‘Walled States, Waning Sovereignty’ Professor Wendy Brown, CCIG Keynote Lecture

I am affiliated with the wonderfully named ‘power cluster’ in the School of Political Science & Sociology at NUI Galway.  This occasionally makes me feel like a superhero. This intrepid group, somewhere on a scale between the Justice League and the Legion of Doom, meets once a month to discuss work related to our own research interests that has some relation to the notion of power, broadly defined.  This month we are reading the first chapter from Prof. Wendy Brown‘s recent book Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (2010).  The lecture posted here basically covers the same ground.  Her argument is that the proliferation of walls and walling that we are witnessing worldwide, such as ‘The Wall’ separating Israel and Palestine  or the one on the US-Mexico Border, is a feature of contemporary globalization and (paradoxically, despite the theatrical show of physical dominance that such walls might symbolize) signals the waning of sovereignty for the nation-state.  These walls are not built to defend states from other national actors but rather to target nonstate, transnational actors, such as migrants and ‘terrorist’ groups etc.  For Brown, who wishes to differentiate her argument from Agamben (Homo Sacer) and Hardt and Negri (Empire), key to the loss of this national sovereignty are the domination of free-floating global capital and ‘God-sanctioned political violence’.  Rather than being a sign of nation-state dominance, these walls actually represent a deep-seated national anxiety about increasing sovereign impotence and an aspect of  the ‘theater state’ (though she does not mention Geertz here).  What is perhaps most interesting is her discussion of the ‘state of emergency’/’state of exception’, always provisional and temporary, yet a perpetual and seemingly permanent feature of the contemporary world.  This, of course, is well-trodden ground, particularly by (again) Agamben, following Schmitt.  But this is perhaps where I  also part company with Brown and her analysis of the waning of the nation-state, which may be a little over-stated.  Is it not the case that, for Schmitt, this discourse of the state of exception, or more specifically, the capacity or power to declare a state of exception is central to the notion of state sovereignty.  Far from being a sign of a weakened nation-state, is this capacity not a sure sign of the state’s enduring power?  And one which is exercised, when it is exercised (power is a capacity and should not be confused with it’s exercise), often in the face of vocal international opposition, such as in the case of Israel.

In any case, I enjoyed the chapter and hope to finish the book.  Enjoy the talk.

Agamben Again: The Process of the Subject, EGS, 2009.

Another post on Giorgio Agamben-two posts in one week is a record for any theorist here at TT but I think it might be warranted in this case.  In fact, I think that I prefer this session,  “The Process of the Subject”, to the last one on power.  The inclusion, or making explicit, of the concept of process to Foucault’s treatment of subjectivity is fascinating to me, and actually, serendipitously, coincides with my own current work.  I have recently been reading Jean Luc Nancy‘s Being Singular Plural and revisiting Sein Und Ziet as part of the ontological foundation to my PhD, and this talk chimes very well with where my thinking is heading.  And, perhaps unexpectedly, with the implicit ontology within the work of Elias, but this need to be teased out a little more before I commit it to the cloud. EGS site introduces the seminar thus:

http://www.egs.edu/ Giorgio Agamben conducting a seminar on the creation of the subject in the work of of Michel Foucault. Agamben examined the idea of the subject (through a discussion of the role of the author) by contrasting theories of subjectivity between Michel Foucault and Pierre Hadot. Agamben discussed the chiasmatic relationship of the art making the art as the artist makes the art. He spoke of the movement of the location of subjectivity from autonomy to ethics, Nietzsche, praxis, the notion of indifference, the two meanings of ontology, the fundamental difference between essence and existence, and the limits of language. Public open video lecture for the students and faculty of the European Graduate School (EGS) Media and Communication Studies Program..

The rest of the links are after the jump.

Continue reading “Agamben Again: The Process of the Subject, EGS, 2009.”

Giorgio Agamben. Forms of Power. EGS, 2009

Here is a link to Giorgio Agamben conducting a seminar on his project Homo Sacer at the European Graduate School in 2009. He discussed Michel Foucault, Homo Sacer, the idea of a seminar as performance, philology, definitions of form-of-life, method, operations of power, naked life, biopolitics, bios, Martin Heidegger, dasein, dichotomic as opposed to bi-polar opposition, Aristotles Ethics, dualisms, and Heideggers abysmal indifference. Public open lecture for the students and faculty of the European Graduate School (EGS).

Continue reading “Giorgio Agamben. Forms of Power. EGS, 2009”