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Between History and Aesthetics: Jacques Ranciere's Political Philosophy

26 November 2014

Time: 12:30 - 2:00pm
Venue: France House Ground Floor Room, Mild End Campus

The French philosopher Jacques Rancière (1940 - ) has acquired a growing Anglophone readership over the past decade due mainly to his innovative writings on aesthetic modernism and art more generally. One consequence of this reception has been the belated recognition of a variegated body of work that stretches back to the 1960s, when Rancière contributed to, and then violently broke with, the ‘structuralist’ reading of Marx offered in France at that time. Through the 1970s and 80s, Rancière produced a series of heterodox works of history; his contributions to aesthetics date from the early 2000s. The 1990s saw Rancière’s explicit formulation of the philosophy informing his work and its relationship to politics. Structured around the idea of equality as an axiom to be verified rather than a consequence to be obtained, Rancière’s political philosophy forms a theoretical fulcrum linking his early work on history to his later work on aesthetics. Rancière is a notoriously anti-systematic thinker, yet I will suggest that his output belies a systematic coherence to his efforts, one grounded in his refusal of all attempts to provide an ontological account of political community. This talk will focus on Rancière’s writings in political philosophy from the 1990s and the challenging idea that politics is not a deliberative domain, but a rare occurrence – one in which heretofore inaudible speech gets heard and previously invisible agents become discerned.

Knox Peden is an ARC DECRA Research Fellow in the School of Philosophy at the Australian National University. He is the author of Spinoza Contra Phenomenology: French Rationalism from Cavaillès to Deleuze (Stanford, 2014) and the co-editor, with Peter Hallward, of a two-volume work devoted to the Cahiers pour l’Analyse. His writings have also appeared in Modern Intellectual History, History & Theory, Radical Philosophy, and History of European Ideas.

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