nikki moore

Posts Tagged ‘jean-luc nancy’

un.content.ed forms

In Love, resurrection, Subjection on April 21, 2009 at 5:00 pm


it may be an antiquated binary, form vs content.  and while it isn’t quite fair to collude it with the mind/body distinction, it is fair to say that martin heidegger went after both in Being and Time.  dasein, being-in-the-world, the read-to-hand: you know where this is going.  as did nancy after him.  for both of these theorists form is content is form.  in nancy there is skin, there is surface and this is the very content in question as well.  ronell complicates this in crack wars posing bodies of addiction: to literature, to mind, to love… where psychoanalysis meets heidegger meets reagan era politics (not so far behind our new obsession with the mexican border) things get more complicated.

as they should be…?


form vs. content: as zizek often says, ‘i have not lost my thread.’

so zizek’s thread.  we could call it badiou’s, we could call it st. paul’s.  but what we cannot call it is revolutionary.  that’s any easy put down, but a put down is not what i have in mind.  i’m all for derrida, and now recently zizek’s call toward the impossible possibility.  what i can’t stand behind (yet..?) is the move zizek, badiou and others are making toward a formal christianity, a mode of belief in the form, not the content, of a particular religious belief.  again, this is not because i’m for the content.  it is in fact that i am for change, i am for a way of shifting out of where we are and i’m just not sure that formalism is going to be enough to drive the needed change.


the puppet and the dwarf, published in 2003.  slavoj zizek.

st. paul: the foundations of universalism, published in 2003.  alain badiou. 

the political theology of paul, published in 2003.  from lectures given in 1987.  jacob taubes.

a jewish theologian, a lacanian psychoanalyst and a post-marxist mathematician all walk into a bar…


as fast as zizek thinks, it is still probably fair to say that the puppet and the dwarf was conceived at least a year before its publication.  that puts this response (hear: responsibility in all the best ways) somewhere in 2001 and 2002. while many other significant things happened in the world in 2001, 2 actions continue to eclipse the rest of life: the 9/11 attacks and america’s invasion of iraq. in 2002 Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen ran for president of France.  the US created the iraq WMD threat, declared war on iraq, and, finally, froze Bin Laden’s assets.   and this is just what bubbled up to the surface.  suicide bombers went to work.  the US military complex continued to go to work.  and billboards all over the rural south continued to call people to prayer – not for peace, but for justice against the ‘evil doers’ of the world.  

nothing like the death of innocents, particularly the death of foreign muslims, to get us thinking about Christianity.


form vs. content

was it capitalism or otherwise that reared its head before and after 9-11?  what did Zizek and Badiou, among others, see in the world in 2001 and 2002 that brought them to st. paul?  ideology, certainly.  a form that was unaware of its content.  clearly.  but also a content fully in control of manipulating forms: Cheney, Rumsfeld… but then again, maybe not.  as Badiou continues to charge, capitalism is worldless, and you should hear all the echoes of Heidegger here as it is not that capitalism is otherworldly, or that it destroys cultures, but that it destroys the worlding of worlds, the environment of Dasein and mit-Dasein.  it is form without content. force without content.ment.


this is where things get strange.  within the inescapable confines of the worldless world of capitalism, Zizek and Badiou, post-marxists at least, continued to look for a way not out, but on-the-outs with capitalism.  did they need a leader?  did they need a lamp post?  what was the appeal of a jewish pharisee turned christian apostle?  

paul’s own path opens up some possibilites for thinking zizek’s appropriations: saul was  pharisee, a man of the law and the letter, a leader in stonings and persecutions of those who crossed the line.  he has a vision, a transformation ensues and saul becomes saul becomes the leader of the church of the excluded, the mouthpiece of universality  ‘there is neither  jew nor greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female…’

perfect.  in the shadow of a ‘you are for us or you are against us…’ wrapped up in market ideology and religious belief, the post-marxists find one from the inside, paul of tarsus, who is ready to wield both the sword and the pen for the cause.  the only problem is, well, of course… the cause.

i said this would get strange: during a time when religious rhetoric and christian collusions are at their peak, Zizek gets on board.  but he gets on board with a hollowed out version of christianity, one that is purely formal, one that sees a revolutionary dedicated to a cause, living and dying for that very cause… not that he agrees with that cause.  no, he just agrees with the move.  the man overturning the money changer’s tables – yes, ok, in the temple, but it could be, for zizek, anywhere.  the man who says you must hate your mother, ‘if anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple…’ – yes, ok, for the love of God, but what is god but a universal, universality = equality… and there you  have it socialism revived as soon as we thrown out the content of both the forms that are paul and jesus.

of course, it isn’t that simple.  and zizek is well aware of the complexity: this is why we love him.

but what do we do with a form without content?  holding this up to revolutions past it is hard to see the french revolution as a move toward formal equality, and not the content thereof.  it is hard to see the american revolution as a driven by a form, but not belief.  even as i write this i am disturbed and displaced the distinction between form and content – so archaic in fact, but even if we withdraw from this divide, if we take up Nancy and Heidegger’s positions, we are even further away from the formal embraces of Zizek and Badiou’s work.


so what next?  as Susan Buck-Morss, Zizek and Badiou move toward the form of religious belief, even a specifically christian religious belief, consider this a sounding from somewhere close by, if not within.  in support, not detraction, but in earnest support – perhaps a tough love toward the above group’s dis.content.ment.  

yes, perhaps.



In Subjection on March 1, 2009 at 2:50 pm


something about death is at issue in this shift.

the history of subjectivity, or the compilation of works on subjectivity lay bare the hegelian fantasy that I becomes an I only in the encounter with death.  pealing back from this encounter, I, or the slave, becomes aware of the value of life and enters into voluntary subjection as the price to be paid for continuing to live.  of course there has been work before and after hegel, on this ‘subject’ but even religious texts posit the true I as a consequence of death and/or sacrifice.

yet what about we?

for heidegger, das man is precisely the step before the encounter with death.  literally, ‘we’ are not dead yet.

for blanchot, I is spoken in death, as death, and community finds itself only in death.  

for derrida, we is impossible.  even the kantian we without god is still a we without we.

for nancy, we is all there is, yet he stands with blanchot in the community toward death as well.


is heidegger the only way out of this?  if the I can only be spoken after the tango with death, am I philosophically drawn to we, to ‘the they’ because that morbid romanticism isn’t necessary in the originary ‘being-with’…?


In philosophy as biography, Subjection on January 15, 2009 at 8:57 pm

what if we are on the verge of reinventing auto-bio-graphy.

not even re-inventing, but venting, airing, exposing.

i’ve been reading corpus, by jean-luc nancy…

i’ve been reading. corpus.

bodies . corps . concentrations . mass . bodies .

there is so much to say that i can hardly speak for myself.  quoting, then:

“freud’s most fascinating and perhaps (i say this without exaggerating) most decisive statement is in this posthumous note: psyche is ausgedehnt: weiss nichts davan.  “the psyche’s extended: knows nothing about it.”  -p 21

“it’s even more surprising, then, that a certain psychoanalytic discourse would seem to insist, while denying its object, on making the body “signify,” rather than flushing out significtion as something that always screens off the spacing of bodies.  this kind of analysis ‘ectopizes’ (or ‘utopizes’) the body beyond-place: it volitalizes it, indexing it to the incoporeality of sense.  hence, it would seem, hysteria is instituted as exemplary: a body saturated with signification.  and hence no more body… i would prefer to take hysteria as the body’s becoming totally parasitical upon the incorporeality of sense, to the point that it silences incorporeality, thereby showing, in its stead, a piece, a zone, of a-significance.  (because ultimately we would have to know whether the hysteric is engaging mainly in translation and interpretation or in something contrary and much deeper, namely, a resolute blockage of the transmission of sense.  discourse incarnate, or a blocking body: who doesn’t see that there is no hysteria without a blocking body?)  -p 23

“all bodies are part of this breakthrough, of this departure of bodies in all bodies; which is why material freedom – matter as freedom – is not a freedom of gesture, still less of voluntary action, without also being the freedom of two shades of mica, of millions of dissimilar shelss, and of the indefinite extension of the principium individuationis, such that individuals in themselves never stop being in-dividuated, differing ever more from themselves, hence being ever more alike, interchangable with themselves but never reduced to substances, unless the substance, prior to sustaining something (self or other), comes to be exposed here: in the world.”  -p 35

“completely astonished, Kazik discovered that he was condemned to a life of dragging his left foot slightly, that one of his eyes made out forms and colors with great difficulty… he learned that when someone says ‘that’s my fate,’ in fact he usually thinks of the pile of flesh he’s hauling around.  Aharon Markus, the pharmacist, volunteered that mankind, having existed on this earth for millions of years, was perhaps the only creature alive still imperfectly adapted to his body, of which he was so often ashamed.  and, as the pharmacist remarked on occasion, man might be said to naively await the next stage of evolution, when he and his body would be separated into two different creatures… it has to be noted that Neigel didn’t understand much of what was being said about a man’s relationship to his body: to be admitted into the SS, a candidate had to have perfect health; the filling of a single tooth was enough to disqualify the candidate.” 1) David Grossman, Voir ci-dessous: Amour, tranlated from the Hebrew by Judith Misrahi and Ami Barak, (Paris: Seuil, 1991). -p 51

“there’s nothing here to discourse about or communicate but bodies, bodies and bodies.”  -p 57

  “the very idea of ‘creation’ is the idea, or thought, of an originary absence of Idea, form, model, or preliminary tracing.  And if the body is par excellence the thing created, if ‘created body’ is a tautology – or, rather, ‘created bodies,’ for the body is always in the plural – then the body is the plastic material of spacing, without form or Idea.  It’s the very plasticity of expansion, extension, where existences take place.  The image (that it thus is) has no link to either the idea or, in general, to the visible (and/or intelligible) ‘presentation’ of anything at all, the body’s not the image-of.  But it’s the coming to presence, like an image coming on a movie or a TV screen – coming from nowhere behind the screen, being the spacing of this screen, existing as its extension – exposing, laying down this areality, not as an idea given to my own vision as a punctual subject (and still less as a mystery) but right at my eyes (my body) as their areality, themselves coming into this coming, spaced, spacing, themselves a screen – less ‘vision’ than video.” – p 63-65

i’m skipping, omitting, changing the form of the body.  but it’s a start and for here and now that is enough.

cavorting with johns

In Subjection on January 11, 2009 at 10:48 pm

i didn’t read him for years, mainly because, ostensibly and albeit contestedly, foucault couldn’t stand him.

you could say i am a devoted friends.  or… here, at the end of nausea, you  might instead call me a betrayer.  but i’m not the point.
“in the first place, starting from 1801, I understand nothing more about his conduct.  it is not the lack of documents: letters, fragments of memoirs, secret reports, police records.  on the contrary i have almost too many of them.  what is lacking in all this testimony is firmness and consistency.  they do not contradict each other, neither do they agree with each other; they do not seem to be about the same person.  and yet other historians work from the same sources of information.  how do they do it?  am i more scrupulous or less intelligent?  in any case, the question leaves me completely cold.  in truth, what am i looking for?  i don’t know…”

“…I am beginning to believe that nothing can ever be proved.  these are honest hypotheses which take the facts into account: but i sense so definitely that they come from me, and that they are simply a way of unifying my own knowledge.  not a glimmer comes from Rollebon’s side.  slow, lazy, sulky, the facts adapt themselves to the rigour of the order i wish to give them; but it remains outside of them.  i have the feeling of doing a work of pure imagination.”          Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre.  p 13

*i think the idea is that there are no ideas.  there is stuff.  there can be emotions.  is that what Jean-Luc is saying (and what is with the hyphenated johns)…

“singular essences are mobile, volatile, and always different than themselves and defer their essential nature – however they never cease to promise sameness.  it is the latter property which is endowed with the spark of an idea: this stone, that fern and this woman.”     “Strange Foreign Bodies”, for Lacanian Ink #32, p 129

but this brings me back to foucault.  does it bring sartre as well? if the body is the cage/seat/site of the soul (foucault) and the body is strangeness, with the promise of sameness… it is just body but body not flesh and blood and guts but body as body, full body.

“my hands touch each other, and my body recognizes itself as coming toward itself from an outside that the body is itself.  the body takes in the outside world.  this chiasm of the flesh is very well described by the most perceptive phenomenologist of the body – and this chiasm which makes us sensitive to how we are women to the world… “inside” is to be und between outside and outside, and this in-between – the in-between of its hide-out, of its cave and its myths and ghosts – is in the end nothing but another out.”

“the body does not contain anything… the body exposes itself to the depths of its guts, between the fibers of its muscles and along its vessels.  it exposes the inside to the outside and always escapes further, deeper into the abyss that it is.  however this is the truth of the world: it comes out of nothing, it is created, which means that is is unproduced, unformed, and not constructed.  it is an alteration and a spasm of nihil.  the world is an explosion and an expansion of an exposure (which can be called ‘truth’ or ‘meaning’).  the chiasm of the body and of the world exposes exposure to itself – and with it, the impossibility to finally bring the world to the spirit, and bring meaning to significance.”

“the body is strangeness which is not preceded by familiarity.”     again, Nancy, “Strange Foreign Bodies” pp 125-126

and so there are just objects.  extremely complex, but then again that complexity belies connectivity, which insinuates meaning and means all the wrong thing…

there is more to think about. here.


In Subjection on November 2, 2008 at 12:19 am

once again.  jean-luc nancy

and philippe lacoue-labarthe

the title of the letter: a reading of lacan

tracing in the old-school sense, the sort that really needed tracing paper and a perfectly dulled pencil or a steady pen.  is it the text that traces, or the authors? isn’t the issue insistently at hand that regardless of which who traces, there is no underlayer, no subtext to be traced… or perhaps there is a subtext, a figure, a man’s discourse even, but it isn’t lacan himself.  there can be no corresondence.  between the tracing pencil and the (what? what lies beneath there is something instead that acts as carbon paper. an inversion, (diversion is the opperative) and the trace becomes the line to follow, the line that marks, just and only that which is the re-mark.

so much between these sheets.

Nancy & Lacoue-Labarthe, running their fingers over Lacan, (like braille?) but not the whole of him.  just the hole of him in fact…

Following Lacan’s work in “The Agency of the Letter”, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe perform a close reading of that article in the first chapters of The Title of the Letter.  One movement of the text writes as follows:

In order to ground psychoanalysis as something other than one of the many sciences, and against depth psychology (theories of the unconscious prevailing) Jacques Lacan entered university discourse, philosophical discourse, by re-positioning psychoanalysis somewhere in the halls between classrooms, rather than solely in the halls of the hospital or clinic.  But somewhere is too vague: directly outside the door of linguistics, and right around the corner from anthropology would be more precise. So just inside the faculty mailboxes of Saussure and Strauss, Lacan did a bit of sorting.  Between inter-campus mailings and university paystubs, Lacan ends up –  upturning Saussure’s algorithm of signification.  Coming out on top, Lacan’s S over s (Signifier over the signified) is the well known inversion.  For Lacan, the fractional (fractured…) algorithm that I can’t produce on this keyboard illustrated the Signifiers inability to cross the fractional line, its barring in fact, from and to the signified loosened the strings and cut the ties for any subject from the Cartesian ego.


to be continued…