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Volume 5, Number 2
FALL 2015

1793: The Neglected Legacy of Insurgent Universality, by Massimiliano Tomba. The Age of Fallout, by Joseph Masco. Jewett's Natural History of Sexuality, by Travis M. Foster. Also see 2 new articles in our INTERVENTIONS: ON THINKING section: Iris van der Tuin's Making Time (For) Duration: Thinking at the Contemporary University; and Thinking Women's Violence, by Coline Cardi and Geneviève Pruvost


1793: The Neglected Legacy of Insurgent Universality

  Insurgent universality refers to the excess of equality and freedom over the juridical frame of universal human rights. It announces a politics beyond the state. While the histories of human rights usually give ample consideration to the proto-Declaration of 1789, they do not pay enough attention to the Declaration of 1793. However, the neglected Declaration of 1793 allows us to consider the forgotten history of active struggles—most notably, that of women, the poor, and slaves—a set of struggles that, in their concrete configurations, helped to shape the Declaration's radical claims. Comparing these two declarations by examining their respective contexts and contents, this paper delineates the limits of rights declarations as juridical texts and presents a critique of their universal aspirations. At the same time, however, the paper outlines an alternative conception of universality that the 1793 Declaration brings into view in the very tension between the concepts of citizen and man that it deploys. In contrast to the juridical universalism of 1789, the insurgent universality of 1793 is one that both opens up the political form of the state and introduces possibilities for radical social and political change.



The Age of Fallout

  Figure 01 detail
Being able to assume a planetary, as opposed to a global, imaginary is a surprisingly recent phenomenon. Although depictions of an earthly sphere are longstanding and multiple, I would argue that the specific attributes of being able to see the entire planet as a single unit or system is a Cold War creation. This mode of thinking is therefore deeply imbricated not only in nuclear age militarism, but also in specific forms of twentieth-century knowledge production and a related proliferation of visualization technologies. A planetary imaginary includes globalities of every kind (finance, technology, international relations)—along with geology, atmosphere, glaciers, oceans, and the biosphere—as one totality. Figure 02 detailWhat is increasingly powerful about this point of view is that it both relies on the national security state for the technologies, finances, and interests that create the possibility of seeing in this fashion, but also, in a single gesture, exceeds the nation-state as the political form that matters. A planetary optic is thus a national security creation (in its scientific infrastructures, visualization technologies, and governing ambitions) that transcends these structures to offer an alternative ground for politics and future making. Proliferating forms of globality—including the specific visualizations of science, finance, politics, and environment—each achieve ultimate scale and are unified at the level of the planetary. This achievement ultimately raises an important set of questions about how collective security problems can, and should, be imagined.



Jewett's Natural History of Sexuality

  Sarah Orne Jewett’s 1884 bildungsroman, A Country Doctor, can be summed up quickly. On the cusp of death, an alcoholic mother returns to her hometown and leaves her infant daughter, Nan Prince, in her own mother’s care. Nan's grandmother and the local doctor then respectively provide Nan a loving, largely happy childhood. During her adolescence, Nan declares her intention to become a doctor rather than a wife, a plan she succeeds in fulfilling by the novel's conclusion.




Making Time (For) Duration: Thinking at the Contemporary University

  A few years ago I watched Margarethe von Trotta's period film Hannah Arendt (2012) in an Amsterdam cinema. The film, set between 1960 and 1964, follows Arendt as she reports on the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem for the New Yorker, writing the articles that would eventually become anthologized in the book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1964). In the film we see Arendt, played by Barbara Sukowa, in several places: in New York City, in Israel, in a cottage in upstate New York, and in the woods in Germany. In a striking scene depicting a phone call between Arendt and New Yorker editor William Shawn, we see Arendt refuse Shawn's insistence on a timely delivery of her texts simply by asking a rhetorical question: "Or did you want to pressure me with a deadline?"



Thinking Women's Violence

  Exhuming, denaturalizing, historicizing, and politicizing women's violence implicitly means pointing out something fundamentally unthought that undergirds a major share of the research on violence. Such studies tend to consider only masculine forms of violence and relegate the minority participation of women to the margins without noting the gendered dimension of the categories in use. The task before us, then, is not only to qualify the minimal participation of women by showing their more active role, but also to interrogate the social order that undergirds the assignation of women to the position of "a-violence," not to be confused with the political position of nonviolence . . .


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