Winter readings

Winter readings

e-flux Notes

Krater Collective, Feral Occupations, 2023. Photo: Amadeja Smrekar.

January 24, 2024
Winter readings

In “Peace to the World,” Oxana Timofeeva reconsiders Kant’s 1795 essay “Toward Perpetual Peace” in our turbulent and unpeaceful times. Analyzing the reasons for the failure of Kant’s vision, she argues that peace can appear in unexpected places and ways: “Refugees are the new cosmopolitans: what they bring to the world is peace, which they have reclaimed from war.” Zdenka Badovinac, in “Peace as a Space for the Third,” reflects on the iconography of peace and the manipulation and ideological appropriation of peace symbols. “No symbol of peace has power in itself; it is an empty signifier that can be filled with contradictory content and ideologies. Peace is not a state of being. It is a process, made possible by voids in the social fabric where wild thought or wild nature can grow.”

We commemorate the passing last year of artist and researcher Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, whose passionate work on the legacies of colonialism in postindependence Africa and whose devotion to artistic education are celebrated in a tribute written by members of Another Roadmap Africa Cluster, members of the young people’s group Oi! that Emma worked with in Bergen, and Bodil Furu, Claudia del Fierro, and Alessandra Ferrini.

Pietro Bianchi reviews Yorgos Lanthimos’s new film Poor Things, ironically seeing in the updated Frankenstein story not a tale of female empowerment and polymorphous pleasure but of the desire for filiation: the Oedipal family is perhaps not so easy to be done with. Charles Mudede writes about Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, excavating the story of Black Hanford and the role of Black workers in the production of plutonium at the eastern Washington nuclear site. And Christoph Menke takes us back to the series Breaking Bad, in an essay about how to understand the activity of liberation and its central paradox, the subject of his 2022 book Theorie der Befreiung (Theory of Freedom).

In a powerful and sobering essay, Nathan Brown asserts that we live in a historical moment of “absolute alienation,” which entails the “irrelevance of theoretical critique to the outcome of modernity.” Unfolding the notion of separation in Marx and Debord, criticizing the Hallmark sentimentalism of climate theorist Dipesh Chakrabarty, and engaging with contemporary Marxist authors Andreas Malm, Kohei Saito, and Théorie Communiste, Brown argues that the moment to avert the climate catastrophe was missed in the defeated struggle to internationalize the October Revolution: capitalist modernity is defined by the failure of rational collective determination. Jason E. Smith reviews Dominique Routhier’s book With and Against: The Situationist International in the Age of Automation (2023), calling it “the best book in English to date on the situationist movement,” and praising its analysis of “the situationist movement’s ‘self-contradictory’ positions on automation and cybernetics.” And Boris Groys argues that not action and vitalist desiring machines but the contemplative attitude, vita contemplativa, represents a dangerous tradition suppressed by modernity and reactivated by avant-garde artists and thinkers: an ascetic “metaeconomic desire” striving for freedom from economic slavery and exploitation.

The groundbreaking Italian Marxist political philosopher and activist Antonio Negri passed away on December 16, at the age of ninety. We reprinted a wide-ranging interview with Negri conducted by Hans Ulrich Obrist, first published in e-flux journal. In “Our Anomaly: On Antonio Negri,” Jason Read describes the different ways Negri himself was a “savage anomaly” (the title of his book on Spinoza and politics) in the intellectual landscape, his thought involving “the constant transformation of metaphysics into history and politics, and ontology into political economy.” “This is the last sense of Negri’s anomaly: the optimism of the intellect against the general pessimism of the world.”

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January 24, 2024

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