DepositThe Aesthetics of Politics

Illuminating the pervasiveness and importance of the aesthetic presence was the task I undertook in my recent book, Sensibility and Sense: The Aesthetic Transformation of the Human World, and this essay develops the final chapter in that book. What I want to do here is carry that process still further, most particularly into the regions of political theory. For the energies of the artistic process invariably engage the social world, and the implications of artistic practice and aesthetic experience are necessarily political. Let me try to show how this is so.

DepositPerceptual Politics

Moved by the pervasiveness and insistence of political forces in social life, many scholars have been drawn increasingly to recognize the strands of the aesthetic that are woven into its texture. They have gone beyond dealing with the ways that the arts are used in political propaganda and for arousing patriotic feeling. The aesthetic has come to be recognized as a perceptual domain of considerable power and influence, and some analysts have assigned it a crucial place in political theory. Making the aesthetic central in political theory may be surprising, for two such dissimilar domains of thought and experience might seem, at first, difficult to reconcile. Yet the association of aesthetics with politics has been made, and it will be illuminating to look at some applications that assign the aesthetic dimension a critical place in social and political thought. Let me then trace some of the appeals to the aesthetic in founding political theory, first considering Friedrich Schiller before moving into contemporary proposals.

DepositCollective Subjects and Political Transformation

In lieu of an abstract, here is the beginning of the article: What can today’s politics and cultures teach us about subjectivity? Can postdeconstructive theorisations of subjectivity retain or even widen the spaces in which subjects that are no longer metaphysical or humanist might cooperate to construct new emancipatory struggles? Guided by these questions, this special issue explores the ways in which subjectivity is being constituted and contested in the early twenty-first century: it examines radical traditions in the light of their impact on contemporary subject formation and the challenges and opportunities that the theorisation of subjectivity faces in the light of globalised cultural exchanges and crossdisciplinary fertilisations, a dominant neoliberal politics and media, and emerging grassroots movements. Throughout, the question of what it means to be a political subject in the early twenty-first century is explored with reference to a determinedly leftist tradition of anti-capitalism, antiimperialism, anti-racism and anti-sexism.

DepositThe Aesthetic Politics of Environment

This essay develops the final chapter in my recent book, Sensibility and Sense: The Aesthetic Transformation of the Human World (Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2010). I acknowledge with appreciation the similitude of my title and subject to Jacques Rancière’s Le partage du sensible; esthétique et politique, although the inquiry here is independent of his. I also want to acknowledge with gratitude the valuable assistance of Yuriko Saito and Riva Berleant in refining this essay.

DepositChris Abani and the Politics of Ambivalence

In his 2004 novel GraceLand, Chris Abani unsettles notions of youth “empowerment,” or “resistance,” creating a restless oscillation between cynicism and idealism. On the one hand, pervasive violence and restricting norms seem to debilitate the novel’s characters, leaving little room to negoti- ate the constraints of their bleak lives in the slums of Lagos. On the other, there is a certain euphoric optimism that pervades the novel—particularly among youth—which is undergirded primarily by idealized non-African spaces. The persistent fluctuation between suffocating violence and utopian thoughts of the “outside” renders the politics of GraceLand fundamen- tally ambiguous. In lieu of a rigidly determinate portrayal, Abani deploys ambivalence as a discursive vehicle with which to expand the contours of how we come to think and imagine African youth resistance—pressing us to consider the inherent contradictions, complicities and contingencies that perhaps accompany any ascription of agency.