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Mari Ruti: What is the universal - between Lacan and affect

This talk considers the divergent ways in which Lacanian political theorists—particularly Slavoj Žižek, Alain Badiou, Paul Eisenstein, and Todd McGowan—and affect theorists such as Sara Ahmed, Lauren Berlant, Sianne Ngai, and Kathleen Steward conceptualize agency, social change, the political resistance.

More specifically, the presentation focuses on the debate between Lacanian universalism and affect theoretical particularism, arguing that if the two sides of this debate keep speaking past each other, it is because they operate with entirely different visions of universalism. Affect theorists oppose universalism because they equate it with an oppressive white masculinism that marginalizes all alternative subject positions by “particularizing” them.

In contrast, Lacanian political theorists investigate how the universal—through a singular act, event, or rupture—manages to emerge from the very place of exclusion that interests affect theorists. After outlining Ahmed’s critique of the universalism of Žižek and Badiou, Ruti draws on Eisenstein and McGowan’s 'Rupture: On the Emergence of the Political' to highlight the misunderstandings upon which many of the disagreements between Lacanian theorists and affect theorists are premised.

Ultimately, the Ruti defends Lacanian universalism by demonstrating that this universalism sidesteps the tyrannical tendencies that affect theorists associate with more traditional forms of universalism. It promotes a historically specific universalism—a universalism that remains open to constant contestation—that allows the singular to directly relate to the universal by bypassing the level of the particular.

Date Friday, 3 August 2018
Time 4:00pm - 5:00pm
Audience Public
Event Category Humanities
Event Type
DepartmentMedia, Film and Communication
6th floor, Richardson Building
Contact NameRosemary Overell

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