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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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Kalle Pihlainen - Jean-Paul Sartre and the Post-1968 Ethic of Anti-Representationalism


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Kalle Pihlainen

Jean-Paul Sartre and the Post-1968 Ethic of Anti-Representationalism

Abstract In this article, I examine Jean-Paul Sartre’s later thought in relation to the advent of post-structuralism, and, in particular, the avowed refusal of representational practices by its proponents. I argue that this refusal, most persuasively presented as the principle or ethic of anti-representationalism by Todd May, is, in fact, reflected in Sartre’s move from committed writing and active social engagement to manifestly apolitical concerns. Reading Sartre’s later work in light of this principle permits seeing these apparently purely intellectual concerns as part of an effort to come to terms with the ethical problematics of representation.

Around the time of the publication of his autobiography The Words in 1963, Jean-Paul Sartre began to withdraw from his well-known doctrine of committed literature as an effective means to social change and, more broadly, to view intellectual activity as politically irrelevant. His growing disillusionment regarding the effect of his own writing has been seen by many commentators, as well as by his own admission, as having led him temporarily to a more direct (and insistently practical as opposed to “intellectual”) engagement in political activity. My interest here is to examine Sartre’s struggles with the impact and significance of intellectual work—and writing specifically—in light of the advent of post-structuralism and post-structuralist politics. Although the abandonment of the idea of committed literature as a medium joining “man to man” in favour of the opposing...

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