(1.1) – Crisis, ASMCF Panel
‘Nancy, the Unworld, Utopia’
Joff Bradley (Teikyo University)
I am aiming to clarify the distinction between the sense of unworld drawing on an array of thinkers: 1) Nancy – i. immonde as vile, wretched, totalizing self-immanence, infinite calculation; ii. im-monde as non-world); iii) Heidegger (unworld as Unwelt); iv) Stiegler (global capitalism as fouling immonde). This is to examine the sense of the “end of the world” in Nancy (a world designated as “heavy with suffering, disarray, and revolt”). The presentation will therefore address 1) the enframing of technical relationships in Western metaphysics (Heidegger: planetary unworlding) and 2) the possibility of world-creation (mondialisation and resistance to apocalypse in Glissant; community in Nancy). I shall address the question of mondialisation historically by looking at the discussion in the 1950s around its multiple senses – for example in Axelos’s thoughts on Marx and Heidegger (globalisation as mondialisation “without the world”). I shall differentiate Nancy’s sense of “the world” from its numerous others – globe, glomus, cosmos, universe, orb, nature – and with respect to: 1) earth in Heidegger (“the unworld of erring”, fallenness of the everyday); 2) in Deleuze’s philosophy the “planetary immanence”. This is to rethink the unworld (death drive of the immonde) in the wake of the ecological crisis (post-Fukushima anthropocene as equivalence that is catastrophic).
‘(In)Equivalence and Ecological Communism: Existence’s Mutation between Nancy’s éco-technie and Neyrat’s éco-technique’
Sam La Vedrine (University of Nottingham)
Collective-singular, Earth-world contradictions are amplified by indistinct causal relations of globalisation grossly interfering with stochastic patterns of the Earth’s biosphere. Economics and ecology increasingly represent inseparable networks and inextricably knotted, unpredictable pluri-formations; but the former contains an anomalous double-bind where global capital’s production of inequality oddly both affirms but simultaneously negates the natural disequilibrium of a sustainable, creative biosphere – ecology’s chaotic diversity. To this, in recent works Nancy has raised the possibility of a contingent communism of inequivalence, and in turn, his old student, Frédéric Neyrat, a relational identity operative as an existential ecology of separation. Intersections of these questions in Nancy’s work can be traced back to the atomism of community in the eighties, and subsequently the spacing of ecology as a technology and the ontological singularity of être-avec in the early to mid-nineties. As raised in Le sens du monde (1993), Nancy’s commentary on éco-technie seemingly inspired Neyrat’s description of techno-scientific hegemony as éco-téchnique, first appearing in L’Image hors-l’image (2003) to describe how capitalist semiotics and the implied supplement of meaning in modernity’s spectacle affected ontology and the subject’s production of identity. This paper will read Nancy’s works of the past decade, in particular L’Équivalence des catastrophes (Après Fukushima) (2012) and Que faire ? (2016), where mutation as an alternative to crisis connotes the expression of existence’s ecological identity. As these works overlap with Neyrat’s call for the radical ahumanist ethics of ecology’s existentialism in Atopies (2014), and the ecology of separation in La part inconstructible de la Terre : Critique du géo-constructivisme (2016), I will argue that an ecological communism arises in both thinkers which attempts to account for the irreducibly singular, finite processes of existence’s identity within the fluctuating topologies of a shared but wholly inequivalent ecosystem. Attending to Nancy’s differentiation between the poiesis and active praxis of acting in view of a world, and in turn Neyrat’s thinking with Nancy in Le communisme existentiel de Jean-Luc Nancy (2013) and his divergence from his forebear’s poiesis, this paper will map out their respective concerns for existence’s epistemological, political, and material ecology. Reading Nancy’s interest in weighing mutation and transimmanence against crisis and transformation, and Neyrat’s critique of ecological discourse’s saturated immanence as neglecting relation, I’ll posit how an inequivalence of identity’s ecological communism rests directly on the aforementioned double-bind. This will argue that designated existence in ecological communism produces inequivalent meaning [sens] reliant on its denotational apparatus, in other words, poiesis. Accordingly, the expression of ecological identity must recognise mutable conceptions of tekhné and phusis as sharing an analogical, referential status bound up in poiesis. Delineating a creative as well as productive ecology, I will argue, Nancy and Neyrat offer alternative but compatible ways of thinking and necessarily separating existence’s communal mutations within the planetary ecosystem.
‘Résister à la chute de l’Occident : Penser l’orientalisme anorexique avec Nancy’
Benedetta Todaro (University Paris 12)
Dans Corpus, Jean-Luc Nancy reconduit la « (dé)raison de l’Occident » à cet acte, proprement hétérophage, qui est l’incarnation par incorporation : le devenir propre du corps, « ou la Propriété même, l’Être-à-Soi en corps », repose sur le sacrifice cannibale du corps d’Autrui, de Dieu, de l’Absolument Étranger. Le prix à payer pour notre incarnation, pour notre présence au sein de ce que, avec Merleau-Ponty, nous nommerons la totalité charnelle de l’Être, est la tâche infinie du refoulement de l’Intrus. Venus au monde du monde même (ou Être), nous payons notre adhésion au système totalitaire de la présence avec une sorte de captivité, d’impossible arrachement, à ce même corps étranger au travers duquel nous somme autorisés à l’existence. « Être ce corps et (…) n’être que ça », voilà à la fois le désir et l’angoisse de l’Occident : exister au prix de sa propre chute. Comment penser « l’enfouissement »? Comment sortir de la captivité de l’Être ? Puisque, comme l’écrit Jean-Luc Nancy, « l’ontologie du corps est l’ontologie même », nous ne pouvons pas nous contenter de déontologiser le corps. La voie de la déontologisation nous amènerait, tout au plus, à toucher à l’incorporel, à savoir à ce que Merleau-Ponty appelle l’invisible, c’est-à-dire à ce « corps moins lourd, plus transparent », mais pas pour autant exempt d’existence charnelle, qui, au contraire, est garantie de l’inépuisabilité fondamentale de l’Être-corps : rendre touchable le quasi-intangible de l’incorporel ne fait que répondre au fonctionnement propre du corps, à savoir le fait d’être « toujours au bord de se répandre au lieu de se resserrer ». C’est dans cette recherche d’un moyen d’évasion que nous rencontrons la résolution anorexique, laquelle s’agence comme tentative d’un autrement-que-corps, par-delà des limites poreuses du corporel et de l’incorporel. Le refus de l’existence en tant que corps commence, chez l’anorexique, avec l’effraction à la loi christique/cannibale du « prenez-en et mangez-en tous », ce qui empêche, évidemment, l’incarnation et, partant, le « hoc est enim corpus meum ». Ainsi faudrait-il attribuer le désir anorexique de ne pas mordre dans l’Être, de ne pas s’y nourrir, à la formule d’une revendication, proprement politique, de « ne pas être ce corps », ce qui implique, il va de soi, le deuil d’une existence terrienne. Livré du poids du corps, l’anorexique vise l’Orient et adhère à sa religion : maître inaliénable de soi, il est face à Autrui, « monstre impossible à avaler ».
‘Singular Plurality and the Law’
Susanna Lindroos-Hovinheimo (University of Helsinki)
This paper explores Nancy’s thinking on community. It tries to engage with Nancy’s thoughts in an attempt to criticise certain trends in current European law. The guiding hypothesis of the paper is that we can study legal practices in order to find out what kind of subjectivities have become operative – or perhaps even dominant – recently. The paper sees privacy regulation as one significant discourse with corresponding legal practices, in which the legal subject is made. The main aim of the paper is to analyse the individualising mechanisms that are at work in legal regulation. The purpose is hence not to show what privacy rights fail to do, but rather to study the various things that are done with them all the time. The protection of privacy and personal data constructs personhood in a certain manner. These rights may attest to tendencies that are more general in EU legal thinking. Therefore, the paper also studies how this regulation individualises the people of Europe. Current legal developments in the Union reveal a view of the subject that can, and should control, their privacy. The law seeks to empower people to protect themselves. Such ideas about self-management are not new but they are becoming increasingly visible in privacy regulation. In legal source material privacy is usually seen as a means to protect autonomy and the free development of personality. The idea is that there exists a person whose personhood would be lost without privacy protection, and that an individual can develop her personhood cut off from others. Such thinking conceals the fact that we are in many ways incomplete and unsettled. Drawing on Being Singular Plural, the paper tries to re-think legal subjectivity. The rights given tend to deflect attention from the rights taken away. Such threatened rights are today the more social ones, for instance democratic say in government, or economic say in matters concerning the material conditions of one’s life. This is not only due to the strong focus on privacy protection. It can, however, be caused by the fact that a lot of attention in EU law has shifted from the social to the individual. Engaging with The Inoperative Community, the paper seeks to reaffirm the importance of community also when thinking about privacy. Can the values of privacy be embraced in a more nuanced manner if the right to privacy was not seen in individualistic terms, but rather as manifesting the tension between singularity and plurality? The right to privacy is a legal instrument caught in a double hold: individualism and community, both valuable but incommensurable. This tension will be analysed through Nancy’s idea of community as inoperative.
(1.2) – Philosophy I
‘De l’intensité: pour une nouvelle ontology?’
Pierre-Philippe Jandin (Collège International de Philosophie)
Dire que “tout le sens est à l’abandon” et que notre âge est celui de la déconstruction des onto-théologies traditionnelles, n’engage pas à renoncer à la possibilité d’une “philosophie première” et notamment à la pensée d’une “ontologie nouvelle” : on pourrait entendre ainsi l’ambition de Jean-Luc Nancy. Il y va, comme il se doit, de l’être et du temps; sa réflexion sur la “singularité-plurielle” de l’être nous amène à réflechir à la fois sur la présence de l’être et sur l’être du présent. Une démarche nouvelle suscite un style nouveau. Nous aurons à apprécier ces “exercices de style” dans une pensée de ” l’ontologie du corps”, de l’irréductablité intense des arts et d'”une certaine ontologie du sexe”; à chaque fois, nous serons reconduits à une tension originaire entre le calme souvent monumental du repos et la mesure et l’intensité du “trop”, par excès ou par défaut. Que peut être un “présent intense” ?
‘The Anastasis of Philosophy’
Shaj Mohan and Divya Dwivedi (Indian Institute of Technology)
Jean-Luc Nancy’s philosophy is often understood to be concerned with the problematic of the “end of philosophy” and of “deconstruction”, although he had re-articulated these terms in his earlier works. The works published since 1997, beginning with “The Restlessness of the Negative” and “The Creation of the World” (2002), revealed a process of igniting philosophy again, and the possibility of such a re-ignition was named “anastasis” with the work “Noli me tangere” in 2003. A thinking of anastasis reveals that the something (which is the existential quantifier in logic) lives in the end to arise again, for “Philosophy begins from itself; this is a permanent axiom for it” (p77, The Creation of the World or Globalization. Albany: SUNY Press, 2007). The end in this instance can be approached as crisis with which philosophy has had a difficult relation—“In general, it appears to have been rarely noticed how much crisis strays from critique. On the contrary we often critique crisis to master it” (‘Critique, Crisis, Cri’, Qui Parle 26.1 (2017), p. 11). Nancy writes in the same text “Critique discerns, distinguishes, and allows us to remobilize both admissible and inadmissible objects of thought”. It is the apprehension of the distinct homologies of the elements of any system—be it of “pure reason” or of the star systems—and their powers under a comprehending law which allows the elements to articulate at their limits, and hence critique marks in advance the thresholds beyond which crisis awaits any system. Crisis is that event after which a system will no longer be able to return as the same, and instead that which arrives after might be something better or worse, or something else altogether. For example, a chrysalis is a crisis in the system of the organism, with the caveat that the chrysalis is a regularised crisis (understood as a stage in the life of certain insects), akin to the crises of the markets for capitalism. Philosophy is concerned with crises which are not yet regularised, and it has enabled philosophy to create surges through which it made itself aright again. These insurrections and resurrections are the histories of philosophy which entered a stasis named “the end of metaphysics” in the last century. Today philosophy is confronted with a new form of crisis—“the ‘preterhuman’ perspectives of visions designated as totalitarian – since Gandhi’s time, and to say nothing about ‘transhumanist’ oracles spreading today” (Jean-Luc Nancy, Foreword, Gandhi and Philosophy, Bloomsbury Academic, 2018)—which is also a crisis of forms. Philosophy alone can offer a seizure between that which has come to be its own ruins in “metaphysics” and a certain “elsewhere” which is neither occident nor orient—“It is the other that rises and resurrects within the dead self” (Noli me tangere)—which is the experience of the something again; for philosophy is all we have in order to negotiate, be it through logos or as the principle of reason, between something and nothing. Only then can we come face to face with the vanishing of “the something” into the eidolon of a growing architecture of “the nothing”.
‘Philosophy without Eros: Jean-Luc Nancy’s Deconstruction of the Good’
Timothy Jussaume (Saint Leo University)
In The Sense of the World , Jean-Luc Nancy diagnoses our contemporary situation assituated along a precarious fault line of sense. On the one hand, we have the “abandonment of sense,” pre-figured by Nietzsche’s “death of God.” This abandonment is the withdrawal of a cosmos in which the planets mark their revolutions in relation to a fixed star. In its place, an all-encompassing nihilism threatens to render all things senseless, including philosophy itself. Enter the repeated calls from within the Continental tradition for the “end of philosophy.” On the other hand, this abandonment is coupled with the continued “demand for sense.” This demand is the imperative for signification, specifically, that the world “signify itself as dwelling, haven, habitation, safeguard, intimacy, community, subjectivity: as the signifier of a proper and present signified, the signifier of the proper and present as such.” To put it plainly, it is a demand that the world “means” something, that it, as signifier, points beyond itself to a signified. An unreflective turn to mythology, especially in the forms of nationalism or totalitarianism, looms as a potentially cataclysmic response to this demand. For Nancy, this juxtaposition, in which the demand for sense runs up against the fact that sense is no longer available, defines our present moment. We find ourselves at a loss for sense. We want to do philosophy, but are no longer sure how. If we have arrived at an end, what comes next? In the growing secondary literature on Nancy, discussions of this aporia of sense feature prominently. Nevertheless, the goal of this paper is to argue that there remains a surprising gap in the scholarly work as to how Nancy’s understanding of sense depends upon a deconstruction of Platonic eros. This is not at all a call for a solipsism that is cut off from all exteriority, but rather the realization that eros implicates philosophy in what I will call a “logic of loss” which binds it to a subsequent demand for recovery. In Nancy’s view, such a logic is the historical genesis of our modern aporia , which inevitably produces and sustains the twin dogmatisms of nihilism and mythology. To borrow from B.C. Hutchens, Nancy’s “philosophy of the future” is to find a new way for thought other than as the task of retrieving what is no longer. It is philosophy without eros, i.e., without recollection as its mode of operation. Nancy derives this insight by imploding Platonic eros from within. He does so by arguing for the incompatibility of eros and the “Good beyond Being,” insofar as the existence of the former precludes the existence of the latter. In the end, Nancy will read the Good as the call not for desire, but for sacrifice. Paradoxically, the sacrifice of the Good will confirm its deepest truth – the affirmation of finitude itself.
(2.1) – Theological Themes I
‘A Phenomenology of Kenosis: Jean-Luc Nancy, Emmanuel Falque and the Theological Turn’
Nikolaas Deketelaere (University of Oxford)
‘Deconstructed Christianity: Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Derrida, and Negative Theology’
Ashok Collins (Australian National University)
Despite certain theorists seeing in différance a form of negative theology in disguise—a ground or origin which never appears as such, what is in essence simply a first cause by another name—Derrida maintains that deconstruction is fundamentally different. Whereas apophatic theology ultimately refers to a presence beyond presence, a hyper-essence which is affirmed in the very moment it is negated, Derrida claims that différance has no existence in itself but instead is the very differing and deferral which conditions all experience and precludes the possibility of ever laying claim to a point of foundation or origin, divine or otherwise. This understanding of the intersection of negative theology and the metaphysics of presence in many ways defines Derrida’s ambivalent stance towards Christianity and serves as the hinge on which his critique of his younger compatriot, Jean-Luc Nancy, pivots. Derrida’s interpretation of Christianity as an incontrovertible affirmation of the unscathed—salvation as attainment of absolute presence, the victory of the holy in its transcendence of finitude—colours his reading of Nancy’s ontology, culminating most notably in his suspicion that the latter’s preference for the tactile comes a little too close for comfort to the ‘spiritual touch’ of Jean-Louis Chrétien’s theological phenomenology. In this paper, I take a step back and test the veracity of Derrida’s critique by returning to the roots of Nancy’s deconstruction of Christianity project, which I argue can be located in his unique understanding of creation ex nihilo. Rather than a reversion to a pure hyper-essence, or a desire to escape metaphysics entirely, Nancy’s deconstruction is a radicalising of the Derridean trace into a creative and material ontology which I read in the context of his early writings on Descartes, Kant and Nietzsche. Reaching its climactic moment in what he calls a Spinozan rewriting of Heidegger’s Being and Time, Nancy’s self-positioning towards the metaphysical tradition displays a very different understanding of the intersection of Christianity and presence to that proposed by Derrida, one that affirms the exhaustion of negative theology and opens up a new vista for deconstruction in the twenty-first century.
‘The (Eternal) Return of Religion’
Marie Chabbert (University of Oxford)
This paper focuses on the much discussed socio-cultural phenomenon referred to as the ‘return of religion’. By choosing this topic, I deliberately go against Jean-Luc Nancy’s assessment that the latter ‘ne mérite pas plus d’attention qu’aucun autre “retour”’ (2005: 9). Yet I believe that I thereby only follow Nancy’s own example: from the dialectical return on investment discussed in ‘L’Insacrifiable’ to the motif of the anastasis in ‘Noli me tangere’, and the critique of the philosophy of crisis and return in ‘L’Oubli de la philosophie’, the logic and im/possibility of the return – including that of the divine – is one of the main topics addressed in Nancy’s works. It thus seems to me that Nancy pays considerable attention to something that, according to him, deserves none. In my paper, I will try to make sense of Nancy’s critique of the ‘return of religion’ as a mere ‘return to religion’ and suggest that Nancy’s work harbours another crucial thinking of the return of religion, one which has nothing to do with a theological or postsecular contamination, as many critics have argued, but which rather breaks with the philosophy of the return of the same which they entail and approaches the return as an eternal recurrence of difference which, paraphrasing Nancy, ouvre la religion à l’illimitation qui fait sa vérité (2005: 9).
(2.2) – Artistic Expressions
‘Mimesis as the rhythm of appearance: art and transcendence in Jean-Luc Nancy and Merleau-Ponty’
Eleni Lorandou (Lancaster University)
In “The pleasure of drawing”, Jean-Luc Nancy refers to drawing as the true form of the thing. This ‘true’ form is not an already accomplished form but one that involes the gesture that traces it and brings it into appearance. In this context, mimesis is nothing other than the “rhythmics of appearance” through which the mystery of the rising or suspension of the form is recognised. This is where the pleasure of artistic creation lies. For J-L Nancy, drawing reveals, that what one calls “aesthetic” concerns a “feeling” [sentir] but a feeling that is not related to a sensory faculty that records information. It is rather a sensing [ressentir], a “making sense of” or of “letting it be formed”. The donation of form in perception and the aesthetic experience that this givenness entails are apprehended in terms of the encounter of an “outside” and an “inside”, an encounter that is initiated by feeling. In this context, the aesthetic pleasure occurs only insofar as this intertwining remains exposed as such, it is experienced and felt, it is not resolved in indistinction. It is through this opening and sharing between an inside and an outside referring incessantly to one another that the subject (as a relational force, active as much as passive] “affects” itself by distinguishing itself from its own self and by experiencing itself as distinct—“the other in itself, experiencing this alterity as its own, experiencing its self as other”. In “The eye and the mind”, Merleau-Ponty, with reference to the art of painting and the experiences of painters such a Cézanne and Klee describes how space and content merge in their coming-into-being through the visible, where “the body is no longer the means of vision and touch, but their depository”. Here, too, it is question of a sensibility that constitutes itself from within, while the artist finds himself “caught” in a phenomenalising process in which, nevertheless, he partakes. It is not, then, question of how to understand artistic creation but rather of how to make oneself open enough to perceive it as the manifestation of an ontological excess and an act of originating transcendence.
‘Tracing the Sensible: In Search of a Common Ground Between Animality and Drawing’
Athanasia Vidali-Soula (University of Liège)
Starting with the suggestion that the art of painting or drawing is marked by an evocative silence that never demonstrates a fully defined meaning like the one provided by discursive logos, I will then proceed to Jacques Derrida’s thought of the animals’ otherness, which, like paintings, do not respond, but rather escape the idea of an approach via human logic. A silence that means ambiguity, a silence full of signification, thus becomes a central question for both art and animality, which should be considered as immersed in a world of sensibility rather than in clearly delineated intellectual ideas. Anchoring to this sensible dimension, I am going to explore Jean-Luc Nancy’s thought on drawing, which is characterized by its perpetual incompleteness, its continuous formation. Drawing, seen as a gesture that escapes the artist’s intellect, becomes a drive that follows no clear project, but is rather a vital force, which evades discourse in order to open other sensible paths towards sense. But after all, such is the nature of the image itself, whose force is other than speech, a reticent potentiality that like a gesture indicates towards associations of sense expressed via its materiality. But if we talk about material world, sensibility and gesture, as well as about a silent mode of being, aren’t all these considered to be primary characteristics of the animal otherness? It is under this perspective that I am going to mention the work of Jean-Christophe Bailly, who constructs a talk around the animal world that has a lot of similarities with the sensibility of the form. Finally, the drawing gesture and the animals’ living gesture are both an opening way which generates sense in a mode other than discourse. It’s all about a movement, something that could fit well in Heraclitus’ expression “panta rhei” (πάντα ῥεῖ, everything flows). In complicating the limits between art and animality, we enter a limitrophic comparison that helps us approach the two terms from a new point of view. For in the end, the nature of artistic creation, like the animal nature, share an always evading sense. And in doing so, they become the unthinkable perspective towards which the human always turns.
‘Silence: Dancing at the Limit’
Ainhoa Suarez-Gomez (Kingston University)
In Le danseur des solitudes, Georges Didi-Huberman describes the dance of flamenco artist Israel Galván as a display of tension between two intensities: the gesture of the moving body and the choreographic non-execution. The encounter between these forces, argues Didi-Huberman, creates a “deep” and “tactile” silence. Taking Galván’s scene as a starting point, this paper offers a problematisation of the experience of silence in dance through a cross-reading of Gilles Deleuze and Jean-Luc Nancy. In philosophy, silence has been traditionally addressed as a linguistic problem (for instance, as the absence of discourse or language) that undermines the perceptual role of the body. In this talk I will analyse the art of dance in order to redefine this phenomenon as an instant of unexpected sensorial disruption that dislocates the continuous flow of movement. I will argue that, in dance, the experience of silence opens a space between the body and the self that cannot be sensed otherwise, challenging notions associated with the senses, subjectivity, corporeality, spatiality, and temporality. Additionally, I will refer to the articulation of philosophy and dance as an attempt to explore the assemblage of thought and movement, without presenting either of these domains as a mere illustration of the other. The paper will be structured as follows: 1) First, I will analyse Didi-Huberman’s interpretation of Galván’s dance by focusing on the emergence of silence as a sudden and unplanned interruption of the choreography that disrupts the field of composition and triggers a “paradox of forces”. 2) Then I will turn to Deleuze’s concept of spasm, defined as sensational-perceptual force that personifies body’s attempt to “flow out of itself”. Through Deleuze’s concept (closely related to Nancy’s “syncope”, a term that will also be addressed here), I will discuss silence as a gesture of the dancing body that challenges the limit(s) of both movement and subjectivity. 3) Next, I will examine Nancy’s approach to dance in terms of an escape. For Nancy, dance allows us to witness the moment when the body invents, recomposes, and replays itself by means of its own sensitivity. Dance is an intensification of the body by itself where “one senses oneself tangential to the world and to oneself.” The digressive contact fosters the emergence of a vanishing point or continuous escape where the dancer is never sure of their presence since it cannot be fixed nor stabilised, but only “suspected”. I will argue that the “deep” and “tactile” silence captured by Didi-Huberman in Galván’s performance is an actualisation of Nancy’s idea of dance as the instant where the body is being surprised at its limit or vanishing point. 4) Following Nancy’s lead, I will close this paper discussing the following questions: What happens to a dancing body while experiencing deep and tactile silence? If Didi-Huberman’s scene represents an escape, from what or from whom is the body absconding? What are the limit(s) of sense and what does it feel to be at the limit(s) of sense?
(2.3) – Anthropology
‘Being-in-common as Decolonial Ontology: On Thinking with Jean-Luc Nancy from an African Context’
Schalk Gerber (Stellenbosch University)
How may one think with or even beyond Jean-Luc Nancy the demand of decolonisation? Both the discourses concerning the postmodern and the postcolonial take as their main departure point the critique of the metaphysics of modernity. This, in turn, allows for the creation of a dialogue between these discourses especially around rethinking our being-in-common. The paper accordingly explores Nancy’s re-reading of Dasein as Mitsein and the implications thereof for decolonial thinking. The first part of the paper outlines Nancy’s re-appropriation of Heidegger’s analyses of Dasein, which is at the same time Mitsein, for his notion of being singular plural. Next, this analyses and the task of rethinking our being-in-the-world with others, i.e. our being-in-common is linked to the notion of dis-enclosure taken from Nancy’s work on the deconstruction of Christianity. Part two of the paper correspondingly explores the Cameroonian thinker Achille Mbembe’s use of the notion of dis-enclosure for the purposes of decolonisation in order to think an alternative ontology and subject-other relation than the one imposed by Western modernity, in its creation of race and more specifically Blackness, on Africa. Finally, the paper sketches the implications of thinking our being-in-common or being-with in the world for the shared responsibility of the reparation of the dignity of the dehumanised other.
‘Listening to Others: Writing the Rwandan Genocide as an Indirect Witness’
Caroline D. Laurent (King’s College London)
In his hybrid text Moisson de crânes (2000) about the genocide in Rwanda, the Djiboutian writer Abdourahman A. Waberi defines his role of writer-indirect witness as a “donneur d’échos.” The author listens to others: this action of “listening” as per Jean-Luc Nancy (À l’écoute) opens “sense” to movement and sharing. In À l’écoute, the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy develops a theory of listening; or rather, of relationships between “sense” and listening. Following on from Nancy’s open and constantly creative process of écouter, Waberi himself values the resonance of sound and meaning: he believes that the indirect representation of the auctor is the echo of various echoes. An eclectic test is produced, personal while nonetheless characterized by a great plurality, which tends towards an accepted and even claimed contamination. The innovative reading of Nancy’s theory of “listening” in relation to the indirect witness links the orality of the testimony to transmission through writing. Moisson de crânes, a text irrigated by orality, becomes a “methexic” text (Nancy, À l’écoute 27) – the adjectival form of methexis (μέθεξις), which can be translated as participation – and an echo, a polyphony which resonates.
‘Inuit Songs and Resonating Lyres: The (Neo)Platonic Theme of Harmony in The Inoperative Community’
Krysztof Skonieczny (University of Warsaw)
In The Inoperative Community Jean-Luc Nancy proposes that speech as the fundamental means of exposure on which community is based can be thought of as “similar to the way the Inuit Eskimos sing by making their own cries resonate in the open mouth of a partner” (Nancy 1991, p. 31). Invoking this striking image of two resonating bodies, Nancy seems not only to make an anthropological or ethnographic observation, but also to situate his theory – at least implicitly – in a more general theme which can be traced to Platonic and Neo-Platonic sources. Notably, the Renaissance Neo-Platonic philosopher Marsilio Ficino uses a similar analogy to explain “sympathetic vibration,” a fundament of interaction between (natural) heavenly bodies and (artificial) amulets, crucial for natural magic: “If from the sounding lyre a tone suddenly is communicated to another lyre tuned in the same way, then immediately from this vibrating string another vibration is passed on to the [other] string which is equally tuned” (qtd. from Prins 2014, p. 99). Jacomien Prins (2014) and Brian P. Copenhaver (2007) trace the theme of resonating lyres further back to its roots in Plato’s Phaedo, where it is used to explain the theory of the soul as harmony, and to Plotinus’ Enneads, where it depicts the harmony within the All. In my paper, I would like to (1) summarise the Platonic and Neo-Platonic (Plotinus’ and Ficino’s) theories of harmony and resonance that will shape my reading of Nancy’s Inuit simile; (2) offer a reading of Nancy’s concepts of compearing/exposure that stem from these theories; (3) conversely, show how Nancy’s image enriches the theme of resonance, especially by invoking live human beings instead of musical instruments and heavenly spheres, which leads to adding a political and existential layer to the classical analogy; and (4) ask about how our reading of Nancy’s resonance themes should change with the shift of the sociopolitical situation that occurred between the time when The Inoperative Community was written (shaped by the disillusion with communism) and today.
(3.1) – Theological Themes II
‘Being Greekjew: Autonomy, Heteronomy and the Deconstruction of Christianity’
Martijn Buijs (University of California)
In his recent study Exclu le juif en nous, Nancy investigates a structural opposition in Western thought between two forces: on the one hand, the autonomy of the Greek logos; on the other, the heteronomy of the Jewish calling. Both are to be understood as forms of freedom, or at least as forms of liberation or emancipation: the Greek logos, in providing the possibility of a knowledge that outstrips mere opinion, frees one from slavery to false ideas; the Jewish calling for its part frees one from bondage to imposed gods and dominion. The logos operates through rational self-legislation, the calling through a self-definition that outstrips the rational in delivering itself to the radically other. In Nancy’s argument, these modes of liberation are curiously intertwined, mirroring each other in the very act of pushing each other away: the autonomy of the Greek logos ultimately rests upon a Platonic “good beyond being” that itself remains beyond our grasp; the Jewish calling must be answered, responded to, taken up, even in such a way that, strictly speaking, there is no calling before the response – my response – retroactively constitutes it. Christianity represents a welding together of these two analogous but strictly speaking incompatible forms of freedom. For it reconfigures the calling so as to anchor it no longer in the other from whom I remain infinitely removed, but in the other who is, paradoxically, my own self: interior intimo meo et superior summo meo, as Augustine will say of his God. Replacing the wholly other with my other self, Christianity raises again a claim to self-sufficiency that at the same time it disavows. This contradiction mounts to the surface when the universality of the logos is put in question by those who wish to remain outside of it. The Jew is the figure of this refusal. For the Jew, who stakes his freedom on heteronomy, thereby reminds Christianity that it itself bears its indelible trace. Hence the violent expulsion of its Jewish counterpart, scapegoat for the irreconcilability of its own claims, remains a structural tendency in Christianity. In my contribution I wish to further investigate the rich matrix which Nancy here sketches and interrogate its consequences. Is it indeed the case that autonomy is best understood as already characterized by an openness to the transcendent? The classic formulations of autonomy in modern philosophy – rational self-determination through the moral law, or the embedding of such a law in ethical life – seem rather to close off this possibility. Rather, the deconstruction of Christianity means, first, the deconstruction which Christianity operates on this ideal of rational autonomy enclosed in upon itself. It moreover implies, second, deconstructing Christianity’s claim to be in possession of universality by recalling its indebtedness to a heteronomy it can never overcome. As Greekjews, we remain equally beholden to both poles – and exposed to the danger of tragically being caught between.
‘Jean-Luc Nancy: l’adieu sans retour au christianisme’
Camille Fallen (University Paris 8)
La “déconstruction du christianisme”, initiée par Nancy et qui porte son nom s’efforce de penser un mouvement de sortie sans retour du christianisme. À cet égard, il est toutefois inéluctable de penser à la réserve de Derrida qui rappelle que si c’est le christianisme qui s’auto-déconstruit, qui sort lui-même de lui-même, alors, nous ne sortons pas du christianisme, nous n’en finissons pas avec lui mais nous y retournons ou y restons. À cheminer avec Nancy vers cette “sortie”, nous risquerions donc de nous trouver encerclés par différentes trajectoires philosophiques ou théologiques revenant sans cesse au christianisme, là où le commencement et la fin donnent l’un sur l’autre sans dehors. Avec Nancy, nous nous obstinerons pourtant à nous demander s’il n’y aurait pas, sur le seuil du christianisme ou le passant indéfiniment, une ouverture infinie et infiniment divisible qui engagerait la possibilité d’au moins deux gestes différents. L’un de reconnaissance, de réappropriation et de retour, l’autre d’abandon à une poussée si puissante qu’elle rendrait impossible tout retour. Mais nous sommes prévenus : si l’auto-déconstruction du christianisme ne concerne que l’une de ses veines (celle de la Réforme, de la partie du catholicisme qui s’en est inspirée et d’une partie de la mystique chrétienne), celle-ci peut toujours être considérée comme reconduisant à une ressource plus originaire et plus authentique du christianisme. En outre, l’idée d’un « reste » de christianisme ne manque pas non plus d’assaillir le lecteur lorsqu’il trouve, chez Nancy lui-même, des termes qui, pour déplacer et transformer la pensée n’en paraissent pas moins chargés des vestiges du christianisme : l’adoration, la création ex nihilo, etc. Trouver des arguments qui donnent foi ou raison au retour et à la restance s’annonce donc comme le cercle premier de l’évidence. Pourtant, là où il ne s’agit plus de donner raison mais de déclore la raison, il importe de prendre acte de l’affirmation de Nancy qui, en 2012, lors d’un séminaire au CIPH, expliquait avoir écrit quelques pages dans L’Adoration pour dire qu’il en avait fini avec le christianisme, pages, soulignait-il, dont pourtant personne ne lui parle, que personne ne cite, comme si chacun fermait les yeux sur elles et que “pour des quantités de raisons très variées”, on avait “très envie de le ramener au christianisme”. Dans le sens où ce témoignage annonce un impossible passage hors du christianisme, nous nous efforcerons d’y accorder foi et de prendre acte de ces pages forcloses. Ce faisant, nous lirons Nancy comme si l’adieu sans retour au christianisme avait bel et bien été consommé dans L’Adoration. À partir de cette hypothèse de lecture, nous tenterons alors de penser avec Nancy l’expérience d’un “s’ouvrir” autrement à l’infinie poussée de l’ailleurs ainsi que le “remplacement” d’une ressource par une autre. Nous efforçant de tenir bon sur le passage de cet adieu, nous tenterons depuis cette impossible station de déceler les effets inédits pour le langage et la pensée de cet adieu au christianisme, à l’athéisme mais aussi au nihilisme.
‘L’acte de foi et/ou une foi en acte’
Ryosuke Kakinami (Yagamata University)
Comment choisir un ou quelques motif(s) qui dirige(nt) et oriente(nt) la pensée de Jean-Luc Nancy ? – ou bien plutôt, « le » motif qui pousse et fait trembler la pensée elle-même ? Nous prendrions pour guide celui de l’acte. Dès ses premiers livres, la notion d’acte en forme le centre. Actualiser, sensibiliser, mobiliser ou secouer… la pensée : en un mot, la mettre « en acte » constitue au moins un des aspects éclatants de la philosophie nancyenne. Nombreux seront des penseurs qui accompagnent son chemin d’investigation : Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard ou Bataille… Autrement dit, c’est Nancy lui-même qui relit, réinterprète et réactive d’une telle manière la tradition philosophique. Nous essayerons de nommer « foi en acte » cette attitude ou ce geste en renversant la formule religieuse : « acte de foi ». Comme il le signale dans quelques endroits, Nancy considère que la foi n’est pas dans le domaine de la croyance, celle-ci étant une sorte de savoir affaibli. Mais qu’est-ce alors qu’une foi, surtout selon le point du vue de la « déconstruction du christianisme » ? Une foi qui n’est plus celle en Dieu ou en Absolu, mais qui en mériterait quand même le nom ? « Adoration » ou « prière de l’a-athéiste », par exemple, représente une adresse-parole sans destination qu’est la foi d’aujourd’hui. C’est une foi « en acte », c’est-à-dire celle qui ne demeure pas en dynamis, mais agit et (s’)agite ici et maintenant ; elle est en même temps celle mise dans l’acte, soit une fidélité à l’action, ne pas céder sur la possibilité de l’agir. Pour examiner le sujet, nous prendrons deux pistes. D’abord, il faudrait un travail sur l’histoire de la philosophie où la pensée a été mise dans l’acte. Ici apparaitra Kierkegaard comme figure privilégiée. Non pas simplement précurseur de l’existentialisme mais penseur de « singularité », ce philosophe danois entrera dans un entretien et dans une concurrence avec Nancy autour de la possibilité de la foi, de la passion infinie, du rapport à l’absolu, etc. Ensuite, nous nous concentrerons sur le concept de l’affect, qui, constituant le noyau de ce que l’on appelle « tournant affectif » (affective turn) ces dernières années, semble se trouver sans arrêt dans le parcours de Nancy depuis, entre autres, La Panique Politique jusqu’à la Sexistence à travers « L’amour en éclats » dans Une Pensée Finie. L’affect, ce quelque chose qui pousse la pensée, la met en acte et donne son rythme : la chose même qui affecte la philosophie, finalement c’est cela dont nous nous occuperons dans notre communication.
(3.2) – Poetics
‘Ontological Performance: The Theatrical Nature of Nancy’s Act of Writing’
Emily McLaughlin (University of Oxford)
This paper will examine a theatrical trope that appears frequently in Nancy’s work. In works such as La Communauté désœvrée and Le Sens du monde, Nancy argues that our attempts to understand existence can no longer be modelled on a theatre of representation but that thought needs to conceived as a theatre of exposure or exposition. This paper will analyse how Nancy uses this theatrical trope to at once highlight that way that self-reflexive models of thought (however deconstructive) remain trapped in a metaphysical logic of representation, substitution, and severance and to develop a conception of the theatricality of existence that explores the intimately ‘spatialised’ or ‘spatialising’ nature of the human body and the physical act of writing. Analysing how Nancy presents the body of the text as an intimate site of spatial experimentation, this paper will scrutinise how the philosopher conceives of the praxis of writing, not as an adventure into an ‘élément étranger’ or an exploration of ‘un risque venu de dehors’, but as a process that investigates its own spatialising processes, its own condition of ‘l’être-au-dehors’, ‘l’être étranger ou étrangé’. I will explore how Nancy uses paratactic, rhythmic, and sonorous structures in his writing to make us feel the originary force, not of the text itself, but of the spatialising forces that bring it into being. I will examine how the text presents itself, not as a theatre of ‘interaction’, but as a theatre of ‘intra-action’ (to use Karen Barad’s phrase): it alerts us to the vibratory or resonant interactions between forces that actively spatialise being. What interests me in particular is the contagious nature of this process: it spreads from the body of the text to all bodies. It makes us feel the uncannily productive nature of the spatialising activities that go on in all physical things.
‘‘I’m the Partition’: Nancy, Beckett, Breath’
Stefanie Heine (University of Zürich)
How is the body written – a body that extends itself to the outside, that always also is its outside? How does breath enter literature? The way in which Jean-Luc Nancy explores the soul as an intervention of binary understandings of the body’s exteriorities and interiorities, could, especially if one takes into account a close etymological tie, be considered as a delineation of the breathing body: the body outside itself, constantly connected and exposed to the environment, reliant on exterior substances that it takes in and emits. Incorporating breath in literature is an act of ex-scription in which the physical movement put into words mirrors the movement of a transference into words as such: the respirational body, always already non-self-identical, touches upon something other than itself: a linguistic sign, a printed letter. In my paper, I want to explore how Nancy’s thought may offer a theoretical framework that allows capturing the ruptures and incongruences involved in a poetics of breathing. Especially his conception of ‘syncope’ promises to be fruitful in this respect: “The syncope simultaneously attaches and detaches” – the rhythm of breath is syncopal a as such, and poetic language, in which breaths in words and pauses never fully coincide with the physical phenomenon of respiration, might “rejoin through amputation”. These reflections shall be pursued further and put to the test in a reading of Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable.
‘Unforeseen Enclosures: Nancy’s Critique of Heidegger’s Poetics’
Henry Zhang (University of Toronto)
My paper aims to assess Nancy’s critical engagement with Heidegger’s poetics as a post- Heideggerian philosopher. In constructing a Nancyean critique of Heidegger’s poetics, I focus on four specific aspects: (1) the teleology of poetry (2) the notion of community/epoch (3) the hermeneutic practice of the subject (or Dasein) and (4) the ethical poetics of alterity. While Heidegger thinks that poetry serves the teleology of representing and “housing” the epoch, Nancy would right away undermine this position by deconstructing the presumed tangibility and unity of “the epoch” (cf. Inoperative Community). Further, Nancy’s poetics may be properly considered as anti-teleological, as it is mainly concerned about liberating the existentiality of the artwork—that is, about allowing the artwork to freely present its sense without the metaphysical necessity of conforming to a pre-given and enclosed signification. Lastly, Nancy’s ontology of presentation (or transimmanence) opposes Heidegger’s relatively static notion of Dasein’s worlding. Heidegger posits that the primordial instinct of Dasein is to construct a stable world of intelligibility over and against a chaotic excess of raw sense. While Nancy bases his poetics on Heidegger’s mechanism of worlding, for Nancy the truly existential subject does not aim to produce a permanently stabilized world of intelligibility (poiesis) but to perpetually play with the inexhaustible and absolutely singular presentation of sense, which praxis is coextensive with the subject’s perpetual unworking of the infinitely finite world. Nancy’s concepts of poiesis vs. praxis provides an overarching framework for unifying these different aspects in which Nancy critiques Heidegger’s poetics. Accordingly, I will illustrate Nancy’s problematization of poiesis and argue Heidegger’s identification with poiesis as a way to reconstruct my Nancyean critique of Heidegger’s poetics (at the same time, I will also address the nuances of Heidegger’s poetics that would resist a simple identification of poiesis as such). In the conclusion, I will briefly situate Nancy’s notion of praxis in the broader philosophical development in poetics and discuss its contribution.
(3.3) – Body
‘Touching Bodies: Reading Jean-Luc Nancy alongside Husserl’
Julia Diniz e Carvalho (University of Alberta)
Since the publication of Derrida’s book Le Toucher, Jean-Luc Nancy (2000), the relationship between phenomenology and Jean-Luc Nancy’s thinking on the body became more evident. In Derrida’s book, Husserl’s Ideas II is taken as a ‘guiding work’ to read that relationship, since deconstruction would be distinguished from the French reception of phenomenology, therefore requiring the reconstruction of the context taking the foundational work on phenomenology of the body as a starting point. Nevertheless, nineteen years later, researches on the relationship between Nancy’s and Husserl’s thinking on the body are still presented as just an indication of a philosophically fertile ground. In face of this picture, I aim to show how and in which sense Nancy deconstructs some aspects of Husserlian phenomenology of the body, while also bringing some phenomenological concerns to bear on the deconstructive approach. For this, I focus on how Nancy’s thinking on the body and toucher deconstructs the Husserlian distinction between Körper and Leib, and the role of tactile experience in that distinction. I defend that Nancy radicalizes Husserl’s thinking about the “foreign medium” in a way that replaces phenomenological intentionality for a correlation between appearing bodies.
‘Why so Modest, Nancy?’
Oisín Keohane (University of Dundee)
My paper will examine the notion of ‘modesty’ (pudeur) that Nancy and Ferrari use when discussing the nude in Being Nude (Nus sommes). The paper will begin by looking at how Nancy, in an earlier work from the 1980s, differentiates ‘the naked truth’ from ‘the nakedness of meaning’ (la nudité du sens), associating the former with a (naked) body and the later with the gesture of laying bare or exposure (mise à nu). I will show how Nancy’s understanding of the naked truth misses a central component – namely, the association of modesty with truth, even though Nancy makes systematic recourse to modesty in Being Nude, including a section whose title is none other than ‘Veritas’. To accomplish this, I will make a distinction between the naked truth understood in terms of correctness, where truth has nothing to hide, and the naked truth as a modest truth, or truth as modesty, where truth necessarily hides itself to some degree, out of modesty. This will be connected to Derrida’s reading of Kant in his Politics of Friendship, to show that modesty (pudicitia) has been deployed to provide a history of truth, one that begins in non-truth but ends up making non-truth true. I will thus argue that Nancy’s discourse on the nude remains lodged in a conception of modesty that can be seen to extend all the way from the Renaissance to the present day, via figures such as Kant. What will be shown to be particularly troublesome is that modesty in this tradition, as noticed by Nietzsche, passes for a feminine property par excellence – hence the artistic appellation ‘Venus Pudica’ and the absence of its male counterpart, what one might call an ‘Apollo Pudica’. Nancy’s interpretation of Carracci’s 1597 The Furious Cyclops Polyphemus Throwing a Rock from the Volcano Etna at Men, will thus be scrutinised, since Nancy argues there that the penis lacks any modesty, ostensibly for physiological reasons, since, as he says, ‘there’s nothing to push aside, neither hair nor lips, in order to expose the penis that the patch of [pubic] hair presents and doesn’t hide’.
‘On Dreamless Sleep’
Joni Puranen (University of Jyväskylä)
The phenomenologically intriguing question concerning the character of the self within the “world” of dreamless sleep has been a lively topic in the last few decades. From Jean-Luc Nancy’s challenging statement that there is no phenomenology of sleep in The Fall of Sleep (Tombe de Sommeil) to Nicholas de Warrens response in The Inner Night: Towards a Phenomenology of Dreamless Sleep and to Anthony Steinbock’s recent work on the concept of “limit-experience” in Limit-Phenomena and Phenomenology in Husserl, the questions concerning consciousness, ego, unconscious, sleep and dreaming have found many different answers in the plural field of phenomenological approaches. In the following I will present Nancy’s statement concerning the “possibility” for the phenomenology of sleep and de Warrens attempt at solving this problem followed by my own proposal on thinking about dreamless sleep. In The Inner Night, Nicholas de Warren’s emphasises the power of Nancy’s statement according to which there is no – and cannot be any – a phenomenology of sleep (“il y’n pas phénoménologie du sommeil”): the eidetic descriptions of dreamless sleep – a state that can be approached by a wakeful consciousness only through metaphors wavering towards to a still and timeless void that stays beyond any experiential structures –, seem to leave nothing for the systematic phenomenological analysis to cling on to. De Warren is therefore intrigued by the challenge of Nancy’s statement. In his analysis, taking up this challenge requires that we approach the phenomenology of dreamless sleep by thinking or looking at the edges or on the borders of the phenomenological method itself. De Warren sets about by carefully examining how Husserl uses the concepts of sleep and wakefulness as “living” metaphors for the layering of constituting / constituted temporality in manuscript D-14, that deals with passive synthesis of absolute time-consciousness, sedimentation, retention and forgetting. The approach chosen by de Warren brings about at least two major issues for the thinking of dreamless sleep: Firstly, by choosing to “avoid any direct treatment of what constitutes a metaphor from a phenomenological point of view as well as the relationship between metaphorical and the literal descriptions for the method of phenomenological analysis” his approach fails to understand what Nancy means by “phenomenology of sleep”; secondly by looking at dreamless sleep from the “side” of the wakeful consciousness, with examples like forgetting, de Warren fails to think dreamless sleep in itself. I propose that by looking into our bodily movements, breathing and sleeping postures we might be able to say something about the self of the dreamless sleep. If we employ distinctions like “primal bodily drive” and Nancy’s reading of Hegel in Identity and Trembling we can describe dreamless sleep as something else than a state of non-being.
(4.1) – The (Moving) Image
‘From the Self-Image to the Image Itself: Portrait in Jean-Luc Nancy and Contemporary Visual Culture’
Martta Heikkila (University of Helsinki)
In this paper, I shall examine why the portrait, among different genres of visual art, holds a particularly important position in Jean-Luc Nancy’s theories of art. To be considered are the critical implications of his notion of the portrait to a contemporary type of portraits, namely self-portrait photographs. By examining the portrait, Nancy wants to discard two conventional assumptions concerning the likeness of the portrait. First, he questions the mimetic notion that the portrait would resemble its subject by representing it; second, that the portrait would be an image of the model’s self. Instead, the specific nature that Nancy endows to the portrait is that it resembles the model but without the sense of representation. In addition, for him, the “self” of the depicted character is always absent from the portrait, which is thus infinitely separate and distinct from the person itself. From these reasons, portraits even form a paradigm for any work of art: rather than imitating things, portrait presents its own figure, as e.g. in Les Muses and Le Regard du portrait. I shall begin my paper by clarifying and contextualizing Nancy’s seemingly paradoxical claim that the human portrait may resemble a person only on the condition of not representing him or her. This notion becomes even more striking, if we consider that the portrait is often taken to be even a paradigmatic case of likeness. What constitutes the portrait, if not its ability to give a depiction of a person’s likeness? In the latter part of the paper, I shall inquire about the political consequences that Nancy’s idea of the portrait may have today. Recently self-portrait photographs, “selfies”, have made a specific genre of portraits proliferate especially in social media. By taking selfies, a person probably hopes to convey an image – usually a favourable one – of him- or herself and to make visible his or her momentary situation. Taking into consideration Nancy’s notion of the portrait beyond the scheme of mimeticism and grounded in a sense of fundamental absence, I shall review the importance of his philosophy of portrait to selfie culture. Supposing that selfies are aimed at producing images of the (ideal) self and at showing what is “essential” to the photographed person, I shall examine these notions critically from the points of view offered by Nancy. As I suggest, the political meaning of selfies is that instead of producing resemblance and distinctive images by artistic means – by extracting an innermost force from the image, as Nancy proposes – the flow of selfies creates similarity instead. Despite being a form of portraiture, the selfies’ nature as constructed images as well as their repetition and circulation has changed our view on portraying. As a result, I shall propose that, like portraits, selfies make visible the absence of the self, but in a sense that differs from Nancy’s notion of the portrait’s elaborate meaning.
‘Le visuel et l’haptique: l’image en tant que tissu Jean-Luc Nancy’
Vittoriano Gallico (University of Nantes)
Cette présentation s’interroge sur la possibilité d’identifier un double rapport entre vision et toucher dans les lectures que Jean-Luc Nancy donne de l’image picturale et cinématographique. Nous nous concentrerons sur le tissu en tant élément assurant la continuité entre le visuel et l’haptique en nous appuyant sur trois œuvres en particulier : Visitation (de la peinture chrétienne), La connaissance des textes. Lecture d’un manuscrit illisible et L’évidence du film : Abbas Kiarostami. Dans la première, l’étude que Nancy propose au sujet de la Visitation de Carmignano (1528) de Pontormo affronte la potentielle aporie de la figuration de l’infigurable. Le philosophe réfléchit sur l’ambivalence de ce moment de la peinture chrétienne où on présente ce qui par définition est absent, ce qui « précède la naissance » car « naissance de la naissance » . Nous observons que la lecture que Nancy donne de la Visitation en question ne résout pas l’énigme de l’image mais, au contraire, qu’elle tend à identifier le point où la peinture expose l’ambivalence du « dieu sans nom » (« le paraître de ce qui n’apparaît pas ») . En ce sens, nous mettrons en exergue la possibilité, chez Nancy, de remplacer la recherche d’une signification pour l’œuvre avec un geste par lequel on pointe du doigt l’endroit qui pose problème à la figuration. Ensuite, nous nous interrogerons sur le lien entre l’acte de montrer et l’endroit pointé, à savoir la zone du drapé des vêtements de la Vierge et d’Élisabeth. Dans le passage entre indiquer et voir, le pli nous semble revêtir un rôle essentiel en ceci qu’il se situe au croisement de l’haptique et du visuel. Nous pourrions parler d’une image qui se fait tissu, dès lors que, selon Nancy, elle s’articule en deux couches et qu’elle fait travailler ensemble le figurable et l’infigurable : l’image fait surgir l’absence sans pour autant la rendre un objet représentable. Nous avons un exemple similaire sous forme de présence simultanée de lisibilité et d’illisibilité dans La connaissance des textes. Ici, l’« illisibilité » des copiages d’Hantaï nous est présentée par Nancy comme l’entrée « dans une extrême lisibilité » , tout comme la « profération » est une « mise en présence » de l’ambivalence entre figurable et infigurable, contrairement à toute exigence de représenter Dieu . Dans La connaissance des textes nous constatons que le tissu est le support indispensable dans la démarche d’Hantaï qui inspire la réflexion des lettres de Nancy. Finalement, nous relierons ces deux premiers ouvrages sur la peinture à un troisième traitant l’image du cinéma. Nancy parle d’« axiomatique du regard » dans L’évidence du film et il développe une idée selon laquelle la caméra de Kiarostami n’est pas un simple dispositif qui voit le monde mais une image qui part à la rencontre d’un réel dont elle est elle-même partie intégrante . Nous nous concentrerons sur l’idée suivante : si, chez Nancy, le cheminement de l’image filmique va de pair avec la possibilité du regard de la caméra de s’inclure dans le réel et de s’y accrocher en tant que source de la vision, alors ce à quoi nous assistons est un tissage de l’image, un double geste de progression et d’inclusion s’inscrivant dans la continuité de ce que nous observons avec le tissu en peinture.
‘Closed Worlds, Open Bodies: Jean-Luc Nancy, the New French Extremity and Beyond’
Martin Parsons (Nottingham Trent University)
Jean-Luc Nancy’s engagement with Claire Denis’s film Trouble Every Day opened up a channel of enquiry into the trend of films described as the New French Extremity which involves an approach with, rather than an approach to the films, the strength of Nancy’s ontology being its capacity to become a graft upon – or vessel for – other thinking. In this paper, I will begin by returning to Nancy’s engagement with Trouble Every Day, considering his approach in terms of the wider context of the New French Extremity, as described and discussed by Tanya Horeck and Tina Kendall, Tim Palmer and Martine Beugnet (amongst many others), and then outline a Nancy-informed pathway along which we can negotiate our thinking through the New French Extremity and beyond it, drawing Nancean thinking into an encounter with the less controversial films which follow the extreme films in the work of directors associated with the seemingly defunct trend. In travelling this pathway with Nancy, I will demonstrate the ways in which Nancy’s ontology is tested by the films, the early films’ visual excess and extremity pushing at the borders of Nancy’s thinking, at the closed edges which define and protect its worldly immanence, and the later films supporting this hermetic universe in drawing back from the edges, the sharply violent lines of our worldly and bodily definition, into a space which acknowledges our physicality as inherently plural, and at once both open and closed. This paper seeks both to direct Nancean film analysis into the space of post-extreme French cinema which has been sadly neglected, and equally to allude to what I see as the inherent positivity of Nancy writing, bringing sense through an understanding of our fusional nature, with our acts and our arts inscribed into an unending multiplicity of bodies touching bodies.
(4.2) – Philosophy II
‘Un Nancy spinozien’
Jordi Masso (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
Dans Une pensée finie, dans une note qui passe presque inaperçue, Jean-Luc Nancy fait la suggestion suivante: «je voudrais suggérer une lecture, ou une réécriture,” spinozienne “d’Etre et temps» (Une pensée finie, p. 142). Bien que les références à Spinoza soient fréquentes dans le travail de Nancy et qu’un texte très pertinent lui ait été consacré, «Marginalia», le voisinage entre les deux philosophes n’a pas encore fait l’objet d’une étude spécifique. Personne peut douter que l’ontologie de la relation que chacun d’eux propose a beaucoup de similitudes entre eux. Par exemple, la notion de «monde» que l’un et l’autre travaillent est très similaire: «Deus sive natura n’enonce pas simplement, par le sive, deux noms pour un même choix, mais plutôt ceci, cette même choix d’un fils dehors dedans. Par quoi Spinoza est le premier penseur du monde» (Le Sens du monde, page 90). Ainsi, nombre des concepts principaux de la philosophie spinoziste -«désir», «corps», «relation», etc.- trouvent souvent leur reflet dans des textes de Jean-Luc Nancy. On pourrait légitimement parler pour cette raison d’influence de l’un sur l’autre, car à la fin Nancy est un bon lecteur de Spinoza. Mais la comparaison entre ces deux auteurs, aussi intéressante qu’elle puisse paraître, devrait constituer le point de départ d’une étude plus ambitieuse telle que celle que Nancy lui-même a rappelée: relire Etre et temps à partir de Spinoza. Peut-être que si cette tâche était entreprise, certaines des questions posées par Nancy dans sa confrontation avec la philosophie heideggerienne pourraient être clarifiées ou, du moins, nuancées. Ainsi, l’idée que «le corps ontologique n’est pas encore pensé» (Corpus, p.17) ou cet autre, que Heidegger ne voulait pas ou ne pouvait pas penser l’avec (Mit) ni même le sens jusqu’au bout (Une pensée finie, p.16), pourrait trouver une prolongation si son propre regard sur le philosophe allemand et ses travaux les plus pertinents avaient ce parti pris spinoziste. Cette présentation propose donc de passer en revue les principaux éléments de la philosophie de Spinoza auxquels Nancy prête une attention particulière, puis de suggérer comment on pourrait entreprendre cette lecture spinoziste de Être et du Temps qui ne soit pas si éloignée de celle proposée par Nancy lui-même.
‘Philosophies of Pluralisation: Between Nancy and Deleuze’
Ralf Gisinger (University of Vienna)
In my talk I try not only to think with Jean-Luc Nancy, but also to think him with Gilles Deleuze, whom he describes as a ‘contemporary’, but not necessarily in a temporal sense of contemporaneity. For this purpose, I aim to outline similarities and differences between Nancy and Deleuze, as productive con-/dis-junctions. Despite the fact that a dialogue between Deleuze and Nancy did not unfold in Deleuze’s lifetime, there are some (posthumous) references/texts from Nancy about Deleuze. Hence, Nancy himself serves as a witness for a possible communality of the two influential philosophers. Structure: First, how could one describe their relationship respectively, how could one approximate it? Secondly, carving out a shared motif between Nancy and Deleuze, what I call ‘pluralisation’, and its ontological as well as potential political consequences (mainly plurality and relationality). 1. Nancy’s characterisation of the relationship between Deleuze and Derrida (‘Parallel Differences’) could also be attributed to his own connection to Deleuze. I’m assuming some analogue motifs and parallel motions in their philosophies without artificially unifying the two by trying to account for their different starting points and intellectual histories. In spite of these discrepancies, Nancy acknowledges his encounter with Deleuze’s texts as recognising an imminent voice or gesture from an unknown but still familiar place (DF, 107f.). Further he points out that his relationship to Deleuze resembles a ‘strange proximity’ (ibid). In terms of Being Singular Plural, one could call it contiguity without continuity. Thinking Nancy with Deleuze means also to bring some of their pivotal differences to light: Their diverse reference to Hegel, the status of negativity and consequently of immanence (Nancy’s ‘transimmanence’). For Nancy, instead of synthesis, they share a common movement of spatialisation, but (as Nancy states) for Deleuze this ‘spacing’ appears as distribution, whereas for himself as dislocation (DF, 113). 2. By connecting Deleuze and Nancy, I try to develop a concept of ‘pluralisation’, which emphasises the ontological and political dimensions of this common theme in their philosophies. The problem of the relation between the one and the many serves as the starting point for pluralisation, as Deleuze and Nancy (each in their own way) try to multiply (and also dislocate/displace) this very opposition and develop new logics and theories of the plural. Nancy refers mainly to Heidegger and pursues an ontological approach – from ‘being-with’ to ‘being singular plural’, which is inherently political because of his concern for the community and the ‘being-in-common’. Deleuze creates the concept of multiplicity as a substantive (after Riemann and Bergson) to transform the relation of the one and the many while still living up to his specific commitment to immanence and univocity. The conjuncture of Deleuze and Nancy in regard to pluralisation calls concepts like identity, community, body, spatialisation, relationality or subject(ivation) into question and is therefore intrinsically political. By offering a critique as well as new forms and images of thought, thus, the parallels, similarities but also the differences between Deleuze and Nancy unfold possible implications and consequences of thinking (political) pluralisations.
‘Plasticities in Common: Sculpting the Multiverse with Nancy and Malabou’
Benjamin Dalton (King’s College London)
Jean-Luc Nancy and Catherine Malabou are both thinkers of the restlessness of being. For Nancy, being is ‘singular plural’, tirelessly exposed and shared across infinite and irreducible spacings. For Malabou, meanwhile, being is ‘plastic’ and open to constant mutation and transformation; human being, for instance, is inextricable from the (neuro)plasticity of the brain, which constantly re-sculpts and transforms its synaptic form throughout life. This paper pursues a cross-fertilization between these two ontologies: singular plural ontology and plastic ontology. In doing so, I argue that questions of plasticity and (trans)formation are in fact central to Nancy’s philosophy and that, in turn, conceptions of spacing and plurality are central to Malabou. Together, Nancy and Malabou allow us to bear witness to a host of singular plural plasticities: plastic forms of being existing somewhere between formation and explosion, sculpture and spacing, the cosmic and the biological. I will explore the creative and ethical implications of these plasticities first by considering the writing of Nancy and Malabou on plastic art and sculpture, before increasing the scale to Nancy’s work on the formation of the ‘multiverse’ alongside the physicist Aurélien Barrau. Both Nancy and Malabou turn to sculpture to theorize restless, plastic being. In the essays ‘Res Extensa’ (1992) and ‘Held, Held Back’ (1995), Nancy analyses Henri Etienne-Martin’s sculpture Janus-Torso and an unnamed sculpture as forms of exteriority, ex-tension and ex-pression rather than interiority; the sculpture’s plasticity does not ‘represent’ anything, but rather brings us into contact with the spacing of being itself. Meanwhile, Malabou’s signature concept of plasticity originates partly from an encounter with classical sculpture in The Future of Hegel (1996). This sculptural encounter then goes on to catalyse Malabou’s interdisciplinary work across philosophy, neuroscience and genetics; here, plasticity migrates beyond aesthetics, naming a general capacity for mutation and transformation intrinsic to all forms of material and organic life, as in the case neuroplasticity and epigenetics. Whereas sculpture and plastic art demonstrate the constructive and formative side of plasticity, Malabou argues that plasticity is also necessarily explosive, as in the French for bombing, plastiquer and plastiquage. For Nancy and Malabou, then, plastic forms are generative and dynamitic, demanding extension, explosion and creation rather than signification or ossification. In What’s These Worlds Coming To (2014), Nancy brings his thinking of singular plural formation into contact with Barrau’s articulation of the multiverse of infinite dimensions and worlds. Nancy and Barrau argue that we must learn to ‘rebuild’ these plural worlds amid the ever-increasing cosmic fragmentation. I propose that the rebuilding of the multiverse requires precisely a new thinking of plasticity as a multi-dimensional, sculptural ‘tool’ which encompasses both cosmic explosion and the capacity for ontological (trans)formation. If Malabou argues throughout her work that plasticity needs to be invented, and Nancy’s writing on the plastic arts suggests that spacing has to be actively sculpted, this paper argues that Nancy and Malabou must collaborate in the invention of each other’s plasticities, sculpting the forms and spacings, both cosmic and biological, through which to inhabit the multiverse.
(4.3) – Orthodoxy
‘Re-treating the Blasphemous’
Elham Jalali-Karveh (Monash University)
Blasphemy has traditionally been understood as an utterance concerning God or the divine that is received as offensive by a particular religious community. In works of literature, the charge of blasphemy has rested heavily upon the meaning of specific propositions and narrative events. However, this narrow construal of blasphemy is inadequate to capture the stakes for blasphemy in what Nancy characterises as that of the exhaustion of religion, the condition of much late twentieth century writing. Taking the example of Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable, in this paper I explore how Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe’s The Literary Absolute and “The retreat of the Political” lead us to a new concept of ‘transcendental blasphemy’, a blasphemy which blasphemes on the level of a text’s structure, rather than in isolated propositions. Beckett’s Unnamable only rarely and ambiguously blasphemes in the traditional manner, but its unconventional grammar and syntax along with its disruption of traditional temporality and emplotment, complicates the conditions of possibility of blasphemy and leave the text in a position of undecidability between foreclosing the possibility of blasphemy and performing a more radical blasphemous gesture than traditional blasphemy, a position analogous to Derrida’s judgment in On Touching that Nancy’s deconstruction of Christianity risks showing itself to have been a Christian hyperbole. The paper discusses and re-works Nancy and Lacoue- Labarthe’s distinction between ‘politics’ and ‘the political’ , bringing it into conversation with themes from the first volume of Nancy’s Deconstruction of Christianity, concluding that the current understandings of literary blasphemy are inadequate to deal with much recent literature if we fail to take into account texts that do not necessarily blaspheme in a traditional sense but that nevertheless disrupt blasphemy’s conditions of possibility.
‘Beyond Interpretation: Jean-Luc Nancy’s Reading of Martin Heidegger and the Space Left Free’
Jonathan Wren (University College Dublin)
This paper focuses on two questions: firstly, in his early career how does Jean-Luc Nancy read Martin Heidegger? And secondly, how might these encounters illuminate the distinctive way that Nancy more generally reads other thinkers and the history of ideas? Whilst these two interrelated enquiries fall well short of setting out the full relationship that Nancy shares with Heidegger, they highlight fundamental divergences, gesturing to the ways that they each read and interpret the philosophical tradition on the most basic level. I argue that by analysing Nancy’s claims in The Experience of Freedom (1988) through the lens of his text Partage des Voix (1982) we can understand better what he refers to as ‘the space left free by Heidegger’. In his earlier essay, Nancy outlines a distinctive shift from an exposition of how we anticipate meaning to the shared interpretive structure of meaning itself. It is this seemingly subtle movement (which Nancy refers to most simply as from hermeneutics to hermeneuein) which provides the very basis for him to excavate the free space left by Heidegger. In his readings, Nancy’s seeks to demonstrate how his movement from hermeneutics to hermeneuein comprehends this encounter. He achieves this by emphasising how meaning is shared — by generously reading Heidegger’s work, and by highlighting the aspects of his thinking that require its sharing. These readings denote two main encounters with Heidegger’s work, firstly, his exposition of the hermeneutic circle in understanding given in Being and Time and secondly, a later text titled A Dialogue with a Japanese Inquirer. In each case Nancy explores the ways in which Heidegger’s accounts remain ‘prisoner to the hermeneutics which it challenges.’ Nancy claims that Heidegger’s attempts to escape a form metaphysics that supposes a single unifying Idea, lead to him conclude that there is ‘a primordial circle of meaning’ in our understanding. Furthermore, Nancy claims that in ending here Heidegger contradicts himself by proposing the image of a circle to express our existence, something which he himself acknowledges is problematic. Nancy takes his cue at this point, by retracing hermeneutics back to ancient Greece, interpreting Plato to explore how meaning is not just circular in structure but shared and announced with-others. He acknowledges how ‘Heidegger pushes […] to the limit of the circle’ and proposes that following the Heideggerian disruption of the tradition, only ‘a certain reading’ is required which ‘takes into account the excess of philosophical interpretation to which the hermeneia is invited as “announcement.”’ It because Nancy considers meaning’s shared interpretive structure that he locates the space left free by Heidegger, acknowledging that without his predecessor’s formulation of the hermeneutic circle, this free-space would remain concealed. This early intimate encounter does not close questions about Nancy and Heidegger’s relationship but helps to contextualise some of the claims Nancy makes in The Experience of Freedom. As this latter text presents a work much bigger in scope, it also aids us in understanding Nancy’s distinctive approach to reading the history of thought more generally.
‘The Other Reason: Jean-Luc Nancy on Sublimation’
Philippe Haensler (University of Zürich)
On May 6, 2001, the one-hundred-year anniversary of Jacques Lacan’s birthday, Nancy delivers a talk at the École lacanienne de psychanalyse entitled “L’‘il y a’ du rapport sexuel”—a take on Lacan’s famous formula “il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel”, first presented in the “Séminaire” XVI. Contrary to what might be one’s initial expectation, Nancy is keen on stressing that “L’‘il y a’ du rapport sexuel” is not a psychoanalytical text, i.e., Lacan’s phrase is not going to be interpreted within or as part of “la structure de la théorie psychanalytique […]. Aussi n’ai-je pas la moindre intention de développer quoi que ce soit de l’intérieur de cette structure”. Even more surprisingly—closely related to, but, of course, far from identical with the first point—, Nancy’s reading of Lacan, by its own admission, uses the latter primarily as a steppingstone to think “differently” rather than to engage in a dialogue “with”: in fact, it is precisely the “résonances qui ne vont pas se former à l’unisson de l’émission lacanienne” which Nancy sets out to explore. Reading these passages side by side with a passing remark on the psychoanalytical notion of “sublimation” later in the essay (“rien ne dit que la structure ou la nature du supposé sublimé ne soit pas toujours en jeu et en acte dans ce qu’on nomme la sublimation”—remark that, echoing the beginning of the book, presents itself as deviating from psychoanalytical tradition only to, in an ironic twist, articulate an account of the phenomenon that is ostentatiously Lacanian), my paper will argue that the (twofold) anti-psychoanalytical self-assessment of “L’‘il y a’ du rapport sexuel” confronts its readers with a meticulously calibrated “Verneinung”; a kind of per- or inverted “treasure map” that, if taken (not so) seriously, directly leads to a multilayered meditation on the (libidinal) origin and reason for/of so called “philosophical” writing. As such, I suggest, “L’‘il y a’ du rapport sexuel” is as much a text on (or, paying tribute to Nancy’s rhetoric, “beyond”) Lacan as it is a commentary on itself (i.e., as commentary), on philosophy as translation: of a desire towards the other (text).