Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Commenting on my earlier post about global citizenship, Jodi argues that "politics is impossible without representation, that is, without drawing lines, making distinctions, exclusions, and representing these in terms of a universal."

And Craig half agrees when he says that he "can't imagine a politics without representations or symbols." He half disagrees, however, in that he argues that "it isn't clear that this has to be 'universal' such that the representation entirely overwhelms the original political moment of getting together and coming up with a project in common."

What's at issue here is perhaps partly the distinction between representation as proxy (Vertretung) and as portrait (Darstellung).

But to put it this way: why does what Craig terms a "point of a agreement" have to be symbolically portrayed? Why should agreement not be incarnated in the bodies that meet in an encounter or community? Isn't that what a politics of affective resonance suggests?

To conceive of politics only in terms of representation is surely a drastic limitation of its proper sphere. And yes, it may be the imposition of such limits that is, in Jodi's sense, the political. But the price paid is that politics is always secondary, always a delicate flower that can be interrupted at any moment.

I can see a certain sense to this position, but it casts the interruption itself into the outer darkness of anti-politics.

Mary Read
To put it another way: tonight I am giving a talk (on piracy) to a seminar on "political violence." I have been frustrated with this seminar in that so far we may sometimes have managed to discuss politics, and less often to discuss violence, but we have never managed to think through the conjuncture that would be "political violence."

Surely that's because, for a concept of politics founded in representation, violence has to be the anti-political rupture par excellence. But what a setback, no longer to be able to talk about violence politically, except as the other or limit to politics!

Yes, piracy pervades Western cultural and political imagination, and so (symbolic) representation. And, yes, that imagination casts pirates themselves into the outer darkness of anti-politics, villains of all nations, outcasts at sea. Their exclusion is one of the founding acts of the West's political representation: pirates have no proxies. But can we not conceive of pirates, too, as political subjects?

Or can pirates only become political by accepting our norms of liberal civility, representation, and mediation? By, already, agreeing with us?

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