’ In contrast. and the fate of a ‘democracy to come’ along with it. but by allowing Rancière’s formulation of politics to open up the litigious torsion between these names: friend. and second. not by simply inverting its terms (which would be a misunderstanding and worse) nor by cunningly transposing its terms (as in Byrne and McQuillan’s ‘translation’). rule. democracy is invented as a ‘polemical name’ that always interrupts. and whomsoever ‘other’ to come… Each of these names might serve as the ‘singular universal’ that would reaffirm and restate the equality of anyone and everyone.[26] This is not to claim that Derrida. As we have already seen. language or history of female friendship might co-exist with the hegemonic one. in which the exclusionary logic of a hegemonic ‘fraternization’ brings about a wrong by attaching that figure of homosexuality. which is to say. this logic of a wrong as a process of becoming (or subjectification) can be transposed back into Rancière’s writing on fraternal community and the community of equals: the paradox of democracy entails that the inequality in any fraternal community always presupposes the (impossible?) community of equals. citizen.’ any fraternal community insofar as that communal desire to ‘forge equals through brotherhood’ always disavows those ‘mongrels. habit. to an ‘insult. Derrida’s strategic figuration of a ‘virile homosexuality’ paradoxically works to reinforce[25] the hegemonic ‘exclusion’ of female and queer friendship: first. by contesting the lines of inclusion and exclusion of the police order.

(or hetero-) sexuality is. 96). Consequently. My thanks also go to the two anonymous Borderlands readers whose advice and suggestions were invaluable. whilst Derrida’s self-styled ‘essay’ (1997: vii) drew upon his 1988-89 weekly seminar. 2001).’ first appeared in an edition of the (then still monthly) magazine. which installs a ‘strategic ambiguity carried out in the name of ethics’ (2004: 349). Both texts also had prior publications. parallax 52 (2009). are reminiscent of familiar complaints that Derrida (and ‘deconstruction’ in general) indefinitely ‘defers’ the most pressing questions (‘ontology. Foucault’s absence from Bray’s book represents a missed conjunction with methodological shifts in his work after The Will to Knowledge. 3. Notes 1. her friendly criticisms of what she defines as a persistent ‘analytic tension between eroticism and friendship’ (2004: 345) in Bray’s work. I know that without Karen nothing at all would get done. Reading Rancière (Continuum. which might itself complicate efforts to determine their contemporaneousness given that both texts are engaged precisely with questions of how to make an intervention into ‘the contemporary. But above all.’ etc). ‘Friendship as a Way of Life. He is an editor of the online journal Film-Philosophy. 2007: 95. He has also published work on Maurice Blanchot in Theoretical Interpretations of the Holocaust (Rodopi. Acknowledgements I would like to thank Michael O'Rourke and Sam Chambers for their great patience and encouraging feedback. 2007). Richard Stamp teaches cultural studies at Bath Spa University. It is in this way that Rancière’s twisted political ‘anti-ontology’ operates by installing a logic that divides each ‘class’ against itself in order to keep putting the universal into play. Gai Pied. forthcoming 2010) and ‘Jacques Rancière: in disagreement’. and coeditor (with Paul Bowman) of The Truth of Žižek (Continuum. albeit at different ends of the previous decade: Foucault’s interview. 2000) and Dying Words: The Last Moments of Writers and Philosophers (Rodopi.’ If this coincidence and non-coincidence of dates is merely a quirk of the temporal lag of republication and translation.’ 2. Valerie Traub (2004) argues that Bray’s refusal to confine his enquiry within the narrow equation of sexuality and the erotic might risk leaving open the field of ontological definition to those who would claim to know only too well what homo. particularly in his account of the relation between 16 .’ ‘politics.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 in the interval between two identities’ (Rancière.’ ‘epistemology. in 1981. ‘Politics of Friendship.

This question further implicates his own genealogical enquiry into the friend as ‘brother. We might forgive Derrida’s error here. but again we might ask: what of L’usage des plaisirs and Le souci de soi (both published in 1984)? The absence of any reference by Derrida and Bray to these texts is all the more perplexing given their respective aims of recovering ‘an archaeology’ the ethics of friendship (Bray. And what of Rancière? (See note 22. The fact that the second (and final) publication from the Centre. In the context of a commentary on Blanchot’s Michel Foucault as I Imagine Him. ‘La representation de l’ouvrier ou la classe introuvable’ (89-111).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 sexuality and friendship in The Uses of Pleasure (see Foucault. but remains reticent about the residual rhetoric of ‘fraternization’ in their work: ‘There is still perhaps some brotherhood in Bataille.’ thus germinating the common concern with post-foundational political thought that link Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe with Badiou. (For the founding and closing documents of the Centre. would thus add yet another direction to the present line of enquiry. n. see Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy (1997: 105-47). as all members of various ‘“clans” of left Heideggerianism’ (2007: 61). 1983). at least those published to date’ (1997: 301). this is a question to which Derrida is more than attentive. since the concept of ‘genealogy’ itself presupposes the institution of heteronormative lineage and inheritance. the sole reference to Foucault’s work therein – at the very end of Politics of Friendship. included Rancière’s essay. Blanchot. be it a community without community.’ of course. or a brotherhood without brotherhood’ (1997: 48. not to say left in silence. This situation is mirrored in Derrida’s own remark about Foucault – in fact. 1997: 279). and I wonder. under the direction of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy. and if it should still guide the thinking of community. 5. and Nancy. 15). Needless to say. or Lefort with Laclau and Mouffe. that ‘philia remains strangely marginalised.) 6. in his [Foucault’s] last works. below.’ Derrida routes the teleopoietic legacy of Nietzsche through these three thinkers. which operated at the Ecole Normale Supérieure between 1980 and 1984. 2003: 8). 4. Le retrait du politique (Galilée. given the publication dates discussed previously (Foucault’s Dits et écrits are published the same year as Politiques de l’amitié (1994)). and tracing the genealogy of that ’essential and essentially sublime figure of virile homosexuality’ (Derrida. in the innermost recess of my admiring friendship.) Oliver Marchart rightly identifies the Centre as ‘the location for the most intense and influential re-elaboration so far […] of the difference between politics and the political. ‘the community of those who have nothing in common. In a long footnote on Bataille’s phrase. It is for this reason that we need to take seriously his wish that this book be read as ‘a modest and belated contribution’ to the work of friends (and others) at the Centre for Philosophical Research on the Political. 1986: 1-32). 17 . if it does not deserve a little loosening up.

seems to have an adequate answer. who could not help but write to a nun: “Dear Brother Jacqueline”’ (1997: 156). pederasty and homosexuality at work here. as Schachter has done. Only in subsequent revisions for the 1588 edition did Montaigne introduce punctuation to turn these two clauses into two sentences. Marc Schachter (2008) demonstrates that Derrida’s omission of this clause is facilitated by standard modern editorial revision of this essay. 2008: 154). Instead. Steven Garlick raises an analogous problem when he notes that although Derrida rightly highlights the hegemonic ‘masculinity’ of a philosophical tradition of friendship. It is possible to return to the first edition of the Essais (1580). The privileging of Montaigne’s text also lies. 571) Not unproblematic itself.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 7. However. Such philological scrutiny is itself influenced by Derrida’s own micrological readings. nor the attendant problematic overlay of friendship. and add the authority of the ‘Ancient schools of philosophy’ about woman’s exclusion from it. in which a paragraph break is introduced after woman’s ‘exclusion’ from friendship. 2008: 154-6). and the ‘difference’ between them? A question to which no one. 8. Note Derrida’s evident delight in the following example: ‘In this Christian space […] one remembers the letter of the great and good Saint Francis of Assisi. 9. in the fact that Derrida explicitly situates the political figuration of friendship in a specifically French idiom and republican rhetoric of fraternalism. 18 . 1580. to show that the hegemonic exclusion of ‘heterosexuality’ and pederasty were originally articulated by Montaigne: ‘But no example of this sex has yet been able to achieve it. position?’ (2002: 563. traceable to the eighteenth-century editors of the Essais (Schachter. he does not account the extent to which the hegemonic notion of friendship has become ‘effectively “feminized”’ as early as the beginning of the twentieth century: ‘We need to ask (as Derrida does not) how the current ‘feminine’ condition of friendship articulates with the overwhelmingly ‘masculine’ tradition. Garlick’s argument has the virtue of begging the question: what is meant by ‘feminised’ or ‘masculine’ (or even ‘virile’) friendship. what I would extract from this scene of philological forensics is the way in which the historical instability of this text exposes the apparently unacknowledged political capacities of Derrida’s choice of words in designating ‘the hegemony of a philosophical canon. cited Schachter. the paragraph break (as replicated by Derrida) is a wholly modern invention. Derrida and his critics included.’ 10. or impassable. eroticism. to which Montaigne’s essay provides such a paradoxical bequest. but what interests me here is not to read Montaigne’s essay as some kind of ‘confession’ that his ‘perfect friendship’ with La Boétie might have been still more perfect had it also been erotic. and that other Grecian license is justly abhorred by our mores’ (Montaigne. Does this not leave men (in particular) in something like an impossible. as Martin McQuillan (2005) points out.

’ However. 1996. this is a strategic decision on Derrida’s part: to have acknowledged the ‘intermittent presence’ of women in this tradition. 14. as if unable or unwilling to proceed any further.’ when the erotic and sexuality are effectively written out of the text (as we saw with the decisive quotation from Montaigne) in a way more consistent with the foreclosed operation of ‘homo-sociality’? For Schachter.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 11. Joanna Zylinska makes a similar complaint when she states that Derrida ‘leaves all these questions in suspense.’ this is not the case in Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan’s (1999) transposition of Derrida’s phrase in a deft reading of the fraternal figure of ‘democracy’ through Disney’s Hugo adaptation. 1999: 149-50). even – and especially – if the choice is not deliberate?’ (1997: 19 . and likewise to register the problematic presence of eroticism and pederasty instead of sublimating it within a figure of ‘virile homosexuality. 1997a). 13. But their rewriting of the matrix of ‘homo’ and ‘hetero’ here begs the question: why did Derrida ascribe this decisively hegemonic exclusion to a figure of ‘virile homo-sexuality. What kind of ‘choice’ is this? I have in mind Derrida’s (1997. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Wise & Trousdale. whilst Bray appears not to have detected this absence in his own praise for this book’s ‘uncertain ethics. Indeed. 12. as if such withholding of an answer may well be ‘performing a political act by posing femininity as a question’ (2001: 99-100). Foucault references her book in both late interviews (1997. However. This is Derrida rewritten through Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s (1985) crucial paradigm of the continuum of homosocial and homosexual desire. I am not so certain that ‘fissure’ (or interruption). she also grants the strategic possibility of such suspension. ‘decision’ or ‘choice’ are such straightforward operations (see note 14. As Schachter observes: ‘Derrida would have written a different book had this observation been his starting point rather than one of his conclusions’ (2008: 164). Byrne and McQuillan revise Derrida’s formulation of a ‘virile’ hegemonic tradition of the fraternal-political by adding another exclusion: ‘Democracy as friendship for Disney is always structured as male. Resetting the context to post-1989 (Disneyland) Europe. See. In this way. Faderman’s comparative analysis of Montaigne’s essay and eighteenth century women’s epistolary friendships (1980: 65-73). the double exclusion of female and ‘heterosexual’ friendships can be rewritten as ‘the double exclusion of the feminine and the homosexual.’ brought about by ‘the inscription of a homo-fraternal (homosexual-homophobic) and phallogocentric schema’ (McQuillan & Byrne. below). and as a homo-virile virtue excludes the possibility of a homosexual relation’ (1999: 150). in particular. among other possible words. 2005) expression of friendly ‘non-critical concern’ with Nancy’s rhetoric of fraternity in The Experience of Freedom (1993: 72): ‘What is the political impact and range of this chosen word.’ would have opened ‘a fissure in his own comments on the subject’ (2008: 164). USA). even when it is female.

or anyone) can always say (2005: 59). the mother. or wrong. 18. as Tom Roach (2005a) astutely notes. which ‘short-circuits the natural logic of “properties”’ (1999: 13). the father.’ without necessarily subscribing to it. the power of democratic governments to curtail (or even suspend) democratic rights. 2005: 28-41). This is interesting. a configuration that points to his relevance for queer theoretical reflections on the politics of friendship insofar as it signifies a consonant movement of ‘twisting’ or ‘torsion’ of all social relationality. As Derrida recognises. 2002: 53). Rancière deliberately distances his work from any relation to Blanchot or the uses of his work (2003: 208). in order to protect ‘democracy’ from enemies who would exploit those rights (see Derrida. See. 17. 16. that the experience of being the object of insult becomes the foundational structure of gay subjectivity: ‘A gay man learns about his difference through the force of insult and its effects – the principal one being the awareness of a fundamental asymmetry instantiated by that particular linguistic act’ (1999: 16). and second. even to the point of attacking democracy as such. in the context of his tribute essay to Derrida. the rhetorical-political force of the insult is central to Didier Eribon’s argument. What is striking about Eribon’s reliance upon the performative force of the insult in Eribon’s argument is. sons and brothers?’ (2005: 58.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 305. but also as a polemical one. This echoing of Derrida’s avowedly ‘Blanchotian’ syntax of ‘X sans X’ can be read as a respectful gesture. in Insult and the Making of the Gay Self (1999). Nancy’s defence might very well be that he is simply recounting and analysing a history of this ‘received concept. This analysis of a ‘non-deliberate choice’ is still more sustained in Rogues: ‘So why retain the word fraternity rather than another?’ – ‘What does fraternity still name when it has no relationship to birth. ‘it’s not me who is saying this. the right to unlimited auto-critique. its Derridean rather than Foucauldian resonance. Interestingly.’ In an interview with Peter Hallward.’ Nancy (or Derrida. So I am simply asking about Derrida’s own choice of words in his microanalyses of politics of friendship. Instead of fraternity. Rancière links the concept of democracy to an anarchic equality of tort. for example: ‘Deconstruction is an institutional practice for which the concept of the institution remains a problem’ (Derrida. death. ‘even – and especially – if the choice is not deliberate’: why retain the word ‘homosexuality’ rather than another? 15. 19. emphasis added). 167). as we shall see. in the context of Rancière’s disagreement with Derrida’s (qualified) messianism of a ‘democracy to come. Democratic ‘auto-immunity’ has two aporetic functions: first. 20 .

I would like to add this particular formulation to Michael O’Rourke’s (2006: 24-5) impressively ‘partial’ listing of queer tropes in Derrida’s work. as the origin of his use of this term. Marchart tends to flatten the way in which Rancière interrelates politics and the police: politics might interrupt the order of policing. for Rancière (1995) the significance of Leroux’s utopian socialism for modern communitarian thought lies in the ‘paradox’ of the community of equals. which both founds it and withdraws its foundations’ (Rancière. In this sense. but it does not ‘break’ with it. Whilst for Derrida. The 21 . Rancière is far closer to Foucault’s later texts than May seems to notice.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 20. the nineteenth-century French utopian (or romantic) socialist. In short: the moment when. but he is also arguably brought closer to Derrida’s deconstructive attempts to open up always other possibilities. The historical emergence of a specifically French emphasis on fraternity provides both Rancière and Derrida with common reference point in the work of Pierre Leroux. 25. This all-too brief attempt to include Rancière within these ‘”clans” of left Heideggerianism’ strikes me as rather unconvincing. thus demonstrating the contingency of the latter (2007: 120). Rancière (1999: 28) credits Foucault’s essay. the ‘community of property’ became the means by which equality might be realised. 23. ‘Omnes and Singulatim’ (2000). Leroux’s claim to universal fraternity is exemplary of a French republican legacy of exclusionary ‘fraternization’. He describes Rancière’s conception of politics as ‘precisely what is antagonistic to policing: true politics – as a process of equality – effectuates a break with the order of policing. 24. which offered only two models: a community of masters (Athenian guardians) and a community of slaves (monastic orders). Not least because of the complex and specifically French historical contexts that accompany them. 22. ‘The political rests on the supplementary “power of the people”. mid nineteenth-century ‘communists’ such as the Icarians. the only two models of community available via Leroux’s De l’Egalité (1838) were the Classical/Greek and the Christian/monastic fraternities. 2007: 91). see also Ross (2002: 22-5). above). not just for example. Such a conception of the relation between ‘politics’ (la politique) and ‘the political’ (le politique) leads Marchart to cast Rancière’s approach (along with that of Badiou) as a simple ‘”reversal”’ (2007: 119) of the ‘post-foundational’ logic of ‘the political difference’ (see note 9. Foucault explains that the male erotic relation becomes the object of acute moral consideration in Greek culture. In The Uses of Pleasure. his references to gay marriage and the couple in his dialogues with Elisabeth Roudinesco (2004: 345). precisely because of the perception of a boy’s virility. 21. See.

in one major respect: in Derrida. P. & Warner.’ with Xenophon advising that the best course of action lies in converting ‘the bond of love (bound to disappear) into a relation of friendship. L. vol. ‘Sex in public’. since it is not good to love a boy who has passed a certain age. M. friendship becomes both ‘morally necessary’ and ‘socially useful. in the form of friendship. This is because the boy cannot be both loved and virile: ‘He must not bear any physical mark of virility. ‘Friendship’. J. becomes virile at the moment it leaves behind ‘homosexual’ eroticism. G. no. the order of social division intercedes. 547-66. trans. Cambridge: Polity. (2000). Bibliography Bataille. ‘homosexuality’ is named as the ‘virile’ force of exclusion of sexual difference from friendship. The Unavowable Community. M. trans. Critical Inquiry. At the moment that erotic (and implicitly ‘feminine’) passivity co-exists with anything more than the promise of properly ‘virile’ masculinity. Joris. of ‘loving’ over ‘being-loved’ in Politics of Friendship (even if Derrida seems to have forgotten it’s existence): ‘This is one of the frequent themes of moral reflection on this kind of relation. Blanchot. no more than for him to allow himself to be loved [pour lui de se laisser aimer]’ (Foucault. (2001). 26. […] it is also a precept. (1998). 1984: 221).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 disquiet or unease that he finds in the Greeks’ ‘aesthetic morality. parallax. It should also be noted that Foucault’s reading overlaps with Derrida’s emphasis on the hegemonic privileging of activity over passivity. whilst according to Foucault. H. Such a claim is itself limited because a more expansive reading would have to return to those passages in Glas in which Derrida works through (and across) sexual difference and the brother-sister relation in Hegel’s reading of Antigone and his letters (1986: 148ff). Barrytown. in Schachter’s own reservations: ‘I submit that the ongoing opening up to a democracy to come requires attention to the vexed place of women in the friendship tradition and an unpacking of the ambivalences of the “homo” that. but it must be present as a precocious form and a promise of bearing: to conduct oneself as the man that one not yet is’ (Foucault. vol. At this fearful moment of loss. Yet this is a very different conception of the durability and steadfastness of virile virtue of male friendship from that offered by Derrida. 24. I think.’ as it related to the boy’s body. remained occluded’ (2008: 18). 22 . Weslati. 7. no. derives from the fragile status of legitimate desire and the fugitive nature of its beauty. it seems that male friendship. for the Greeks. 3-15. pp. (1988). 1. The Sexual Citizen. Bell. pp. D. Winter. & Binnie. at least for the Derrida of Politics of Friendship. of philia’ (1984: 221). Such a qualification is implicit. 2. 1984: 221). Berlant. NY: Station Hill.

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a moment that can be tied to the 1960s. Bruce Lee is not white. Italian. in this phallic hero.and antidisciplinary approach to ‘learning’ in relation to Rancière’s queer pedagogy in order to deepen our thinking about an ‘emancipatory relation. colonialist. capitalist.’ [W]hat if the field of Cultural Studies. imperialist.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. Bruce Lee is sexy. inter. and it attempts to establish the discursive status of Rancièrean and radical approaches such as queer theory by picking up where Rancière leaves off: the countercultural critique of pedagogical institutions. including martial arts. QT and Bruce Lee Paul Bowman Cardiff University This article proposes that central to queer studies (and ‘radical. the article explores Bruce Lee’s iconoclastic. Bruce Lee is Asian. American. Russian. So.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w .’ ‘politicized’ scholarship more widely) is a critique focused on the cultural power of institutions – pedagogical institutions in particular. Bruce Lee is cool. It relates Jacques Rancière’s critique of such institutions to this wider ‘radical political’ impulse. 2009 Aberrant Pedagogies JR. There is also something 1 . gangster and indeed anyone and everyone’s ass. Bruce Lee kicks white. and relates this impulse itself to 1960s counterculture. Japanese. The key figure here is the anti-institutional and countercultural Bruce Lee. It asks why Rancière’s critique stops before his own historical moment.n e t. There is something patriarchal here. fit their framework perfectly[?] ~ Slavoj Žižek (2001: 225-6) Queer Lee Bruce Lee is hard.b o rd e rla n d s . which spread through many realms of society. far from actually threatening today’s global relations of domination.

they both occupy (equivalently but differently) a fraught border on the shores of this (or these) cultural studies that they both so clearly take their distances from. history from below. when I evoke this formation’s ‘critics. what is less straightforward is the fact that. Reciprocally. about cultural identity. 2000. with him. But there is more. This is not because I see their work as being even remotely similar. The ones I would like to draw attention to here relate to learning. in its own right. no less queer than those readings which try to queer Bruce Lee. cultural studies. or those that fantasize through him. There is something heteronormative. as each of these overlapping fields always also folds into the others and has them folded into ‘itself’ in more than one way. complex and contradictory field will. Eperjesi. queer theory and – as is so easy to say – so on. despite the immense differences between Rancière and a character like Žižek. the role of fantasy. 1997. To experience both the beaches and the ports of these shores – the points of convergence and play as well as of articulation. to learn something more from Bruce Lee. arboreal and phallogocentric structures. These are the main sorts of lessons that are regularly learned from and about Bruce Lee: lessons about identification. cultural studies. of him. communication and control – my primary contention is that we might do no better than taking seriously the question of the lessons to be learned from Bruce Lee. neither be received as particularly controversial nor as especially unusual.’ I will not be referring to those whose work is clearly and decidedly (or decidably) ‘outside’ the fields of queer-. and so on (Abbas. postcolonial studies and various ethnic identity studies.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 homoerotic. I will be lining up the rather unexpected and unlikely (non)couple of Slavoj Žižek and Jacques Rancière. But is that it? Is that all there is? Within film studies. 2001. and to pose a rather more tantalising challenge to cultural studies in all its forms than the ones we are familiar with. 2003. lack and desire. This much we know. 1997. we might do no better than taking seriously the question of the lessons to be learned from Jacques Rancière. I am using the term ‘cultural studies’ as short-hand. but they are wedded or welded to patriarchal. My decision to elevate ‘cultural studies’ as the umbrella term to cover such a wide. I hope. In saying this. Rather. These are important lessons. 2008). These lessons are not necessarily or literally sexual. There are other lessons to be learned from Bruce Lee. poststructuralism. about the body as bearer of ideology. 2004. There is also something postcolonial. this appears to be about the long and short of it. and to the significance of the ways in which the lessons that are to be learned from Bruce Lee intersect unexpectedly with lessons in and about the ‘project’ of cultural studies and its critics. Morris. the ambivalence and polysemy of Bruce Lee’s texts. Hunt. postcolonial-. Marchetti. Brown. It is rather in order to show that. in him. Chan. to lessons that have been learned. 2 . the homo at the heart of the hetero. 2001. as an umbrella term to evoke the genealogically and ethico-politically entangled discursive formation of work in postcolonialism. etc. Teo.[1] However. gender studies.

untainted or uncompromised by the messy and often ugly intertwined forces that have produced the present conjuncture. ‘“modern China” is. the extent to which ‘China’ or ‘Chineseness’ is inscribed (indeed. post-structuralism. says Chow. As Rey Chow makes plain. the Chinese ‘other’ played a constitutive (haunting) role in the deconstructive critique of logocentrism and phonocentrism. and the politicised ‘studies-suffix’ subjects in terms of what she calls an unacknowledged but constitutive ‘Chinese prejudice.’ Crucially.’ theorists such as Žižek. it is of more than ‘academic’ interest to note. post-structuralism. But we could look quickly at one provocative and pertinent contribution to it. And third. in ways that far exceed the general ‘turn East’ (in the search for alternatives) characteristic of ‘French’ theory and much more besides of the 1960s and 1970s. If Chow recasts the investments and orientations of cultural studies. investments and impulses of contemporary cultural studies (and its critics) can ‘hurt. whether we know it or not. and despite the apparently trivial status of this long-departed Hong Kong American celebrity martial artist. in these ways and more. no footnote could suffice to indicate the breadth and depth of these debates. is particularly apposite here because in it Morris examines the relationship between film and cultural criticism and the forces. the enduring interest in the ‘subaltern’ among politicized projects in the West has always found an exemplary example in the case of the Chinese peasantry. Bourdieu and others have often cast cultural studies as being at the forefront of the ideology of ‘political correctness’ which itself is recast as the cutting edge ideology of neoliberalism. There are many ways to do this. the feminism of the 1960s and 1970s actively admired and championed the Chinese encouragement of women to ‘speak bitterness’ against patriarchy. Meaghan Morris’ essay. just as there are many different forms of response to and engagement with such questions within the various fields and forms of cultural studies. the foundation of contemporary cultural studies’ (Chow. of course. In fact. ‘Learning from Bruce Lee: Pedagogy and Political Correctness in Martial Arts Cinema’ (2001). this is so in at least three ways. Morris concedes the 3 . hegemonic) within the current theoretical and political discourses of cultural studies. discourses and impulses of ‘PC’ or ‘political correctness.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 In the face of studying Bruce Lee. This sort of (unhomely) historicization of the interplay of forces constitutive of the contours. 1993: 18).’ This is especially so when we want to believe that our own position is unique. There are many versions of such challenges to cultural studies’ putative ethical and political values and virtues. But acknowledging the fraught genealogy of the present is surely an essential stage of any work – a harrowing ordeal that may nevertheless provide an enlivening jolt. right at the start. superior. ethnicity and feminism. First. Indeed. Second.

She tries to do this by focusing on the theme of pedagogy. 2001: 181) Of course.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 disappointing links between contemporary film and cultural criticism and the much vilified and stereotyped PC (a link which boils down to moralism). through the very same media. without attempting to exorcise the Žižekian spectre. in affiliating ‘aesthetic dissensus’ with ‘consumer movements’ that are ‘highly respectable. precisely because they are both respectable and consumer. PC as a critical formation has less in common with the grim radicals of media bad dreams (real as dreams may be) than with those highly respectable ‘consumer movements’ which have. to triangulate a point from which to craft a manoeuvre informed by. it is helpful to note Morris’ primary argument: PC is not primarily a code regulating expression but a spectators’ revolt. It is crucial to approach Bruce Lee in terms of pedagogy. whatever else may be said about Žižek. Žižek and. Before we get to pedagogy. they announce themselves as an audience. She points out the enduring centrality of pedagogy in martial arts films and the often overlooked importance of Bruce Lee as a teacher. and begin to form ‘an’ audience in the marketing sense: by articulating a collective ‘commentary on cinema’. 2005) – nevertheless haunts my own thinking here and elsewhere.’ Morris opens the door for the Žižekian retort that such ‘movements’ are therefore not political. Morris draws attention to the significant ‘persistence of the training film in Hollywood cinema. equivalent to but different from. (Morris. The lesson of Bruce Lee Meaghan Morris tries to look at Bruce Lee ‘otherwise’ by focusing on the peculiar importance of pedagogy when it comes to grasping his significance. argues Morris. For. (performatively) self-contradictory. ultimately. Aesthetically focused but social in resonance. Morris. Rancière. I will attempt to use it.’ and to the ways that ‘training films give us lessons in using aesthetics understood as a practical discipline – “the study of the mind and emotions in relation to the 4 . but whilst refusing to be dominated by it. powerfully influenced business and advertising practices in recent decades. 2000. and no matter how ‘logically’ refutable it may be (Laclau. those executed by the likes of Chow. The Žižekian insistence on the internal dynamics of capitalism as the Real (and) backdrop or horizon against which any claim of ‘the political’ is to be judged (Žižek. And they vocally object to the quality of something which cinema provides. 2000) is a challenge that – no matter how hyperbolical. Understood this way. PC is an act or a movement of criticism initiated by groups of people who develop shared responses to particular cultural conventions. So. because ‘the overwhelming concern with “the body” in recent cultural criticism can obscure this aspect of (Western) Bruce Lee worship and narrow unduly our approach to action cinema in general. along with the coordinates provided by Chow and Morris. he nevertheless has a point. And it won’t just go away. This manoeuvre relates to rethinking pedagogy.’ So. but she seeks nevertheless to find a way to redeem both.

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993). can be regarded as news. straight away. 2001: 175-6).’ by for instance revealing the homo at the disavowed heart of the hetero. Amid a discussion of the aesthetics (including.[2] Of course. It is significant – indeed foregrounded and emphasized by the film – that they have ended up in the cinema because they have been refused entry to a restaurant for obviously racist reasons.’ she does not want to rush headlong into acts of ‘queering’ or ‘othering. heteronormativity. Morris does not seek to offer the kind of reading which would boil the blood of conservatives or antiPC militants of ‘common sense. This is a lesson about learning from cinematic images – or rather about realising. Mr Yunioshi. on one of their first dates. masculinity. this scene actually shows a viewing subject ‘enter into another subjectivity’ (181) through the act of viewing – and.[3] Which is why what Morris seeks to ‘learn’ from Bruce Lee does not relate to the erotic and does not simply relate to issues of patriarchy.’ In fact. So.’ Linda Lee-Cadwell (Morris.’ At least not directly. ‘a sanitized as well as hagiographic interpretation of Bruce Lee’s life as authorized by his widow. although Morris wants to read Bruce Lee ‘otherwise. In it. Morris operates in terms of the insight that there can only be so many times that looking at Bruce Lee ‘otherwise. she chooses to learn something else from Bruce Lee. that the kind of looking otherwise (or reading differently) that Morris undertakes is not deliberately provocative or controversial. and her pleasure in both. they find themselves in a ‘laff fest revival. Morris deftly points out the way that the camera shows us Bruce and Linda watching the same scene differently: Linda initially laughs along with the rest of the audience. being transformed by experiencing through cinematic images. we watch them watching the spectacle of Mickey Rooney bumbling around as the slapstick Japanese character. end up in a cinema watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Morris turns her attention to a scene within the film. According to Morris. although Morris does suggest that ‘the technique of “queering” is [the] liveliest recent manifestation’ of a key interpretative drive in film studies. through viewing an other(s) way of viewing and being viewed. we should note. in Morris’s words. Then the camera shows us a very significant moment of realisation. So. becoming aware. the camp and kitsch dimensions) of many American martial arts films.’ she actually suggests that queering can also be ‘blinkered and narrow in its relentlessness’ (2001: 184). and the overall complexity of the experience of films. This film is. the ‘Oriental’ on screen.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 sense of beauty” – to overcome personal and social adversity’ (Morris. Instead. Rather. until she notices Bruce’s distinct lack of enjoyment. 2001: 180). phallocentricity. As she sees it: when Linda suddenly connects the Chinese man beside her. one that ‘can be creative. of course. or suchlike. she makes an imaginative leap outside the logic of her own familiar dreams which 5 . specifically.’ In the cinema. Bruce (played by Jason Scott Lee) and Linda (Lauren Holly).

more. in the case of Linda’s moment of revelation. That is. according to Rancière. But let us hesitate before making such a step ourselves. we could conceptualise this scene as a moment of ‘aesthetic dissensus. Linda could be regarded as becoming ‘an outsider or. This can be seen if we use Rancière to focus on the way pedagogy itself organises Morris’ vision when she is ‘learning from Bruce Lee. For. 1992) with an already-instituted institutional category (The Critic) is. she finds that her companion lives a connection between his body and the grotesque parody on screen – one fictionally modeled on a fleeting moment of cinema but relayed and sustained in its everyday life by the gazes (and the voices) of other people. ‘a heterology. but it has a far wider significance. the denial of an identity given by an other. ‘it is never the simple assertion of an identity. it is always. Learning from pedagogy However. there is a difference between Rancière and Morris here. It is ‘impossible’ because Linda is not that which she has just realized. an in-between’ (61) by way of what Rancière calls an ‘impossible identification’ (61). 61).’ in which the experience by Linda and (perhaps) Bruce amounts to a moment of ‘subjectivization. in Rancière’s terms. political subjectivization ‘always involves an impossible identification.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 allows her to experience something new. she is certainly able to “enter into” another subjectivity…’ (181). ‘the formation of a one that is not a self but is the relation of a self to an other’ through ‘a process of disidentification or declassification’ (Rancière. there is more to a Rancièrean reading than providing slick lessons in identity formation or the production of new subjectivities that occupy new subject-positions.’ It is rather. although what Morris would rightly have us learn is a lesson about the dubious ethics and orientations of much film criticism itself. herself. Morris will go on to propose that ‘Linda returns to Breakfast at Tiffany’s with the eyes and ears of a critic. 2001: 181) In the terms of Jacques Rancière. to rob it of its emancipatory potential. in Rancière’s words. Putting ‘herself’ in another’s position. a logic of the other’. This devolves on different notions of pedagogy.’ or. for. Indeed. Thus. 1992: 60. realisation or ‘subjectivization’ (Rancière. this would be to participate in ‘a logic whereby the social critic gains by showing democracy losing’ (Ross. or. 6 .’ To identify such a moment of transformation. at the same time. or. an interpretive decision such as this also carries the connotation that becoming ‘a critic’ amounts to maturing into a critic. being re-born (satori-like) as an ‘enlightened one. as a student. or so I like to think. it is nevertheless the case that Morris still ultimately identifies with and prioritizes a certain ‘classical’ pedagogical position. As Rancière theorizes it. in Rancière (as in Barthes [1977]). Linda’s is an identification that cannot be embodied by her. at this point. an identification that cannot be embodied by he or she who utters it. given by the ruling order of policy’ (62). as Rancière (1991) has urged us to notice. as Rancière sees it. (Morris.’ For.

’ ‘educating’ rationale that Jacques Rancière identifies in so many philosophers. and hence his contention is that: Explication is not necessary to remedy an incapacity to understand. then there is only one way for students to criticize their masters’ knowledge . the lesson of Rancière is the lesson of equality. her own fundamental identification remains with the position of the pedagogue. 1991: 6). critics. interprets and repeats them empirically. On the contrary. and that is to become their peers. This is the intelligence of the young child and the 7 .. Louis Althusser and Pierre Bourdieu. the capable and the incapable.’ As Kristin Ross puts this: if science belongs to the intellectuals – the masters – and the critique of bourgeois content is reserved for those who already know. In this. even though Morris figures spec(tac)ular cultural relations as potentially politicizing. it is he who constitutes the incapable as such’ (Rancière. as is well known. (1991: 6) This. accordingly. ripe minds and immature ones. (Ross. theorists and pedagogues. retains them. including. the knowledge. verifiably – can and very often does learn without being taught in the mode of what Rancière calls ‘explication’ (the intellectual intervention of an explicator). the intelligent and the stupid.. most famously. within the closed circle of habit and need.’ we might add perhaps all of the key figures of cultural studies and cultural theory. It is not their motives but their orientations that Rancière challenges. the parable of a world divided into knowing minds and ignorant ones. said and broadcast.’ or ‘divides intelligence into two. Morris exemplifies the postGramscian tendency in cultural studies to regard ‘culture as pedagogy’ (Giroux. Rancière calls the ‘double inaugural gesture’ (6) of the ‘explicative order’ – the thinking which ‘divides the world into two. the lesson to be learned from Rancière is that pedagogy premised on imparting knowledge to the ignorant stultifies. explication is the myth of pedagogy. Rancière devotes himself to a consideration of the fact that everyone – demonstrably.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 1987: xi) – by claiming that the insight. 1987: xvii) Thus. to seek to find and to teach (about) the best that has been thought. Here. Before being the act of the pedagogue. This is because. that very incapacity provides the structuring fiction of the explicative conception of the world…. This is the ‘improving. In The Ignorant Schoolmaster (1991). or the wisdom is always and already the property of ‘the critic. Classical pedagogy Rancière calls ‘the explicative order. To Rancière’s list of ‘philosophers and their poor. To explain something to someone is first of all to show him he cannot understand it by himself.’ by proceeding as if ‘there is an inferior intelligence and a superior one’: The former registers perceptions by chance.’ and his deconstructive contention is that it is ‘the explicator who needs the incapable and not the other way around. 2002) and.

We will call their coincidence stultification. proceeds by method. 1991: 7).. The master’s intelligence is by the by.’ Realising this. We will call the known and maintained difference of the two relations – the act of an intelligence obeying only itself even while the will obeys another will – emancipation. In other words.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 common man. ‘The method of equality was above all a method of the will. It is this intelligence that allows the master to transmit his knowledge by adapting it to the intellectual capacities of the student and allows him to verify that the student has satisfactorily understood what he learned. Its key coordinates are called chance. equality and will. (13) 8 .’ Thus. he concludes that this – the dominant – conception of education is to be regarded as ‘the principle of enforced stultification’ (Rancière. Rather than enforcing – as a matter of routine or principle – this disciplined hierarchy as if it were the necessary character of all learning. to be followed. The superior intelligence knows things by reason. Work out that.. from the part to the whole. and the revolutionary’ (12).’ For although ‘a person – and a child in particular – may need a master when his own will is not strong enough to set him on track and keep him there … that subjection is purely one of will over will. concludes Rancière/Jacotot: ‘there is stultification whenever one intelligence is subordinated to another. figuring out riddles’ (10) is disparaged. propelled by one’s own desire or by the constraint of the situation’ (12). Now he will learn’ (7). Rancière advocates Jacotot’s postulate that the universal process of learning is something shared alike by ‘the child. obeyed. However: It becomes stultification when it links an intelligence to another intelligence. the child has been groping blindly.’ says Rancière. blindly. the role of the master is not that of a subject supposed to know. figuring out riddles. (1991: 7) Following Joseph Jacotot. outrageously: moving ‘along in a manner one shouldn’t move along – the way children move. experiment. The notion of the ‘master. the learned man. the Eighteenth Century educator that Rancière reads in The Ignorant Schoolmaster. Proceeding by ‘figuring out riddles. Such is the principle of explication. The logic of self-legitimation of the explicator runs: ‘Until [the teacher] came along. the master is the one who issues a command.. Rather.’ writes Rancière: ‘One could learn by oneself and without a master explicator when one wanted to. listened to. concludes Jacotot. as ignorant to learned. says Rancière. is overwhelmingly regarded by explicators as proceeding incorrectly. Without a master explicator.’ and specifically the ‘will’ of the master. allows ‘the jumbled categories of the pedagogical act to be sorted out. from the simple to the complex. In the act of teaching and learning there are two wills and two intelligences. and explicative stultification to be precisely defined.’ And this – it deserves to be said – is no bad thing. is separated from that of ‘intelligence. but not without a master per se (12-13). Solve this.

And whether one learns French more quickly or less quickly is in itself a matter of little consequence. Yet. The method was purely the student’s. or status vis-à-vis the post-1968 field that he critiques and intervenes into by insinuating the subversive lesson of Jacotot? Forget Jacotot In September 1971. This article is arguably epochal. all over the world. when we enquire into the nature of the ‘lesson’ that Bruce Lee sought 9 . that of liberty. assessed. Given this. investment in. Many have overlooked that he sought to teach and what he sought to teach. and “do” is the way. and so on – have overwhelmingly overlooked the fact that Bruce Lee himself actually sought to teach at all. “jeet” means to intercept or to stop. it seems noteworthy that Rancière’s book stops before the moment of the post-1968 institutional reformation which in some sense inspired Rancière’s critique in the first place. (14) The rest of The Ignorant Schoolmaster charts the ensuing misappropriations and misadventures of Jacotot’s ‘realisation’ once it was picked up. So. and to learn ‘from’ Bruce Lee – in film studies.’ It was written by Bruce Lee. Yet.’[4] In Bruce Lee’s words: ‘Literally. Lee insists: ‘Do remember. “kune” is the fist. Black Belt Magazine published an article called ‘Liberate Yourself from Classical Karate. Thus. that “Jeet Kune Do” is merely a convenient name. an experiment which led the students to learn excellent French very quickly – did not involve ‘the transmission of the master’s knowledge to the students. rather than a style.’ For. postcolonialism. the question is: what became of Jacotot’s universal learning? And what is Rancière’s own relation to. however. it seems pertinent to reflect on the fact that many academics who have sought to study Bruce Lee. gender studies. so. However. Bruce Lee’s ‘Jeet Kune Do’ was originally an experimental ethos organised in terms of liberation. I am interested in its effect of liberation when JKD is used as a mirror for self-examination’ (24). The comparison was no longer between methods but rather between two uses of intelligence and two conceptions of the intellectual order.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Rancière is unequivocal about the significance of this: ‘This pedagogical experiment created a rupture with the logic of all pedagogies. implemented or instituted by others. I am not interested with [sic] the term itself. ‘Jacotot had transmitted nothing’: He had not used any method. It is important to note that ‘Liberate Yourself from Classical Karate’ is one of the few definitive written statements given by Bruce Lee on the subject of what he wanted to teach – namely a revolutionary approach to martial arts that he called ‘Jeet Kune Do. It was another route. in many ways. a method or a syllabus. turned over. The rapid route was not that of a better pedagogy. Jeet Kune Do means ‘the way of the intercepting fist’ (1971: 24). Jacotot’s experiment – simply telling students to learn both the French and the Flemish pages of the bilingual book Télémaque.’ In fact. to ‘read’ Bruce Lee. the ultimate reality’.

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to teach – the final signified that he intended to impress upon the world – we encounter a lesson that is uncannily similar to the lesson of Rancière’s Jacotot: you can learn without being taught and you can teach what you do not know. The term ‘Jeet Kune Do’ had been coined by Lee to evoke the guiding principles (‘Do’) or ultimate aim in fighting – quick and decisive victory. Lee believed these to be encapsulated in anything that could simultaneously intercept/interrupt an attack (‘Jeet’) and deliver a simultaneous hit of one’s own (‘Kune’). According to his senior student, Dan Inosanto, Lee was particularly enamoured of Western fencing’s ‘stop-hit’ technique – the act of blocking and striking simultaneously in one movement – hence, the name (and indeed, the look and feel of) Jeet Kune Do. But Lee was at pains to emphasize that in itself JKD was not a ‘style’: ‘Unlike a “classical” martial art, there is no series of rules or classification of technique that constitutes a distinct “Jeet Kune Do” method of fighting’ (24), he insisted.[5] The point, instead, writes Lee, is that ‘through instinctive body feeling, each of us ‘knows’ our own most efficient and dynamic manner of achieving effective leverage, balance in motion, economical use of energy, etc’ (24). Thus, we all already know how to move, how to fight. At the same time, learning formal ‘patterns, techniques or forms touch[es] only the fringe of genuine understanding.’ Formal training in martial arts actually stultifies the learner. According to Lee, the ‘core of understanding lies in the individual mind, and until that is touched, everything is uncertain and superficial.’ He claims: ‘Truth cannot be perceived until we come to fully understand ourselves and our potentials. After all, knowledge in the martial arts ultimately means self-knowledge’:
At this point you may ask, “How do I gain this knowledge?” That you will have to find out all by yourself. You must accept the fact that there is no help but self-help. For the same reason I cannot tell you how to ‘gain’ freedom, since freedom exists within you. I cannot tell you what ‘not’ to do, I cannot tell you what you ‘should’ do, since that would be confining you to a particular approach. Formulas can only inhibit freedom, externally dictated prescriptions only squelch creativity and assure mediocrity. Bear in mind that the freedom that accrues from self-knowledge cannot be acquired through strict adherence to a formula; we do not suddenly ‘become’ free, we simply ‘are’ free. Learning is definitely not mere imitation, nor is it the ability to accumulate and regurgitate fixed knowledge. Learning is a constant process of discovery, a process without end. In JKD we begin not by accumulation but by discovering the cause of our ignorance, a discovery that involves a shedding process. Unfortunately, most students in the martial arts are conformists. Instead of learning to depend on themselves for expression, they blindly follow their instructors, no longer feeling alone, and finding security in mass imitation. The product of this imitation is a dependent mind. Independent inquiry, which is essential to genuine


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understanding, is sacrificed. Look around the martial arts and witness the assortment of routine performers, trick artists, desensitized robots, glorifiers of the past and so on – all followers or exponents of organized despair. (Lee, 1971: 24)

In place of formal pedagogical structures, Bruce Lee – who had no formal qualification in any martial art but who could demonstrate ‘mastery’ in many – advocated autodidacticism, self-help, constant innovation, testing, exploration, experiment and dynamic verification. In other words, Bruce Lee was quite radical or revolutionary. Indeed, suggests Daniele Bolelli: ‘At a time when no forms of established authority went unchallenged, it seems only natural that even the field of martial arts was destined to experience some drastic change’ (Bolelli, 2003: 182-3). After characterising Bruce Lee’s ‘time’ – the late 1960s – as an era of all things anti-authoritarian, Bolelli concludes that:
The philosophy of JKD can therefore be seen as the gift (or the curse, depending on your point of view) of the alchemical mixing of Taoism, Zen Buddhism, the antiauthoritarian culture of the 1960s, and Bruce Lee’s own personality. Regardless of whether we agree with Lee’s approach or not, his example remains as an open invitation to do one of the healthiest things that anyone, martial artist or not, can do; questioning one’s own beliefs. (183)

The only help is self-help. Push yourself. Know thyself. You already know yourself, in yourself. Subject all institutions to a deconstructive questioning. Don’t follow leaders. Question all beliefs. Experiment with interdisciplinarity in the name of antidisciplinarity. This is the lesson of Bruce Lee. Of course, it is often said that a vague (but violent) ethnic Chinese ‘cultural nationalism’ comes out in Lee’s films, whilst this radical egalitarian/universalist individualism comes out in his martial arts ‘philosophy’ and written texts. However, even in Lee’s early films (largely written and directed by others and following stock formulas) Lee’s nationalism always comes in response to nationalisticallyinflected aggression against ‘innocent’ Chinese underdogs. Moreover, Lee’s later and increasingly self-controlled works (such as the incomplete Game of Death) all seek to emphasize themes of universalistic equality and individualistic emancipation. So it is clear that what subtends all of Lee’s texts is the egalitarian impulse that can be seen in ‘Liberate Yourself.’ This article ends:
There is no standard in total combat, and expression must be free. This liberating truth is a reality only in so far as it is ‘experienced and lived’ by the individual himself; it is a truth that transcends styles or disciplines. Remember, too, that Jeet Kune Do is merely a term, a label to be used as a boat to get one across; once across, it is to be discarded and not carried on one’s back. These few paragraphs are, at best, a ‘finger pointing to the moon’. Please do not take the finger to be the moon or fix your gaze so intently on the finger as to miss all the beautiful sights of heaven.


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After all, the usefulness of the finger is in pointing away from itself to the light which illumines finger and all. (24)

Lee was to use this ‘finger pointing’ analogy again. It reoccurs at the start of Enter the Dragon (1973), during one of the establishing scenes. The opening scenes of the film are of course all about establishing an interpretive context, and what these opening scenes chiefly provide will undoubtedly have been many viewers’ first ‘experience’ or inkling of the discipline and mysticism of the legendary Shaolin Temple and its mythical warrior monks. This ‘mysticism’ is condensed in one of the very first scenes, in which Lee tutors a young monk, Lau. This scene runs like this:
Lee: It’s Lau’s time. Braithwaite [surprised and somewhat puzzled]: Yes, of course… Lee: Kick me. [Lau seems puzzled] Kick me. [Lau throws a sidekick] What was that? An exhibition? We need [pointing to his head] emotional content. Try again! [Lau kicks again] I said emotional content. Not anger! Now try again! With me! [Lau throws two more kicks, causing Lee to respond] That’s it! How did it feel to you? Lau: Let me think. Lee: [Slaps Lau’s head] Don’t think! Feel! It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. [Slaps Lau’s head] Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory. Do you understand? Lau: [smiles, nods, bows] Lee: [Slaps the back of Lau’s head] Never take your eyes off your opponent, even when you bow…. That’s it.

The behaviour of Lee’s character in this ‘teacherly’ mode is not without precedent. According to Avital Ronell, Zen teachers often liberally strike students who give the wrong answers to Zen koans (riddles, essentially); an act which arguably has various pedagogical functions. The main function of the strike is to jolt the student into ‘realization,’ ‘awakening,’ or ‘satori’ (Ronell, 2004: 62). In Ronell’s words:
The hit seals a sort of ‘compliment’ conferred by the attentive master, who prods the physical body for the purpose of uninhibiting a scene of contemplation, new and unanticipated. The shock is crucial to the experience of the koan: it stages the opening of thought exceeding itself in the jolt. (Ronell, 2004: 62)

The riddler But, in ‘Liberate Yourself’ and in Enter the Dragon, what is the thought? In an essay on the pedagogy of Buddhism, a piece which


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involves an analysis of some of the occurrences of the finger pointing to the moon riddle in Zen Buddhist writings, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick observes that whilst on the one hand Western education largely proceeds by ‘assuming that every lesson can be divided into ever more bite-sized, ever more assimilable bits,’ on the other hand, the ‘wisdom traditions’ of Buddhism principally ‘assume that students have already surmounted a fairly high threshold of recognition’ (2003: 171-2). This is coupled with what she calls a ‘radical doubt that a basic realization can be communicated at all’ (172). It is in this, she suggests, that the difference between Western and Buddhist pedagogy consists: Buddhist pedagogy does not ‘teach’; rather it attempts to establish – to verify, to test – ‘recognition,’ or ‘realisation.’ As Ronell formulates this, ‘the koan, offered by the teacher – the ‘master’ – is meant to ‘open’ the pupil to the possibility of Saying. The master is responsible for initiating the call of such an opening.’ This ‘call of such an opening,’ she continues, is often ‘attained by the administration of a shock.’ This is why the master ‘is frequently figured as beating, hitting, or slugging the pupil’ (Ronell, 2004: 62). Ronell jolts her consideration of Buddhist pedagogy back to questions of Western philosophy. Sedgwick, too, quickly returns the discussion back to ‘Philosophy proper,’ so to speak.[6] However, Sedgwick is guided by a fascination with the Buddha’s claim: ‘I have not taught a single word during the forty-nine years of my Dharma preaching’; and that, rather than teaching as such, ‘the Buddha spoke many sutras, which should only be taken as “the finger that points to the moon”, not the moon itself’ (Sedgwick, 2003: 170). If such pedagogies can be taken seriously by both queer and other radical emancipatory theorists in the realms of philosophy, ‘wisdom traditions’ and pedagogy ‘proper,’ this still raises the question of the pedagogical status of Bruce Lee’s cinematic and journalistic nonteaching of exactly the same things (if it still makes sense to put it like this)? And what of the fact that the moment of Lee’s emergence was also the moment of high-hippy countercultural utopianism (the late 1960s and early 1970s)? What is to be made of the fact that this period is also the period that spurred so many critiques of institutions – and particularly pedagogical institutions – including those coming from deconstruction, cultural studies,’ feminism, postcolonialism, gender and sexuality studies, Bourdieu and (hence) Rancière? The finger It would be fair to say that Bruce Lee’s finger is pointing not just to the moon, but to problems of referentiality, indexicality and ontology, all of which at a certain time coalesced into one hell of a discursive convergence. As already noted, the dialectical synthesis of the apparently diametrically opposing ‘lessons’ of Bruce Lee (the Chinese nationalism of the ‘lesson of the early celluloid Lee’ versus the pragmatic, egalitarian inter- and antidisciplinary ‘lesson of JKD’) can be found in what might be called a certain ‘spirit.’ This spirit subtends,


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infuses and suffuses ‘both’ lessons of Bruce Lee. This spirit is often too quickly represented as the spirit of Zen – a putatively timeless, ‘transcultural’ spirit. However, such a spirit surely can and should be historicized. According to Sedgwick:
In the United States it seems to have fallen to the twentieth-century popularizers of Zen, after World War II, to begin to articulate the centrality in many forms of Buddhism of [a] radical doubt that a basic realization can be communicated at all. After all, if Zen practice cannot promise to bring one methodically over the high learning threshold of satori [‘awakening’, ‘realization’], it at least offers distinct practices, such as wrestling with koans, for dramatizing and perhaps exhausting the impossibility of methodical learning. Furthermore, the anti-scholasticism of Zen and the often anti-intellectualism of the counterculture merged in a durable consciousness of the limits of verbal articulation. The 1960s heyday of these explorations […] was one when a critique of school institutions became the vehicle of almost every form of utopian investment; if Buddhist explorations were peripheral to the student movement, they nonetheless both enabled and were enabled by it. (172)

Quite how one ultimately judges the value and lasting effects of such a movement remains to be decided. What is clear is the central place of Bruce Lee within this movement, as expression and agency, bringing many elements of the cultural and political margins right to the centre of global popular culture. Indeed, Bruce Lee can be regarded as providing what Rancière calls ‘the aesthetic dimension of the reconfiguration of the relationships between doing, seeing and saying that circumscribe the being-in-common [which] is inherent to every political or social movement’ (2000: 17). Of course, Rancière adds quickly, ‘this aesthetic component of politics does not lead me to seek the political everywhere that there is a reconfiguration of perceptible attributes in general. I am far from believing that “everything is political”.’ Yet, he quickly adds: ‘On the other hand, I believe it’s important to note that the political dimension of the arts can be seen first of all in the way that their forms materially propose the paradigms of the community’ (17). This is not to suggest that Bruce Lee was a herald and trailblazer of a PC utopia. However, it is, at least, to locate Bruce Lee firmly at the shifting centre of enduring intercultural and cross-ethnic representation. As Rey Chow sees it, this is:
a process in which the acceleration and intensification of contacts brought by technology and commerce entail an acceleration and intensification of stereotypes, stereotypes that, rather than simply being false or incorrect (and thus dismissable), have the potential of effecting changes in entire intellectual climates… (Chow 2002: 63)

What is the ‘mechanism’ and the ‘political’ status of such changes? We have already seen one example of the way in which a viewer might ‘learn’ from Bruce Lee, in Morris’ reading of Linda’s experience


).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 in the face of Bruce’s experience of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. moved into a place. their bodies? Spontaneity and the ‘let it go’ attitude of indulging in excessive freedoms belong to those who have the means to afford it – those who have nothing have only their discipline. for Žižek. He is co-editor of Jacques Rancière: In Disagreement (Parallax. if there is one. if the emergence of the image was a pole of subjectivating identification. (Žižek. we might say that where Žižek (in a way that is not all that different from Althusser) would see imaginary and symbolic identification as placing us in a pre-given ideological ‘place. the relation of Linda to Bruce and to ‘her’ community that is constituted by the dissonance of her viewing ‘awakening’ (or ‘satori’) arguably amounts to what Rancière calls ‘the aesthetic dimension of the reconfiguration of the relationships between doing. 2000: 17) – and now we might add. the denial of an identity given by an other. However. jogging and body-building as part of the New Age myth of the realization of the Self’s inner potentials – no wonder that the obsession with one’s body is an almost obligatory part of the passage of ex-Leftist radicals into the ‘maturity’ of pragmatic politics: from Jane Fonda to Joschka Fischer. On the shores of aesthetic dissensus In his afterword to Rancière’s The Politics of Aesthetics. events. moments. was it not obvious that we were dealing with a genuine working class ideology of youngsters whose only means of success was the disciplinary training of their only possession. and Post-Marxism Versus Cultural Studies (2007). for Rancière. Paul Bowman is author of Theorizing Bruce Lee (2010). etc. Deconstructing Popular Culture (2008). Kung Fu films were popular (Bruce Lee. subjectivization (in contradistinction to ‘interpellation’) involves ‘an identification that cannot be embodied’ – not ‘the simple assertion of an identity’ but ‘always. the ‘period of latency’ between the two phases was marked by the focus on one’s own body. In our example. Slavoj Žižek claims: when. channelled. every ‘emancipatory’ pedagogical relation. as many thinkers have noted. 2009) Reading Rancière (2010) and The 15 . rather. whether that be in relation to the book. seeing and saying that circumscribe the being-in-common [which] is inherent to every political or social movement’ (Rancière. the future of the image was ideological phantasy.’ This is a place of dissensus. become (to use an overburdened and deeply problematic word) ‘co-opted’ – ideologically recuperated: domesticated. So. There are others. 2004: 78-9) In other words. as we have seen. given by the ruling order of policy.[7] Žižek’s point is that images. is not collective training. but. the magazine or the screen. at the same time. The ‘bad’ bodily discipline.’ Thus.’ Rancière prompts us to see identification as a disidentification that displaces us into a political ‘place. three decades ago.

As she concludes: ‘Perhaps the most distinctive way Mahayana Buddhism has tried to negotiate the “finger 16 . and the American academic left keeps fretting about how phallocentricity is inscribed in Dickens’s portrayal of Little Nell’ (184). Bruce Lee has long been recognised as a muse for postmodern self-construction: Morris clarifies this by discussing his role in the camp US martial arts film. since his death. for the ‘implication of the finger/moon image is that pointing may invite less misunderstanding than speech. and these include many unattributed but readily traceable quotations from other thinkers – all of which ultimately makes Bruce Lee seem to be a barefaced plagiarist – as if he himself made the decision to publish ‘his’ words in that form.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Truth of Žižek (2007). It is his manifesto for ‘Jeet Kune Do. 2009). deeply. He continues: ‘JKD is not a form of special conditioning with its own rigid philosophy. although I think that in the mid to late 1990s perhaps it looked like it was about to become more of ‘a popular occupation’. journals and jotters. It looks at combat not from a single angle. 6.’ Thus. I do not. in which the ghost of Lee comes back to enable the teen hero to reconstruct himself to vanquish his foes. the crux of Morris’s entire article in this regard is that although she sees the grain of truth in Robert Hughes’ caricatural comment that ‘the world changes more widely. that ‘fretting over phallocentricity is now a popular occupation’ (184). thrillingly than at any moment since 1917. Sedgwick chases the interpretation of the finger-moon riddle through the archives of Zen Buddhist writings. but that even its non-linguistic concreteness cannot shield it from the slippery problems that surround reference’ (2003: 170). No Retreat. We may or may not accept Morris’ contention that ‘fretting over phallocentricity is now a popular occupation. No Surrender. But ‘Liberate Yourself from Classical Karate’ was signed and signed off by Bruce Lee. Lee’s name has been attached to the wholesale and indiscriminate posthumous publication of selections from his notebooks. For. nor are they necessary’ (1971: 24). college essays. at least journalistically. deep. 3. on the other hand. and maybe it did briefly become slightly more common than it had been. after he died. ‘There are no prearranged sets or “kata” in the teaching of JKD. In fact. but from all possible angles. thrilling change in the world which Robert Hughes has missed’ – namely. For an extended discussion of all of these points and others.) 4. 2.’ 5. Morris believes that there has in fact been ‘a wide. see my book Theorizing Bruce Lee (Bowman. Notes 1. as well as editor of Interrogating Cultural Studies (2003) and The Rey Chow Reader (2010).’ (Personally.

and suchlike. pp. . Spring. ostention. they realize each other’ (…). S. Men and Masculinities. in the view of thusness. Body & Society. Chan. (1977). vol. pp. 2003: 171). See. Image – Music – Text. no. which Sedgwick prefers to approach through the terms and poetics of Buddhism itself. However. 4. indexicality. 24-48.: Blue Snake Books. 6. the discussion of this in Brown (1997). B. A. the master [Fa Yen] answered “to point at”. Theorizing Bruce Lee: Film – Fantasy – Fighting – Philosophy. where there was no distinction between what the ordinary mind called “to point at” and “the moon”: To him. Representations. Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance. I refer the reader to Brown in particular for two reasons: the first is because Brown’s discussion of Stuart Hall’s trailblazing analysis of co-optation or ideological rearticulation refers and relates directly to martial arts culture. ‘Bruce Lee’s fictional models of masculinity’. when someone else asked about the meaning of “to point at” the master replied “the moon”: Why was it so? The deepest reasoning. for example. acts of reference. (1997). (2000). and Martial Arts Mythology. P. Bibliography Abbas. (2003). J. A koan commentary elaborates: ‘When the monk asked about the meaning of “the moon”. and with it perhaps the immemorial injunction against confusing them’: ‘As a contemporary Zen abbot notes. 17 . Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press. (1997). April. Brown. (2009). Barthes. Bowman. pp. ‘The construction and export of culture as artefact: the case of Japanese martial arts’. Fighting. Ca. probably. 371-87. Chan. . (2000). 69–74. D. R. the second is because Brown’s analysis of ‘co-optation’ is considerably more nuanced and sophisticated than most others. 2. This preference allows her to propose that ‘finally. even the distinction between finger and moon dissolves. was in the Enlightened mind of the Ch’an master. produce a ‘resonant double movement’ (171).W. London: Fontana. Berkeley. Amsterdam & New York: Rodopi. 7. no. no.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 pointing at the moon” issue is through the ostentive language of thusness or suchness’ (170). ‘Global bodies/postnationalities: Charles Johnson’s consumer culture’. vol. ‘The finger pointing to the moon is the moon. Bolelli. the relation between the two was similar to the relation of an ocean to its waves’ (Kosofsky Sedgwick. and the moon is the finger. 1. 58. On the Warrior’s Path: Philosophy.

---. (2006). (1971). ---. Kung Fu Cult Masters: From Bruce Lee to Crouching Tiger. London: Verso. pp.A. (2002). vol. E. Bloomington. 25-39. London: Vintage. Contingency. J. 9. M. (2001). ---. Rainbow Publications. (2000). hidden dragon: Kung Fu diplomacy and the dream of cultural china’. Indiana: Indiana University Press.R. D. identification. ‘Crouching tiger. September. ---. Ca. Substance. pp. ‘Jacques Rancière: literature. London: Routledge. (2001).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Chow. Summer. 61. Universality: 18 . 28. H. (2003). 3-24. London: Blackwell. London: Verso. ‘Liberate yourself from classical Karate’. 24. and subjectivization’. October. ---. G. ‘Learning from Bruce Lee’. Special Issue: The Identity in Question. 1. ‘Politics. Villarejo (eds). 92. Black Belt Magazine. no. 1-12. vol. Tinkcom and A. trans. Marchetti. (2002). Eperjesi. 1. p. New York: Columbia University Press. Miller. The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. pp. (1991) [1987]. London: Wallflower. 9. Stanford. in M. (2005). Hegemony. Keyframes: Popular Cinema and Cultural Studies. On Populist Reason. K. Hunt. Kosofsky Sedgwick. 58-64. Lee. Breaking into the Movies. aesthetics: approaches to democratic disagreement: interviewed by Solange Guénoun and James H. Tinkcom and A. J. vol. (2000). in M. Touching Feeling: Affect. Laclau. (1993). E. Ross.: Stanford University Press. Giroux. (2000). Durham & London: Duke. pp. no. The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Kavanagh’. Rancière. L. (2004). Asian Studies Review. The Tao of Bruce Lee. (2003). Villarejo (eds). Parrhesia. vol. Writing Diaspora: Tactics of Intervention in Contemporary Cultural Studies. Pedagogy. Morris. Keyframes: Popular Cinema and Cultural Studies. no. politics. B. ‘Jackie Chan and the black connection’. (1992). 171-84. ‘Thinking between disciplines: an aesthetics of knowledge’. Performativity. R. pp. London: Routledge. Contemporary Dialogues on the Left.

Afterword. Blake Edwards. Avildsen. Stanford: Stanford University Press. dir. dir. Rancière. ‘Translator’s introduction’. dir.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Ronell. 58–71. The Politics of Aesthetics. Robert Clouse. in J. K. (2001). Bruce Lee. Game of Death (1978) [1973]. ‘Koan practice or taking down the test’. Teo. Filmography Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993). Rob Cohen. in J. A. (2004). S.I. London: Continuum. No Surrender (1986). Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?: Interventions in The (Mis)use of a Notion. dir. 10. 1. dir. The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Rancière. ‘The lesson of Rancière’. Žižek. parallax. Enter the Dragon (1973). London: Verso. pp. no. Corey Yuen. No Retreat. G. vol. © borderlands ejournal 2009 19 . S. London: British Film Institute. Jane (1997). Five ---. Rocky (1976). dir. Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimension. (1991) [1987]. dir. Ross. Ridley Scott. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). (2004). (2008). John G.

One contributor speculated that one reason for this interest might be that the paradox intentionally lodged at its core reflected contemporary art’s own contradictions (Funcke. 2009 Aesthetic Revolution. 2009b: 23). University of London This paper discusses the aesthetic staging of same-sex equality in contemporary art in relation to Jacques Rancière’s engagement with the fields of contemporary art. The paradox of the aesthetic revolution is that art is radically political not according to the ways it conveys messages concerning issues or identities. one of the world’s leading contemporary art magazines devoted a number of pages to his work. aesthetics and art history.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. 2007: 283). Rancière shows that art viewed from within the contemporary aesthetic regime must be made in the name of the anonym. His most provocative and productive challenge has been his belief that the accepted teleology of avant-garde ‘modernism’ is unhelpful ‘when it comes to thinking about contemporary forms of art and the relation between 1 . and the ‘wrong’ of domination. Rancière illuminates the staging of equality with regard to the egalitarian aesthetics of photography. in March 2007. For some years Rancière has been making interventions in a field he describes as a dispositif of the aesthetic regime of art (Rancière. the name of anyone and everyone. Aesthetics and the practice of equality Marking a growing art world interest in the work of Jacques Rancière. It uses Rancière’s ideas of disagreement and disidentification to deal with the problematic categorization of samesex identification. the Staging of (‘Homosexual’) Equality and Contemporary Art Roger Cook Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies. but as it frames an indifferent convivium: the liberty and equality of a common aesthetic. the political disturbance of the uncanny.b o rd e rla n d s . and the contradictory torsion between the autonomy of art and the heteronomy of life.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w .n e t.

Art can become life. 2002: 137). This complex question 2 . it is this new form of the distribution of the sensible that Schiller captured with the term ‘play’: an activity that has no other form than itself and no desire to dominate (Rancière. Such oppositions and intersections can be traced as the interplay between three major scenarios. Art and life can exchange their properties. Jean-Phillipe Deranty. correspondence between the arts. that can be read in two different ways: autonomy can be stressed over life. In the representational regime works of art are no longer subject to the laws of truth or the common rules of utility but belong to the sphere of imitation. broadly associated with the ancient. but presently co-existent ‘regimes’ of art. by belonging to a specific sensorium that stands out as an exception from the normal regime of the sensible’ (Rancière. This is a formula. or what we should rather call its ‘metapolitics’—that is. To try to clarify matters. each is also a variant of the politics of aesthetics. 2002: 134). reconfiguring art as a political issue. or asserting itself as true politics (Rancière. Understanding the politics of aesthetics involves understanding the ways that the autonomy of art is linked to the heteronomy of life: The key formula of the aesthetic regime of art is that art is an autonomous form of life. The revolution of the aesthetic regime emerged fully during the eighteenth century with its manifesto reflected in the writings of Schiller. It grounds the autonomy of art. one of Rancière’s most perspicacious French commentators writing in English asks: ‘What does it mean to talk about equality regarding a practice. representational and aesthetic. etc. Life can become art. Winckelmann and Kant. or life over autonomy—and these lines of interpretation can be opposed. The aesthetic regime ‘overthrows this normativity and the relationship between form and matter on which it is based. 2007: 242). its way of producing its own politics. however. proposing to politics rearrangements of its space. to the extent that it connects it to the hope of “changing life”’ (Rancière. they are subject to norms: hierarchy of genres. or they can intersect. notably in aesthetic experience?’ (Deranty. As such.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 aesthetics and politics’ (Rancière. though not so much as copies of reality but ways of imposing form on matter. Schiller said that aesthetic experience ‘bear[s] the edifice of the art of the beautiful and of the art of living […] aesthetic experience is effective inasmuch as it is the experience of that and. images were questioned solely for their truth: for their effect on the ideology and ethos of individuals and the community. 2004a: 20). 2002: 135). 2009: 30). he distinguishes three historically sequential. In the ancient world art had no autonomy. notably regarding the techniques and practices of art? And what is equality in experience. According to the logic of the and. classical and modern periods which he names: the ethical. Thematized in the Kantian aesthetic. adequation of expression to subject matter. Works of art are now defined as such. emplotted in three versions of temporality. These three scenarios yield three configurations of the aesthetic.

creating a platform––a ‘convivium’––which celebrates equality (Panagia. 2003: xxv). (Rancière. the tense relational twist between the autonomy of ‘art’ and the heteronomy of ‘forms of life’ that Rancière has discussed in his writings on aesthetics and politics. felt and sensed ‘organoleptically. the immediacy of its aesthetic impact shared.) ‘Equality’ Rancière insists ‘is not a goal to be attained but a point of departure. What might the art of subjects whose same sex subjectification has been inhibited by the world they inhabit have to show with regard to this? For Rancière. between Salon and SaintRambert-D’Ablon. but I want to emphasize “exactly”–“worth” any other man’ (Genet. it was the discovery of the writings of the nineteenth century Ignorant Schoolmaster Joseph Jacotot.p.’ before being understood. Beneath social inequality and domination there lies a more foundational equality such as Jean Genet famously recounted. very simple and very complicated’: How do individuals get some idea in their heads that makes them either satisfied with their position or indignant about it? How are representations of self and other––which sustain hierarchy. at once. art is inherently democratic. 2003: 226). 1991. when. 2007: 177. art performs the same task as politics. ‘in a third class car. manners of being and modes of feeling and saying are interwoven in a commonsense. which means a "sense of the common" embodied in a common sensorium. In writing thus. in relation to photography (Rancière. 2007a. 2003: 146). Such questions are fundamental to the pursuit of homosexual equality 3 . 2003: 137). a supposition to be maintained in all circumstances’ (Rancière. 2004a. 1991: 138). At the start of his description of ‘A Personal Itinerary’ Rancière tells how he pursued ‘two or three questions that are. As Rancière phrases it. Deranty accords with declarations of the indissoluble inherence of the political in what Rancière calls the aesthetic partition and distribution of sensible experience (le partage du sensible) –– making ‘visible what had been excluded from the perceptual field’ and ‘audible what used to be inaudible’ (Rancière. art is: political as its own practices shape forms of visibility that reframe the way in which practices. For Rancière. thus granting everyone the potential freedom to play or act out the equality of their intelligence (Rancière. 2005: n. 2009a). Deranty. and most particularly and recently. that any man was exactly–sorry.’ he: ‘Suddenly knew the painful–yes. consensus or conflict––formed and transformed? (Rancière. Rooted in the senses. 2003: 91-101). re-organizing accepted perceptions of reality (Deranty. 1999: 88).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 engages head on. that caused him to oppose emancipatory movements based on identity claims to those based on universality (Rancière. painful feeling. 2009: 140-45).

Queering categorization In this paper I propose to examine the aesthetic regime’s torsion between art and life––with regard to the singularity of queer subjectivation––in the creative practice of some contemporary artists who share a common investment in the democratic aesthetics of equality: a belief that aesthetic experience is open to all who open themselves to its disruptions. fails to disclose its legal dimension: that of the injustice of being wronged. It is always by dis-identifying from what has gone before that contemporary art and artists emerge. his investment is not in subjects but in processes of subjectivation and dis-identification. which tend to be naturalized as stable or originary’ (Warner. which is then the background against which we understand ourselves and our belonging.’ alongside ‘heterosexuality’ (Foucault.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 and its staging. ‘the essence of politics is a dissensus’ (Rancière. one might say that Rancière’s understanding of art and politics is a ‘queer’ one. Inequality is something that homosexuals share. tort is not simply a juridical category since ‘a wrong does 4 . At its best. The policing of identity has been the curse of the history of the relatively recent invention of ‘homosexuality. One might also say that the history of art is a model of Rancière's view that the subject comes about through disidentification. Katz. and one might add. ‘but one disclosed in practice’ immanent to history ‘unlike ideas of community or identity. for Rancière. it is disidentification that asserts difference and demonstrates equality. 1990. insofar as he believes that both must be radically disruptive of the policies of established order which keep everyone in place. Ultimately. the contemporary art world is a model of Rancière's notion of democracy as ‘disagreement’ (la mésentente): the perpetual struggle by ‘the part with no part’ (le part sans-part) for equality in the ‘distribution or partition of the sensible’ (le partage du sensible).' This category originating as a term of insult was reclaimed by the same-sex community in the early 90s as a nongendered alternative term of 'affirmative difference' to 'gay. bringing into being the space of our world. 2009b: 13). though not incorrect. This world is not predesignated. As queer theorist Michael Warner understands it: ‘the activity we undertake with each other’ is ‘a kind of agonistic performance’ dependent on our interactions with others. then. However. Stabilizing identity is exactly what Rancière wishes to resist: which makes any discussion of sexuality in terms of identities inimical to his work. Rancière takes issue with the consensual nature of identity politics. nonrecognition: non-celebration.p. ‘to the gaze of anyone at all’ (Rancière.' 'lesbian' and 'homosexual' all terms which are subject to continuing discursive dissensus.). hence the significance of the actively celebratory term 'queer. 2000: n. The translation of tort as wrong. 2001: 12). 1995). part sans-part with other stigmatized minorities: a past history of subjugation. Interestingly ‘queer’ bears an etymological relation to the legal term for being wronged–tort– through the Latin verb to twist (torquere).

b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 not occur between determined parties and cannot be resolved by juridical procedures. This is especially important for art dealing with sexual politics and the political subjectivization of sexual minorities. Categorizing essentializes: reducing art to a specific destiny. ‘in order for a democratics to occur. how its meaning (sens) is organoleptically present in the sensory in the materiality of its ‘flesh’ and not just in the rhetoric outside of it. Rancière states that he is concerned with ‘aesthetic acts as configurations of experience that create new modes of sense perception and induce novel forms of political subjectivity’ (Rancière. of anyone's sexuality are made (or can't be made) to signify monolithically (Sedgwick. is central to the specificity of the aesthetic revolution. it is involved in the "what follows. overlaps. movement. the name of anyone’ and its ‘universality is not enclosed in citizen or human being. motive–recurrent. 1994: 8). The word "queer" itself means across–it comes from the Indo-European root–twerkw. Under the rubric 'camouflage and provocation' the politics of equality in queer aesthetic practices can be divided into two main categories: implicit and explicit. 2004a: 93). As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick pointed out ‘queer is a continuing moment. dissonances and resonances. Its usage need not be confined to homosexuality: 'queer' can refer to the open mesh of possibilities. gaps. Latin torquere (to twist). the latter declarative. eddying. without distinguishing between kinds of people’ (Badiou. It is usually explicit. A wrong can only be treated by modes of political subjectivization that reconfigure the field of experience’ (Panagia. 2004b: 13). compromising its universality and therefore the equality of aesthetic experience. Rancière. It is the impersonal production of a truth that is addressed to all’ (Badiou. In a recent interview Terence Davies respectfully differentiated himself from fellow film maker Derek Jarman on his categorization as ‘gay film maker. the distinction might seem trivial.’ declaring himself a film maker who happens to be gay. whether ethnic or egoistic. 2004a: 9) –– as good a definition as any of what makes art vital and emancipatory. 2008a: 58). troublant. but it is important.p. lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone's gender. 1994: 8) Presupposition of equality does not have to be recognized consciously for it to be effective. The question of how the political agency of art is embodied in the artwork. 2006: 89. 2006: 143). The former operating in a coded manner." in its discursive and practical enactment’ 5 . English athwart” (Kosofsky Sedgwick. ‘Non-imperial art’ Badiou says ‘is related to a kind of aristocratic-proletarian ethic: it does what it says. 2003: n.). but it can be implicit’ (May. As Rancière writes: the name of any ‘injured community that invokes its rights is always the name of the anonym. which is no doubt why Rancière entitled his book on the ‘politics of writing’ The Flesh of Words (Rancière. which also yields the German quer (transverse). As Rancière’s fellow philosopher states in his ‘maxims of affirmationist art’: ‘Art cannot be the expression of a particularity.

It is always “aestheticized”. which is why in the title of this paper I decided to put (‘homosexual’) under erasure. which originally meant to accuse someone in public (Bourdieu. suspended. It would seem that there is little choice but to recognize the tragically absurd double-bind of symbolic domination: the question of how one can revolt against a socially imposed categorization except by organizing oneself according to it. 2008: 41-138). non-identical (Deranty. 2002: 137.’ This dealt humorously with same-sex experience (cottaging–‘tea room trade’) by taking the theatrical form of a ‘Celestial Teapot’ performing the historically resonant and defiantly ‘camp’ akimbo gesture (King. ‘its identification with a way of life is a structural contradiction of the aesthetic regime of art’ (Rancière.’ an ‘art of innuendo […] for surviving under repressive social conditions. 1955) who lives and works in Istanbul addresses the viewer as a knowledgeable reader of queer codes’ in which ‘the Dandyist revolution is realized in barely visible gestures of refined symbolic meaning. As Jan Verwoert has suggested. suspensive. Interestingly for Rancière.’ After asking whether these codes might not be just affirming the world as it is rather than envisioning it as it might possibly be. the battle for equality is a battle for all. ‘Duwenhögger (b. 2004a: 26). the ‘liberating humour’ of a ‘different universe’ which embodies ‘a promise of other potential realities’ so that ‘you can’t help but smile at the heightened awareness it gives you the viewer of your theatrical presence on the stage of the exhibition space’ (Verwoert. 1990: 27). 2009b: 11). King. 2000: 23). a term stemming from the Greek kathegoresthai. Such a monument is patently frivolous and absurd. 2003: 146). though scepticism regarding categorization in no way precludes artists’ investment in the history of their specific form of sexual culture through their work. To take a contemporary example: the artist Lukas Duwenhögger’s 2007 competition proposal for a public memorial in Berlin to the ‘Homosexual Victims of National Socialism. meaning that it is always posed as a “form of life"’ (Rancière. thus 6 . ‘Aesthetic experience is experience of the ambivalent’ (Rancière. The ambivalence felt toward all terms relating to homosexuality by those who undergo them is only too understandable given this problem of categorisation. Verwoert positively asserts the successful public staging of homosexual equality in Duwenhögger’s work. 1992: 60). No matter on whose behalf.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 (Rancière. with disruptive vigour and conviction on behalf of this specifically dominated form of life. 2008a: 74) the humourless male fantasies of Nazi domination. Guénoun. In short. paratactical. 2008a: 73). The pure category 'art' is mixed with the impurity of non-art: ‘art is art to the extent that it is something else than art. aesthetics is suspensive: ‘a way of thinking the paradoxical sensorium’ that ‘makes it possible to define the things of art’ (Rancière. 1994: 20-43. 2004). categorisations regarding same-sexuality are paradoxical. bracketed and in inverted commas. indicating that there is an imaginative concept of freedom. 2000: 252. yet it disturbs: in Rancièrean phraseology ‘disturbing in the very scenery of the sensible’ and its distribution (Rancière. Rancière.

b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 implementing the classifications and restrictions that one resists as well as fighting for a new sexual order in which such distinctions would be indifferent (Bourdieu. 1999). Ricco. 2005: 1).1955) or the promiscuous anonymity of Stephen Barker’s photographs of nocturnal cruising in Nightswimming (Barker. several identities’ (Rancière. 2004) and says she is interested in what her life might have 7 . One of her own best-known statements contributed to this. her photographic concerns can be reduced to a homoerotic or queer perspective. 2002: 19) reflected in the anonymity. and why gay and lesbian identification can only be made strategically and ‘queer’ seen as a form of dis-identification or ‘unbecoming. 1999: 30). One might see this non-identitarianism. For Rancière. 1999: 137-8). As John Rajchman once put it: ‘Once we give up the belief that our life-world’ is grounded in identity ‘we may come to a point where ungroundedness is no longer experienced as existential anxiety […] but as a freedom and lightness […]’ (Rajchman. but for the sake of nothing at all other than one's own equality’ (May. This problematic of queer identification has been expressed by the contemporary photographer Collier Schorr (b. 2002: 120). When she was asked why she photographed wrestlers and soldiers. indetermination and non-affirmative anybody-everybodyness (21) of the Interim 1992-93 and Songs of Sentient Beings 1995 series of photographs by Bill Jacobson (b.’ thus exposing ‘for all to see the gap between political subjectification … and any kind of identification’ (Rancière. of abandoning the identity one is given in the policing of the social order (May. Because of her assertive manner in dealing with male rituals and military and sport fetishes. ‘Political being-together is a being-between: between identities. but not girls. This is why Rancière stresses the refusal of identity and the significance of dis-identification for subjectivation. 1998: 88). not for the sake of another or different position. not because she wishes to remain in the closet but because such identification adversely narrows the focus of how her work is read. not a substantiality’ (Nancy. she answered: ‘I do. understanding politics as a process of declassification. Schorr prefers not to be publicly identified as lesbian. 2008a: 50). For homosexuals to accept categorizations unequivocally would be to accept themselves in the police order as marginalized subjects.’ In the introduction to a journal issue devoted to ‘unbecoming’ Jean Paul Ricco quotes a significant passage from Jean-Luc Nancy regarding the question of a communal space of politics where he suggests that a ‘being-incommon’ ‘would operate a transitivity. As Todd May puts it: ‘The project of a democratic politics. I just use boys to do it’ (Schorr. as a Foucauldian ‘desubstantialization of sexuality’ (Ricco. 1997: 90. is to reject the marginalized position to which one has been assigned. and demonstrators in the Paris of 1968 declared ‘We are all German Jews. a politics of equality.1963). The beingin-common of ‘queer’ is just such a transitive rather than substantive subjectification and it might well be added to Rancière’s statement about how the dissidents of the Eastern bloc adopting the term ‘hooligan’ with which they were stigmatized by the heads of these regimes. 2008a: 49). between worlds […] between several names.

’ its capacity for active aesthetic provocation rather than simple recognition (Hallward. Bacon referred to it as ‘The Bed of Crime. 2001: xx). indifferent to politics as such. which has been described as one of ‘the most provocative homosexual images of our epoch’ (Farson. not to mention her other performative political projects in which she performs acts of appropriation in relation to political speeches of the 60s and 70s. Rancière frequently cites Flaubert's aristocratic indifference to democracy whilst paradoxically writing democratically of the ‘splendour of the insignificant. USA). Like Rancière. furthermore it did this when such acts even in private were a criminal offence.’ The production of such an image in 1953 was a brave aesthetico-political act painted some fourteen years before such acts (in private) were legitimized in English law. gay power. and thereby asserts the equality of that experience. This does not mean however that Hayes is not interested in political activism as her extraordinary Revolutionary Love project in which at the US Republican and Democratic conventions a group of between 70-100 people simultaneously spoke a text put together by Hayes about love. 1992: 61. Though deriving from an Eadweard Muybridge photograph of wrestlers. are more interested in ‘the performative operations of subject formation’ (Hayes. so there can be no type of art that we recognize as 'homosexual. 1979: 6). and her photographs can nonetheless be understood as ‘queer’ in the sense that they subtly trouble normative notions of gender. ‘release the prisoners: […] scatter the signified […]’ (Barthes. demonstrates. ‘The word “queer” has too much content in it’ and she would rather ‘be seen as an artist than queer’ (Schorr. it patently represents two male figures engaged in violent sexual activity. and gay liberation. 1970. art. politics. in turn becomes overdetermined. led astray––not by the message of which it is the instrument. The transformative joy of such provocation and its maintenance is central to Rancière’s thinking. Then as if anticipating this law. we know that there can be no prescriptive agenda for either. Schorr and fellow artist Sharon Hayes (b. After the failure of 20th century vanguards to place art in the service of ideology by homogenizing art and politics. ‘at a disruptive distance from inherited norms and expectations. may still have metapolitical effects. She has problems when her work is ascribed a primarily gay context. 2008). in 1954 he painted Two Figures in the Grass: the same sex 8 .' What is distinctive about art is its capacity to invent new forms. Hayes is a contemporary artist inventing new forms of aesthetic/political intervention. 2006: 36): subjectification rather than identification (Rancière. 1993). In 1953 the Anglo-Irish painter Francis Bacon (1909-1992) acted in accordance with this. 1977: 50): ‘it is within speech that speech must be fought.' There is only art that tacitly or explicitly relates to same sex experience that either carries aesthetic conviction or not.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 been like had she been a boy. there is the need again to neutralize language. 1999: 36). ‘Queer’ which initially freed homosexuals from the prison of categorization. by painting Two Figures. She. but by the play of words of which it is the theater’ (Barthes. In other words.

Aesthetic indifference to hierarchies of subject matter is evident in the vast range of subjects and the manner of installation of the wonderfully open and democratic contemporary photographic project of Wolfgang Tillmans (b. sexuality.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 act depicted in open public space. the aesthetic regime of art asserts indifference of style in relation to the represented subject’ (Deranty. The oligarchic hierarchy of perception: genres.. Indeed one might ask exactly what sexual equality means? There is disagreement on this. 2007: 243). Continuing the photographic project initiated by photographers like David Octavius Hill of ‘the appropriation of the commonplace’ (Rancière. subjects and media. asserting homosexual experience as fundamentally dissensually non-monogamously different. and those who want none of it. 2007: 45). Style no longer has anything to do with what is being represented in the hierarchical modes of representation of classical art but is a kind of ‘absolute way of seeing things’ (Rancière. give way to a joyful ‘aesthetics of chaosmos’: a stylistic ‘explosion’ where meaning sinks into ‘the rhythm of bodily states’ (Rancière. and hence joy’ (Rancière. ‘Egalitarian society is only ever the set of egalitarian relations that are traced here and now through singular and precarious acts […] among those who know how to share with anybody and everybody the equal power of intelligence’ inspiring ‘courage. categories that pre-ordered experience in the representative regime. down to the ‘readymade’: the Duchampian urinal and the Warholian soupcan or Brillo box (Deranty. (Rancière. Identifying with the criminal underworld. 2004a: 14) Tillman invites us to share the equal power of visual intelligence ‘with anybody and everybody’. 2007: 245). the body.1968). it has a special political and aesthetic resonance with regard to issues concerning freedom of expression. Here art is the concentrated expression of meaning that is already that of the world itself. Bacon famously and defiantly enjoyed his dominated deviant social status and cared little for liberalizing homosexual equality. there are assimilationists for whom homosexual equality represents consensuality with heterosexual normativity. a community formed only by […] random circulation […]. In the ‘aesthetic’ regime. marital rights etc. 2006: 97). The staging of equality ‘Against the imperative of propriety. and the ever-present threat of 9 . legal parity. sensuality. 2004c: 147). Yet what is this indifference after all if not the very quality of everything that comes to pass […] available to everyone's eyes? This equality destroys all of the hierarchies of representation and also establishes a community […] as a community without legitimacy. 2004a: 33) his photographic opus embodies the egalitarian spirit in the particularly vivid way that Rancière describes in The Politics of Aesthetics as: the negation of any relationship of necessity between a determined form and a determined content. any object is worthy of artistic representation.

Nominated for the 2009 Turner prize for his solo exhibitions How Do You Love Dzzzzt By Mammy? at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst. In his own words. Peaches. 2006: 24) The strongest element of that embodiedness is his emboldened belief in conviviality. It contained many theatrical and musical references. subtly questions accepted beliefs about authority and the gendered 10 . David spoke about his work Chicken Man Gong (2005) shown at the Stedelijk. and ‘The Surface of Design. In the summer of 2007. his 2007 exhibition at London’s ICA was hailed as one of the best exhibitions that venue had had for decades. enhancing the fragile intensity of life. In every sense of the word there is something more than a little ‘queer’ about the work of Enrico David (b. As Daniel Birnbaum put it so eloquently in that catalogue: His work is always that of an embodied subject […] These phenomena are […] seen by someone. Basel. in a ‘utopian ideal of to-getherness’ (Tillmans. one of the most engaging artists to have emerged in Britain in recent years. and Bulbous Marauder at the Seattle Art Museum. from his evident desire to share his lens based joys of discovery. to the erotically charged intimacy of his abstract works: Blushes.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 extinction as a consequence of AIDS. using their pre-given rules and functional potential in an attempt to organize and give structure to the often chaotic nature of [his] emotional response to reality.).’ 2002. David’s is a dandaistic world in which ‘things are freed from the drudgery of being useful’ (Thompson. consisting of a gong and a display case.p. to the single and group portraits of friends and acquaintances. against the deathly background of personal loss from AIDS which makes companionship and comradeship all the more significant. commissioned by Tate Britain in 2005. Frieischwimmer.’ 2007). 2009: n. whilst at the same time demonstrating the extraordinary resourcefulness and range of abilities as artists have dealt with the issue of homosexual equality in a time of plague without succumbing to victimhood or giving way to self pity.’ In embracing design and craft David joins the growing band of artists since the sixties who broke the ‘modernist’ embargo on the divide between ‘fine’ and ‘applied’ art (Rancière refers to this in his articles ‘The Aesthetic Revolution and Its Outcomes. something he discovered early on in the gay clubbing scene in London. 2002: 13). his work borrows ‘from traditional craft techniques and design styles. This two-part work. (Birnbaum. 1966). and it is perhaps worth remembering that the terms ‘theatrical’ and ‘musical’ were once euphemisms for homosexual. AIDS has cast a long shadow over the art world. This sense of communal being-in-the-world is present at many different levels in his work. The banal fact that he could place a photograph of two men kissing on the first page of his US tour catalogue is a freedom won for all who value the expression of equality whatever their sexual orientation. as he has said. all this. and this someone is a social being living in a body and relating to other humans.

In addition to this. whether a lifeless object may not in fact be animate. We might note the relation of uncanny to queer. Staging is indeed the word to describe David’s modus operandi. according to the text that is part of the work. In his Spring 2008 exhibition at the Daniel Buchholz Gallery in Cologne entitled “Bulbous Marauder” he references the Commedia del Arte. The text accompanying this work (which can be found by following the links to David’s work on the Daniel Bucholz website) like that of ‘Shitty Tantrum. hence the references to asses and anality both iconographically and in the titles of works like the fetishistic manikin Sodulator.A Hoffman. David has created a complex web of narratives and allusions to a variety of cultural sources. evoking the mechanical dolls and toys in the tales of E. In short: Chicken Man Gong is an elegant hybrid figure ‘dedicated to the spirit. loosely based on the imaginative narrative of a ‘play’ of his own invention. taken from the work of the French artist Pierre Molinier (1900-1976) known for his fetishistic photographic self-portraits in drag. 1990: 345). during the exhibition the artist telephoned a museum employee with the order to sound the gong.. Citing a paper by Jentsch. bringing the work to the public’s notice. In Chicken Man Gong. for children experience the enigmatic signifiers of the primal family scene as incomprehensible and therefore uncanny (Laplanche. Consciously or not. Freud remarks that waxwork figures. or conversely. 1990: 339-76). particularly from the 20s and 30s quite knowingly but never totally nostalgically since he always injects them with a quirkiness of his own making. dolls and automata are liable to arouse an uncanny feeling. Chicken Man Gong plays a theatrical and ritual role in the museum. David invokes the unheimlich in his irresolvable visual narratives. 1992).T. joy and honour of Chickeninity or Chickenhood’ (Verwoert.’ invites the viewer to circle down ‘queerly’ into its multiple levels of meaning. 2009: 59). David’s work would seem to invoke childhood memories as with the tableau Ultra Paste 2007 which attempts to reproduce and thereby re-imagine some kind of ‘queer’ anally related 11 . neither head nor tail. as ‘the name for everything that ought to have remained . secret and hidden but has come to light’ (Freud. The twentythree gouaches that make up the work entitled Shitty Tantrum 2006-7 is. This work amply demonstrated the way David employs his own set of invented codes to subtly subvert established orders in life and art. Manikins and dolls feature in much of David’s work..b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 identity of the artist’s relation to the viewer in a public art situation. There is a not so innocent playfulness in all these works that engages the polymorphous perversity of childhood. We might ask ourselves whether the artist is unraveling some childhood trauma. the statue has a multicoloured tail and a head with an androgynous face. The gong stands on a leg that is clad in fishnet stockings. In fact David utilizes formal vocabularies from the past. especially when there is uncertainty about whether an apparently animate being is really alive. The work also references what one might see as a ‘queer’ side of the Bauhaus aesthetic manifest in the mechanized manikin figure work of Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943) and his Triadic Ballet (1927). of which one can make. Freud’s ‘unrivalled master of the uncanny in literature’ (Freud.

Hybridity coupled with disidentification have proved significant terms for postcolonial queer theory (Muñoz. 1999: 31). one critic voicing the views of the silent majority in a right wing newspaper by repressively 12 . As we have seen for Rancière ‘subjectification is a disidentification. 2007). removal from the naturalness of place’ (Rancière. we see a politics of aesthetics using forms of disturbance or the uncanny (Rancière. Dávila’s work frequently reveals the sexual economy that underlies power. 1999: 15. when we look at it. Confronting history Finally. I turn to two artists whose work I can only inadequately touch upon in the space available. His work which is both shockingly carnal and extremely sophisticated in its play with visual codes. 1999: 31-2). but left Chile and moved to Australia in 1974. how we have to see. Juan Dávila (b. 2008b: 180). 1999: 36) and David actively engages the spectator: ‘art emancipates […] how we have to understand. José Esteban Muñoz sees disidentification as a strategy situated between identification and counteridentification. Their work challenges the ordered hierarchies of the classical representational regime by staging equality with regard to the hybridity of race. 11-12). It ‘can be understood as a way of shuffling back and forth between reception and production […] a mode of understanding the movements and circulations of identificatory force’ (Muñoz. This is true if hybridity is seen as a static mix of determinate identities but not if it is seen transversally as the dislocating motion of disidentification: ‘Hybrid catches the fragmentary subject formation of people whose identities traverse different race.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 sexual trauma in the paternally designed bedroom of his childhood. and gender identifications’ (Muñoz.1946) was born in Santiago. and ever since his work has addressed this personal sense of rupture and the conviction that art should speak critically of those in power (Eichler. but uses disidentificatory humour as a ‘mode of performance’ to transform a cultural logic from within. can arouse strong critical responses. shortly after Augusto Pinochet seized power. where a dark brown stain seeps across the floor of this hygienic space. always laboring to enact a ‘redistribution of the sensible’– a ‘structural change […] valuing the importance of everyday struggles of resistance’ (Muñoz. in David’s work the elements are always ambivalent because of meaning and its withdrawal. something his own homosexuality no doubt enabled him to understand from within. To paraphrase Rancière. sexuality. 30). gender and sexuality with the hope of changing the world. how we have to read. 1999: 15. a third mode of dealing with dominant ideology. one that opts for neither assimilation nor opposition. and what we have to understand […] what emancipates is precisely the possibility of […] the viewer constructing or reconstructing that efficiency himself or herself’ (Rancière. Rancière has declared a discomfort with the notion of hybridity ‘because it seems to refer much more to the constitution of a subject rather than to processes of subjectivization’ (Rancière. 2008a: 74). 2008: 74-5).

it will not be grasped in terms of a modern/postmodern opposition’ but ‘through an analysis of the metamorphoses of […] the politics founded on the play of the exchanges and displacements between the art world and that of nonart’ (Rancière. In the same year Dávila was included in the international exhibition Unbound: Possibilities in Painting at the Hayward Gallery. whose embassy issued a formal complaint against Dávila’s image when it was circulated as a postcard. as a transsexual on a half fading horse. It was there that he exhibited his depiction of Simón Bolívar.’ Much of his visual language is indebted to the quotidian world of comic strips and their incursion into the world of fine art through 1960s Pop. mimicry and invention. scorn and affection’ (Brett. Such strong reactions can be seen as a measure of the aesthetico-political challenge of his work which disturbs the ‘relationship that exists between the autonomy of the spaces reserved for art and its apparent contrary: art's involvement in constituting forms of common life’ (Rancière. I first saw Dávila’s work in 1994 in Juanito Laguna a memorable exhibition at the Chisenhale Gallery. such as the writer on South American art. who like all unmovable idols stands for reified and eternal values in need of transformation (Mejías-López. 2009b: 51). London. disgust and celebration. Bungaree (1770-1830). that for him the question of sexual repression is as important as political repression and has tended to be ignored in the rhetoric of liberation’ (Brett. liberator of a number of Latin American countries. the Australian aboriginal who dressed in cast off European uniforms. 2009b: 26). Since Dávila’s work emerged in the 1980s in the wake of notions of postmodernism.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 describing his work as the high camp pornographic folk art of a political cartoonist undeserving of attention outside of Australia (Dorment. and Ecuador. 2006: 2). London.’ the conservative hero. it is perhaps worth recalling Rancière reminding us that: ‘If there is a political question in contemporary art. describing that impact as switching between ‘refinement and tackiness. The Chilean Foreign Ministry itself formally apologized to the governments of Venezuela. 2007). It is through an analysis of Dávila’s portrait and its ‘iconoclastic challenge to all the absolutes represented by Bolívar’ (Conway. riffing on the narratives of the popular Argentinian artist Antonio Berni’s (1905-81) poor boy of the Buenos Aires slums (Juanito Laguna). ‘Dávila has said. obscenely giving the finger to the viewer. 1990: 106). believes that his work needs to be registered first for its visual impact. Colombia. Brett goes on to describe the work as a ‘battlefield’ believing that this is where ‘its ethical core really lies’–‘in anger over injustice […] whether in lived life or in the mediating domain of visual culture. 13 . Guy Brett. 2005: 146-60). This caused a major uproar in Chile in 1994 and even strained diplomatic relations with Venezuela. This is why a seasoned and informed viewer. which consisted of a huge hybrid floor piece. entertained and acted as go-between for European settlers in Australia and the celebrated painting Inhabitant of the Cordilleras of Peru (1855) produced in Paris by the Peruvian painter Francisco Laso (1823-69). 2003: 2) that Christopher Conway discussed the ‘cult of Bolívar.

Barechested white pioneers talk and trade with dark. especially on his own turf! Miss (Share) Chief Eagle Testickle – whose name plays on both ‘mischief’ and ‘egotistical’ – is a towering. voguing in a campy take on Botticelli's Venus. Monkman declares that he is trying to define the space between two cultures. recreating nineteenth century romantic landscape representations of untrammelled sublimity. 1965) is of mixed racial origins. half Cree Indian and half Anglo Irish and plays mischievously with same-sexuality. and photographer Edward S. Monkman has developed this persona in performance. 2006: 123). As Rancière attests humour is the virtue to which contemporary artists most readily ascribe (Rancière. video and photographic works as well as in his paintings. social change and the kind of imaginative transformations that art projects. and this is not all. In an interview for the National Gallery of Canada.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Kent Monkman (b. peopling his landscapes with natives and colonialists. Monkman recreates a western landscape that the German-American painter Albert Bierstadt wrought in his 1867 canvas In the Mountains. film maker and performance artist. To conclude let us briefly consider aspects of Rancière’s ‘theatocratic’ presentation of equality that might be considered problematic. lost and uncertain. Monkman trained as an illustrator and acquired the skills to convincingly mock the pretensions of the colonist’s genre of painting. In Robin's Hood the film of the performance he created as part of Jimmie Durham’s exhibition ‘The American West’ at Compton Verney in 2005. provocation and exhaustion that he diagnoses so effectively in the logics of modernism and postmodernism’ (Hallward. 1992: 62). this 2006 update is teeming with bodies. race. but realises too late that one can never trust a white man. journeys across the seas to study the unspoiled European Male in his native habitat in the UK. identities. the explorers Lewis and Clark wander through. S/he meets the handsome Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. and asked to what extent Rancière’s conception of equality remains a ‘merely transgressive one. Hallward raises the common problem of the relationship between real world politics. 2009b: 54). writing 14 . for Monkman is a sophisticated conceptual post-performative artist utilizing theatrical talent as set designer. In a massive seven by twelve foot canvas entitled Trappers of Men. a wandering artist from the Great Plains of North America. But unlike Bierstadt's unpopulated original. a glammed-up cross-dressing native character who stands on the surface of the water. cultures’ (Rancière. raven-haired transvestite in four-inch heels. and thus condemned to a variant of that same dialectic of dependence. Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. muscular young natives. reversing the roles of domination and exposing repressed homoeroticism in colonialism. installation creator. Peter Hallward raised the question of the inability of theatrically sporadic and improvisational interventions to instantiate continuity of change. Rancière says that ‘the place of a political subject is an interval or a gap: being together to the extent that we are in between––between names. Curtis and painters Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrian are shocked by the appearance of Share Miss Chief Eagle Testickle.

As he has said his enquiry ‘has often been suspected of proposing a return to […] aesthetic utopias’ or of being out of step with the artistic practices and political issues of the 21st century. Such desire continues to be denied free expression when its staging remains tied to ethical and representational rules and regulations. Postscript As Rancière sees it. and take pleasure in this image as it traces the equality of its intelligibility to anybody and everybody as we are communally ‘tied together’ by the ‘sensory fabric’ of this ‘distribution of the sensible’ (Rancière. 2008c: 4). emblems of power. Today we as disinterested museum spectators within the purview of the contemporary convivium of the aesthetic regime can bear witness to the contemporaneity of the timeless pleasures of education and desire. the peculiar paradox of the specifically aesthetic revolution is that art is radically political not according to the ways it conveys messages concerning social or political issues or ethnic or sexual identities. no less than Schiller’s notion of play risks confinement to the ‘unsubstantial kingdom of the imagination. when all he has done is to point to the ‘tensions and contradictions […] which sustain the dynamic of artistic creation’ and ‘set up in a more accurate way the issue of what art can be and can do today’ (Rancière.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 that Rancière’s egalitarianism. Rancière described the museum as an egalitarian space for the staging of this common sensorium: the place where spectators confront art works disconnected from the inequality of ‘their former function as icons of faith. whether they are homosexual or not. there are challenges they face that only the performative political power of aesthetic experience itself can answer as they participate in le partage du sensible by staging equality as powerfully and ‘theatrically’ as they can in the hope that they might decimate the oppressive sedimentations of established order. 2008c: 14). where the Greek mural paintings in the 475 BC ‘Tomb of the Diver’ are displayed. or decoration of palaces.’ I completed this paper in Southern Italy not far from the museum at Paestum. As for artists. One of these murals uninhibitedly celebrates same sex desire: specifically the socially circumscribed pederastic desire between a bearded erastes and a smooth faced eromenos.’ It would seem that Rancière would be inclined to agree when he asserts that a significant question for the present time is whether the substitutive political role of contemporary art ‘can reshape political spaces’ or must remain ‘content with parodying them’ (Rancière. 2009b: 60). 15 . but as it frames and reframes an indifferent convivium: the liberty and equality of a common aesthetic sensorium. In a talk launching the English translation of Le Partage du sensible: Esthétique et Politique (The Politics of Aesthetics) at the ICA London in February 2005. Today we identify with the spectatorial relish evident in the figure on the left of this scene.

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The ‘image unbound’ is a symptom of what Rancière describes as the disease of democracy. 'The manifestation of politics only occurs via specific acts of implementation. where all things are equally able to be substituted for one another. 2009 Queer Aesthetics Daniel Williford University of California.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2.b o rd e rla n d s. Los Angeles ‘Queer Aesthetics’ argues for a mode of aesthetic enunciation based on the ‘promiscuous image. 2006: 90) 'I never realized that people would receive [my look] as art.' -Amanda Lepore (Lafreniere.’ It reads Rancière’s theory of the image in the aesthetic regime of the arts as a mechanism of discourse that is central to the process by which Art must distinguish itself as such. As in politics.n e t.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w . The essay understands the image as both the function of an ‘order of things’ – but one which fails to contain its excess meaning in a single ‘aesthetic enunciation’ – and it reads a contemporary photo by artist David LaChapelle as demonstrating a queer aesthetic that portrays the promiscuous image of art. 2006) The queer aesthetic dimension Walter Benjamin’s founding essay on art and mechanical reproducibility makes a troubling assertion about the link between 1 .' -The Politics of Aesthetics (Rancière. the egalitarian threat whereby art and life can be confused must be checked through mechanisms of ordering logics that keep things in their place. I just thought that it was good grooming habits. and political subjects forever remain precarious figures that hesitate at the borders of silence maintained by the police.

Queer aesthetics puts into play assumptions of the real and true in order to suggest possibilities for reimagining the social world. Similarly. The stakes of this reconfiguration are stark in an analysis of those aesthetic modes and expressions that cultivate an ethics of ambiguity.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 politics and aesthetics. Advances in technology detached modern artworks from the aura of a unique art-object. Benjamin argues. categories of fiction. Critical debates over politics and art depend upon understanding Benjamin’s separation in order to better understand how political regimes aestheticize the mechanisms of their power and how art can be politically efficacious. Rancière reframes this debate entirely when he asserts that political discourse participates in a basic ordering of the population that is primarily aesthetic. politics. Rancière's political writings make interventions at the level of ‘representation’ as an aesthetic mechanism. or artificial constructs that are not true. whereby mechanisms of representation. 2008: 42). ‘Communism replies by politicizing art’ (Benjamin.’ within which the technology of war was a coercive aesthetic experience – mankind experiences its own annihilation as ‘a supreme aesthetic pleasure’ (Benjamin. Politics is a disruptive act of re-configuring the world in terms of what can be seen. As such. art and non-art (Rancière. after all.’ Benjamin concludes. Further. as practiced by fascism. it rarely happens. whether challenging the tradition of Althusserian Marxist science in which philosophers must argue on behalf of the ignorant poor who cannot see outside of the system in which they are trapped. Rancière explores the use of photography as enabling a new way of seeing the relationship of artist and subject. such as ‘the image. or theorizing a kind of politics that resists essentialist notions of ‘the 2 . Politics can use the principals of art just as art can participate in political discussions. and done. which disguises a major shift in a politico-aesthetic way of seeing/doing/being in the world towards which Benjamin gestures. 2008: 42). offering an alternative to the fascist perversion of ‘art for art's sake. said. Rancière interrogates the way that art and literature of the past few centuries has been periodized around a concept of modernism. For Rancière. like art. ‘Such is the aestheticizing of politics. In critically encapsulating the significance of the mechanical production of art.’ are privileged when they create rather than close the distance between an artistic construct and the truth of things. Any aesthetic act is political when it effects a reordering of the social world.’ Categories of art are. What I will call ‘queer aesthetics’ constructs an ethics of ambiguity and artificiality in order to de-privilege the representation of ‘things as they are’ and to instead suggest that all representation shows ‘things as they should be. centers on the possible ways that the world can be configured and represented. 2009a: 15). Benjamin expresses an axis of politics and art on which each is distinct from the other. Rancière's theory of ‘the aesthetic regime of the arts’ remaps visual and literary culture by undermining the distinction between acts of politics and modes of aesthetics. since most of the time the actions of government maintain the stability of the dominant order (under the guise of keeping ‘order’ as such). self-declared ‘political art’ rarely enacts politics.

’ I will take up Rancière’s understanding of ‘texts’ and ‘images’ as aesthetic modes and mechanisms. In his forthcoming book Aesthetics and its Discontents. Much of Rancière's work on art and politics engages implicitly with traditions of queer art and queer representation.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 people. instead. an aesthetic gesture (Rancière. an assumption of the perceptible world in which the sensible social is ordered based on some sort of logic. chapter titles such as ‘Politics of Aesthetics’ and ‘Aesthetics as Politics’ suggest that Rancière’s might follow other post-Marxist theorists in asserting that political theory now must contend with a world saturated by the commodity (2009b). Fiction.’ His analysis of art.’ there is. towards purifying the two spheres. painting. film. And any aesthetic production takes place and takes part in a sensible social world through which it is perceptible. which cannot be bound to a medium or genre – since we might read as a text any cultural product (advertisement. His efforts are not. and political theses all include types of representation that partake of and participate in the ordering of the visible. The common social world in which people are identifiable to one another and in which people speak. they threaten to confuse categories and incite questions about ‘the world as it is. ‘the distribution of the sensible world. and literature operates at this same level. a world of the senses (Chambers. For Rancière aesthetics is the study of the formative logics of a particular aesthetic enunciation and the regimes of being. 1999: 58). act. a ‘politics of aesthetics’ and an ‘aesthetics of politics. doing or saying within which it is recognized. When texts don't stay within the boundaries of their fields. be it a totalitarian regime or a government of. which is central to a specifically queer aesthetics. it therefore is only possible through a social order that is political (Rancière. speech) and we might see a particular image or figure move across texts (here invented. that is. by and for the people. since ways of representing populations happen among and between discourses. respectively. however. when they wander. nor does he insist on blurring the distinction until art and politics are one in the same. separately. film. So while one’s first critique of Rancière might be on the order of a deficiency of attention to his task – when he so readily moves from writing social history to political theory to philosophy to literary criticism to film theory to art theory – one quickly comes to understand that to the extent that disciplines are a form of partitioning fields of study and roles of proper 3 . 2005). in any political gesture. Rancière refers to this ordering logic as the distribution or partition of the sensible. I argue. a theory of textual promiscuity. But I will resist seeing the proliferation of the image as a characteristic of postmodernism. therefore. it is. and do things is first a sensible world. 2009b). poem. none of which stay within stable boundaries. philosophy. he tries to articulate the assumptions that are common to both in a given expression at a given time in a given place. Queer aesthetics make use of the ambiguities that temper the politics of representation and bring about new possibilities for. merely. social world. there appropriated. as Rancière would have it. While Rancière discusses. here vilified.’ Rancière's theory of the image is. there idealized). livable.

It is a ‘post-’ world that must make use of advanced forensics to investigate criminal acts and must make novel use of the materials of wrecked or abandoned scenes (Dasgupta. still. Modernity has been discussed for centuries as either a coming into being of a radically new social world or the failure of those modern moments of the recent past to make any clean break. Any protest is a performance. in the potential efficacy of modernism. Rancière is not interested in theorizing the subject or power relations.’ ‘the end of the image. subjectivization. it can only be staged in just such a way. ‘But nihilist wisdom does not merely give a phantasmagorical view of our world … It also pictures the law of domination as a force that permeates any will to do anything against it. To analyze subjects in 4 . Within a certain framework of the political an understanding of the 'aesthetical dimension' of politics is the way by which the egalitarian assumption of democracy is re-inscribed as a harmonious community of consensual subjects. Postmodernist expressions tend to insist not only on that failure but also on the naivete of its underlying sentiment.’ etc) while at the same time positing a teleology that ‘explains away’ subversive moments in art. failure. systemic ills. Ranciere’s recent work in art theory has criticized theories of modernism which tend to both narrativize failed movements and ‘ends’ (‘the end of grand narratives.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 authority. an important way of ordering cultural productions is through historical periods. are made ironic by the debris of consumer culture that they seem never to be able to escape (Rancière. This is not to say that theories of postmodernity in the latter decades of the twentieth century were not themselves motivated by a belief in thinking through new possibilities to come. entrapment. But since democracy can never be achieved as a form of government. and the end of things. disease. Twentieth-century critical theory is often marked by melancholy. 2008: 73). The possibility of revolution and emancipation is past. and to mock the latter criticism for believing. But this does not mean he is not interested in people or power. such is the grounding thesis of this postMarxist and post-situationist wisdom’ (Rancière. any performance is a spectacle. his intellectual promiscuity is a requirement and effect of his critical inquiry (Dasgupta. and even the most radical thinker or the angriest protester is disempowered inside the machine. Within disciplines. he is concerned that the critique intends to arrest the idea of emancipation. The aesthetical dimension is the way in which democracy is 'acted out' on the political stage. which entails a portioning out of roles that allows the scene of democracy to be brought to life. Rancière locates this tone of 'nihilist wisdom' in the post-Marxist critique of the failure of Marxism to lead to revolution. 2006b). 2008: 71). but that those possibilities would have to come out of the recognition of the failure of modernity rather than in renewing it in earnest. 2008). any spectacle is a commodity. Postmodernism might be understood as the break from a long tradition of understanding any ‘modern art’ as complicit in bringing about a new world. Theories of postmodernism and postmodern art frequently portray a world where even genuine efforts. such as a protest.

Subjectivity is the logic of distinction that attempts to correct the substitutability of anyone with anyone. feared. but the Romantic poets ‘common language’ and Flaubert's ‘subtle innumerable embraces’ required a reordering in the distribution of the sensible and a new understanding of the possibilities of art and life. Proust. The aesthetic regime is a way of doing art that requires a reinterpretation of the political/social world based on the destruction of hierarchies of genre. Woolfe. In ‘Why Emma Bovary Had to Be Killed. everyday life could be represented indiscriminately and without a moral imperative. There is not a linear or harmonious trajectory across communities of artists in the aesthetic regime. not a subjectivity but a political capacity: a capacity of anyone to 'act as if' they are on the stage of politics. This is not wrong. A democratic political subject is. 2009c: 276-8). then. 2008c).b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 relation to power can assume that the agency of the subject comes out of a certain individual subjectivity that comes to be defined in myriad ways through power relations. Rancière shows us. and language appropriate to literature and the visual arts. Common. Indeed. first appear in late eighteenthand early nineteenth-century literature. 2008b: 237). at the same time. 2004b: 11-13). subjects. for example. These possibilities of representation had. new technologies of narrative or of image-making signal that ways of portraying the world participate in the construction of the visible/thinkable world.' Rancière analyzes a number of texts that take part in the aesthetic regime of the arts and locates Madame Bovary as an early example of the shift toward a new regime that produced a literature that was ‘a new art of writing' (Rancière. The image in the aesthetic regime of the arts The supposed ‘new’ (read modernist) impulses of twentieth century art and literature. to be sublimated to art or to aesthetics in order that art and life not become so confused that art ceased to exist. and argues against the supposed ‘modernist break’ by showing that the aesthetic expression of modern life is the new form of art that enabled the work of Baudelaire. 2006c and 2004). the work of British Romantic poets and French realists. forms from different time periods and different social classes could coexist inexplicably. to 'act as if' they have a part (Rancière. It is characteristic of this regime to posit that the subject of art no longer 5 . He locates this shift in. and Godard (Rancière. dangerous 'unconditional character' of democracy: its 'indifference to difference' (Rancière. there was no distinction between the two: any everyday life could be the subject of art (Rancière. thereby undermining refined beauty with something gross and thus disrupting the harmony of order that comes when things are in their proper place. The critique of the vulgarity of the representation of common people and common objects comes from the disgust with the possibility that people of lower orders will be treated as equal to everyone else. Warhol. but Rancière is interested in a different understanding of the political subject that speaks to that hated. Within the aesthetic regime.

2008b: 235-8). The writers who take part in the new art of writing display symptoms of a ‘disease of democracy.’ ‘literature is the true life' (Rancière. and ways of saying that are possible in it. however. 2008b: 248). For Flaubert. it portrays the common and banal through poetic language.’ In this way. Literature ‘is the voice and frame of modern anxiety. Madame Bovary was controversial for its seeming lack of point. Proust's A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. where instead of writing a story about a figure of history or a social allegory. it was an expression of ‘art for art's sake. Her schizophrenic character Rhoda. too. save the artist (Rancière. ways of doing. is only able to conclude that the writer as healthy schizophrenic is an impossible figure.’ it is ‘the difference between two equivalences. is sentenced to death – she dies in a single sentence that has no story but is merely a speech act that announces her as dead. In each. ‘dreams of breaking the “fences” of individual subjectivity and embracing the haecceities of impersonal life’ (Rancière. and yet they elect themselves as the ‘healthy schizophrenic’ able to rationally order impersonal sensory events. however. The aesthetic regime of the arts is announced by the image unbound: the disordering effect of egalitarian democracy that introduces social angst when hierarchies are obliterated and things and people do not keep to their specific task dictated by their specific position. and Virginia Woolf's The Waves. Woolf. the author attempts to construct him or herself as the healthy schizophrenic who can portray the threat of the temptation to confuse art and real life ‘singled out in one character and sentenced to death’ (Rancière. She.’ allowing any subject to be the subject of art. This is the paradox of art: in order to reorder the sensible world and to introduce new possibilities in the ways of being. That Flaubert did not signal a moral condemnation of the sensuous Emma Bovary furthered an association of vulgar realism with social corruption (Rancière. The writers are those who can contain and consolidate true life into the domain of literature and thus construct themselves as its author. 2008b: 240).’ where art had no imperative to reveal anything other than the aesthetic experience of the common world.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 would follow from its form. This is what is at stake in Huysmans' À Rebours. The anxiety persists in Wordsworth's mad mother. differentiates and individualizes the author as such through diagnosing the radical trace of democracy – the 6 . They resist falling into true schizophrenia. it is always an act of violence that. according to Rancière. It was a moment that instigated the anxiety of what counted in the sphere of art and what the social implications of turning non-art into art. 2008b: 245). for example. Duchamp's fountain and Warhol's soup can. Any thing or person always exceeded him or her or itself through the mechanisms of art that re-imagined the world by re-imaging it in the work of art. Complicit in this new realist aesthetics was the political efficacy of the aestheticization of common objects and anonymous people. breaking from the representative regime. its aesthetic enunciations must make use of the same ordering logics that foreclose ‘new possibilities of life. 2008b: 248). Killing off the schizophrenic who suffered from a dream of free will that only comes when the fiction of individuality is destroyed did not.

’ even as it positions the author and the subject of a work in a less certain position in relation to the work of art.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 ‘indifference to difference’ – as a disease in a character who then must suffer a ‘literary death.’ The dandy of the nineteenth century. Amanda as Andy Warhol’s Marilyn. dripping slightly down her cheek and neck. LaChapelle’s images are usually recognizable as commentary on the extremes and excesses of the celebrity culture in which they take part: they are all bright colors and shiny textures. not Monroe herself. The promiscuous text: reading ambiguity One of the queerest images I have seen – or rather struggle to see – is a portrait of transgender performer Amanda Lepore by fashion/celebrity photographer David LaChapelle. and massive blow-up hotdogs are commonplace in LaChapelleland. but Warhol’s print. To exploit this paradox might be to emphasize the ambiguity inherent in ‘imageness. Nonetheless. The promiscuous text or the excess meaning of the image hint at the instability of any given distribution of the sensible. The photo. oily aged muscle-men. There is a queer aesthetics that has a sense of the history of aesthetic ambiguity as the site of new possibilities of social experience.’ To negotiate the authorial paradox through the violent act of reinscribing the ordering logics of genre need not be the only way to position the image of art.’ Amanda Lepore. aesthetic ambiguity is the site of a certain politics of aesthetics. this guarantees nothing good. whose social critique through Dorian Gray’s many ambiguous ‘sins’ was effectively used to accuse him of crimes against nature. The portrait features one of LaChapelle’s favorite models. If the yellow wig. black register marks are stamped on the side of Lepore’s face. The photo 7 . smooth blue backdrop and bright red lips do not clue one in that the reference is to. It depicts Lepore portraying Andy Warhol’s famous image Marilyn Monroe (1962). children in wigs and makeup. the self-proclaimed ‘number one transsexual in the world. 1984: 40-43). Foucault has pointed out that the aesthetic philosophy of the modern artist tries to escape the ‘blackmail of enlightenment’ by the same logic that would create an ‘authoritarian alternative. for Foucault. As with Oscar Wilde. circular image that portrays a series of images until it seems to disappear into its own void of meaning – a postmodern ouroboros. The political force of queer aesthetics lies not in a specific announcement but in an effort that keeps ambiguity at play in relation to social subjectivity. exemplifies an aesthetics of ambiguity: ‘The dandy combines the indolent and the fashionable with the pleasure of causing surprise in others while never showing any himself’ (Foucault. populated by a famous face or a vacuous model coated in orange fake-tan or accentuated with plastic diamonds. or perhaps even in an effort that merely remembers that aesthetic ambiguity is sometimes possible. is a fantastically clever. A half-naked glistening body in a moment of dramatic (and often violent) action among absurd and highly-constructed backdrops.

the 8 . To put it further in context. it is its confounding ambiguity. Amanda as Andy Warhol's Marilyn. nightlife. 2007). and art to what we understand today as gay culture. 2007.’ that the latter is a cartoon is appropriate. large hard breasts. Others have called her ‘an exaggerated Jane Mansfield. Image Courtesy Fred Torres Collaborations But this gay cultural contextualization does not in itself make the image queer. She has described her look as ‘a mix between Marilyn Monroe and Jessica Rabbit.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 is immediately comical. Lepore became well known through New York City nightlife culture in the nineteen-nineties. and full. indeed the way it teeters on the edge of legibility that exemplifies what I have detailed as ‘imageness. She represents the importance of New York City life. 2004. Cahalan and Otis.’ and a ‘buxom. petite sharp nose. Instead. If one did not know her as a transgendered person. 2002.’ among many other things (Maldonado. and drag performer in New York. promoter. round buttocks). Romano. and she continues to work as a host. blond transgender icon. New York Blade. Lepore is known for her extreme body modifications accentuated with her hyper-glam style (most notable are her enormous lips.’ a ‘human art project.’ following Rancière. one would certainly recognize that she has formed her unusual look through intensive plastic surgery. 2008.

It is an image about imageness. She never wanted to be a woman in the traditional sense’ (DiGiacomo. The image portrays the potential threat of imageness itself: that it will continue to speak out of turn. however. But the image was of many things: an iconic. and on the opposite face of the bag an image titled All American. and she is being crushed by a giant cheeseburger. she wears only high heels. or if it cannot be discussed based on tracking its cultural impact. merely reproducing an image and claiming it as its own. to come alive. the image might read as a cheeky post-modern gimmick. LaChapelle told The New York Observer that the bag was a tribute to Warhol. is a way to contain the threat that the image poses – its own promiscuity and its radical democratic accessibility (Rancière. the aesthetic of LaChapelle’s photograph is utterly queer. At first blush. to show up uninvited. 2008). as is the topology of gay culture in the twentieth century that it maps. but then it was also the portrayal of the violence of consumption. and finally. at most. In all of its playfulness. The installation consisted of six ten-foot tall shopping bags. 2008). beautiful Hollywood star. we can at least say that represents something important to LaChapelle’s artistic statement. like some monstrous undead creature. LaChapelle’s photo is primarily a performance of Warhol’s print. at the very worst time. The illegibility of the image. that twentieth-century phenomenon. it represents the image as a marker of the social. The following year it was printed on the side of a massive shopping bag as part of an art installation in the promenade of Rockefeller Center that was commissioned by Montblanc North America to promote the opening of a new retail store.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 image first appeared at a 2002 show of LaChapelle's photography titled All American. or else. LaChapelle's contribution featured Amanda as Andy Warhol's Marilyn on one face of the bag.’ The photo also was shown that year at the Moscow Photo Festival and was included in the retrospective show Artists and Prostitutes 19852005. a celebrity who died from the excesses of the life that she represented. each decorated by a contemporary artist. 9 . ‘I'm a vegetarian. devoid of any real meaning. The tribute was the fantasy of both Lepore and LaChapelle. the image of meaninglessness or depressing excess. It is printed in LaChapelle's third book of photographs called Heaven and Hell. and that ‘my dream was always to work for Andy Warhol. and the idea is that we spend so much time shopping and consuming that it's a never-ending cycle. She's the Marilyn Monroe of transsexuals. Warhol's Marilyn was self-consciously derivative. In this image Lepore appears on the floor. the boundless result of democracy as consumer culture (see Rancière. At the opening. it might depict the very excess of post-industrial globalized postmodernist affect. If it does not signify some movement in art. which itself plays on the ambiguity of appropriation.’ ‘Amanda has always wanted to be Marilyn Monroe. where art consumes icons of celebrity culture as a way of participating in the vast proliferation of images in popular culture from which it is supposedly excluded – that is. 2003). to borrow from Rancière’s critique of the frames of postmodernity.

Amanda as Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe exploits the ambiguous relationship of artist and subject to the work of art by making the subject of the work one who ‘performs’ the image of ‘the work of art. and it questioned whether the films and photos that featured Marilyn Monroe portraying some fictive character were any different from the replication of a carefully constructed personality who was a celebrity because of those works – while also being a work of fiction herself. 1996: 101-4. transparently false. The same black ink stains the edges of her perfect canary-yellow wig.’ The image of a woman adored for her beauty becomes ‘the image’ made monstrous. dirt. Warhol's Marilyn was then something else from the actress or even the woman Norma Jean. Warhol's print neither honored the life of Marilyn Monroe. 109). it becomes the prototype of itself. Warhol's own celebrity status and Warhol's own making (Flatley. It refused to participate in any narrative to which the original photograph was affixed. its own blueprint. It was a poetics of derivation whereby the ability to appropriate was equated with a claim to the economy of celebrity on the grounds that popular culture required the mass proliferation and repetition of certain images/texts at the cost of any one entity's claim of complete ownership or authorship. turning a soft shadow into something more of a bruise. Celebrity status was as unstable as it was fantastic. It was not an homage to the photographer. Warhol's use of the Marilyn icon – while refusing to participate in the Marilyn narrative – violated. the rules of the economy of popular culture in its interest in celebrity. It was. She is the victim left for dead who – surprise – shows up long after to say that the job was not finished after all. dulls the shine of her lips. nor a representation of the original print as an artistic product. Above her left eye the messy uneven register marks are too densely printed. Instead. through appropriation. threatening its ability to be appropriated. But while she presents herself with an aggressive direct eye contact that prevents a viewer from looking at her without being stared at him or 10 . The black ink that stains the perfect primary colors of her face become bruises. Warhol made use of the paradoxical logic of celebrity to claim insider status in the world of popular culture: the more fake something is. nor memorialzed her death. as it were. resignified. When something is an overt construction.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 celebrity itself. such that it needed to be repeated. She brings to life Warhol’s crude silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe and then gazes into the lens with a look of contempt and humor – a gaze of anger and vindication. it unfixed the image as a celebrity icon that circulated in the social world through the ‘medium’ of popular culture. and drips down her neck like a hasty mark of illicit graffiti that announces the escape of the vandal. and reenacted constantly in public discourse in order to distract from its utter failure. performing. They are barely open under the weight of heavy blue eye shadow. Lepore's swollen cherry-red lips hang open revealing flawless white clenched teeth. and dried blood. the more real it is. in some small way. indeed re-imaged. rehearsed. The celebrity icon is the mediating placeholder that keeps pop culture from becoming an inculturation. She looks through the feathery eyelashes that crowd around her eyes.

or insists upon the possibility of its reordering. which he calls the 'partition of the sensible' or the 'distribution of the sensible.' While entirely real. She presents herself as presence in a present that is not her own. the doable. Or rather it is the image of the promiscuity of imageness. It is the thinkable. the social world is ordered through the distribution of roles.' It can authorize actions or organize structures through the performative 'is as such. radical egalitarianism does not lead to a harmonious – that is to say homogenous – body. and suggesting no immediate future action. threatening no movement. It is a function within the sensible distribution. the sayable. meaning that it is a way of being. It is an image of a whole in relation to parts that allow people to imagine themselves as subjects with a place in the social order. these may be the same thing: the reordering of the sensible and the possibility of the reordering of the sensible have the same formative logic. classes. which could be textual or visual. Indeed. and being' are contingent upon the partitioning of the sensible world that includes speaking/doing 'subject positions. The point is that the image is a function of the sensible order. would be the foundation of any real image. in genre. that vague formulation that presents scenes in a story when it is the property of fiction or evidence of the crime if it is the property of the detective's file. In other words. The possibilities for 'doing. this is a process of 'aesthetic enacting' that entails constructing a fiction based on what Rancière refers to as various 'logics. doing. and the sensible world is not merely the static material world of people and objects. it is because there is an order inherent to the social world. the infidelity of the image to stay in its place: in time.' The phrase 'the image' in its authoritative singularity is not meant to suggest some type of image-template. she is entirely relaxed. If something affects a reordering of the sensible world. positions. they may make noise which is meaningless or they may portray something which is. which. but must instead be re-imagined as a whole in which things take part 11 . to theorize. which is the imagining of the distribution of the sensible as such. it thereby constitutes the possibilities of aesthetic enunciations. in effect. occupations. types. saying. The image can consolidate possibilities into a representative 'as is. and so on. An individual acts and behaves in ways that are audible and visible only through these parts: otherwise. She is The Image. Rancière has constructed a theory of 'the image' by which he does not refer to any particular mode of its enunciation.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 herself. in the order of things.' It can question those image effects through destabilizing its own imageness. At any given time. imperceptible. The image is also the point at which the equality of things confronts the heterogeneity of things.' The sensible distribution is most evident when a disruptive force insists upon its reordering. or saying that happens through an aesthetic enunciation. and as such participates in ordering. The image is a function within the sensible world. as Rancière says happens when politics take place.

2009a). It is a contempt for the ambiguous function of art in relation to politics. which might be to say the function of art as social ambiguity. or the science of the truth of things or the doctrines of the social order. on its way. but only by participating in the foundational logic of the partitioning of that world. non-ambiguous art ceases to be art and must be considered something else. But it also constitutes the possibility of the confusion of the fictive or imaginary as serious (when it should be merely play) or the confusion of art with real life. Amanda as Andy Warhol’s Marilyn suggests that Warhol's queer appropriation was also marked by a certain failure of ambiguity to evade the consolidating effects of the image. This process hinges on the tradition of the contempt for art. Queerness resists identification. But he frequently gestures towards the latter. When acts of resistance fetishize anarchy by imagining the threat of disorder. The suggestion of disorder has resonance only in relation to the contingency of order. it makes available that threat in the sensible world and sends it. LaChapelle's photograph portrays the queer notion that the promiscuity of the image is the promise of politics. it happens through functions that require its constitutive logics. and does so. but a categorical error in negotio. It paradoxically recalls the uncomfortable impossibility of any police order to fully consolidate image and meaning. attempting to assert the possibility of the unidentified or misidentified subject and to eroticize the threat that an action or condition may displace a subject from an identity/category.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 through the partitioning of their functions (see Ranciere. Art is not a thing in itself. but one that only happens through the logic of the distribution or partition of the sensible within which it is an aesthetic event. This is why the aesthetic regime makes art always an art of ambiguity. in order to ask how some things are understood as real or true and other things as fantasy or fiction. or language and image. I would argue. The image can reify the dominant order of the sensible world. choosing to play at the borders of the visible. or Wordsworth's alternative to aristocratic 'poetic diction. nor would Rancière go so far as to suggest that all 'real' or 'truthful' accounts are merely fictions.' or the deflation of the National Endowment for the Arts in the nineteen-nineties. The anxiety of the effect of the fictive on the real seems to always be based on a certain confusion of the use of art. or it can radically call it into question. the less contingent order is. The image is always a formation of reimagining. But its queer politics is something less certain. the less useful or available are the suggestions of disorder. Since this is never a static re-imagining. a contempt that we see in Plato's denunciation of the trickery of mimesis. One could hardly say that some fantastic tale is no less real than some formal account of things. as it were. To represent 12 . There's a certain play in the work of Rancière's discussion of aesthetics of the fictive or literary in relation to history. This is not to privilege the will of the subject but to draw out the fact that the logic of the police eludes representation.

Amanda as Andy Warhol’s Marilyn makes visible operations of imageness and elides visibility as such. a logical remainder. 2007: 215). To fantasize emancipation as escaping a system is to invoke the logic of police as ‘border control.’ ‘If we transfer our energy. an image of visibility that contests marginalization. that meaning exceeds itself. The politics of aesthetics strives to create conditions for disruptive assertions. but it may create the conditions of possibility for that demand to be made in the sensible social world. Instead. through her transgendered identity. that the invisible. is only one way of partaking in ‘the visible’: an alternative is to allow the image to speak to its own unwieldy. and doable. sometimes by showing. Before making claims to equality or disindentification. her body modification and identity are aligned with processes of image-making that exist in aesthetic discourses. sayable.’ The politics of aesthetics attempts to create a logic of queerness as vacant positionality based on opposition to the ordering logics of normativity. Normativity always fails to order fully – there is always an excess. It may not demand a redistribution of the sensible. The visible. In questioning the political efficacy of identity politics. of “politics of the open end. A politics that is not grounded in the truth or essence of a biological identity might allow us to get outside of debates over which marginalized populations are most precarious and to instead see the way that those figures who suffer the violence of illegibility also represent the threat of those queer figures who resist the consolidating effect that visibility violently imparts. that ordering logics need border control. the greater it impinges upon the politics of the aesthetic enunciations through which it was articulated. Queer politics of aesthetics show that the compromises of ordering mean that possibilities of reordering exist. and inaudible exist. it seems. The less categorizable the work of art. 13 .b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 queerness is to represent police logic in a way that preconditions disruptive possibilities. Queer appropriation makes images that linger precariously at the boundaries by invoking ambiguity. Anarchy is the absence of meaning. what kinds of political strategies. that bodies are visible when they occupy a place. unsayable. Visibility. uncontained excess that reveals that visibility is less often concerned with the truth of things than about redrawing the boundaries of what is allowed to count. such as fine art photography and performance art. The function of a straightforward portrait of Amanda Lepore might allow one to read. Excess is the language of queer logic.” might we unabashedly stumble upon?’ (Puar. are the possible aesthetic enunciations that circulate in a social world which is already the realm of the political. simply. which must happen by first acknowledging the dominant sensible order. and every aesthetic gesture is either allowed or must insist upon its legibility. that there are only surfaces of things. our turbulence. The image is privileged in this configuration because it is always in excess of its own meaning. our momentum from the defense of the integrity of identity and submit instead to this affective ideation of identity. Jasbir Puar has remarked that identity ‘is but one effect of affect.’ and wonders what a new queer politics might look like when we reframe the debate in terms of ‘affective politics.

S. accessed 12 December 2008. amandaleporeonline. The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility. ‘Amanda LePorre [sic] interviewed by Steve LaFreniere’. Cahalan. DiGiacomo. http://www.A. Lafreniere. accessed 12 December 2008. vol. J. no. (2008). ‘Ugly people are models. (2008). Sterile Cowboys. Theory and Event. in J. (2008).A. & Otis. (2006). J. pp. New York Blade. Durham: Duke UP. ‘The politics of literature’. 33. Amandaleporeonline. New York: Continuum. Durham: Duke Flatley. http://www. 70-76. pp. ‘Art is going elsewhere and politics has to catch it: an interview with Jacques Ranciere’. Foucault. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. no. and Other Writings On Media. Cambridge: Harvard UP. ple_are_models_too_148122. no. (eds). Pop Out: Queer Warhol. S.nypost. (1996). S. too’. 8. 10-24. The New York Observer. ‘Warhol gives good face: publicity and the politics of prosopopoeia’. G. Dasgupta. vol. F. 3. 14 . 9 Maldonado. J. Bibliography Benjamin. The Politics of Aesthetics. W. accessed 13 October 2009. 16 February. M.htm?CMP=EMC-email_edition&DATE =12022007 Chambers. et Los Angeles. http://web. (2007). ed. S. (2004b). 2 December. (2007). (2006). (2003). ‘Jazzy forever’. New York Post. http://www. Krisis.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Daniel Williford is a graduate student in the department of English at the University of California. P. Doyle et al. pp. 1. New York: Pantheon. Puar. 32-50. New York Blade (2007). ‘The politics of literarity’. ‘What is Enlightenment?’ The Foucault Reader. (2005). Rabinow. (1984). 1. 20-30. ‘Editorials: diversity inspires’. Rancière. accessed 12 December 2008.

pp. vol. 233-48. ---. 34. Derrida and the Time of the Political. Durham: Duke UP. ‘Should democracy come? ethics and politics in Derrida’.com/2004-12-21/nyc-life/new-year-s-weekend © borderlands ejournal 2009 15 . no. 274-88. Cambridge: Polity Press. ---. ---. (2008). (2004). accessed 12 December 2008. ‘New Year’s weekend’. (2009a). 21 December. 1. (2009b). July/August.villagevoice. ---. ‘Why Emma Bovary had to be killed’. Critical Inquiry. Art & Research. Elliot. no. pp. trans. 2.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 ---. ---. http://www. ---. (2006b). Aesthetics and Its Discontents. T. Corcoran. in C. The Village Voice. trans. (2008b). New York: Berg. Radical Philosophy. The Future of the Image. London: Verso. 8-15. 2. Cheah & S. ‘Notes on the photographic image’. pp. New York: Verso. (2006c). Film Fables. Romano. S. ---. ‘Jacques Rancière and indisciplinarity: an interview’. vol. (2009c). Hatred of Democracy. Guerlac (eds). (2007). G.

had set off somewhere else. or not had.n e t. So what I tried to do is to substitute teleological concepts and historical necessity. by categories that help us to understand the entanglement of different logics (Rancière. turned aside or simply drifted off shore. a zephyr named Rancière? (Botticelli’s Venus. Jean Genet’s thief arm in arm with Louis-Gabriel Gauny. London. given us to see? I don't mean this in the sense of having demanded and then had. enigma and queer are not the same word. through their turbulent and dangerous currents? As if 1 . hoping our prince has come to these crowded shores. and it sounds a little like the aims of QT. queer Cinderellas of the demos. an epiphany.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w . 2009 AFTERWORD Oh I do like to be beside the seaside (Now Voyager) . UK. a conversion or an overturning. though which is which we may never know? JR and QT side by side could be left enigmatic. a bottle washed up with an enigmatic curl of paper bearing the name Rancière. or a footprint that would match our idea of his.. Off shore in the breeze that blows across queer theory's shores. treachery and fidelity together. after our reading. on misunderstanding Rancière and Queer Theory Adrian Rifkin Goldsmiths.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. It seems simple enough. blood and sperm and foam. nor in the sense of requiring the miraculous. Yet the miraculous would indeed be if we had been taught nothing at all yet.b o rd e rla n d s .) Beachcombing. to find a message. some queer beauty came from this mixing yet strange is strong enough.. 2008). but let's now move on: What can we learn from the chapters that precede this conclusion? Or rather put it this way: what have they shown us.

) Or might we have trekked inland. is it a grave? Or. that of videaste Steve Reinke. alongside. on the brink. Reinke. splintered mirrors of identity. not even edges . Bruce Lee dressed up as Jacotot. 2 . perhaps. of Emma Bovary dressing her illusions and desires for the sake of literature. and Western movies. nor reefs. in French. or connect nothing with nothing. beyond and beside the partition of the sensible may not be a concept at all. he declares that his is not. It's true that 'au bord de la mer' does mean beside the sea or on the water's edge. the space of separations between self and identity. that of Aux bords du politique into On the Shores of Politics.' and. but at least it is not mixed. Of course all translations are odd and this one at least respects the plural. just outside. It consistently regards the oddity of a translation. QT has never been more popular as a mode of academic procedure indeed this book is a moment in its separation from gay sexual and gender specificity. and marks a leaning towards a philosophy that has never broached these concepts as its primary or even secondary archive. bareback porn and the never forgotten insults of the Church fathers. On the edges (of the abyss.just shores. This metaphor on shores is extended.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 either he or we were of the sans-parts. rather something that happens and that we sometimes see. all the other maritime meanings of 'bord' are resolutely singular. bringing gifts without a future. Not shoals. the travails of the Cities of the Plain. refreshed from our moment on the shore. beside the edges. the noise and the babble that is becoming sense or too much sense passes through our privilege. (After all as a number of these essays point out. And yet 'shores' it is and because of this title. or simply desolated to lose its freshness? (So which will we comb: Bersani's rectum. public discourse of the not included. to cross the plains and foothills and even mountains or deserts of queer theory. 2000.I can multiply the possible translations but it's hard to bring 'shores' to mind. queer theory too gets to have its shores. But even as we see this. of Rancière's book in English. Queer theory comes to the shores of the workers' dreaming. of politics). does he too have shores? These. In Reinke's collection My Rectum is not a Grave video art has rarely come odder than this assemblage of folk fantasies. 2007). the beautiful and the unexpected. and now what to do on them? What or where are the shores of Rancière. but it is impossible to imagine 'aux bords de la mer. queer or other. it no longer connects with theory. of turning aside?) (Bersani. Shall we wear our trousers rolled. It unfolds in the space that QT insistently invokes. nor shallows. on the sandy shore of poetics. we have part enough in the formal. where were the message or the footprint or the breeze. oxymoronic poetics of the vile. just before .

And again. But then again it might split them on the ground of Judith Butler and the insult in drawing our attention to the difference between the insult offered to the gay subject on the one hand and. At the same time there is here. that they emerge in view indeed only where they are so. then. Of course a Q theorist such as Didier Eribon is as far from both Psychoanalysis and JR as one could imagine someone being distant from two such different moments in the turning of contemporary speculations on subjectivation (Eribon 2004). to dream. narcissism. it is constitutive of the one who offers it. the worker poet. as the character of queer that is not. It’s curious. for this can all too readily be brought about through two self-defeating modes of political and aesthetic formation. twinned terrains of mutual visibility that may become fixed as such. Second the freezing of JR and QT in assumptions of their manifest differences. which does not entail an insult a priori. finally. but when I read some Freud and some Pontalis and some Kristeva. I do not see a principle of the foreclosure of the future of a kind envisioned by Edelman as the necessity of the queer disinvestment in the social. 1987). nor in this disinvestment can I agree that this one reading of the death drive can allow us to constitute a negation that is the negating power of sexuality as such. potentially. then of entrenching their overcoming as a mode of procedure. in seeing only oneself. but possibly anew. the desire of the sans-part. For example that QT is often psychoanalytic. 3 .b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 are the questions answered by our volume. a tautology (Kristeva. In a gesture of a necessary and sometimes constructive narcissism the answer seems to be that these shores are in part co-terminus. which has here been explored with some complexity. and that this in itself might make them seem closer by a parallax effect. Their vistas open up to one another a possibility of reconfiguring if not the self. but then the processes or moments of subjectivation that occur in a being given-to-see one another in any singular moment of coexistence. what if we were to switch slightly our assumptions of what it is that psychoanalysis does and what it is that some texts do that might unexpectedly have characteristics of the psychoanalytic. For instance that Lee Edelman’s structural recourse to Lacanian concepts constitutes a psychoanalytic discourse could be open to question (Edelman. frozen as exemplary modes of the freezing of the sensible. This relation is not quite the same as that of the complex processes of othering and misrecognition that pass between the professional littérateurs and the worker poets. or Lacan himself. from queer theory's point of view. on the other. The insult is not substitute for exclusion when. 2004). a wretched irony. and that JR is not. and yet they are never identical. first the formulation of a queer canon and together with it a concomitant canon of Rancière. as an insult. to take but three names.

b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 If I am not sure that Edelman’s text does anything that psychoanalysis does as a practice in the world. although it might lead to a self-estrangement of some of the methodologies we think as queer. at the same time. together with a poetic mode of seizing upon singularity as well as disagreement (with Braudel. writes texts that perform some of the functions of psychoanalysis. for example in Les mots de l'histoire) that leaves his texts open to an affective discharge of the reader. But this does not necessarily make him any the queerer. In its old fashioned way. just as were and still are those of Freud concerning infantile sexuality. Jacotisme is possibly the only enduring principle of all his work. 2002). in his sense of the singularity of events and moments and distributions. a pity.. Once seen. Sometimes I think that these kinds of formulation of a sexual subjectivation are also forms of the distribution of the sensible. '. I am almost tempted to say that it doesn't matter if you don't get it. as figures of a possible enunciation of the subject. a reduced replica of the intra-uterine situation’ (Ferenczi. Inevitably this clinical insight leads to a strange figure of what is in and what is outside of itself and whatever it is that penetration does for or to the one who penetrates. evades the foreclosure of methodologies and theoretical preferences while favouring conflict and working through conflicts and. than I am also more or less certain that his negation as a social practice derives from a formal strategy of the cultural avant-garde as it was once embodied in Italian futurism or Dadaism. or the ensemble of Bersani who makes self-shattering into an epistemological rule of kinds. without suggesting a rule. In this sense it’s proper to think of his writing as having much more in common with an understanding of psychoanalysis as a social practice than anything in the rebarbative prose of Edelman. more or less. In his Thalassa of 1922-28 Sandor Ferenczi writes of the prepuce as a form of womb. a redistributing of the sensible in a way that renders any form of gender specificity queerly improbable and in this enables a means of understanding the possibility of a freer 4 . this is a queer set of ideas. Possibly it also has something to do with Theodor Adorno’s concept of the work of art as distinct from the work of culture and the significance of modern music in figuring the social at the limit of its being comprehensible. meanwhile. but one that is distinct from its being 'psychoanalytic. It’s tempting to suggest.' JR. it sets out to destroy a particular humanism of completion or of the replete. holding the reader or the spectator in engaging their autonomy even from his own positions and specific engagements. that one of the processes with which analytic practice does not engage is that of foreclosure and rule-making and in this it could hardly be more unlike Edelman’s No Future. JR likewise. and the operations that it thus effects. This notion gives Edelman’s text a certain authority in its exploitation of Lacanian discourse. a form of love. That is. but there are plenty of other philosophers who do offer rules..

sometimes seems to commit serial Cartesianism in the absolute authority of this self-dispersal. though what is the order of occurrence is hard to prescribe. how will a seeing-wrong occur. or an impossible closeness . a separation. In the work of the American social historians of modernisation they appear as a statistical blip in the teleology of class formation. what more could they want. and all the attendant risks of the highly polished use of hyperbole and oxymoron that so often attend their influence? QT. Best to admit that this is not prima-facie such a bad thing. we have the stars. and not a matter of the application of a rule that there is no rule. how will Rancière and Queer Theory throw one another's gaze aside. no guilt need attach to it. intersect in such a way as to undo their becoming canon in their intersection. JR and Psychoanalysis in this sense share a sense of the future in a non-speculative and non-humanist discourse.irritable as we have seen. The future is an ineluctable effect of our being alive. his non-methodology. don't let us ask for the moon. and we might also go on then to say that the future of the worker poets turns out to have been what JR has written about them. I guess. in its typically relentless insistence on its perfected anti-essentialism and non-belonging to identity or. and while this is difficult to admit. ideally. of enunciation. or Derrida. to see anew? Can they do it without the help of Lacan. could offer a cure or an antidote to the self by which it is inevitably possessed. the moment of seeing.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 subjectivation more generally. So as JR and QT are trying to reach an arrangement. the possibility of the next moment. Where would these two forces. Cast them both in a role and see how it’s been going: Jerry: Shall we just have a cigarette on it? Charlotte: Oh Jerry. Deferred action may be as queer a concept of time as we can imagine. 5 . any pattern of identification. a self-reconciliation. It is this freedom exactly that grows out of a holding of the past as a capacity to enable the future of a subject out of the exacerbation of the here and now. JR and QT. the meeting of JR and QT is. what more could have been done here. of redistribution. even if it were only to loosen the new liaison just as it has been imagined? Of course in suggesting these things it is not. this tendency to becomingCartesian. but rather to drift to an elsewhere that they have opened. the queer illocution is as likely to swing to entropy as to singularity. also to be a parting of ways. to just drift into a new sharing of the fields of theory and philosophy and even action. in Rancière they remain to be read. my intention to foreclose on the achievements of this volume. for what is there that cannot be queered? Being at once everywhere and nowhere. indeed. it is obviously tempting to imagine that the oneoffness of JR. in the difficult world of aesthetics and politics that we both inhabit.

stark contrasts of black and white. but rather the very closing shots. taking the already living child. It is the stifling police of the family drama that is split apart in psychotherapy. from below. I don’t quite get it. Rather it's from the crème de la crème of Bostonian society. Even sometimes when I look at what JR has seen. a relic in a troubled present of an unwanted past. and looking back they can see her standing at the window of the first floor of the building. beside them and beyond. that of the proletarian for example. his. but a mode of the intrigue. the child is already there. and with her the stars.of which these lines are drawn from its closing moments . or a division of the visible – as I sometimes tactically mutate it – but which is not what JR has seen. We see this. aside. It is like levitation. It’s not so much the scene at the end of the bus journey in Europa 51. not the moon. that redistributes the relation between a politics of the social and its manifest desires and purposes. for even that is not enough to be a 'proper' self in the shadow of her mother's tyranny. and that is all. from the prototypical narrative of the ugly duckling. 1942) Here the voice of the sans-part hardly emerges from a predictable space. and have a child. other than that it is sanctioned by a common love. wants to be a woman.could be an allegory of difficulty of subjectivation in the process that has been undertaken here in matchmaking between JR and QT. the child of another woman who is not a proper mother. generates the perverse generational production of the excluded part as a combination of visibilities where a kind of psychoanalysis and a kind of partition seem to need one another . that I see as he saw. 6 . An impossible marriage takes place that is not in anyway a legitimate marriage. queerly predicting the end of Pasolini’s Theorem of 1968 where the maid floats above the earth and weeps. and. Nor is this an ontology. who care. where Bergman is undone. splitting of the family and recombination of Charlotte's depression with that of Jerry's child. It is they. But of what. And if she. And this is queer enough for me. for something that looks like a partition of the sensible. 1952. where she has ‘decided’ to stay. queer enough to make the queer seem normal in its way (Rosseline. and I am looking for a perverseness that is not quite in queer theory. 1992). see Rancière. a lay sainthood. Jerry. Tina. as JR would call it.pretty much! In writing this I am looking here and there. an intrigue of endless musical innervations against which flicker the minutiae of Charlotte’s inner life. here the people whom she has seen at the outset of her journey into pathology have left her in the sanatorium. not her family. Charlotte.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Now Voyager . and where they had come to meet her at her hoped for departure. And if she wants to be a beautiful woman and to have a husband. the intrusion of a psychoanalytic discourse into the kind of stuffy but violent oppressions that gave it reason in Freud's Vienna. as it all turns out? (Now Voyager. she can be so and do so only if she sets him. she has to imagine herself more than the limits of her own desires. the sans-part who indeed owns the greater part of the space that does not allow her visibility. This sundering.

or writing as a way out'. Now.gai-savoir. they are a condition of something I would call queer in its gayer sense. I Bibliography Bersani. it helped me. touching upon who and where we are in the world. the theatres of a self. September 2009. At the same time these spaces of subjectivation. in Art History. Winter. Goldsmiths. 1992. and Now. pensive forms of anger and angry thinking through what it is to desire a part. discovering a capacity not to have been stultified. Edelman. distant. His web site is www. and if it is too late for this. invested in or setting out from the specific sexual identities that asked for queer to undo themselves from a self-inducing suffocation. but Wolfgang Tillmans' image of a skinhead peeing on a green office chair. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. not Mallarmé's involutions. pp. L. during the gay-blackmail spy scandal of Britain in 1961. the Vassall affair: two middle aged civil servants walk arm in arm and one says to the other ‘But didn’t you notice anything queer about him?' 'But no my dear'. His most recent article is 'Dancing years. sometimes and sometimes not. so these are not quite substitutions but other subjectivations. we have the stars. Oh Jerry. was this conventionally homophobic caricature after all a small splitting in the field of the visible. a moment when the sans-part was seen to speak? I recall it with affection. don't let us ask for the moon. (Routledge. 1987). Was the insult an ironic redistribution of the see-able? ) So the substitutions go on and on. 'Is the rectum a grave?’ October. For me not Rineke Djikstra and her girl on the beach in Kolobrzeg Poland. There is no solution. but David Wojnarowicz's unmitigated fury in his Close to the Knives (1991). (Routledge. we look in different directions. turning away from the letter of the text. London. 'he seemed perfectly normal to me’. July 26. (2004). 43. L. Shall we just have a cigarette on it? AR is a professor of Art Writing in the Department of Art.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 (A cartoon. as our volume has suggested. vol. 7 . but at the time I did not know how. then there is nothing queer about it at all. Until then the word ‘queer’ and the word ‘normal’ had never occurred to me as a possible juxtaposition. the other replies. and he is author of Ingres Then. 2000). Durham: Duke University Press. 32-4. He first edited the work of Jacques Rancière in Voices of the People (with Roger Thomas). or with what. 197-222. (1987). though I already knew that they had a number of difficult implications for me.

html Reinke. M. accessed 11 October 2009. (1992). perf. dépression et mélancholie. R.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Eribon. ---. Paris. dir. 1. (2005). D. J. Now Voyager (2002) [1942]. (2000). ---. Kristeva. Rancière. http://ranciere. (1952). Ferenczi. Psychanalyse des origines de la vie sexuelle. Warner DVD. (2002). (2004) [1999]. Courts voyages au pays du peuple. Rossellini.blogspot. no. to a Film Industry in Crisis. Paris. Jordan. Paris: Gallimard. Thalassa. Bette Davis & Paul Henreid (Charlotte and Jerry). music by Max Steiner. Paris: Payot. Insult and the Making of the Gay Self. originally Réflexions sur la question gay. Krisis. Irving Rapper. My Rectum is Not a Grave. Lucey. S. The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism. 'Art is going elsewhere and politics has to catch it: an interview with Jacques Rancière’. J. Echapper à la psychanalyse. Europa 51. Duke University Press. M. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (2008). © borderlands ejournal 2009 8 . Soleil Noir. (1987). (2007). trans.

As Election Day approached. limited to saying he is not an ‘Arab. and the Other. It was not until former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Obama that an eminent public figure openly questioned what was wrong with being an Arab and why McCain suggested that an ‘Arab’ (or a Muslim) and a decent family man were mutually exclusive.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w . Republican contender John McCain. Louiza Odysseos. Ethics and Violence: War against the Other.’ was booed and jeered by his own supporters and later praised by the media.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 3. subjectivity and ethics.’ McCain’s response.n e t. Anthony Burke. 2009 REVIEW The Re-turn to the Other: In Search of New Ontologies of International Relations Carl Schmitt. 2007. it took an increasingly negative turn through a series of intensified personal attacks by the candidates. Burke and Odysseos qualify Schmitt’s friend/enemy distinction by rethinking the complex relays between security. his running mate Sarah Palin and countless surrogates on the right joined forces in a concerted campaign to portray his political opponent Barack Obama as Anti-American. unsafe. 2007. exotic. and Louiza Odysseos into critical conversations about the structural relation between global politics and the production of otherness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. The Concept of the Political: Expanded Edition. Beyond Security. 1 . Johns Hopkins University This essay places Carl Schmitt. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Once the 2008 US presidential election entered its final weeks. Anatoli Ignatov Department of Political Science. 2007. at a town hall rally McCain found himself pressed to defend Obama as a ‘decent family man’ and ‘citizen’ against allegations that he is an ‘Arab. Anthony Burke.b o rd e rla n d s. London: Routledge. The Subject of Coexistence: Otherness in International Relations.

1967. development.’ as a suicide bomber. and poststructuralist approaches to security studies (Campbell. identity and otherness. or oily sheikh who sponsors terrorist networks.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 Over the course of several decades this figure of the Arab as ‘what we are not’ has crystallized as the paradigmatic Other and the civilizational enemy of the West. 1989. interrogating the self in relation to the Other (Hegel. Said. In this respect. peace and conflict studies (Galtung. feminist approaches to international relations (Enloe. This has occurred through critical engagements such as postcolonial scholarship (Fanon. fanatic. modernization. 1990). etc. Gatens. and terrorism. this discourse positions the stranger and the foreigner as a threatening. Such modes of construction of otherness enable systems of exploitation exercised in the name of security and a 2 . ‘primitive’ and inferior being whose voice can be silenced and whose knowledge and humanity can be denied on the grounds of this inferiority. identity and ethics are overlaid with a discourse that conceptualizes the Other in terms of a two pole relation of the same and the other. 1988. Peterson. 1979). in spite of the legacy of some key texts in philosophy. Foucault. war and coexistence. Levinas. functioning as metonymic substitutes in this discursive matrix of othering. 1990. This propensity to convert difference into Otherness to address the threat of our constitutive heteronomy and to assure the certainty of hegemonic identities—exhibited by us both individually and collectively—is not new (Connolly. Butler. Dalby. backward). The dehumanized Other is either sacrificed or reinserted into Western civilization and the global politico-economic order through technologies of colonization. Sylvester. including much of modern social science in debates about security. What is at stake for this diverse set of theorists is that most IR discussions of the complex relays between security. Walker. Tickner. political theory and psychoanalysis. On the other hand. 1996. and the Arab has appeared as the perennial aggressor in a monumental ‘clash of civilizations. underdeveloped. Yet. American national identity has been consolidated and a series of unpopular and often illegal securityrelated policies have been formulated. 1995). Lacan. colonialism. Taylor. 1992).’ In an antagonistic relation to a ‘packaged’ set of differences (non-Christian. Bhabha. 1996. 1992. Islam has been associated with holy war. On the one hand. The items on these lists are interchangeable. Connolly). Sartre. which tend to slide into one another. 1994. Dillon. violence-prone. It has structured the ontological premises of a long tradition of Western thought. Derrida. 2000. 2002. violence. male domination. the Other is conceived as potentially amenable to the universal possibility already lodged in Europe. the McCain example points to one instance of the intensification of this tendency under the Bush administration’s ‘war on terror. 1998. Economies of otherness such as these have become structural features of international relations. They work to transform cultural into ontological differences and present the latter as signs of pathology and lack. democratization. recently the effaced and silenced Other has ‘spoken out’ in the field of international relations. immoral. conflict. hijacker. 2002). irrational.

heteronomy and interdependence between Being and the world has always been there. and culture must collapse into the complete ‘identity of state and society. Schmitt contends that any attempt to save the political through the extension of the state to encompass all domains such as the economy. this devolution emphasizes never-decisive compromise.’ a thoughtful foreword by Tracy Strong. liberalism and the significance of the identification of an ‘enemy’ as the authentic political form of state legitimation. security and national unity. argues that this intersubjectivity. democracy. Both Burke and Odysseos carry the Schmittian imperative to its limit. ethics. in turn. and biopolitics. it eventually leads to the depoliticization of the world. and The Subject of Coexistence: Otherness in International Relations. by Anthony Burke. Beyond Security. religion. It highlights Schmitt’s presentation of the selfother approach. in which the construction of a friend/enemy distinction serves as the condition of possibility of politics. IR literature in particular has overlooked the primacy of this interinvolvement. in terms of security and the centrality of modern subjectivity. which undermines the modern architectonic of sovereignty and the state.’ interest in Schmitt has continued to grow. respectively. by Louiza Odysseos are three books that each. Burke’s subtle theoretical work enables the Other of security to find its way back in through a new ethic of transnational responsibility and reciprocity. whether we theorize it or not. With the Bush presidency and its global ‘war on terror. these three books will inform scholars working at the intersection of identity politics. They seek to rethink Otherness by problematizing the ontological commitments of international relations theory. In his view. moral universalism and procedure over determination. Read together. law. The new expanded edition of The Concept of the Political. antagonism and struggle. to different degrees and from different vantage points. has been dissolved into the modern conjugation of democracy and liberalism. by Carl Schmitt. Moreover. George Schwab’s translation of the original 1932 edition of The Concept of the Political includes Schmitt’s 1929 essay ‘The age of neutralizations and depoliticizations.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 geopolitics designed to contain the allegedly anarchical and dangerous space of international politics. a field of ultimate authority and final sovereign decision-making. sovereignty. Odysseos. critical security studies and global ethics. In the book Schmitt voices his concern that the experience of the political. 3 .’ it will blur the lines between public and private interests and render the assertion of a distinct political dimension impossible (2007: 22). and critical notes by Leo Strauss. The revival of academic attention to the political thought of Carl Schmitt in international relations in recent years has been largely associated with its notable engagement by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben (2005) in his work on the intersection of the state of exception. Ethics and Violence: War against the Other. The new issue of The Concept of the Political explores the relationship between politics. engages this complex figuration of the Other.

and it is sufficient for his nature that he is. the other. is that responsibility is best conceived as a mode of being that is related to the preservation of the state. 54). On the other hand. which can be transcended only through the existential identification and negation of the Other as an enemy. in spite of Schmitt’s assertion that ‘the definition of the political suggested here neither favors war nor militarism. of an association or dissociation’ (2007: 26). The enemy as such is outside the state.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 Asserting that ‘the concept of the state presupposes the concept of the political. nevertheless. In effect. recognized as the enemy’ (2007: 35. Furthermore. politics becomes a defining characteristic of what is to be human. Schmitt insists that ‘the extreme case appears to be an exception does not negate its decisive character but confirms it all the more’ and that ‘the high points of politics are simultaneously the moments in which the enemy is. particularly to a whole nation. On the one hand. becomes public by virtue of such a relationship’ (2007: 28). The enemy is both decided upon by the state and constitutive of a being that takes the form of a shared commitment to a homogeneous form of national identity. because everything that has a relationship to such a collectivity of men. the collective nature of the friend-enemy grouping. one fighting collectivity of people confronts a similar collectivity. in the state of exception to the norm. to diminish the political and lose the enemy means to diminish the clarity of belonging to a state that is essential to human existence. in this sense.’ Schmitt sets to restore the political ‘by discovering and defining the specifically political categories’ through a ‘simple criterion:’ that ‘the specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy’ (2007: 19. The friend/enemy antithesis of the political ‘denotes the utmost degree of intensity of a union or separation. What follows then. 67). neither imperialism 4 . Finally. in concrete clarity. the stranger. 25-6). in a specially intense way. this distinction is actualized only in ‘the extreme case’ of conflict. In the process. The enemy is solely the public enemy. Out of this avowedly ‘simple criterion’ emerges a complex and nuanced understanding of the figure of the Other as the enemy. denies liberal claims to speak in the name of humanity and the possibility of convergence of humanity’s interests into any mode of universal rationality (2007: 29. the stakes of politics are so high that ‘each participant is in a position to judge whether the adversary intends to negate his opponent’s way of life and therefore must be repulsed or fought in order to preserve one’s own form of existence’ (2007: 27). Hence. existentially something different and alien. based upon the political principle of such ‘intense and extreme’ antagonism. at least potentially. so that in the extreme case conflicts with him are possible’ (2007: 27). it is of key importance that the enemy ‘is not merely any competitor or just any partner of a conflict in general’ or the ‘private adversary whom one hates:’ ‘An enemy exists only when. It defines politics as a certain mode of relationality to others where the Other can at any time become enemy and stranger: ‘The political enemy need not be morally evil or aesthetically ugly … But he is.

philosophy and the social sciences in general is of high exegetical value as the text renders explicit a range of implicit and often uncritically accepted assumptions of Western political theory. the relationship to the friend seems to be compromised by the very clarity of the enemy. it can be described as the intensification of the possibility of conflict through writing itself. structured by the Schmittian imperative of survival and the relational schema of simultaneous identification and effacement of Otherness always already at play. the real war. Finally. Such a simplification remains highly controversial and radically insufficient to account for the complex. Nevertheless. Schmitt creates a certain aura of a state of emergency of interpretation that parallels and aggravates his insistence on a set of ontological premises of politics.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 nor pacifism. as a precondition for engaging with the political. exceeding the bounds of national unity rather than someone whose ‘potential’ to pose a threat to one’s very mode of being is always so imminent. In fact. it draws attention to the building block of realist ontologies of the state of nature. introducing The Concept of the Political to more students of international relations. the economy. multi-faceted and relational nature of international politics. a related question may be raised with regard to Schmitt’s passionate and even aggressive form of writing.’ the ‘real possibility of physical killing’ and the potential for war and fighting persist as the most salient feature of the human condition: ‘What always matters is the possibility of the extreme case taking place. there is no clear reason provided by Schmitt why the Other cannot be thought as a peace-minded stranger. Second. it is ambivalent who or what the friend is apart from that which may turn into the Other and the enemy or gets incorporated in the self. simultaneously a strength and weakness. despite Schmitt’s claim that. His mode of writing promotes affective dispositions on the part of the reader that he attributes to the necessity of the state. and religion. his simple and lucid articulation of the political reduces it to a one-dimensional antithesis of friend and enemy. and the decision whether this situation has or has not arrived’ (2007: 33. conceptually distinct from other domains such as culture. within the field of international relations. Perhaps. In particular. 35). The fact that the Other is encountered conceptually as an enemy structures to a significant extent expectations of how future encounters will unfold. This concrete and real possibility of war is absolutely critical to the organization of the domain of politics: ‘a world in which the possibility of war is utterly eliminated … would be a world without the distinction of friend and enemy and hence a world without politics’ (2007: 35). existential conflict and the moment of identification of/against Otherness do not presuppose hatred of an enemy. permeated by existential insecurity and ever-present danger of war. After all. First. Schmitt’s concept of the political may be called into question on multiple grounds. 5 . I will mention three of them here.

Ethics and Violence: War against the Other contends that when Schmitt articulated his ‘vision of “collectivities” of friends and enemies engaged in an existential struggle for survival in the international realm. noneconomic Other’ (2007: 39-40. to Locke’s backward Indian who failed to exploit the earth through labor in opposition to the rationality and industriousness of Western man.’ affecting security’s figuration of self and Other (2007: 12. Hobbes and Locke ‘conceived the modern political community. reason and unreason. savage and civilized man. Burke traces this complex web of rhetorical forces that form the negative image of the Other to Hobbes’ divisions between the commonwealth and the state of nature. and woman with passion. by the beginning of the 19th century ‘the temporal possibility for the modern economy and civilization was thus secured by a long chain of oppositions. passivity. as an organic unity of sovereign and subject constituted by a primal existential estrangement from the Other of the criminal. This is how. according to Burke. who in Beyond Security. 46). Specifically. objective truth and the mind. is added to Burke’s chain of analogous oppositions. economic man – were in place and finding productive new articulations’ (2007: 41. another axis. From this perspective. the constitution of modern notions of sovereignty often relies on the subsumption and suppression of a number of linguistic. driven by a desire for security. cultural and social differences. the Other.’ All the elements of the ontological architecture of security – ‘sovereignty. geopolitics. In this respect. economic and cultural order. this time between masculine and feminine. Burke turns to the insights of feminist scholars Ann Tickner (1992) and Christine Sylvester (2002) who argue that global security politics has been dominated by an image of ‘hegemonic masculinity. the Indian and the minority – directly incorporating an image of violence. gender is another ‘repressed organizing principle’ for the ‘modern architectonic of security. the subversive. activity.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 This view is shared by Anthony Burke. It equates ‘maleness with reason. In other words. 46). it is reconstituted as its essential and threatening outside. criminal and society. otherness and fear into the very basis of modern political life’ (2007: 14). 49). subjective truth and the body – realms and values constructed as perpetually threatening. opposed to “others” designated as inferior or 6 .’ within which the works of Hobbes.’ he accentuated an entrenched system of western security thought (2007: 14). its unity and completeness is attained through the discursive construction of the Other as a figure of security’s outside: ‘As the image of conflict is seemingly eliminated from the inside of the sovereign body. and to Bentham’s notion of progress as ‘movement away from a “savage”. its very condition of possibility and thus its interior’ (2007: 39). This system is rooted in the political ‘economy of sameness’ and the ‘negative imagination of the Other. Security takes the form of a ‘powerful signifier of an ideal political.’ sustained through its antagonistic relation to various representations of devalorized insecure and vulnerable gender identities. Locke and Bentham can be identified as the most prominent examples (2007: 39). backward and disruptive’ (2007: 50).

parochial and protective state. Thus. Burke calls into question this very ontology of security as a defining condition of human existence and container of being. safety and freedom. an integral element of which is to avoid critical inquiry into this very form. Burke’s probe into the gendered constitution of the identity of bodypolitic around the threat of the Other reveals that at the ontological foundation of the modern architectonic of the nation-state lies a promise of security that is never realized. manifested by recent scholarly shifts of attention from the abstraction of the state to the corporeal dimension of the human. and a feminized citizenry. wellbeing and prosperity of others. suffering and death for some in order to become a condition of possibility for the existence. security and insecurity. belonging. Burke insists on the need to resist ‘the continuing power of political ontologies (forms of truth and being) that connect security. otherness and violence in ways that for many appear like enduring political facts. and ethics. politics.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 threatening … bound into a dependent relation with “insecurity”’ so ‘it can never escape it – it must continue to produce images of “insecurity” in order to retain meaning’ (2007: 51). forming a permanent ground.’ of the feminized and demonized. security forms a ‘powerful mechanism of subjectivity. security operates on the underside as a subterranean political economy of pain. subjectivity. plagued by existential fear and insecurity. ‘In short insecurity is the very condition of the nation state as a structure or promise of Being’ (2007: 5). at the individual level. a masculine. irrational and emotional Other (2007: 51-2). sovereignty. the second is a growing sense of the impossibility to sustain discursive claims to universality in the light of realist assertions that security must be purchased at the expense of the insecurity and suffering of ‘an-Other’ (2007: 27-32). and often also unstable and threatening … Order … becomes analogous to the taming of woman and nature. This gendered enactment of subjectivity becomes expressed in realist political discourse about the anarchy of the international system and the necessity of the state as a masculine force: ‘in this discourse … one that imagines certain economic modes (indigenous or agriculture-based) and forms of identification (sub-state and local) as backward. One of the main objectives of Beyond Security. Concealed under luminous formulations of sovereignty. premised on the conceptualization of safety through Otherness and the invisible and rarely examined nexus between violence and being. inevitable and irrefutable … they condition politics as such. and governmentality. a dark substrata underpinning the very possibility of the present’ (2007: 68). Ethics and Violence is to challenge the form and process of our thought about security.’ enacted through the constant interplay between images of men’s participation in war and battle. Burke uses empirical cases ranging across 7 . Drawing on Foucault’s work on power/knowledge. Burke identifies two interrelated aporias of security: the first.

society and the international that security seeks to imagine and police’ (2007: 53). Burke suggests that one such move can be pursued through a critical engagement with political theory and continental philosophy: ‘Through a critical engagement with this thought. both of whom maintain strong notions of the relational nature of human existence. Burke explores various ways to think their respective histories and incommensurable narratives together. of the kind exercised by states over vast areas. He turns to Heidegger to propose new definitions of humanity’s relation to 8 . At least three instances of this critical engagement need to be noted. Security is redefined as a ‘political technology that mobilizes two linked techniques of social production and regulation: totalizing power. but in relations of responsibility and interconnection that can negotiate and recognise both distinct and intertwined histories. According to Burke. He takes as a starting point Edward Said’s call for the mutual recognition of ‘the universality and integrity of the Other’s experience’ in order to ‘begin to plan a common life together’ (Said. diplomacy and technological enframing that underpin security as a Cartesian system of ontological certainty and truth. economies and populations.’ and insist on a sympathetic and existential turn to the Other. nor a moral object we can choose to assist. He reads their complex historical interaction against Julia Kristeva’s invitation to welcome and embrace the strangeness within us in order to theorize a transnational ethic of generosity. Rather the Other is the very purpose and condition of existence’ (2007: 82). nor an alienated ground for identity. in the context of the Iraq war. the question becomes how to refuse security as a technology of subjectivity that structures available possibilities for being and ‘to open up aporetic possibilities that transgress and call into question the boundaries of the self. which works at the level of individuals and souls. identities and needs’ (2007: 68-9). Southeast Asia. As a potential ethical source Burke identifies the philosophical thought of Buber and Levinas. ‘In their visions of identity and existence the Other is neither a threat. 2000: 208). and Indonesia and Australia to retheorize security as a form of power and political technology rather than as the principal container of politics. This ethic recognizes differences that cut through identities and ‘shape relations within and between identities that themselves are neither bounded nor whole’ (2007: 105-7). Iraq. Burke takes on the instrumental forms of strategy. In this new context. and individualizing power. Finally. 63). In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. argue that the only mode of being is in the plural ‘with Others. on their bodies and minds’ (2007: 5-6). A new critical approach is needed to ‘refuse our limits and imagine an unthought beyond them’ and to think our way out of the discourse of absolute security towards a new mode of shared security (2007: 22.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 Israel/Palestine. based upon a primary responsibility to the Other is further developed in Burke’s discussion of the 1990s tensions between the ‘strange neighbors’ Australia and Indonesia. This vision of interconnected identity. I aim to construct a political ethics based not in relations between insecure and separated identities mapped solely onto nation-states.

This notion of politics as an overdetermined field of forces may enrich Burke’s understanding of the various types of terrain within which international relations must be reinscribed and renegotiated beyond the discourse of security. spanning international relations. critical social theory and cultural studies. ethics and Otherness. well-structured and compelling argument would be of interest to a wide range of readership. This becomes evident in terms of the study of the birth of revolutionary and social movements. In this regard. 9 . 1995) to engage such emerging formations is key to a critical study of international relations.’ of the Other of the Other. his timely analysis and command of continental philosophy stand out. adverse space between subjects’ (Coole 2001: 25-6). an incipient identity in formation at an early stage of becoming. within which this relation takes place. he denaturalizes it and extends its scope beyond the interdependent web of violence. each political act is defined by processes of self-invention. instead. such a solution seems to furnish only a relatively thin notion of the Third unless it is supplemented by what Diana Coole (2001) calls the ‘ontology of the interworld. there exists a plurality of valences of identity. during Burke’s examination of Buber and Levinas he points to their failure to account for the mediated nature of the self-other relation. instrumentalization of nature and society. and geopolitical control. What is of concern here is that in Burke’s book it does not become entirely clear what the relationship between ethics and politics is. another possibility is a proto-notion. one of which is Burke’s congealed self with the Other. Burke attempts to resolve this problem of ‘the Third. drawn from a Levinasian ethic of responsibility. not fully transparent to itself and others. it is important to reiterate that Burke does not seek to cast off the concept of security. the presence and the active constitution of an international space of critical responsiveness (Connolly. Yet.’ An ontology of the interworld rethinks the plurality of subjects and the sphere of the political in terms of intersubjectivity by drawing attention to the complex interplay of interiority and exteriority in collective life and the multiple struggles for coexistence in ‘the thick. He ties security to the Other through the grammar of Levinasian responsibility. within such a field of forces permeated with power. by addressing the social and discursive constitution of the intersubjective system of meaning. In this respect. As with any critical endeavor of such scope and density there are certain areas and pointers for further reflection. philosophy. Since. and insecurity towards a new mode of being. In particular. coercion. political theory. Finally. Nonetheless. Beyond Security may be better perceived as the first theoretical stride in a project to rethink the relationship between security.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 itself beyond the relations of domination. the latter ontology may also help him to relate ethics to politics by eliciting an immanent ethics of openness to novel coexistential solutions and possibilities of critical political interventions. For instance. Burke’s lucid. Does politics precede ethics? Does Burke have a theory of politics at all? In this respect.

responsibility and security may be further explored. according to narrow notions of responsibility as accountability. 1991: xx). Rather than recognized apodictically. and. Yet. the acceptance of the limits of knowability of oneself and the other becomes central to the formulation of a certain kind of ethics that reinforces rather than breaks away with this relationality. On the other hand. is through a possible alignment between the psychoanalytical insights of Judith Butler and William Connolly’s engagements with complexity theory. for Connolly this suspension of judgment and coming to terms with our own limits and opacity can also enable us to appreciate the unpredictable novelty. Thus a Butler-Connolly augmentation of Burke may be pertinent to his discussion of the barriers to responsibility. Our own foreignness to ourselves emerges as a source of our ethical connections to others. especially in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict. 2005: 63-4). often force oneself into an artificial and violent existence. becoming. 1991: 96). This form of ‘ethical violence’ not only consists in the threat to one’s own (or the other’s) intelligibility but can be also observed in judgments in the name of ethics and morality that distance the judging subject from the one being judged (Butler. Connolly’s attentiveness to novelty and becoming may enrich his engagement with Kristeva’s notion of the constitutive strangeness. Butler warns us that demands for coherence. On the one hand. 10 . vulnerability and primordial dependency on the Other (Butler. Both make the case for a suspension of the urge to judge and the importance of developing a new understanding of responsibility as responsiveness and openness towards others who exceed the bounds of one’s own understanding. emergence and abundance of life in a world of becoming. From the point of view of psychoanalysis. of the need to reconceptualize the relation between becoming and security. now responsibility is best conceived as a second order formation. 2005). We are not only opaque to ourselves but to each other and becoming aware of one dimension of this opacity may often foreclose another. forged out of care for the world and the fugitive abundance of being that infuses it (Connolly. Butler argues for the impossibility of giving a full and complete account of oneself since subject formation implies one’s own opacity. Connolly concurs in advance with Butler that responsibility is a ‘systematically ambiguous practice’ and ‘standards of responsibility are both indispensible to social practice and productive of injustices within it’ (Connolly. in which this relation between identity formation. 63-4). Incoherence structures the way in which we are constituted in relationality and the default patterns of this relationality emerge as the opacity within one’s account of oneself (Butler. Butler’s emphasis on opacity may buttress his critique of the limitations of a Levinasian ethics of responsibility in such cases and the temptation to slide into modes of citizenship-based ethical violence. One way. perhaps. 2005: 45.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 transborder flows of refugees and bodies. seeking to reinstall the mastery and unity of the subject.

In this way it effaces the constitutive role of otherness in the formation of the subject. which Odysseos terms ‘heteronomy’ (2007: xxviii-xxix). it tends to presuppose the Schmittian mode of conflict it seeks to rise above. and the issues of incipience. how it is other to itself … when it is grasped as a subject’ (2007: xxix. This logic of composition ‘suggests that units or entities are nonrelational in their constitution until “composed. On the grounds of modern subjectivity. is to open a mutually illuminating conversation across which to bring them to a higher boil. Odysseos argues that coexistence has been taken for granted and undertheorized as ‘postontological’ for international relations. This conjunction between the logic of composition and the effacement of heteronomy is illustrated in the Hobbesian account of the 11 . which works by a reduction of the “we” to an “I” … just as individuals within the state are thought to coexist on the basis of preformed subjectivities. nonrelational subjectivity. perhaps.”’ it grasps collectivity through the conceptual lens of the modern observable and unitary subject: It not only assumes that collectivities are made up of multiple individual subjects but also that as collectivities they behave as subjects. The logic of composition structures coexistence as an afterthought. this time in terms of their stabilization through the centrality of modern subjectivity. The point. This effacement ‘makes it impossible to recognize that the self … is always already thrown into a world of otherness’ and obscures ‘the self’s otherness. is to fold a larger degree of forbearance. Like Burke. in the sense that it has to be derived from some prior purposive action or other sets of ontological assumptions (2007: xxiv). All these themes and possibilities are already simmering in Burke’s book. In her book The Subject of Coexistence: Otherness in International Relations Louiza Odysseos builds on these themes of the political application of the ethical return to the Other.’ which reduces it to a collection and copresence of already constituted or preformed subjects (2007: xxvi. shared by Burke with all these thinkers. so too does much of international relations theory assume the state to embody a unitary. heteronomy and critical responsiveness. the problem of the Third. xxxii). It now becomes an indispensible element in transformation of global structures and technologies of power. The task. xxxii). gratitude for the abundance of being and presumptive generosity into our negotiating stances. she questions the conceptual structures and ontological premises of international relations theory.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 differences and conflicts that already cut through identities by opening up spaces of responsiveness to emerging constituencies that require new modes of recognition. (2007: xxvii) What follows from such assumptions of nonrelational preconstitution is not that one does not enter into relations with others but that these relations do not flow into selfhood itself. coexistence has been conceptualized and articulated through a ‘logic of composition. contingency.

12 . Second.’ whereby the latter term denotes ‘how selves are manifested in their location in the world with others’ (2007: 26). framed as the Leviathan’s outside (2007: 21. Otherness is reduced to ‘the same(self) since the other is determined as. lacking capacity to live with others without a rigid regulatory framework of rules (2007: 22-4). demonstrate the ontological primacy of sociality. Dasein’s attunement to the world and radical embeddedness in it can be best understood through the ‘structure of thrown projection’ – as it is being thrown into the world it projects itself onto future possibilities. This dependence means that the access Dasein has to itself is mediated through otherness (2007: 59. ‘The relation to the other becomes a relation of danger’ and enmity that can be overcome only through self-preservation and mastery over self and the other-as-enemy. Its purpose is to ‘access the phenomena of existence by examining the being that philosophy had long captured under the heading of the subject’ (2007: 26. What is of immediate concern for Odysseos is that this imaginary and pessimistic ontology of danger has informed dominant perspectives of international relations. 180-81). Given this structure. Third. and represented to. assignments and relations that are not created but shared by Dasein. Her search for a methodology in Chapter 2 leads her to an experimental mode of phenomenology. In Chapter 3 under the heading ‘optics of coexistence’ she examines four interrelated elements of Heidegger’s philosophy. 90). which constructs the self/other relation as self/enemy. 23). enmity as omnipresent and survival as the predominant mode of relationality of the subject. existence is already coexistence. inhabited by nonrelational. belligerent subjects. ‘Dasein is Being–in-the-world with others’ and ‘for Dasein. thinking of being as engaged immersion points to a notion of the world as a web of interinvolvements with others and totality of meanings. Finally. Dasein’s existence is best conceived as care (2007: 91.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 anarchical state of nature. which have established the realm of the international as presocially dangerous space. which in the light of Levinas’s critique of Heidegger’s totalizing tendencies. Being-there is always Being-with. characterized as a ‘hermeneutics of facticity. Thus in the heterology of the Leviathan only the civil commonwealth and the social contract can be constitutive of coexistence and polity. Selfhood is coexistential but this is far from identical to composition or copresence assumed of the completed and autonomous subject of modernity’ (2007: 59. the subject according to the attributes of the very same Hobbesian selfhood’ and ‘knowable nature’ (2007: 21). Odysseos reads the primary mode of Dasein as ‘engaged immersion’ in its dealings with the world and argues that such an understanding challenges the ‘assumption that reflection and knowing are the definitive modes of human relationality toward entities and the world’ (2007: 90). 179). 90-91). Otherness and coexistence for the formation of the self (‘Dasein’: ‘Being there’) as Being-in-the-world. First. Odysseos turns to the thought and method of Martin Heidegger to retrieve an existential analysis that ‘unworks’ this Hobbesian configuration of subjectivity.

groundedness and ‘anxious Being-in-the-world and … assume his fundamental mortal possibility’ (2007: 151). she takes a different direction and explores the possibility to develop a critical relation of questioning towards the community itself.. Hence. In turn. Burke’s outstanding and insightful take on a wide array of philosophical approaches may diversify Odysseos’s Heideggerian frame at the same time as her ethical explorations fill in the political vacuum of his otherwise impressive study. In spite of the overriding historicity of Odysseos’s notion of critical belonging. In accordance with this view. both from inside and from an outside that is already within’ (2007: 175-6). might have been marginalized and silenced by dominant collective understandings at specific historical moments. (2007: 184) As critical belonging rearticulates and disturbs the repeatable possibilities of the particular historical tradition and brings difference and outsiders to act upon them. It theorizes the agonistic encounters and negotiations of multiple emerging perspectives and minorities as we become more and more entangled with one another. However. an inclusive ethics exceeds the simple idea of the universal as it opens to alterity. she articulates the concept of ‘critical belonging:’ … the “ethical” self’s openness to alterity is brought into the political by destroying … inappropriate past possibilities and by retrieving those possibilities that . advocated by thinkers such as Linklater and Habermas. making their voices heard. This deconstruction liberates groups and others that were silenced by the tradition. Ethics and Violence. undertheorized by Burke in Beyond Security. it becomes central for international relations theory in the age of globalization. While Odysseos herself recognizes this need. liberating solicitude is only one ethical dimension of the self.. However. within these newly opened spaces for coexistence and shared 13 . whose heightened sense of awareness of contingency and non-self-sufficiency may need to be paralleled by some more positive ethic of affirmation of the abundance of being or attachment to life. it serves as the pivotal juncture of politics and new ethics of incipience. amenable to noninstrumental relations.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 Odysseos’s creative reading of Heidegger makes possible the disclosure of the self as a heteronomous. heteronomy. coexistential being and a subject of coexistence. She pursues a sensibility of liberating solicitude towards the other as a different path to ‘think coexistence as the sensibility of a heteronomous being’ when it is understood not only as an expression of empathy and authentic care but also as a call for the other to face one’s own contingency. It ‘enables a movement from the community’s conceptualization as uniform and essentialist to its diversification. One such disposition of ‘liberating solicitude’ is articulated by Odysseos with reference to recent theorizing of more inclusive approaches to community. A ‘recovery of ethical selfhood’ involves relational arts of the self and a cultivation of presumptive openness towards the Other.

(2005). ‘Thinking politically with Merleau-Ponty’. Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity. while some states and non-state actors accept the invitation to open these doors.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 security in the international realm. as Burke and Odysseos explore dispositions. trans. 14 . Bhabha. J. others will not. Anatoli Ignatov is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. (1998). There is the risk that. threatening personal and political landscapes and generating new tensions. 17-28. W. Bibliography Agamben. London: Pinter. (1994). S. both Burke and Odysseos seem to shift language from state to self effortlessly. 108. His research is focused on the intersection between politics. no. Campbell. Coole. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (1990). The Ethos of Pluralization. Dalby. Butler. Attell. The point is that the reorientations and practices Burke and Odysseos promote increase the possibility of productive relations and negotiations in global politics while the Schmittian imperative feeds the very dangers it identifies. State of Exception. Schmitt helps to activate the divisive passions he warns are always on the horizon. Connolly. But each has a larger agenda. July-August. (1995). After all. connections. The Location of Culture. W. New York: Fordham University Press. Identity\Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox. D. Radical Philosophy. to forestall strategies by realists to overwhelm the social dynamics of citizen life with the iron clad dictates of the state in an anarchical order. London: Routledge. Creating the Second Cold War. (2005). and modes of engagement that reopen the doors Schmitt and other realists close. nature and ethics. (2002). G. (2001). H. and states out loud what both Burke and Odysseos promise to rethink. Yet. Connolly. D. Giving an Account of Oneself. it would be best to read the two books together while keeping Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political in sight as a prod to both. pp. These shifts would be sufficient if the focus of their investigations had been limited to crossstate citizen movements or transnational advocacy networks. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. There is the possibility that new dramatic events may occur. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. danger persists. In this sense. K.

London: Routledge. (1967).J. 291-305. discourse and deterrence’. London: Granta Books. Tickner. (1996). Dillon. C. (1992). V. Current Research on Peace and Violence. Galtung. J. (1988). 12. Walker. Gatens. M. Power and Corporeality. Fanon. Feminist International Relations: An Unfinished Journey. C. Colorado: Lynne Rienner. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. R. 27. London: Routledge. E. Sylvester. 90-104. (2002). Politics of Security: Towards a Political Philosophy of Continental Thought. Bananas. Boulder. trans. 2.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :3 Dillon.W. pp. Imaginary Bodies: Ethics. M. Journal of Peace Research. vol. (1995). J. (1990). © borderlands ejournal 2009 15 . (1979). (1996).B. 3. E. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gendered States: Feminist (Re)visions of International Relations Theory.B. (ed. no. vol.J. Boulder. Peterson. Inside/Outside: International Relations as Political Theory. M. Orientalism. no. ‘Cultural violence’. Black Skin White Masks. pp. (2000). (2000). Walker. Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. Charles Lam Markmann. The End of the Peace Process: Oslo and After. R. Gender in International Relations: Feminist Perspectives on Achieving Global Security. Said.A. Said. Enloe. (1989). F.S. One World.H. Many Worlds: Struggles for a Just World Peace. ‘Modernity.W. New York: Columbia University Press. Colorado: Lynne Rienner.) (1992). New York: Grove. Berkeley: University of California Press. New York: Random House.

and wrestling with new and old debates. 1783-1939. in which old concepts are redefined and stood alongside his trademark neologisms. Australia. Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-world. His thesis is composed with beautiful simplicity.g. Canada. Confronting an impressive literature. Part 1 is an outline of his thesis and an explanation of migration. 165-9. 187. but not adjacent. The book is separated into three parts. Readers familiar with Belich’s other work will identify 1 . New York: Oxford University Press. 2009. celebration or denial’ (4). contact. this is economic history.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w . However. 314). but for the most part. Replenishing the Earth is concerned exclusively with the settler component. and that of settlers and not natives. and the comparisons made inside his ‘Anglo-world’ are thoughtful and intriguing. his (British) Empire chest-thumping is kept in check. which was effectively divided into three equal sections on native society. James Belich’s most ambitious book yet ‘attempts to understand and explain this great Anglo explosion and to do so without fear or favour. Making Peoples (1996). A contrast can be made with his history of nineteenth century New Zealand. Above all else.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. and settler society.n e t. On a certain level. Edward Cavanagh Swinburne Institute of Social Research James Belich has produced the most rich and comprehensive comparative history of white settler colonialism – if only the settler side of it – since the transnational turn of the 1990s. Belich dismisses regional exceptionalism in favour of a meta-historical and categorical explanation of the ‘Settler Revolution’: the establishment and expansion of settler societies in the United States. to the existing scholarship on settler colonialism. and stands tangential. New Zealand and South Africa. Belich might be accused of exchanging one exceptionalism for another (e. 2009 REVIEW Settler Revolutions and Indigenous Dissolutions James Belich.b o rd e rla n d s.

Part 2 is a test of his hypothesis. migration. 1996. with his point that wool was insignificant in the New South Wales economy until after the depression of 1841-3. Belich’s anti-staple stance will earn him quite a bit of attention in economic history circles. which he argues is unhelpful in explaining the patterns of comparative settler economics (96-8. The argument is well developed if a bit pedantic. not a unidirectional. see also Waldman. 1987). 1997. and railways were always laid to import as well as export. showing how ‘hyper-colonization’ operated in his different case studies. Brazil and Argentina. Decolonisation in settler societies. Imports pumped the arteries of the Anglo-world. 364). and the market value of their land surged.’ ‘explosive colonization. should be understood in cultural and economic terms. 339-45).’ ‘recolonization’ and ‘decolonization. and I suspect regional specialists will be able to spot inaccuracies. and not only as a transfer of political power. ‘and social history has scarcely featured at all’ (548). But wool was surely important from at least 1833.’ Belich argues that the real decolonisation of America came in the 1900s. 286-8. above all else. Vamplew (ed. The Griquas’ moment in the South African sun came in the 1850s and probably earlier. a point he makes to support his argument that staples were the result ‘of busts.’ His categorisation is strict. followed later by the Dominions. and the ultimate gauge of growth). Manchuria. Siberia. On the contrary. presenting perhaps the most original conceptual contribution of this book. and exports were only as important as the infrastructural development caused by the import-oriented ‘Progress Industry’ (a condition of highspeed growth or hyper-colonisation. not 1776. Doubtless. interpreting this data according to various stages of growth: ‘incremental colonization. though. this was the period in which their economic and political autonomy was destroyed. economic history: ‘Political history has had to take a back seat. 2001. That the Griquas thrived in South Africa’s ‘Boom 2’ (1872-82) is also incorrect (384). and appreciate their elaboration and application here (Belich.). relationship. Replenishing the Earth is. especially when seen in relation to the colony’s population (see McMichael.’ writes Belich in the conclusion.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 several of these terms. His favourite sources are numbers – of population. because trade is a bidirectional. He argues for a ‘rhythmic’ understanding of the booms and busts of the Anglo-world. and trade – and his footnotes reveal that he has computed a great deal of them. I had trouble. 1984: 262. when they successfully combined pastoral. It is at the end of the book that Belich then applies his framework to non-Anglo settler societies such as Algeria. focusing on the concept of Greater Britain and introducing its twin. 2007: 69-77). not later (Ross. Part 3. 1976: 66-80. not booms’ (277-8. he argues. More interesting than the reprioritisation of 2 . agricultural and middle-man pursuits. 2005). for example. presents the ‘recolonization’ of ‘Anglo-Wests’ alongside the industrialisation and capitalisation of London and New York. ‘Greater America. according to Belich. Belich distrusts the ‘staple’ thesis.

Belich is right to make this distinction: colonialism (where the colonising enterprise relies. Replenishing the Earth is a book about the latter phenomenon. for instance. or teams of slaves. on the labour of native people or the networks they created) and settler colonialism (where. written with a disregard of the economic activity of indigenous people – a decision that reproduces the notion of native unnecessariness to the settler colonial project. Yet it remains the job of other historians to truly test this claim. plantation. it was explosive colonization that proved too much for them’ (181).’ making clear that he is only interested in the latter (178. I think. colonial. whale oil and wheat (and others) are all seen as contributing to the one Settler Revolution. meat. sugar. Belich argues that ‘[t]he Settler Revolution thesis promotes some indigenous peoples from history’s victims to riders of the whirlwind’ (554).’ On top of the implication that settler violence and indigenous destruction belong in history as faits accompli (and therefore that settler colonialism is an event and not a structural continuum). timber.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 staples in settler economics. and the reproduction of one’s own people through far settlement. This relates to how colonialism and settler colonialism are understood. wool. or any combination of these). fur. Belich does not sufficiently show how booms assisted some native Africans at the same time as they were cornering other indigenous peoples in the rest of the Anglo-world into an unwinnable ‘fight. minerals. there is something rather strange about Belich’s concern with ‘indigenous military victories. In general terms. But I believe that recognising how different products make settler families different to groups of sojourning traders. Belich protests against the ‘acquired schizophrenia’ associated with the dual meaning of the term ‘colonization. directly or indirectly. settler colonial.’ that of ‘the subjugation of distant peoples. labour and capital. ultimately. is his categorisation of them all together in one bundle: cotton. No distinction is made between the economic environments in which they were produced (whether mercantilist. he is drawing a link between intensifying patterns of settlement and increasing settlernative conflict – a long-established axiom of frontier history – but the link is better explained in some places than others. only the land of native people is necessary) are not the same. Yet every product harnessed for Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – inside and outside of the Angloworld – demanded different metropolitan attention and specific configurations of land. tobacco. is fundamental in showing the difference between a colonial economy and a settler colonial one.’ Although Belich might feel he is doing justice to the 3 . In South Africa. The suggestion that settler colonies could dabble in many arts is very important for writers of imperial history. 209). He argues that ‘[e]xplosive colonization changed the nature of the problem facing indigenous peoples from a scale that they could often handle to a scale that they could not’ (182). concluding that ‘[t]hese peoples could cope with normal European colonization. Despite this consistent omission. The one exception to this pattern of indigenous silences relates to Belich’s insights on indigenous resistance.

presumably on display for the mainstream audience that OUP has earmarked for this book. promotional literature and word-of-mouth were transformed into a speculative and self-fuelling settler ideology during hyper-colonisation. and how did these differ across the Anglo-world? How did the cultures of the possessors lend from those of the dispossessed? Perhaps this criticism is unfair. His chapter on ‘settlerism’ presents a shift in approach away from the economy and towards the domain of culture. put up a remarkable fight.’ ‘When explosive colonization came. initially with amazing success. Belich sheds light on a transnational process that historians have typically considered exceptional (e.’ he writes of Australian Aborigines. This is an important chapter showing how emigrant guides. and not in isolation. though ultimately unsuccessful.’ as Eric Wolf has written (1982: xi). 1980). His narrative is rife with ‘formidable’ natives who never went down ‘without a fight. But pointing out that indigenous peoples have been largely kept out of this narrative is more than expressing a clichéd demand that indigenous agents be rewritten back into white men’s historiography. ideology. even revolutionary. Recent scholarship. Chartism. letters.’ It was much the same in Canada for ‘the Métis and great Indian tribes such as the Plains Cree. What was the role of the native in expansionist ideology. ‘human populations construct their cultures in interaction with one another. trade unionism. Belich is. Utopianism. […] Some European nations might well have put up less of a fight. Settlerism was ‘a powerful. ‘[s]ome groups. quite frank in his decision to talk about settlers only in Replenishing the Earth – and what he accomplishes in 550 pages is indeed remarkable. 397. 316. played a crucial 4 . Perhaps the only reason they stand out so much is because they are the only references he makes to indigenous people. after all. Yet here again the shortfalls of his all-settler approach are evident. ‘their resistance was intense. has persuasively shown how indigenous people. Quoting primary material and displaying fascinating colonial etymologies. […] Yet again these groups […] had coped with decades of European trade and settlement before they were finally run down by explosive colonization.’ he may just be perpetuating a vintage militantimperialist discourse. 407). This rhetoric brings out Belich’s old military historian. such as the Modoc people in 1872-3. 273.’ A few years later in Oregon.’ whose ‘resistance was determined and pan-tribal before being overwhelmed by money and numbers’ (180-2. Belich misses a golden opportunity here. communism and new forms of evangelism. as well as settlerism’ (163). ‘a few hundred Nez Perce battled two thousand federal troops and volunteers. But I suspect many readers will spot these inclusions a mile away. or sometimes even by their very absence. that of the noble fighting savage. After all.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 ‘precursor peoples. Owram. and wellorganised. courageous. and racialism.g. transforming the concept of emigration and giving the Anglo-world the human capital to rise … [taking] place in a wider context of ideological ferment … [from which] emerged socialism. by their existence as Others. especially of the last decade.’ In California.

settlement in the American mid-west and west receives well over a hundred pages while South Africa gets only thirteen). 5 . ‘Anglos. Perhaps he could have summarised in text and consolidated some endnotes instead. Belich can be forgiven for not plugging into this subdiscipline of colonial studies.g. 2001). megas and -manias.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 role in the shaping of settler identities. 411). But this should not take anything away from his overarching thesis. complete with booms. It is possible. their aura of whiteness.’ both as noun and prefix. But elsewhere in his own writings. who were likely to speak English and practice Protestantism. busts. he has emphasised the importance of the Maori contribution to the making of New Zealand (Belich. French Canada and the United States with the more British Australia. Canada and New Zealand – a daunting task as those who have attempted it appreciate. This. with their selective amnesia. not all readers will be convinced – especially given the disproportion of his analysis (for instance. as he admits. Belich here deserves praise for facilitating the interplay of South Africa. their malleable conception of property law. but did not necessarily have to. Factoring them back into history adds another whole colour to the historian’s palette’ (222). This body of work suggests that settler cultures. and disappointingly. but boomed and busted differently across time and space (49-65). the societies they created paralleled each other in their method of expansion and reliance upon a metropolitan ‘Oldland’ unit. Belich’s writing. that ignore boom. Although Belich displays sensitivity in submitting ‘Anglo. which is quite something to behold at the end of it all. explosions. this emphasis is not transferred onto Replenishing the Earth. is refreshingly energetic. their assumption of inevitable extinction. but it seems in this respect he has just been let down for want of a better word. Ultimately. 360. I must admit finding myself distracted at times by his inclusion of many fullsentence quotes. that are often positioned back-toback without attribution. the model he constructs is for other historians to apply for themselves: ‘Histories of settler societies. 1997). 51. -isms. along with a handful of minor errors (like his inconsistent capitalisation of ‘Aboriginal’). 1996. were perfect for the job of erecting a structural colonial system that ‘destroys to replace’ (Wolfe. as always. that some scholars will have trouble with Belich’s use of the label ‘Anglo’ to signify the actors in these rather heterogeneous communities of settlers. too. bust. should have probably been picked up by his editors. and export rescue are like rural histories without seasons.’ he carefully explains. were those people in the nineteenth century connected by a global network of economic and cultural ties. of other historians. and their science of biological racism. and of their indigenous rivals. their discourses of savagery and nomadism. since he is an academic content to reinvent the wheel every time he writes something – and this is why he is such a captivating author to read. sometimes taking over entire paragraphs (e.

Paradise Reforged: A History of the New Zealanders from the 1880s to the Year 2000. Syme & Weldon Ass. Edward Cavanagh is a student of historical and cultural studies at the Swinburne Institute of Social Research. (2001). 39-57. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Buckner & R. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century. McMichael. Owram. 6 . (1996). Adam Kok’s Griquas: A Study in the Development of Stratification in South Africa. (2007). Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.D. (1997). R. L. Melbourne. Waldman. 31. J. Vamplew. race. no. Ross. (1984). Calgary: University of Calgary Press. (1976). explosive colonisation. 1784-1918’. Rediscovering the British World. J. pp. 1. South Africa. vol.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Replenishing the Earth is the most rich and comprehensive comparative history of white settler colonialism – if only the settler side of it – published since the transnational turn of the 1990s. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Promise of Eden: The Canadian Expansionist Movement and the Idea of the West. Australians: Broadway: Fairfax. 9-21. Bibliography Belich. (1980). Belich. in P. pp. and recolonisation. (2005). Belich. P. If this is Professor Belich’s next project.) (1987). I suspect he might reconsider whether or not settler colonialism has truly ended when dealing with the decolonisation stage. ‘The rise of the Angloworld: settlement in North America and Australasia. A sequel on the rhythm of indigenous economies would spectacularly complement his thesis of incremental colonisation. Belich. Historical Statistics. His research interest is in the comparative history of the settler colonial projects of the British Empire. The Griqua Conundrum: Political and SocioCultural Identity in the Northern Cape. New Zealand Journal of History. Francis (eds). (ed. D. 1856-1900. W. Bern: Peter Lang. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. J. and identity in New Zealand’. ‘Myth. Settlers and the Agrarian Question: Capitalism in Colonial Australia. J.

E.R. ‘Land. Europe and the People without History. (2001). 866-905. Berkeley: University Of California Press. 106. and difference: elementary structures of race’. © borderlands ejournal 2009 7 . vol. Wolfe. pp.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 Wolf. P. The American Historical Review. (1982). 3. labor. no.

there is a need to understand and grapple with the history of the idea of race and its employment in various disciplines and its systematic role in the structure of society. I have seen race become a crucial theme throughout most of my courses. Mark W.S. While reading Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban’s Race and Racism. This trend seems no longer possible for many. for several centuries. history. Racism and (Pedagogical) Rupture Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban. and.S. most of U.S. 2006.S. Carolyn Fluehr-Lobbans’s Race and Racism: An Introduction takes to task both of these projects in a succinctly informative way and offers practical responses of challenging both explicit and implicit forms of racism. As an instructor. Lanham: AltaMira/Rowman & Littlefield.n e t. While race has certainly been an issue in the U. I became struck by how it is insightful.b o rd e rla n d s. nor is it attempting to challenge the societal structures that allow for the continual racial oppression against many of its citizens.S. Westmoreland Neumann University. I often incorporate discussions of the historical power-structures of racial oppression into my writing. that despite Obama’s election. 2009 REVIEW Race. most of U. persons in the U.borderlands e -jo u rn a l w w w . however. As a philosopher. for several centuries. On the other hand. must confront the oppressive history of explicit racism that has been employed throughout U. Pennsylvania State University-Brandywine. The recent election of President Barak Obama in the United States has invigorated a public conversation regarding race. the U. It would appear.a u VOLUME 8 NUMBER 2. history has been filled with a majority of American citizens avoiding this conversation or even living in denial of its importance. Villanova University While race has certainly been an issue in the U. at the same time. On the one hand. for those teaching an introductory course 1 . Nevertheless. is not fully coming to terms with its racist past.S. Race and Racism: An Introduction.S. how oversimplistic it is. history has been filled with a majority of American citizens avoiding this conversation or even living in denial of its importance.

writing as an anthropologist. She also. Voltaire. Kant. her account of human evolution smacks of early twentieth-century evolutionary theory rather than contemporary theory. it now had 2 . even as it is rooted in an erroneous biological foundation and a false belief that the determination of behavior can be reduced to physical. and race are interrelated. it ignores many significant contributors to the idea of race. Fluehr-Lobban briefly accounts for the rhetorical descriptions of savages. none of them fully accounts for the term race. language. While each of these aids in the construction of identity. This attachment and consequent inequality happens to fall along racial lines in order to intimately associate the progression of civilization with European superiority. and the construction of racial categories in the U. I recommend the text as a first steppingstone. which are often conflated in public discourse. Tracing the influence of Gobineau. While her descriptions of polygenesis. the theories expounded by Linnaeus and Blumenbach. FluehrLobban has discerned this inadequacy well and has provided an account of how human evolution. Fluehr-Lobban. When a group of persons are asked about the origins of racial divergence. The author succinctly presents the history of the idea of race. We must be clear on how identity has been historically and socially constructed in order to come to grips with the ever-nagging quandary of race. Ideas are rarely cutand-dried and may need further nuance in order to accurately explicate their implications and horizons. geography. Fluehr-Lobban describes the manner in which “the three great races” became classified according to science. her descriptions are informative. Since race is most identified according to phenotypic characteristics.S. monogenesis. What I take from the second chapter to be the most beneficial for me as an instructor is Fluehr-Lobban’s mapping of various phenotypes. such as Bernier. focuses her first three chapters on the pseudo-science behind race. genetic attributes of race’ (4). reminiscent of Foucault. has been historically attached to a particular group or groups of persons. racism belongs to the realm of cultural construction and power-politics. No longer did human difference remain in the realm of rhetoric. barbarians. she wisely distinguishes between race. One need only look to Merleau-Ponty’s lectures on nature to see how complicated this can be. ethnicity. natural selection. and culture. writes. As she defines racial categories.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 and wishing to integrate the theme of race or for those who are unfamiliar with Race Theory. ’As an ideology. a vague plethora of inadequate responses arise. according to the author. Fluehr-Lobban accounts for the actual sources of racial ideology. and Hegel. albeit lacking in any involved connection with societal values associated with racial categories. and the civilized. religion. Herder. and polycentrism are well-described. Each one of these. she neglects the complexity of how the idea of race developed. On the one hand. On the other. While this presentation is much appreciated.

150 years after Gobineau wrote his Essay on the Inequality of Races. This inconsistency. or political consciousness. Herrnstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve divides human difference along these three lines. ‘The works of Gobineau and Firmin. the author claims that many ‘may believe that America has always employed a system of racial classification’ and that ‘it has. Firmin emphasizes the environmental influences on human biology and may.S. Furthermore.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 scientific backing.. In her fourth chapter on racism/antiracism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The author also. While he stood in contrast to many of his racist contemporaries. Perhaps Boas is the first one to give a rigorous.. from which no such category of ‘the racially pure’ can be deduced. While describing the development of social Darwinism and the eugenics movement a la Galton. He strongly challenges both Gobineau and Broca. At the same time. post-Mendelian. be the first one to reduce skin color to melanin.) It may strike some. ‘are divergent on every point regarding the unity of equality of all members of the human species … The radical differences between the two might suggest that they belonged to different eras. in fact.S. as shocking to read about the extent of this movement in the U. Boas 3 . no doubt. in Gobineau’s opinion. While Gobineau may be the ‘father of racism. as a contrast. She claims that this movement had two goals: ‘to restrict the immigration of non-Nordics and to have every state enact laws for the compulsory sterilization of people of “bad heredity”’ (119. scientific account for the role of inheritance. Concluding with remarks on race classification in the U. ethical.g.’ according to the author. Fluehr-Lobban compares two important influences on Race Theory: Gobineau and Firmin. which is today taken as biological fact. is a productive force for the continuation of the misunderstanding of race and racial oppression. Gobineau’s ten civilizations exclude any positive influence made by Negroes. Being derived from Aryan people groups. many persons still adhere to his three-way division of human difference. Fluehr-Lobban sheds light on the American eugenics movement. whereby the majority of states adopted such programs. the Aryan race is the superior one from which all civilizations are established. whose racist physical anthropology was grounded in phrenology. particularly my students. He also stresses the effects of global interbreeding of human persons. phenotypic characteristics. the twentieth century witnessed an assortment of (failed) attempts to establish a dominant racial group and/or to limit the promulgation of particular ‘inferior’ groups. who. who heavily criticized eugenics. For Gobineau.. but the truth is that in every era racist and liberal or antiracist writers have existed side by side’ (116). e. describes the antiracist anthropology of Boas. what is remarkable is the amount of inconsistency in racial classification. since Negroes and Indians were differentiated and segregated from whites starting in colonial times’ (96). ‘The father of American anthropology’ emphasized the influence of heredity and the environment on racial.’ Firmin argues for a racial classification rooted in equality. are lacking any cultural. With the rise of eugenics.

Second. Racial categories have had effects on personal identity. America is ripe for racial reconstruction’ (247). the author diagnoses the failure of grouping all Asian peoples under the same race. such as the black-white binary. non-white bodies are continually written upon and marked as deviations from the norm. As someone who teaches on race. South Africa. The glossing over of these effects denies the experiential aspects of race and ignores human difference. However.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 remained faithful to the biological concept of race and the division of humankind into ‘the three great races.’ Fluehr-Lobban finishes the chapter by concisely mentioning the influence of antiracist Montagu and racist Coon on mid-twentieth century anthropological accounts of race. In fact. Most would agree that whites can live throughout a typical day while easily ignoring their own racial characteristics. Third. particularly discussions involving antiracist methods that whites might employ in order to alleviate racial oppression. This transformation also includes the deconstruction of certain binaries. who may be considered either ‘Caucasian’ or ‘Semitic. Egypt. In the last two chapters. the idea of race is still used in accounting for differences in human intelligence. Perhaps the international community is ripe for this as well. the naïve attempts at color-blindness must be dismantled due to their own blindness of accepting the identities constructed by race. white privilege must be transformed in order to foster an egalitarian perspective of racial identity and equality. which is the focus of Chapter Five. Fourth. The second half of the chapter focuses on Fluehr-Lobban’s own experiences with her students and their discussions regarding race. The first step at reconstruction is to acknowledge the history of racial oppression and the current systemic and systematic racism that occurs in societies all around the world. While being socially constructed like the other racial categories. The author. Fluehr-Lobban illuminates the wide-ranging perspectives on race relations on an international scale. More specifically. The sixth chapter is devoted solely to the discourse on whiteness and white privilege: ‘Whiteness in America is normative’ (168). whiteness is unique in that it holds a privileged status. ‘At the dawn of the twenty-first century. now more than fifty years after Montagu’s call and the generally positive response from anthropologists’ (133). the Cape Verde Islands. She writes. Brazil. she emphasizes the role that race has played in Haiti. offers solutions for racial reconstruction and transformation. She also cites the oft used example of Jewish persons.’ Likewise. and Sudan. by looking at these perspectives. I have found that white privilege has been one of the most difficult topics for the students to accept. She thinks it is quite notable ‘how unsuccessful anthropologists and biologists have been in eliminating the race concept. one must be willing to engage in both dialogue and practices that aid in the affirmative 4 .

A.A. Westmoreland teaches Philosophy at Penn StateBrandywine and Neumann University. in Literature and Interdisciplinary Honors from Union University and his M. He earned his B. in Philosophy from the University of Memphis. Mark W. I will seriously consider incorporating all or parts of Race and Racism into the classroom. narratives illustrating the embodiment of race. © borderlands ejournal 2009 5 . and positive solutions for moving forward in the twenty-first century.b o rd e rla n d s 8 :2 transformation of explicit and implicit racism into an acceptance of human persons as equals. PA. both of which are located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. examples of cultural practices that have aid in the development of both racism and antiracism. Fluehr-Lobban has written a broadly construed introduction to the subject matter that is filled with genealogical accounts of the idea of race. While I personally found nothing new or groundbreaking in this text.

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