Another Politics, Another Subject

Over the next month I’ll be working on a paper for a conference at the University of Aberystwyth: Another Politics, Another Subject (you can find details here). The conference runs from 20th to 22nd April.

The paper is initially titled ‘Between-us in the city: materiality and the singular political ecologies of contemporary urban subjectivity‘. I’ll be trying to work out some of the conceptual issues that I perceive arising out of the challenge that global urbanisation poses to the discipline (or subject) of International Relations as well as sketching out the complex ecology of political subjectivity that I describe in the conclusion of my book Urbicide.

Here’s the abstract for the paper:

Between-us in the city: materiality and the singular political ecologies of contemporary urban subjectivity

This paper attempts, through a consideration of the conceptual challenges posed by global urbanisation, a dual investigation of the subject of International Relations. On the one hand the subject of international relations can be conceived as the disciplinary field of enquiry of International Relations scholars. Global urbanisation challenges the classical territorial morphologies that have classically defined the disciplinary subject matter of International Relations. On the other hand the subject of international relations can be conceived as the political entity that is the locus of the forces that comprise ‘international relations’ (broadly construed). Global urbanisation challenges the traditional conception of this subject in terms of citizenship and agency. The city comprises a sophisticated actant in which the material plays a constitutive role in subjectivity. Subjectivity can thus only be conceived as a complex ecology or cyborg entity.

Both of these reconceptualisations of the subject of International relations will be taken to comprise a challenge to the classical morphology that has underpinned conceptions of politics in the discipline. At the territorial level this morphology has rested on the notion of a politics of separable units, while at the level of subjectivity, it has rested on notions of autonomy that are predicated on a separability of the agent from context and community. Such a morphology is perpetuated in critical theories such as those inspired by the Levinasian conception of ethics as first philosophy: where the response on which response-ability is predicated is constituted through a recognition and relation that traverses the gap between self and other (a gap that is a necessary condition of the alterity central to this first philosophy). In contrast to these political morphologies I will outline, via Jean-Luc Nancy’s account of the reticulated multiplicity of being singular plural a complex ecology of political subjectivity. Whilst I do not think such a political subjectivity is the ground for ‘another politics’ (after all, this would imply some sort of separation from previous politics) it could be said to comprise the basis for a re-imagining of what it means to ‘be political’.

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