Ethics and Politics of Visibility

Reading Group within the Praxis-CFUL activities

Working language: English

Convener: Tamara Caraus (tcaraus@letras.ulisboa.pt)

 

Argument: Currently, visibility and the fact of being visible acquire an unprecedented importance: ‘views’ on social media are becoming a source of self-esteem and self-respect for the users, the increasing number of ‘views’ acquires economic value, and the notions such as ‘economy of attention’ are being advanced to capture the new reality of economics. Apart from social media, the proliferation of reality shows display a need to be seen of ‘ordinary’ persons, as though striving to have the ‘15 minutes of fame’ (anticipated by Andy Warhol). Concomitantly, the main political stake of political actions now is to make the injustice visible. In the logic of protest movements and ‘occupations’, if we are to register and respond rightly to conditions of suffering and injustice, these conditions must be visible. The different needs of being visible generate some puzzling questions concerning ethics and politics of visibility: Is the fact of being visible a kind of ontological guarantee of person’s being?  If we inhabit a world in which visibility is shaped by structures of domination, and in which individuals’ capacities for ethical perception and judgment are often substantially compromised by the existent power, do those who are less visible have less ‘being’? Is the contemporary situation a tragicomic reversal of the Benthamic-Orwellian notion of the panopticon society in which we are (potentially) observed all the time and have no place to hide from the omnipresent gaze of the Power, since today anxiety arises from the prospect of not being seen?  Can the maxim ‘I think, therefore I am’ be replaced by “I am looked at, therefore I am?’, etc. In order to answer these questions, the proposed Reading Group aims to go back to the authors who (attempted to) identify Being with appearing (Heidegger and Arendt), examined the ‘dialectics’ of visible and invisible (Merleau-Ponty), described the need for the Other’s gaze serving as the guarantee of the subject’s being (Lacan), defined politics as re-distribution of the sensible and the visible (Ranciere) and offered a critique of the ‘pornographic age’ (Badiou).

 

 

Meetings& Readings:

Session I – 27 February 2020: Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, Yale University Press (translation by Gregory Fried and Richard Polt), Chapter 4, pp. 98 – 210.

Session II –  15 October 2020: Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind, Harcourt, New York and London, 1978 (volume 1 and 2 combined), Vol. 1 Chapter I “Appearances” and Chapter II “Mental Activities in a World of Appearances”, pp. 19-129.

Session III – 29 October 2020:  Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible (Edited by Claude Lefort, translated By Alphonso L. Ngis) Northwestern University Press, 1968; Michel Henry, Seeing The Invisible.(Translated by Scott Davidson), Continuum 2009, p. 5-12.

Session IV – 12 November 2020: Jacques Lacan, “Of The Gaze As Objet Petit a” In The Seminars of Jacques Lacan, Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (edited by Jacques-Alain Miller, translated by Alan Sheridan) Norton, 1981, pp. 67 – 123.

Session V – 26 November 2020: Jacques Ranciere, Disagreement (translation by Julie Rose), University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

Session VI – 10 December 2020: Alain Badiou, The Pornographic Age (translated by A. J. Bartlett, J. Clemens) Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.

Session VII:  14 January 2021: Round-Up meeting: Is an Ethics and Politics of Visibility Possible?  Visibility versus Recognition?

 

Some other readings of these and other authors may be added, according to the development of the theme from the suggested titles.