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Dissent! Refracted

Histories, Aesthetics and Cultures of Dissent


Ben Dorfman

This collection of essays addresses the ongoing problem of dissent from a broad range of disciplinary perspectives: political philosophy, intellectual history, literary studies, aesthetics, architectural history and conceptualizations of the political past. Taking a global perspective, the volume examines the history of dissent both inside and outside the West, through events in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries both nearer to our own times as well as more distant, and through a range of styles reflecting how contested and pressing the problem of dissent in fact is. Drawing on a range of authors and international problematics, the contributions discuss the multiple ways in which we refract memories of dissent in cultural, historical and aesthetic context. It also discusses the diverse ideas, images and phenomena we use to do so.
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Ben Dorfman - Intellectuals and Dissent: Dennis Rodman, Memory Refractor


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Ben Dorfman

Intellectuals and Dissent: Dennis Rodman, Memory Refractor

Abstract This piece addresses the strange case of Dennis Rodman in North Korea—a case bending and blending memories of Cold War ideologies and conflicts as well as revealing a secret yearning for intellectual figures and ideas we somehow simultaneously eschew. Subtly, we connect the intellectual with dissent; the sharp edges of critique with the sage. That’s at the same time we often say sages are the last thing we want. All of it becomes a strange cocktail when mixed with the wanderings of a wayward basketball star to and from the communist kingdom of North Korea.

Intellectuals have never had an easy time of it. Of course, there’s the angst associated with being one. An intellectual, wrote Albert Camus at a date of which I’m not precisely sure (in Grayling 2004, 84), is “someone whose mind watches itself.” It’s a torturous process, that—the self-doubt, the inner interrogation, the fact-checking, the questioning of one’s what one knows and what one doesn’t, the search for new horizons; on and on, one might say, with angst and self-torture. Some years after Camus’ death, the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1972) argued that knowledge is in fact schizophrenia. Knowledge is a machine constructed of contrasting parts—parts in conflict with themselves. Perhaps they described the intellectual as well. “Smart” men and women may be machines working against their own purposes. At least,...

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