Building Education for the Commons
GCAS – Poetics, Performance, Philosophy Seminar
Dr. Michael Anker, Dr. Lorena B. Fernandez
Welcome address & course introduction – Oct. 5, 2014
For Creston Davis
Welcome to the Poetics, Performance, Philosophy seminar. This is, indeed, a very special occasion—offering us the opportunity to engage in the possibility of a conversation regarding the futures of philosophy, our lives, projects, and friendship(s), a conversation that aspires to a contestation, a radical rethinking, a radical compassion that would call us toward an unconditional surrender.
To a gathering of friends, colleagues, and researchers, a gathering that we should not take for granted, that is, to not take each other for granted, an instance where conversations may linger well beyond the time and space designated for this particular moment, and where in spite of numerous setbacks, difficulties, and reversals, we may celebrate each other’s accomplishments and dream of the “in/possibility”(1) of possibility where, according to Levinas, the (im)possible becomes possible
(2), in a future commons of the “now” which is in the process of endlessly being re-invented. The key being the celebration of each other’s accomplishments, the accomplishments of friends, and strangers, of “those who think differently,” as the Marxist theorist and revolutionary, Rosa Luxemburg, so aptly stated, “Freiheit is immer Freiheit der Andersdenkenden (freedom is always, and exclusively, the freedom for the one who thinks differently),” that is, “of dissenters.”
(3) The Global Center for Advanced Studies, in this sense, marks a radical break in “business as usual,” in how we imagine ourselves, the future and/or future(s), in the plural, of the university, philosophy, art, politics, community, the survival of the planet at large. Perhaps, it offers us a momentary respite, a place, or space, however fleeting or transient it may be, where we may invoke a community of writers and lovers (4), artists, dancers, poets, singers, composers, choreographers, theorists, philosophers, filmmakers, performers, and activists leaning towards a community of strangers who are infinitely in the process of dissolving and undoing, “unworking”(5) themselves.
I have dreamed of such a community since the day I first began teaching in New York, when I was twenty-six years old, many years ago, but I’m afraid that I have only experienced rare glimpses of it and on too rare occasion. I dream of a university and an “art world,” or should I say, a “world of art,” where we need not step all over each other to climb to the top, or stick a knife in each others’ backs to get there, the there, that is, after all, nowhere we would like to be, the everywhere of the Same, in the too familiar story that is “divide and conquer.”
I am dreaming of the possibility of such a community in The Global Center for Advanced Studies, a community that Creston Davis, the Founder and Director of GCAS, has made possible; I am dreaming of Agamben’s “community to come”(6), Nancy’s “the inoperative community”(7), Blanchot’s “the unavowable community”(8), and Derrida’s “university without condition”(9), just as I dream of Nietzsche’s “Übermensch” (overman), Badiou’s “manifesto for philosophy,” the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s “Ten-Point Program”
(10), Ettinger’s “matrixial borderspace”
(11), Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Haraway’s “cyborgs” (12) and Cixous’ “tout-puissance-autre (Omnipotence-other).”(13) I dream of a conversation where we may invoke such visionaries as Malcolm X, Shulamith Firestone, Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Luce Irigaray, Edward Ryon Makuahanai “Eddie” Aikau (14), Wolfgang Schirmacher, Jimi Hendrix, Audre Lorde, Monique Wittig, and the singer-songwriter, Lana del Rey, among numerous others.
That is a conversation wherein we may re-imagine philosophy as an invocation of the unconditional, a desire, the desire of desire, the desire for desire(15) according to Kojeve’s Hegel, and, as the radical feminist philosopher Mary Daly would have it, as “pure lust (16), as an insurrection, a militant, and sensuous act. Philosophy in this sense does not only call forth the promise of pure desire but also calls forth the radical promise of inspiration, a radical form of inspiration.
Philosophy as a literary phenomenon, as fiction, as a chameleon-like configuration may thus lead us to the possibility of infinite reversal(s), a reconsideration of the possibility of philosophy as radical surrender, passivity (passive energy/solar energy), humility, and infidelity (infidelity to the institutions and systems that entrap and enslave us), not only as a “technology of the self,”(17) and/or “face-to face”(18) encounter, that is, to say, not only as a radical movement toward exteriority, the outside, but as a radical movement toward interiority, ourselves, the strangers in ourselves(19); more urgently, as a radical surrender and reversal of “the will to power,” that calls forth, a will to powerless(ness), exposure, vulnerability.(20)
But I’m getting ahead of myself, for today, at this very moment we shall turn our attention to the seduction that is “absolute knowledge”(21), not a contradiction in terms or precisely, in Hegelian terms, we shall celebrate the “force” that is pure contradiction reveling in philosophy’s seduction, the allurement that is philosophy.
In this instance, I will need to return to my first encounter with philosophy during my doctoral studies at the European Graduate School, when I read Hegel for the first time. That is to say when I first read Alexandre Kojève’s Hegel. Or better yet, when I first encountered Faulkner’s Hegel, that is when I first read Hegel through Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” and “The Wild Palms” or any number of Faulkner texts that I had previously fallen in love with in my early twenties when I was living in San Francisco. San Francisco, the “city of the golden west,” the “golden” city of the “west,” as it has been rightly called, and the city of my early university days. It is thus that I read Hegel through the lens of fiction. But this, of course took place two decades later when I was in my forties. I read, ingested, reveled and caressed Hegel’s texts as if they were lovers.
Philosophy in this instance, unknowingly, surprisingly took on the guise of fiction for me, and it follows that Hegel became my lover. As it is, I possess an endless string of lovers in whom I indulge with perfect satisfaction, and Hegel persistently remains at the top of the list. Hegel as a lover has never disappointed me. Every text that I have laid my eyes on reads like an extended love letter, an aphrodisiac, the Phenomenology of Spirit, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, and Science of Logic, you name it, it is like Lana Del Rey’s, “Oh, baby! […] you fit me better than my favorite sweater”(22), quoted in the ballad, “Blue Jeans,” from Del Rey’s studio album, Born to Die (2012). It should not surprise us that, Del Rey studied philosophy at Fordham University, and I dare say that her newest album, Ultraviolence (2014), is comparable to Hegel’s Phenomenology both in its sheer force of imagination and invocation of Spirit. In philosophy, we are habituated to the production of “grand narratives,” “little narratives (petit récit)”(23) (Lyotard), “regimes of truth”(24), or, “games of truth”(25), as Foucault would have it. We may, in this instance, ask the question, “Who is afraid of Hegel”?
This brings to mind a series of paintings by the late American Abstract Expressionist artist, Barnett Newman, aptly titled, “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?”(26) Following Newman’s insistence or stance, there is no reason for us to fear Hegel, for Hegel’s philosophy continues to be one of the profoundest, most revolutionary projects that philosophy has endeavoured. In this sense, Hegel remains aptly, and urgently, contemporary. We should approach Hegel as Andrzej Jachimczyk urges us, as a provocation, a project that needs to be continuously re-invented and re-imagined. It is thus in Reading Hegel After Nietzsche, that Jachimczyk shows us that “Hegel is a philosopher of incessant becoming, openness, expectation, and the future […].” (27)
What We Want Now!
“The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense Ten Point Program,” accessed, October 4, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten-Point_Program.
©2014 by Sigrid Hackenberg