• The Secret Agency of Dispossession

    Author(s):
    Stephen A. Ross (see profile)
    Date:
    2017
    Group(s):
    CLCS 20th- and 21st-Century, GS Prose Fiction, TC Philosophy and Literature, TM Literary Criticism
    Subject(s):
    Critical theory, English literature
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    conrad, butler, agamben, spectrality
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6V69C
    Abstract:
    What happens if the homo sacer kills before he can be killed? What if the dispossessed repossess what was taken from them? What if some agent declares a state of exception to the state of exception? Starting from the observation that Agamben and Butler/Athanasiou characterize bare life and the dispossessed, respectively, in terms of radical passivity, my paper sets off in pursuit of the secret agency that may yet be hiding in the interstices. It finds it in the language of spectrality and haunting that animates Butler/Anathasiou’s writing about dispossession and the concept of the zone of indistinction so central to Agamben’s theorization. As a result, I argue, we may usefully conceive of the spectral as bare life with agency. In illustration of this thesis, I undertake a brief reading of Joseph Conrad’s richly evocative tale of terrorism, bare life, dispossession, and spectral vengeance: The Secret Agent. My conclusion broadens the reach of the foregoing theorization to challenge the audience to think beyond the extinctionist paradigm of the Anthopocene as advanced by Timothy Morton and others, and to seek a secret agency whereby we can yet disrupt the total extension of bare life and the state of exception to the entire planet and all species on it.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    6 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved

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