It is unavoidable, Jon McKenzie argues in this essay, to accept the risks that one might fail to resist and eventually perpetuate violence in one’s writing or art. He insists on the necessity to critically engage with the scandalous pictures of torture and prisoner abuses, and think through those practices and their consequences. McKenzie focuses on two anachronisms: following Judith Butler’s argument in Precarious Life, he argues that the torture scandals reveal a reemergence of sovereign power that is assigned to investigators and other military personnel; and combining Foucault and Debord, he concludes that the exhibition and staging of torture points to the reemergence of the spectacle of the scaffold. Using theatricality as a way to analyze the techniques of America’s torture machine, his close reading of a sequence of pictures of prisoner M-----, who was later given the name “Shit-Boy” by the guards, reveals how closely practices of torture relate to performance. McKenzie particularly stresses the importance of the temporal and processual dimension and traces the construction of the character of “Shit-Boy,” and the invention of this trope. This allows McKenzie to bring awareness not only to the violence performed and represented, but also to the violence of representation itself. Connecting his argument to the central theses of his influential book Perform – or Else. From Discipline to Performance, he suggests that the way torture has been used in Abu Ghraib closely relates or might even come to define the global formation of power/knowledge, which with reference to Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus he calls performance stratum.
This volume contrasts a number of recently suggested concepts of the political – each of which connects to certain instances of art and literature in its discourse – with questions concerning the rigidity of those connections: How strongly do such claims to politics depend on their specific examples, what is the scope of their validity to understand art with regard to politics, and how can they help us grasp the political within other pieces of art? In each case, manners of thinking concepts of the political, the mutual resistance of such concepts and their academic treatment, and the turn towards specific readings informed by those concepts converge.
The essays collected in “Thinking Resistances. Current Perspectives on Politics, Community, and Art“ engage with political phenomena in their interrelations with arts as well as with recent theoretical and philosophical perspectives on the very meaning of politics, the political, and community.
With contributions by Armen Avanessian, Friedrich Balke, Judith Butler, Simon Critchley, Anneka Esch-van Kan, Josef Früchtl, Andreas Hetzel, Jon McKenzie, Dieter Mersch, Chantal Mouffe, Maria Muhle, Nikolaus Müller-Schöll, Stephan Packard, Wim Peeters, Jacques Rancière, Juliane Rebentisch, Gabriel Rockhill, Frank Ruda and Philipp Schulte.