Maybe we should just be making movies?

I came across this stinging passage in the story collection I’m reading now:

“In the evening, after hours, when work got out and the long city buzzed to life, you would find Tanner at gallery openings and literary events, dressed in the hip tatters of the set, trying to work Agamben and Deleuze into his small talk.  I joked that he only slept at night secure in the notion that he was deepening the contradictions of capitalism, but what was truer, no doubt, was that it took a certain and ironic consequence before anyone much cared what you had to say about homo sacer or your own moral implication.  Such are the true contradictions we drown in, like grapplers in the ocean at each other’s throats.  Then, maybe a year after I met him, Tanner left his job to enroll in film school, and while I could hardly have called this a risky departure for Tanner, it did seem to validate some of the dreaminess and fitful integrity that had always appeared in him to swim just below the surface, fighting up for air.” — Greg Jackson, from “Tanner’s Sisters,” in Prodigals (2016)


I wonder what Butler would have made of the media response to Osama bin Laden’s death.  It was covered widely as a political/military event, of course, but also given something like standard obit treatment by outfits like the NYT:

“Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan on Monday, was a son of the Saudi elite whose radical, violent campaign to recreate a seventh-century Muslim empire redefined the threat of terrorism for the 21st century….Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden was born in 1957, the seventh son and 17th child, among 50 or more, of his father, people close to the family say. … All of the Bin Laden children were required to work for the family company,  meaning that Osama spent summers working on road projects. Muhammad bin Laden died in a plane crash in 1967, when Osama was 10. The siblings each inherited millions  — the precise amount was a matter of some debate — and led a life of  near-royalty. Osama — the name means “young lion” — grew up playing with Saudi  princes and had his own stable of horses by age 15.”

(Here’s a link to the full thing:

In the sense she describes in Chapter 2, this treatment makes his a publicly “grievable” death.  How does formally recognizing the deaths of villains play into the kind of mourning and recognition of mutual vulnerability she calls for (and claims isn’t happening)?  More examples:

John Demjanjuk, 91, Dogged by Charges of Atrocities as Nazi Camp Guard, Dies

Ariel Sharon, Israeli Hawk Who Sought Peace on His Terms, Dies at 85

Slobodan Milosevic, 64, Former Yugoslav Leader Accused of War Crimes, Dies



More Agamben?

I know Castoriadis is next on the docket, and I know that some of us may have struggled with the distinction between zoe and bios for longer than we ever wanted to, but it’s worth mentioning that there is a new Agamben volume coming out in English soon.  According to this review — which also serves as a solid summary of the main ideas in Homo Sacer — the new book, The Uses of Bodies, is not to be missed:

“A great many will contend with it for a long time. It is far and away the finest, richest, and most broadly interesting book in the series. But it is most remarkable for how it brings together the concerns of those preceding works, with their vast and often detailed examinations of legal and liturgical practices, revolutions and repressions, classical philosophy, sovereignty, economy, monastic orders, the Holocaust, and much more.”

(For those of you who speak German and are interested in the problems of translation — that’s all of you, right?? — check out the comments section for a discussion of how best to render what Wittgenstein may have meant about the relationship between philosophy and poetry.)