Interview with Emily Brady on her book, The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature

SublimeEmily Brady’s The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature published by Cambridge University Press in 2013, explores the meaning of the concept of the sublime and its implications for metaphysics, aesthetics, ethics, and the environment. An historical discussion is provided in the first part of the book, providing a historical survey with a careful reading which begins in the eighteenth century with a special focus on Kant, and followed by Romanticism and John Muir’s wilderness aesthetic. The second part of the book shows the relevance of the concept to contemporary discussions in philosophy such as aesthetics and the arts, and environmental ethics. A full review of this book, by Sandra Shapshay, can be found at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

A member of the Society and Space board, Brady is the author of Aesthetics of the Natural Environment (Edinburgh 2003), the co-author of Environment and Philosophy (Routledge 2000) and the co-editor of Aesthetic Concepts: Essays after Sibley (Oxford 2001), Humans in the Land: The Ethics and Aesthetics of the Cultural Landscape (Oslo Academic Press 2008), and Human-Environment Relations: Transformative Values in Theory and Practice (Springer 2012). She has published numerous articles and book chapters mostly around the topics of aesthetics, ethics, and the environment. Some of her most recent publications include “Imagination and Freedom in the Kantian Sublime” (2013), “Aesthetic Value and Wild Animals” (2014), and “Aesthetic Value, Ethics and Climate Change” (forthcoming 2014). Brady is Professor of Environment and Philosophy at the Institute of Geography and the Lived Environment and an Academic Associate in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. This interview was conducted by Vahid Jafarzadehdarzi, a doctoral student in philosophy at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Vahid Jafarzadehdarzi: Thank you, Professor Brady for doing this interview; it was a pleasure reading your book. You spend a great a deal of time on Kant’s approach to the sublime. You appreciate the way he relates nature, aesthetics, and morality in his view of the concept, and there finds a connection between the self and nature. Why is his view so important in understanding the core meaning of the sublime as you say? What does he do with the eighteenth century reading of the concept?

Emily Brady: Thank you. As I see it, it’s important to reassess Kant’s theory of the sublime – for Kant scholarship as well as for a proper understanding of the history of the sublime and its relevance today. Many interpretations of Kant’s theory argue for a human-centred sublime, where humans appear to recognize their power over nature through an experience of their own freedom or autonomy. I contest this reading of the sublime as self-admiration and show that for Kant, our distinctive positioning with respect to the rest of nature reveals a deep connection to it, as something metaphysically and actually greater than ourselves. There are two other reasons why his theory is especially significant. Kant focuses largely on nature widely understood – human and non-human nature. The overall argument of the book is that the historical and contemporary sublime is largely associated with natural environments. Also, his theory is, arguably, more philosophically rich and sophisticated compared to other early theories of the sublime.

Often, when people discuss Kant’s theory they neglect the many discussions of the sublime that preceded his own. Eighteenth-century aesthetics in Britain is especially interesting and one can see a range of influences on Kant. Once we get a handle on them, interestingly, Kant’s theory appears less original, though insightful enough!

Continue here.

Frederic Neyrat “The Political Unconscious of the Anthropocene” Interview by Elizabeth R. Johnson

The Political Unconscious of the Anthropocene: A conversation with Frederic Neyrat by Elizabeth R. Johnson

With translation assistance from David B. Johnson

Frédéric NeyratFrédéric Neyrat is a French philosopher and former program director at the Collège International de Philosophie. He is currently a visiting professor at the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While his work largely remains to be translated into English, his writings–which integrate cultural theory, biopolitics and immune-politics, Marxist political economy, and critiques of liberal eco-politics–offer productive intersections with much of the ongoing work in critical theory and human-environment geography in the Anglo world.

His recent work includes books on Heidegger (L’indemne. Heidegger et la destruction du monde, 2008), eco-politics, immuno-politics and catastrophism (Biopolitique des castastrophes, 2008), Antonin Artaud (Instructions pour une prise d’âmes: Artaud et l’envoûtement occidental, 2009), capitalism and ecopolitics (Clinamen: Flux, absolu et loi spirale, 2011), terrorism (Terrorisme: Un concept piégé, 2011), Jean-Luc Nancy (Le communisme existentiel de Jean-Luc Nancy, 2013), and a manifesto for philosophy (Atopies, forthcoming 2014). He is also the author of several essays on ecopolitics and the Anthropocene and is a member of the editorial board at Multitudes. Neyrat maintains the blog Atopies.

Elizabeth Johnson: Your scholarship integrates cultural theory, biopolitics, Marxist political economy and critiques of liberal eco-politics. A segment of critical human-environment geography has for some time been occupied with this confluence of critical theory and eco-politics, but this is perhaps only recently becoming more mainstream in academic scholarship. Could you tell us a bit about your background coming out of France and your work with Multitudes. What commitments ground the synthetic nature of you work?

Frédéric Neyrat: You’re perfectly right to mention the journal Multitudes, which was in the 2000s a real and powerful intellectual laboratory. During this period, it became crystal clear to me that the study of “cognitive capitalism”, that is to say, of contemporary capitalism based on the production and the exploitation of knowledge, was inseparable from a questioning of environmental disasters and of new biopolitical technologies. My book Biopolitics of Catastrophes was devoted to this triple perspective, simultaneously economic, environmental, and biopolitical. Yet the relation between these three dimensions is anything but obvious: how is it possible to reconcile the idea that contemporary power produces and enhances life, that is to say the biopolitical perspective, with environmental studies showing the degradation of the conditions of life? How can we reconcile the euphoric discourse that analyzes capitalism via the notion of “the immaterial” (knowledge, the powerful cooperative web of brains of the “general intellect”, all the concepts coming from Operaismo and post-Operaismo[1]), with the necessity to materially consider the industry of the immaterial and its material ecological footprint? Do these very material feet and supposedly immaterial brains not belong to the same world? I could only answer these questions by invoking, to use an expression from Freud, the “other scene” of biopolitics, economy, and ecology: something that I call – combining Freud, Derrida, Sloterdijk, and Esposito – an immunological unconscious, or the fantasy of an absolute immunization.

Continue reading here

Interview with Elizabeth Povinelli with Mat Coleman and Kathryn Yusoff

978-0-8223-5084-2_prSociety and Space Editorial Board members, Mat Coleman and Kathryn Yusoff interview Elizabeth Povinelli about her recent and future work on the question of biopolitics, the Anthropocene and neoliberalism.

Elizabeth Povinelli is Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University. Her writing has focused on developing a critical theory of late liberalism that would support an anthropology of the otherwise. Most recently, Povinelli is the author of Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism (Duke University Press, 2011), The Empire of Love: Toward a Theory of Intimacy, Geneology, and Carnality (Duke University Press, 2006), and she is currently working on Geontologies: Indigenous Worlds in the New Media and Late Liberalism, the third and last volume of Dwelling in Late Liberalism. In this series of monographs she is interested in the ways that liberal discourses about alternative social worlds deflect ethical and social responsibility for the crushing, if at times imperceptible harms experienced by communities living at the margins. The volumes integrate political theory and philosophy, anthropology, and cultural and legal studies with ethnographic encounters in Indigenous Australia and queer America in order to understand the transformations that have taken place in how liberal regimes recognize and govern social difference in the wake of the anti-colonial and postcolonial movements—and in the face of the continual emergence of alternative social worlds.

Mat Coleman: In your recent work, and specifically in Economies of Abandonment, you pose a challenge to many theorists of neoliberalism in the sense that you identify the ‘cultural’ problem of late liberalism, i.e. a violent politics of cultural recognition in the wake of anti- and post- colonial social movements, as diagonal to the economic project(s) of neoliberalism as such. Your suggestion is that it is inadequate to see a cultural politics of late modernity as a sort of superstructural ephemera to late modern regimes of accumulation. But what exactly does your disaggregation of late liberalism and neoliberalism allow you to do which other theorizations of neoliberalism, which treat accumulation and regulation together, cannot do?

Elizabeth Povinelli: I must admit I have changed my use of the phrase late liberalism since publishing Economies of Abandonment. Whereas, you’re right, there I distinguished late liberalism from neoliberalism, I now use the phrase “late liberalism” to indicate a period, or development, in “liberalism” that stretches loosely between the late 1950s and the 00s. So late liberalism is meant as a way of periodizing and spatializing liberal formations. The argument is that from the 50s through the 70s, liberal governments—liberal governmentality—were shaken by two severe legitimacy crises. On the one hand, anticolonial, Native, and radical social movements shook the legitimacy of paternalistic liberalism and, on the other hand, Keynesian stagflation shook the legitimacy of the capitalist management of markets. From the perspective of these two slow moving events the politics of recognition and economics of neoliberalism should be seen as strategic containments of potentially more radical futures. It’s unclear whether in the wake of 9/11 multiculturalism remains the key mode of containing the radical otherwise and in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 neoliberal market forms will mutate into something else.

Continue reading here

[i] For a discussion of Althusser’s influence for instance on Harvey see: Resnick S, Wolff R, 2004, “Dialectics and Class in Marxian Economics: David Harvey and Beyond” New School Economic Review 1 59-72, esp. 60-62.

[ii] See also David R. Roediger, 2007, The Wages of Whiteness (London: Verso). .

[iii] Williams R, 1973, “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory” New Left Review 82 3-16.

Watch out too for Mat Coleman’s forthcoming review essay of Economies of Abandonment in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Interview with Justin Clemens on his book, Psychoanalysis is an Antiphilosophy


Photo of Justin Clemens by Nicolas Healey-Walton

Justin Clemens, a Society and Space board member and faculty at the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne, discusses his book Psychoanalysis is an Antiphilosophy.  The book was published last spring with Edinburgh University Press.  Hot on the heels of this interview is another book by Justin, coauthored with A. J. Bartlett and Jon Roffe, also with Edinburgh UP to be published next month: Lacan Deleuze Badiou.

psycho is anti coverMARY:  Your book is a collection of essays that all have a common target:  the idea that philosophy can apprehend all forms of knowledge.  Could you tell us how you became motivated by this argument?

JUSTIN: One of the things I found so fantastic and liberating about encountering psychoanalysis was its reintroduction of matter and the body into thought, whether according to the routines of the pleasure-principle, sexual difference, death drive, or what-have-you. All the great psychoanalytic thinkers — Freud himself, Ferenczi, Klein, Winnicott, Lacan, etc. — engage in extraordinary experiments in how, by means of an entirely new discursive practice, new thoughts of the paradoxes of thinking can arise, paradoxes that undermine knowledge routines without simply being sceptical. On the contrary, psychoanalysis is an eminently constructive project.

The work of Jacques Lacan is exemplary here. I really like that he targets the irreducibility of the phantoms of absolute knowledge, even in psychoanalysis itself. So he proliferates not only radical and shocking propositions about this phenomenon, but forms of utterance that compromise themselves as an integral aspect of their functioning. Let me give three connected instances. First, Lacan wants to show how philosophy (as providing paradigms for all sorts of “knowledge” more generally) is essentially linked to expropriation of the symbolic powers of others; power and knowledge are entwined, and apparent resistance is itself a key part of the motor of power-knowledge (this is in fact, as Lacan points out, an early psychoanalytic recognition of Freud’s). Second, Lacan shows how the ontologies of philosophy are themselves dependent upon a logic of counting, and above all upon a kind of cruel mysticism of the One, of the unit, of the totality, of the whole; here, he shows that the philosophical thought of Being is first dependent on a lack of Being (in the terms provided by key philosophers themselves, not as some silly assertion by Lacan himself) and second upon their concomitant unthinking adherence to a form of Oneness. Third, Lacan constantly mocks his own pretensions regarding such propositions, e.g., ‘If you knew everything that I was ignorant of, well then you would know everything.’ But this should also alert us to the fact that psychoanalysis is not at all a bundle of doctrines (except in the dreams of its enemies, some of whom are its eminent practitioners), but a new practice of care for the other through free association.

To lose the abstractions for a moment, these are some reasons as to why the chapters of my book return to quite fundamental yet diverse experiences of the situated body: there are chapters on drugs and addiction in Freud’s early work, on the figure of the slave in psychoanalysis, on some relations between ontology and love, on the narrative structure of Aesopian fables, on contemporary justifications for torture in allegedly democratic countries through their contravention not of free speech but of “free silence,” and on the medico-politico-technical uses of the figure of the swarm and swarming. What binds this diversity — if anything — is a psychoanalytic approach that is antiphilosophical, that is, engages in an ontological subversion that returns us to the problem of worlds…. To put it more bluntly, psychoanalysis, like the key political struggles that ultimately enabled the triumph of the revolutionaries in the English Civil Wars against the tyranny of the Stuarts, self-confessedly constitutes a sequence of failed-but-vital attempts at a ‘self-denying ordinance.’ Against this, we find the tyranny of various licensing procedures that market themselves as liberty. I am actually quite terrified by the current global tendency to prohibit all and any self-denying ordinances of any kind at every scale: what is this but yet another Return of the King, more spectacular and more repulsive than ever?

Keep reading here.

Interview with Dean Spade

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 8.21.54 PMDean Spade is an Associate Professor at Seattle University School of Law, a founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (a non-profit law collective that provides free legal services to transgender, intersex and gender non-conforming people who are low-income and/or people of color), and currently a fellow in the “Engaging Tradition” project at Columbia Law School. His book Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law was published by South End Press in 2011.

Read his interview with Society and Space co-editor Natalie Oswin here

Monique Allewaert interviewed by Angela Last on Ariel’s Ecology

Rowe_TempestAn interview with Monique Allewaert, Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison, on her new book, Ariel’s Ecology:  Personhood and Colonialism in the American Tropics, 1760-1820, published by University of Minnesota Press. Angela Last, Research Associate at University of Glasgow, reviews Ariel’s Ecology here.

Continue reading this interview between Monique and Angela here

Interview with Adrian Ivakhiv by Harlan Morehouse

IvakhiveHarlan Morehouse sits down with Adrian Ivakhiv’s to discuss his new book Ecologies of the Moving Image: Cinema, Affect, Nature (2013); a book that pushes beyond conventional reflections on film and environmental thought. Read the interview here

Shiloh Krupar interviewed by Stuart Elden on Hot Spotter’s Report

imageAn interview with Shiloh Krupar, Professor at Georgetown University, on her new book Hot Spotter’s Report: Military Fables of Toxic Waste, published by University of Minnesota Press. Here’s the opening of the interview, but it is a wide-ranging discussion of the book, its form and content, and Shiloh’s other projects.

Stuart Elden: This is one of the most original takes on politics, ecology, and geography in a long time. Part of this comes from the truly creative blend of social science writing, political commentary, art and satire. Can you say something about the choice of style and format?

Shiloh R Krupar: Hot Spotter’s Report is actually based on a series of solo performances, creative lectures, and theatrical scripts (an example can be found here). I had not initially imagined that it would be formalized according to the academic standard of the scholarly monograph. By taking the project in that direction, the question for me was actually: What can this body of work gain from the style and format of the academic book? I’ve been pleased with how commingling separate pieces into a book has contributed to the larger project: It helped me articulate the common threads among the cases and solidify a repertoire of techniques. The book format essentially allowed me to curate my work in a new way, adding another iteration of the same materials and establishing important continuities. Such connections were not always apparent or had been understated, given the sometimes very different genres and effects/affect of the separate pieces. I also found that working on a solo book could function as an extended “event” and better serve my collaborative endeavors. I realize that this doesn’t get at your question exactly, but the book format came as a later iteration of work that was neither linear nor delivered to wholly academic audiences from the start.

Continue reading here.

Interview with Adrian Johnston on Transcendental Materialism

Adrian Johnston is one of the most widely followed philosophers writing today. Influenced by Žižek and his readings of German idealism, Johnston’s work has gained many readers among those making the materialist and realist turns in Continental philosophy. A professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque and a faculty member of the Emory Psychoanalytic Institute in Atlanta, Johnston has been publishing at a breathtaking pace: He is the author of Time Driven: Metapsychology and the Splitting of the Drive (2005), Žižek’s Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity (2008), Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations: The Cadence of Change (2009), all from Northwestern University Press. This year he has published both Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism, Volume One: The Outcome of Contemporary French Philosophy (Northwestern University Press, 2013) and is the co-author, with Catherine Malabou, of Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience (Columbia University Press, 2013). His next book, Adventures in Transcendental Materialism: Dialogues with Contemporary Thinkers, will be released by Edinburgh University Press in early 2014. Johnston’s books are guided by his “transcendental materialism,” which in sum calls for a materialist ontology that nevertheless does not reduce away the gap or figure that is human subjectivity. Johnston argues for retooling Freud and Lacan after the success of the natural sciences in recent decades, but argues that both Freud and Lacan presaged a lot of these successes. Critical of the thinkers of immanence whom he believes, following Hegel, can only give us subjectless substance, Johnston’s work has brought Lacanianism into the 21st century when many wrongly claimed it dead long before the end of the last.

He was interviewed by Society and Space co-editor Peter Gratton. Read the interview here.


Antipode Forum on Pratt’s Families Apart

Antipode has posted a forum on Gerry Pratt’s latest book Families Apart on their open site.

See also the interview with Gerry about the book that was posted on our open site here last year.


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