The Fall of the Political Subject into the Ambivalent Arms of Law, or why guilt is not enough!
Dr Juliet Rogers, University of Melbourne.
There is an excitement about falling that betrays itself in images and experiences of the flesh, from Richard Drew’s capture of the Falling Man during September 11, 2001, to climate change activists’ depictions of the psychosis of not believeing we will hit the ground, and the suspended nature of the work of William Kentridge. Art and falling go hand in hand, and I suggest, that so too does politics. We can see the current politics of the liberal democratic, in which sovereign aggression is excused by sovereign care. Where law both pushes the subject into the abyss in the interests of its protection, and where flesh is cut, tortured and even killed as a mode of justice. A contemporary democratic politics that embodies such paradox offers a thin space between the air and the ground, and demands the fantasy of endless capture, for some, and the foreclosure on the possibility that flesh may fall and not be caught.
In this paper I will consider how we view the fall, literally, how the affect of watching, and imagining that we may not be caught binds us in a political relation that may produce a difficulty in the imagining of political dissent. I take on some Agembenian themes in this work, but pursue the question of how we manage a political relationship through psychoanalysis, using particularly Jacques Lacan’s account of the passage a l’act.
Dr Juliet Rogers is Faculty Member at the School of Political Sciences, Criminology at the University of Melbourne, and currently an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow undertaking a psychoanalytic examination of the ‘Quality of Remorse’ after periods of political and military conflict. She was formerly a community worker and then a psychotherapist. She turned from this life to work in academia and she has recently been a Visiting Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence, at Yale Law School, Connecticut and at the University of Cape Town Law School, South Africa. Her work is always a melding between psychoanalysis and law, that is, it is always a concern with the limit. She recently published Law’s Cut on the Body of Human Rights: Female Circumcision, Torture and Sacred Flesh which will be out in July with Routledge, and she is currently working on a monograph on Remorse.
Juliet will be joined by Nicholas Croggon for discussion. Nicholas is co-editor of the contemporary art journal Discipline, and of the online art history journal emaj. In his spare time, he works full time as a solicitor at the Environment Defenders Office, a community legal centre that specialises in public interest environment law.