On the Issue of a Political Party

Last weekend I went to a conference at Rice University where a number of very different people–architects, environmentalists, artists from the area–read very short papers on issues having to do with environmental problems on the Gulf Coast.  It was interesting but also frustrating for reasons I cannot completely understand, but that have to do with the fact that the very disparity of the group gave me a sense of impotence.  This links up with an issue that has been vexing me:  whether any amount of thinking the anthropocene might affect the outcome even at a political level.  Those people were smart, good, and were taking the question of the anthropocene to levels they thought they could handle: environmental justice and so forth.  As if a proper policy regarding environmental justice might solve the problem.  But the problem is not justice, not really.  And there is great reluctance to abandon the usual political commitments in favor of something much more urgent, which would be in fact a different kind of political commitment.   But–can thought move people in that direction?  Or are we doomed to spend the next generational time in the usual impasse: half the people in favor of business interests, the other half worried about what those interests are doing, with at best minor policy adjustments that some times satisfy one of those constituencies, some times the other one?  Maybe this is the source of the feeling of impotence.

If we could think of a revolution that might change things.  But can we?  The last historical time we might be in a position to refer to was the time before WWII when a sense of doom was palpable and you could cut it with a knife.   There was a brutality in the air to which people responded by moving toward fascism or toward communism.  We know how that played out.  The stakes are higher today, in my opinion.  But, today, we have no political party anywhere that is making any kind of significant move, hopefully not misguided.  Why is that?  Perhaps it is because the very sense of a not-misguided move is missing.

In 1936 Heidegger went to Rome to give a lecture.  It is hard to know to what an extent in that lecture Heidegger was mimicking submission to the Führer in Fascist Italy, licking Nazi ass, falling for opportunistic reasons into regime rhetoric.  What he brings up, though, transcends the actual political situation, and the question that opens the lecture is the question of a “transformation of historical Dasein.”  May thought transform historical Dasein? That is, may (non-ideological, non-hegemonic) thought, by definition accomplished by singular thinkers, project itself into the social in such a way that it may expect to accomplish a transformation of the social, a transformation that would have to be considered world-historical? Heidegger seems not just to assume so, but in fact to posit it. He says: everything has become questionable. “This questionability, which has not been experienced until now, does not yet necessarily signify barbarism–on the contrary, out of this questionability, those spheres of Dasein’s activity first create an essentiality that draws them out of the previous framework of mere culture-industry.” The result is, then, revolution, based on the accomplishment of “true autochtony (Bodenständigkeit).” And this, apparently, for the sake of “the protection of the European Völker from the Asiatic.” (And who are the Asiatic, by the way? The Soviets?).  That is the beginning of the enframing of the lecture, which ends with another call to the “saving of the West.” He says that such a thing “can only be accomplished by winning back the original relation to beings themselves and by grounding anew all essential actions of the Völker on these relations.”  And, he adds, so that any ambiguity disappears: “This knowing does not conflict with the will. A great will of an individual and of a Volk is only as great as the knowing that guides it is deep and essential.” I will leave aside the significance of ending his Rome lecture with Heraclitus 53, a fragment he leaves out of consideration in the 1943-44 seminars on Heraclitus.

In the seminar on Heraclitus, section 6, from 1944, consistent with the 1936 lecture, Heidegger talks about the “presumptuous mismeasurement” on which the priority of das Seiende over das Sein originates. For him already in 1936 it was a matter of reverting that priority–only a return to the question of being could operate a transformation of historical Dasein.  Heidegger quickly refers that expression, “presumptuous mismeasurement,” to the Greek hybris. Hybris is in 1944 the forgetting of Sein for the sake of das Seiende. But I wonder whether he ever came to realize that the presumption of a “transformation of the historical Dasein” of the Völker in the wake of a philosophical awakening offered by the thinker is in itself even more hybristic. Particularly when it is presented as the battle that sums up “the essence of all Beyng:” the battle “in which essentiality stands against essentiality and non-essentiality.” That is a weird formulation, but it must remind us of the difference between essential and conventional thinkers that figures so prominently in the previous seminar on Heraclitus from 1943. The battle of the thinkers: can it be directly transposed to the political? Was Heidegger the only figure in the tradition that has claimed such a thing? 

Well, Marx certainly also did it.  And it may well be the case that a political party might give us the only possibility of moving forward in that direction.  But the political party is non-existent today. 

Comentario a Robert Irwin ed., Migrant Feelings, Migrant Knowledge (U of Texas P, 2022). Para la presentación del libro en Universidad Iberoamericana, México, abril 2023.

Lo primero es felicitar a Robert y a su equipo de colaboradoras y colaboradores por haber dedicado tanto tiempo y esfuerzo tanto a la creación de su archivo de narraciones digitales como al libro.  El proyecto es altamente útil e importante y desde luego tiene una función política de primer orden.  Reconozco el enorme esfuerzo y el cuidado que fue necesario para llevar esto a buen puerto, y son cosas por las que debemos estar muy agradecidos a Robert y a su equipo.  Entendemos también las dificultades que todo ello ha presentado y la generosidad e incluso la valentía que fueron esenciales para superarlas.  Para mí, como coeditor de la serie de University of Texas Press en la que el libro aparece, fue un honor y un privilegio haber apoyado la publicación.  El libro presenta el archivo, pero lo hace selectivamente de forma orientada a manifestar y enfatizar su fuerza política.   

Me gustaría indicar ahora dos puntos en los que quizá podemos insistir en la discusión, pero quiero hacerlo de forma tangencial, solo pasar por ellos, para luego enfocarme en lo que realmente me interesa más.  Esos dos puntos son, el primero, la insistencia en la noción de comunidad, que me parece un tanto contraintuitiva en la medida precisa en que las historias de deportados que nos cuentan son más bien historias de aquellos que no tienen comunidad, que han perdido su comunidad.  Los deportados constituyen en el mejor de los casos una comunidad de los que no tienen comunidad–y la herida infligida en ellos es precisamente la herida de la pérdida de comunidad. 

El segundo punto tiene que ver con la insistencia en el llamado “conocimiento migrante.”  Yo hubiera preferido mayores referencias a la noción de experiencia.  No estoy seguro de que la experiencia cree conocimiento cuando la experiencia es de naturaleza traumática.  El trauma no aporta conocimiento, o lo hace muy rara vez.  Por el contrario, como nos enseña la literatura crítica sobre estas cuestiones, el evento traumático des-aprende, crea un shock epistémico.  Así que la noción de conocimiento migrante para mí permanece enigmática y solo puede ser entendida de forma tropológica o metafórica.   Como en el caso de la referencia comunitaria, el conocimiento migrante es en realidad el conocimiento de la pérdida de conocimiento, la adquisición de un des-conocer traumático.  En fin, esas son dos cuestiones que me gustaría que discutiéramos.

He enseñado el libro en mi seminario de este semestre sobre mexicanos en Estados Unidos.  La idea detrás del seminario era postular que la experiencia mexicana en Estados Unidos tiene como eje de referencia central la experiencia migrante.  Así como la experiencia afroamericana no puede no pensar en la esclavitud y sus secuelas, aunque obviamente los afroamericanos no han sido esclavos en los últimos ciento cincuenta años, la experiencia mexicana no puede no pensar en las repercusiones de la experiencia migratoria, del cruce de la frontera, en tantos casos de forma no sancionada y últimamente perseguida por la ley.  Aunque es obvio que no todos los mexicanos en Estados Unidos son migrantes o descendientes de migrantes, y tambien es obvio que no todos los migrantes, o sus progenitores, cruzaron la frontera sin sanción legal, hay una especie de metonimia social en juego desde la revolución texana que asimila lo mexicano en Estados Unidos al estatuto del migrante subalterno recibido con fuerte ambivalencia social, y en ciertos periodos históricos con hostilidad clara.  Irwin y su equipo se concentran en la historia de los últimos veinticinco años, que en general conforman uno de esos períodos hostiles, pero no dejan de insistir en otros momentos históricos de deportación generalizada, después de la crisis de 1929, por ejemplo, también en cierto momento del período de la Guerra Fría. 

Por eso este libro que comentamos, y el archivo que lo sustenta, son esenciales para esta historia.  Los deportados son algo así como el grado cero de la experiencia mexicana en USA, un caso límite, pero en cuanto caso límite también el lugar de una verdad histórica determinante y central.  Podríamos decir, con cierta exageración simbólica, que el deportado, la deportada, cifra el secreto de la experiencia mexicana en USA–lo cual implica, entre otras cosas, que todo mexicano en USA tiene que establecer una relación con la deportación como principio amenazante, como condición de vida.  Esa relación es clave para su subalternización efectiva, siempre presente en el trasfondo.  Lo que el libro llama “new migrant ontologies” podría ser desplazado, si insistiéramos en ese vocabulario, a la noción de ontología migrante como condición permanente de la existencia mexicana en USA a lo largo de los últimos dos siglos.  Por eso este libro tiene, además de sus virtudes intrínsecas, también una función simbólica más amplia y general. 

Tengo poco tiempo y por lo tanto me gustaría usarlo para decir ciertas cosas en referencia a esa función simbólica más amplia y general de forma inevitablemente abrupta pero espero que clara.   El libro se instala, para empezar, en el corazón de una crisis de la democracia norteamericana cuyos efectos durarán indefinidamente.  La crisis tiene que ver con el fin de las ideologías de integración social que han sido funcionales al neoliberalismo norteamericano desde los años 80 del siglo pasado.  El multiculturalismo caduca en el reconocimiento del hecho de que la democracia norteamericana funciona a partir de una exclusión constitutiva de sectores minoritarios de los espacios hegemónicos.  Una sociedad en crisis por la exacerbación de sus contradicciones internas no puede ya sostenerse en viejos paradigmas de inclusión social de minorías en la distribución dominante de riqueza económica y de poder simbólico y político.  En otras palabras, asistimos a un agotamiento histórico de las ideologías basadas en demandas de reconocimiento.  Sabemos hoy que un racismo estructural endémico, dependiente desde luego del imperialismo europeo, no se resolverá en integración multicultural.  Asistimos en otras palabras al agotamiento terminal de lo que en los últimos cincuenta años hemos venido llamando políticas identitarias, todas ellas basadas en la demanda de reconocimiento e inclusión que, en cuanto demandas, se producían en cada caso desde una posición de exterioridad con respecto de la articulación hegemónica dominante.  Todas esas demandas buscaban una modificación de la hegemonía en un sentido inclusivo.  Pero hoy entendemos que las luchas contra la hegemonía social constituida, autodenominadas luchas contrahegemónicas, han sido siempre en cierto modo ilusorias desde el punto de vista de una democratización real del espacio social. 

Se hace por lo tanto necesario entender la praxis democrática de otra manera.  Una visión alternativa del proceso democratizante no buscará ya la integración a la hegemonía dominante, entendiendo por otro lado que ninguna contrahegemonía es directamente accesible.  Conviene apartarse de, por ejemplo, la celebración de particularismos culturales y demandas de tolerancia, reconocimiento e inclusión para pasar a insistir en aspectos de experiencia existencial cotidiana que constituyen formas de vida específicas y minoritarias.  Si llamamos a esto vida infrapolítica, el corolario es que se hace necesario desarrollar formas de praxis política al margen de la demanda de inclusión hegemónica y a favor de una democracia posthegemónica. 

Migrant Feelings, Migrant Knowledge se integra de forma orgánica en ese movimiento.   Desde ese punto de vista me gustaría insistir en la vigencia en el libro de dos categorías conceptuales que formarían parte de esa “ontología” de la vida mexicana en USA: me refiero a la noción de fugitividad y a la noción de supervivencia.  No tengo tiempo de leer las citas, pero puedo remitir a páginas: por ejemplo, páginas 95 a 97, en las que la noción de vida fugitiva queda vinculada a otra vieja noción de la vida hispánica, el marranismo, del que sin duda podríamos hablar largamente; la fugitividad es mencionada también en páginas 118, 128, 162: la noción de supervivencia en 104, 132, 135, 151, y 157-58.  Para mí, estas dos nociones, fugitividad y supervivencia, son nociones centrales en la formación de lo que el capítulo 6, escrito por María José Gutiérrez, llama “theory from below,” o teoría desde abajo.  Me gustaría también citar la totalidad del capítulo 7, cuya autora es Ana Luisa Calvillo, titulado “Infrapolitics and Deportation.”  Aunque la noción de infrapolítica usada por Calvillo remite exclusivamente al trabajo del antropólogo James Scott, en el que la infrapolítica nombra “micropractices of resistance,” sería más que posible ampliar el marco de referencia hacia una noción de infrapolítica considerablemente enriquecida con respecto de la versión de Scott en la que algunos de nosotros llevamos tiempo trabajando. 

Las experiencias puntuales de deportados de las que el libro da noticia son una magnífica aunque por supuesto lamentable adición a la posibilidad de un pensamiento nuevo sobre condiciones de democratización.  Pienso que a ello contribuye Migrant Feelings, Migrant Knowledge de forma no exhaustiva pero desde luego excelente y crucial.  Si este libro no existiera, habría que inventarlo. 

On daseinshaft

From the very (obscure) beginning, those of us who have taken infrapolitics seriously (not many) have been insisting that it is not a matter of knowledge, it is something else.  We have used the word “existence,” to some consternation from those, primarily in the deconstruction camp, who either decided by themselves or follow the word of the leader that “existence” is too subjective, too sartrian, too metaphysical.  They even found confirmation in the Letter on Humanism and other texts by Heidegger himself.  And yet, in Metaphysics and Nihilism, whose first part, “The Overcoming of Metaphysics,” belongs in the Beiträge series, Heidegger announces that the “overcoming,” or the “transition,” is daseinshaft, which the translator transcribes as existential for lack of a better word.  Page 34.  The idea is that it is a transformation for which there is no retrospective glance, and in relation to which the very idea of “revolution” is only and nothing but a “counter-play” to “conservative” (both of them “stuck in the past,” Heidegger says, and in the “long present,” he also says).   It seems to me the Anthropocene is and will become the historical irruption that will have warranted that transformation–that on the one hand is a spur for it, on the other hand can only be experienced from a certain preparedness.  My point is, without accepting that need for a daseinshaft transformation we are only both prey and fodder for university discourse.  Which won’t do.  How many of us are so caught by university discourse that think it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of university discourse?

Remember Schürmann’s word on “imperative thinking”? This is from Eckhart, the idea is thought is a response to an imperative or it is merely propositive, as in metaphysics. The “Durchbruch,” or breakthrough, is painful. Think John of the Cross’ dark night of the soul or Teresa of Avila’s transverberation. And take the god of the ontotheology out of the business. But who today is thinking about those things?

That “imperative” does not come from some extraterrestrial character, it is rather embedded in deep history: “Metaphysics is the clue-less skipping-over (metá) of physis, which is an inceptual being, to which we certainly can never return, but which in its history as the other inception makes demands upon human history” (34). Is the Anthropocene precisely not a signal from that other inception?

On Politics and Infrapolitics–A Remark After the ACLA 2023 Discussion

So we had an ACLA Seminar on Anarchic Ontologies–or Ontological Anarchy–and Infrapolitics at the ACLA in Chicago. And I made some notes I would like to share here, as at the same time we were discussing things at the panels we heard various rumors of misunderstandings out there that it is better to clarify so that they do not propagate without a response. One of the rumors–more like a report–had to do with a public conversation where infrapolitics was disqualified as “the doctrines of those people who think politics does not matter, blah, blah.” Nothing sillier.

Politics was invented by the Greeks–isonomía, demokratía–as something different from ordinary states of affair in the negotiation of collective interactions. In modernity it was given a principial role for instance in Kant’s notion of the moral politician over against the political moralist. The moral politician is the democratic politician who follows the moral law–the Kantian notion of the moral law–as best she can interpret it in her political action. The political moralist–and do we have anything else in power today?–is the politician of radical evil, the politician of self-interest, the pathological politician whose dismissal of the general interest is always already corrupt. That distinction, which places politics at the level of the norm, always a democratic norm, is Enlightenment for you, the best of it.

Given the hypothesis of closure first announced by Nietzsche–the hypothesis concerning the end of ontotheology in the death of God, the exhaustion of the logos of the first inception of the West, seized upon by Christianity in the wake of the Aristotelian understanding of theología–, well, obviously politics was bound to suffer its consequences. Politics remains today, in a dim way, as an infrastructural element of the domination of technology, a matter of administration at best: look at the last IPCC report and see how politicians will react to it in coming years.

So, no, infrapolitics is not another politics or even another relationship to politics. It is rather what remains after politics loses–has lost–its principial, normative, legislative role. It is what remains at the time of an-archic destitution, which is our time, or rather this time which is not ours, no longer ours, if time has ever belonged to the human.

Infrapolitics is not even the destruction or the deconstruction of politics, although it is that too. It is only what remains after it, after its epoch, which is also the epoch of metaphysics. You may call infrapolitics the pain or the dis-turbance of the loss of politics, which is a consequence of a rather more fundamental loss of the law, that is, of the normative-legislative principle (represented by Kant’s position) that gave modern politics legitimacy.

We are stuck with it. In that sense, infrapolitics is not to be understood as a choice, just another theory in the academic smorgasbord. Infrapolitics traverses the political fantasy, and politics is today, for those who insist on it, a or the compensatory fantasy for an infrapolitical state of affairs: a theater of cruelty, a perverse performance of the essentially false and fallen. Thinking through it, which is the task of infrapolitics, might be our only way of moving toward a clearing and of opening up a possible future.

Heraclitus 1, Section 8. Presentation. February 8, 2023. Draft.

Section 8 is the concluding lecture of the seminar on Heraclitus offered in the summer semester of 1943.  It would be followed by another seminar on Heraclitus in the summer semester of 1944.  The first, 1943 seminar is entitled “The inception of Occidental thinking: Heraclitus,” whereas the second is entitled “Logic: Heraclitus’ Doctrine of the Logos.” 

We must deal today with Section 8 of the first seminar.  As the concluding lecture, we should presume that Heidegger will wrap things up, will offer something like a conclusion concerning what has been discussed in the previous seven lectures.  But we might as well presume that Section 8 gives us a hint or a signal of what it is that will follow those discussions in the second seminar. 

So we are caught between a concluding word on “the inception of Occidental thinking” and the beginning of a word on Logic and the Heraclitean notion of the logos. 

So let me start at the end and present the sentences that I believe are that kind of a bridge between the first and the second seminar.  They are, in page 22 of Aaron’s handout:  “The true is the unsaid that remains the unsaid only in what is strictly and properly said.  To think essentially: this means to listen to what is unsaid in the consideration of what is said, and thereby to come into unanimity with what in the unsaid keeps its silence before us.” 

In the concluding page there is a reference to “the spiritual poverty of the modern world” (8.22), which of course Heidegger’s thought aspires to mitigate, although he thinks the real mitigation might or should be the work of the next generation of thinkers provided they are able not “to yield to the will of modernity” (8.22).   

If so, then the next generation of thinkers will recognize that startling claim, namely, that “the true is the unsaid that remains the unsaid only in what is strictly and properly said” (8.22).   

That statement is perhaps startling to the extent it does not seem logical to us.  According to logic, the true is what is said provided the logic is good enough.  But Heidegger insists that precisely within the best logic the true appears and remains only in what is unsaid.  What can he mean by that? 

Let me remind you of the end of Section 7, which was in fact articulated around an unsolved question, an open question.  The question was, in one of its formulations:  “why is das Seiende decisive and not rather das Nicht-Seiende and, what amounts to the same thing, the ‘nothing’?”  (7.20).  There is a mysterious or enigmatic priority of emerging over self-concealing.  We seem unable “to find the grounding for the priority of being, and thereby the priority of emerging” (7.21), unless, that is, we offer “metaphysical” answers, answers grounded in logic, or even in dialectics as the superior stage of logic.  What must be kept in mind, according to Heidegger, in order not to forget the essential, is that “physis names at the same time the relation of physis to kruptesthai and thus names philein, the favor of the bestowal of essence in which the two join themselves together into their essence” (7.21).   But it is precisely the non-forgetting that throws us into the enigma.  The enigma is, there is a priority of das Seiende over das Nicht-Seiende, a priority that baffles us, as we cannot seemingly justify it. 

Section 8 will presumably attempt to clarify the enigma, to offer a means to study it and process it.   If I am right, that enigma is equivalent to the enigma of the true, namely, that the true remains what is unsaid in what is properly said.  They are the same enigma.  But if the first presentation simply names the enigma, the second presentation attempts a response to it, or a clarification of it. 

Before reaching that clarification, which comes only at the end of Section 8, Heidegger proceeds by means of further study of Heraclitus’ “fundamental words.”  He has already offered us his interpretation of to dunon, physis, zoé, philía, harmonía.   They all, Heidegger says, name the same from different determinations of being.  He will continue his reordering of the Heraclitean fragments on the basis of a metonymic chain of equivalences of fundamental words.  Accordingly, he will now speak of fire, pur, and adornment, kosmos. 

About fire, he says, “the instantaneity of enflaming lightens the region of all indicating and showing, but also lightens, at the same time, the region of directionlessness, rudderlessness, and absolute opacity” (8.2).  In pur, therefore, we observe the simultaneity of revealing and concealing that we observe in the proper consideration of physis. 

About kosmos he tells us that we should think of “the one singular originary adornment” (8.6).  “kosmos does not mean only the entirety of beings (das Seiende im Ganzen), but rather the jointure of the conjoinment of beings, the adornment in which, and from out of which, beings gleam” (8.5).  It is “solely and suddenly the adornment that strikes like lightning into the unadorned.  Such ligthing places into the light (and thus also produces and provides) the dark and what is opposite to the lightening” (8.5).  In kosmos revealing and concealing come simultaneously into place.   Thus, the singular originary adornment is also the inconspicuous jointure. 

All of it leads into a clarification of Fragment 30, which Heidegger places in order as the eighth.   It is worth citing it as a whole, as Heidegger makes much of it: “This adornment mentioned here, the same in all that is adorned, is neither something produced by gods nor by human beings (anyone), rather it was always and is (always) and will be (always): namely, fire perpetually emerging, the expanses (clearings) igniting themselves, the expanses extinguishing (occluding) themselves (into the clearingless)” (8.6). 

And it is here, in the midst of his explanation of the Heraclitean fundamental word “kosmos,” that Heidegger launches a renewed attack on metaphysical ontotheology.  Kosmos has “nothing to do with a ‘cosmology'” (8.7) (I add, still less to do with a cosmopolitanism).  Our metaphysical conception of the cosmos, whether it comes from a biological way of thinking (for which God would be a “gaseous vertebrate” (8.7); I wonder where he found that definition), or from a conception derived from the science of physics, Heidegger tells us, “fails when it attempts to think what is dispatched to thinking” in Heraclitean kosmos (8.7). 

The subsection closes with two further important remarks.  One of them is understated, but it is presumably fundamental to the Heideggerian oeuvre as a whole.  It is related to the airplane words Heidegger told his friend Dr. Boss and which Laurence translated for us in the Slack platform: “It is decisive … to grasp the ‘having been’ not as mere shadow of the present, but as a directly-presencing, as a full mode of presence, as much presence as the present. Otherwise one remains in the understanding of the time of the expiring now points”  (GA89 Zollikoner Seminare, p. 666 [2018].  Compare that with the following remark on kosmos:  “if we absolutely must employ a temporal characteristic here, then we name the originary adornment ‘the pre-temporal,’ and indicate thereby that kosmos is more originary than every temporality, and that indeed the temporal grounds itself in it, which is only possible if kosmos is ‘time’ itself, this word certainly being understood in an inceptual sense” (8.9).

Kosmos is time itself, in an inceptual sense.  This reminds us of Anaximander: physis is kosmos and kosmos is perpetually emerging fire: “fire perpetually emerging, the expanses igniting themselves, the expanses extinguishing themselves” (8.6).  Expanses names metron, translated by Heidegger as the di-mension.  “the open, the sprawling and widening clearing” (8.11) which “unfolds in itself as the favor in which emerging and occluding reciprocally grant their essential ground” (8.12).  We are back in the inconspicuous juncture, and therefore back in the enigma of why, if emerging and occluding reciprocally grant themselves, there ought to be a priority of emerging. 

Subsection b of Section 8 is on aletheia. Aletheia is the answer to the preceding question.  Aletheia is always aletheia for someone, a tis, a human or a god.  “Only those whose essence cannot remain concealed over against physis are beings in such a way that they correspond in their being to emerging.  The corresponding bearing of physis to physis must have in itself the essential features of emerging, self-opening, non-self-occlusion, non-self-concealment.  Non-self-concealing is self-revealing abiding in revealing and unconcealment–or, as the Greeks said, in aletheia” (8.14-15). 

The priority of emerging over self-concealment thus lies in the fact that there is a correspondence, a philein, between the never-submerging and the tis that corresponds to it necessarily through a revealing into unconcealment.   This philein sends us back, of course, to the Parmenidean word regarding the sameness of noein and einai.  In that irreducible sameness, which can nevertheless be betrayed, the priority of emerging over self-concealing, hence of das Seiende over das Nicht-Seiende, is anchored.  Aletheia is thus the “unconcealment of the self-concealing” (8.12), which grants the relative preeminence of unconcealment for us corresponding humans. 

Truth is, therefore, the inception.  Remember the first fragment in Heidegger’s order:  how could a someone, anyone, conceal themself from the never-submerging?  If truth is the inception, and if the inception rules not just at the beginning of human time but throughout human history, “then we ourselves,” Heidegger says, “–and indeed the present age of the Occident–are in need of an inceptual transformation that would leave behind every other turning point (be it Copernican or otherwise) in the history of thinking.  The historical essence of Occidental humanity is in need of a prolonged transformation so that it may enter into its inception and learn to recognize that a consideration on ‘the essence of truth’ is the essential thinking within the inception of being itself, and only this” (8.17).

Subsection c of Section 8, the last section, and the culmination of Heidegger’s efforts in the seminar, turns to the notion of logos, which as we know will be central for the 1944 Seminar.  In Fragment 93, which is the tenth in Heidegger’s ordering, Heraclitus opposes legein to kruptein.  The logos reveals by gathering, and what it gathers is “the originary self-joining oneness of the inconspicuous jointure” (8.20). 

But as it turns out there is something even more originary than legein, an “even more originary letting appear” (8.20).  It is what the god intimates, the god’s semainein (to give a sign).  Giving a sign involves at the same time indicating the revealing and the concealing in an originary oneness. 

And this is why “the true is the unsaid that remains the unsaid only in what is strictly and properly said” (8.22).  Below logos, infralogically, the true abides. The effort to think the true inceptually is therefore absolutely committed to an infralogic of concealing even while respecting the priority of emergence.  Perhaps this ought to remind us of what Heidegger said in Section 7: “the claim that ‘logic’ is not competent to illuminate the truth of being says something other than the claim . . . that the illumination of being can do without ‘logic'” (7.17)

Is the true–time?  “The human cannot escape the unsaid” (8.22).   


From Bataille’s The Accursed Share, Vol. 1: A Thought for the Anthropocene

“the least that one can say is that the present forms of wealth make a shambles and a human mockery of those who think they own it. In this respect, present-day society is a huge counterfeit, where this truth of wealth has underhandedly slipped into extreme poverty. The true luxury and the real potlatch of our times falls to the poverty-stricken, that is, to the individual who lies down and scoffs. A genuine luxury requires the complete contempt for riches, the somber indifference of the individual who refuses work and makes his life on the one hand an infinitely ruined splendor, and on the other, a silent insult to the laborious life of the rich. Beyond a military exploitation, a religious mystification and a capitalist misappropriation, henceforth no one can rediscover the meaning of wealth, the explosiveness that it heralds, unless it is in the splendor of rags and the somber challenge of indifference. One might say, finally, that the lie destines life’s exuberance to revolt.” (Robert Hurley transl., Zone Books, 76-77).

On the Translation of Willy Thayer’s La crisis no moderna de la universidad moderna, Second Edition.

From many disciplines we hear, although not unequivocally, about the collapse of the modern university, its consummation, its end.  This prediction about the exhaustion of the university equally applies to politics.  The collapse of the modern university and modern politics are inseparable so long as the modern categorial architecture of the university coincides with that of politics.  The collapse of the national modern university, the state, and ideology are inseparable.  (Thayer 77). 

The first edition of this book in Spanish was indeed an event–it was a thoroughly unusual book that made us all discover a new territory for thought.  It is only upon reading this second edition, in Brett Leraul’s excellent translation (not yet published, but hopefully forthcoming; his Introduction is also excellent, as it places the book contextually in efficient and informative ways), and so many years later, that I have come to understand the extent of its influence on me, on my own personal development.   But this is neither here nor there–a private matter.  It has become if not a commonplace at least rather customary today to critique the university–there is an entire new field out there called Critical University Studies, with massive reading lists one can consult, for instance, in a Northwestern University or a Duke University Press website.  And this Critical University Studies development is an excellent example of the university crisis that Thayer endeavored to name and investigate in the 1990s–not because it reflects on the crisis, but because it is itself directly (in general: I do not mean to be unkind to the best writers on it)  a second-order example of the crisis, a catastrophic monster without substance, mostly a proliferation of symptoms without a body.  Contemporary Critical University Studies is a manifestation of university malaise plagued with contradictions and inanity–as indeed one could have predicted in 1996 had one been enough of a visionary then, on the basis of a reading of Thayer’s book.  But he was the visionary, not his readers.  His book already foresees the structural impossibilities of pontificating “universitarily,” as the translator has it, on the limits of the university. 

The point is that in 1996 a number of people were beginning to sound the alarm–look at Bill Readings’s famous book on the damage wrought by the criterion of excellence on neoliberal grounds or at Jacques Derrida´s lengthy troubled disquisitions on the university, which in retrospect can be seen to be excessively complacent–, but it was Willy Thayer who articulated an argument that went beyond alarmism and right into signifying an epochal end for the institution.  I think events have proven him right.  There is no possible recovery of the ideals and expectations of the Humboldtian university.  What we have now is for the most part a wasteland populated by desert nomads and bedouins at best, when it has not been given over to mere ressentiment in the Nietzschean sense.  Perhaps the Chilean neoliberal laboratory was only an early manifestation of an implacable logic that would consummate the epochal ending and subsume the planet as a whole.  What is interesting is that, in the 1996 edition, in the context of the hopes and hidden promises of an end to the Pinochet dictatorship and the Chilean escena de avanzada, Thayer’s book could still be read as the indictment of a state of affairs that was temporally marked and would give rise to better, in the sense of more democratic, times.   The traces of that possibility are still legible in the second edition, but now something has been superimposed on them: the ravages of time have continued their labor of annihilation and nothing has come to offer itself as the possibility of some dialectical leap into a brighter future. 

 Not that the publication of Thayer’s second edition in translation will mitigate the state of affairs, but at least it might give some pause to the self-appointed reformers and well-wishers.    Indeed it might be that Thayer’s book will come to be recognized as the little Tasmanian devil in the flourishing (but paradoxically also at the same time withering) field of university discourse today.  I could put it this way: every writer in the field of Critical University Studies, and a fortiori every professional academic, needs to come to terms with the challenges Thayer’s book produces even if they are to flounder on the attempt.  The Tasmanian devil will not be quietly shooed out of the living room, not without some disruption in the furniture (and perhaps the loss of one or two toes). 

The central realization (hence, much more than an intuition) of the book is that the modern university, understood in a very precise sense as the Kantian university, is dead.  If Kant was able to question the limits of sovereignty through the production of a critical apparatus that would create a margin for contestation, a margin for distance, a margin for critique, by reinstituting the labor of the so-called Faculty of Philosophy over the merely programmatic faculties (Law, Theology, Medicine, and so forth), that critical possibility of university discourse founded modernity as such even as it was itself a reflection of it.  The modern university thus becomes the very impugnation of the saturation of the field of the real by technical knowledges.  Thayer’s writing deploys experimentally in order to continue an agonizing Kantian strategy: it is dazzling in its adventurousness, starting with Thayer’s refusal to follow conventional chronologies or linear narratives.  The impressionistic accumulation of experiential observation on today’s university discourse against the background of the monetarization of knowledge–which today is no longer “knowledge” in the classic sense but merely market-legitimizing technical skills, even at the level of basic research–sets the ground for an analysis that will not conceal its ultimately despairing horizon.  The so-called “non-modern crisis” refers to the fact that modernity comes to its epochal end in and through the very exhaustion of the Kantian critical project.  “We are not dealing with a conceptual crisis faced with the eruption of a new, substitute university categorization, the emergence and repositioning of one discourse upon the demise of another.  Instead, we are dealing with the crisis of discourse, with the categorial full stop.  For the same reason, it is a crisis of philosophy that cannot be controlled or regulated by discourse, at least not by a philosophical discourse that would be able to speak about the university.  We lack the categories for analyzing the event of the crisis of the categories, including the category of ‘crisis’ that runs throughout this text” (67). 

In a sense it is possible to say that Thayer’s book turns the Kantian project against itself.  There was a hidden flaw, a fissure in the foundations of the Kantian edifice.  Two hundred years later the fissure has itself become the edifice.  No wonder then that the idea of a “non-modern university” that might itself be the precipitate of the critique of the critical project collapses as soon as it is articulated: “Our intention to theorize the current state of the university, in the sense of visualizing its invisible conditions of possibility, is characterized by our linguistic-categorial impotence” (68).  Not a non-modern university, then, but rather an inchoate effort for an impossible step back that would enable the possibility of a discourse on university discourse that would not itself be consumed in advance by university rhetoric: there can be no theoretical autonomy from the university when speaking, or writing, about the university.  The university has saturated the field of the real–hence its abysmal fissure.  If in Kantian times a promise could be produced (“This inactuality, this misalignment between sovereign actuality and the Faculty of Philosophy’s temporality or untimeliness is the essential, evental conflict of the modern university as critical university” [71]), there is no longer an extant promise that does not exhaust itself into oblivion (“Into oblivion the questioning of the conditions of the present.  Into oblivion the question of being” [76]). 

The Kantian work that would inspire the creation of the University of Berlin in 1810 is anchored, as Thayer shows, in the Cartesian revolution.  It is an updating and upgrading of the Cartesian universal subject of knowledge on the ruins of traditional, Christian metaphysics.  At the same time, Descartes’ vanquishing of traditional metaphysics does not vanquish metaphysics.  It is a substitution–one metaphysics for another, a fold in the fold.  And the Kantian fold will inevitably reproduce the gesture.  Through diverse historical and political mediations “German philosophical thought about the university surrounding the creation of the University of Berlin opposes the Cartesian tendency of knowledge toward its instrumental application; it confronts the operation of truth that functions practically and technically as the fruit of the ‘highest level of knowledge;’ it distances itself from the will to subordinate the speculative moment to practical and technical interests; it rejects subordinating the speculative principle to the knowledge and interests of the state” (113).  From then on, and this is its properly “modern” or critical moment, “the state’s interest in truth must become an object of university’s analysis and not its commanding subject.  The speculative essence of the German philosophical university is revealed in the strict obligation to reflect on instituted truth as the executive power of the state” (115).  The preeminence of university discourse is claimed against any kind of master (or state) discourse.  But, at the same time, and in a hidden way which might ultimately constitute the very fissure in the edifice, its unacknowledged metaphysical drift, the preeminence of university discourse becomes a state’s strategy.  In other words, it is not that the modern university sets itself up as the antagonist of the sovereign master; it is rather that the sovereign master enables an antagonism it will never cease to control, as the originating “anecdote” in Kant´s The Conflict of the Faculties already reveals.  This is modernity, and the essence of the modern university, which has now entered its period of epochal crisis through the terminal deployment of its hidden logic, not through its interruption. 

Nietzsche’s prophecy regarding “a future . . . in which language will be unhinged from its university frame” (132) inaugurates an “exilic” intellectual condition and a first glimpse of a “non-university” to be set up against the “enlightened university” (140): a “genealogical Nietzschean university” to be opposed to the “critical reflective Kantian university” (144) is a first crack in the edifice of modern Enlightenment.  It is in fact the crack that hosts the bedouins and nomads of the contemporary wasteland, but now without recourse to anything like the production of a Zarathustra, not to mention the idea of those who would follow Zarathustra as a transitional figure at the end of metaphysics.  “For us,” Thayer says, the word “transition” “suggests . . . the weariness caused by asymptomatic illnesses that worsen over time, and that by the time we notice them have weakened as such that we lack the fortitude to treat them” (147).  “If the ‘conflict’ or ‘class struggle’ between ‘physical-technical labor’ (physis) and ‘intellectual-critical labor’ (meta-physis) constituted the antagonistic axis of modern history, modern politics, and the modern university, then the end of that history-politics-university will come when that conflict is extinguished.  In the Transition . . . this difference will be exhausted in the real subsumption of every conflict to finance capital.  In the transition understood as the end of history, as the end of the social division of labor, capitalism will remain and difference, the unequal, will vanish” (152). 

The book concludes with reflections on the contemporary Chilean moment and its projection on university discourse.  It would be redundant for me to summarize it, as it is an involved narrative that must be read for itself.   It is of course fitting for a book that has taken a long historical view to land in the concreteness of the present, which necessarily means a present bound to place.  But the Chilean place is presented in the book as itself an atopic laboratory.  The end of the university in “transitional” times is linked to a specific end of politics tied to the triumph of financial capitalism, itself the producer and consumer of the financial university, which in the US has been called and continues to call itself the university of excellence. 

Against that excellence and its internal putrefaction Thayer’s book will serve as a revulsion, or as an operator of a necessary revulsion.  Perhaps only for the sake of a new generation of exilic intellectuality that might hide the secret of the world, or not. 

Notes on the Prague Meeting (“Praxis in Marx and Marxisms,” December 14 and 15, 2022, Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague).

These are preliminary reflections meant as an invitation to further discussion—I have not reread the papers and only have my own impressions, faulty as they may be in terms of my own memory of the event, etc.  But I think, given the fact that we did not have a final session that would have helped us make sense of what we did, that a proposal for further discussion is warranted.  It does not have to happen here, in this blog—but we need to prepare the publication of the papers as well as we can.  My sense is that something like a fundamental discussion—a discussion on foundations, a discussion on fundamental issues–almost took place, but not quite.  Perhaps we can push it.  I only want to offer a presentation of some of the problems that surfaced—I will be by no means exhaustive.  

The invitation said the following: “The question of praxis has become a vexed one, and not just in its relationship to theory. Is transforming the world simply a matter of political engagement? Is it a matter of socio-economic production or a more fundamental engagement with what Marx called the capitalist social form? Or does it call for a reconsideration of human activity as a whole? Following Moishe Postone’s influential argument, the traditional Marxian notion of praxis clearly remained subject to a productivist ontology. In the wake of Postone’s critique, however, subsequent value-form readings of Capital as a monetary labour theory of value have arguably turned away from the problem of praxis to address the exegesis of Marx’s categorial critique of capitalism. Can the notion of praxis be revised in the context of planetary climate change and the persistence of late capitalism? Can Marx’s thought, and a fortiori traditional Marxism, withstand a challenge to a deeply embedded notion of productionist praxis? Is there an alternative that might still remain faithful to the Marxian oeuvre, or to its spirit?”

In other words, if I may drastically summarize, the question was whether Marxism is prepared to offer itself as an adequate tool to think the possibility of a politics (and, more ambitiously, a possible ontology) for the Anthropocene.  Or whether the time of Marxism is past—just a part of history, just a part of modern metaphysics which is therefore itself part of the problem and not of the solution.  There were, to start with, different positions regarding the Anthropocene.  Some of us thought that its peculiarity consists in turning the notion of “being towards death” from a notion that has primary relevance regarding singular existence into a notion that concerns the potential extinction of humanity in general, humanity as we know it.  Some of us thought that the situation is far from being so dire, and some of us thought that the Anthropocene is simply another instance of woke culture.  There was no agreement to start with, therefore, which made the question of the “epistemological commons” a particularly perplexing one. 

Transversally in regards to the question of the true import of the Anthropocene was the issue of left-Heideggerianism.  Can Heidegger’s thought offer the possibility of a supplement to Marxism, if we take “supplement” in the full Derridean sense: not just a complement but also a substitution, not just a substitution but also a complement?  A subsidiary and nevertheless all-important aspect of this question was whether Marx’s thought counts today primarily as an analysis of the law of value in capitalism and therefore of capitalism as the law of value or whether it still holds as a philosophy of history, namely, as what has been called historical materialism or, even more heavily, dialectical materialism.   Some of us thought that the contemporary relevance of Marxism has to do specifically with the great synthesis Marx obtained in Das Kapital: Capitalism as the monumental display of the principle of general equivalence understood as accomplished nihilism.  Some of us still found relevance in historical materialism, and materialism tout court, as a way of relating to the world in a total manner, i. e., as a totally integrated understanding of historical process culminating in a formally necessary push for communism as the goal of philosophy of praxis, that is, as the goal of any conceivable philosophy of praxis.   At this point it was a matter of a confrontation between what we can call, only half-jokingly, the “true believers” versus the already disenchanted ones, the skeptics and doubters:  Marxism as the true and right Golgotha of spirit or Marxism as a mere path to more crucifixion. 

The possibility of common ground perhaps rose with the idea that Heidegger’s notion of Ge-stell, variously rendered as “enframing” or “positionality,” could be linked to the Marxian idea of general equivalence as universal value.  This would be crucial.  The destruction of the history of metaphysics as ultimately a history of nihilism goes through the destruction of the principle of general equivalence, which is also the possibility of finding an alternative beginning for thinking the world beyond positionality.  The question came up as to whether cybercapitalism, understood as the new mode of production already dominant and becoming ever more dominant, is to be understood as the “precipitous fall” Heidegger had pointed out in “The Question of Technology” of the time of Ge-stell, which is the time of Capital: the moment when the human subject, up to then committed to the domination of nature as object, takes itself as the object, and the human itself is equally reduced to quantity and data production, distribution, circulation, and consumption.  The Anthropocene is to be seen, then, against the background of nihilism as the total quantification, not just of nature, understood in modern terms, but also of existence, resulting ultimately in the annihilation of both nature and existence themselves.  A passage beyond the nature-culture divide becomes imperative at this point. 

If Marxist epistemology, in spite of everything, was always based on the idea, explicitly asserted by Stalin, that the “deep structure of thought is a reflection of the deep structure of reality itself,” with Marxism occupying, naturally, the place of discovery of the “deep structure of thought,” then it becomes tautological to claim that the function of human knowledge is simply mapping the territory, in other words, charting the real to the point of total coincidence of thinking and being—absolute knowledge, full accomplishment of full subjectivity, total transparency of the world to itself (thanks to the Marxists). 

But there might be a different understanding of the Parmenidean word that opens philosophical reflection for the West: “being” and “thinking” may be the “same” not as full coincidence of subject and object of reflection but according to a very different and radically alternative determination of sameness. 

This other “sameness,” perhaps heretofore unthought, for which the figure pf Empedocles was suggested as a possible precursor—is it the very possibility of a new praxis, against the poietic understanding of praxis in Marxism? 

Can Marxism persist as a historical presence in the strong sense, can it foster an other beginning for thought in the epoch of the Anthropocene?  Is emancipation still the goal of political praxis? 

The “real movement” of things may be far from presaging communism—the age of total subsumption, the age of data as a deepening of the Gemeinwesen that Marx still thought was the money form, may call for a different praxis of thought, which is a different praxis of existence. 

A Response to Willie Chase’s “Making (meta-methodological) space: Mapuches and the Discursive Afterlife of Racial Slavery in Chile.” By Alberto Moreiras. October 13, 2022. Texas A&M University.

            I thank Ana Baginski for her invitation to be the discussant for this session, and to Willie Chase of course for his paper.  It is a pleasure to have Ana with us here as a Glasscock Fellow and it is a pleasure to have Willie here as her guest.  I will try to honor Willie’s presentation in what follows.

            How do you go from empire to republic?   And, once you do it, how do you stay there, how can you restrain yourself from reverting to empire?  I will not provide you with an answer to the question.  I will limit myself to stating what is probably already obvious to most of you: historical attempts to do so have failed in absolute terms, and we can only congratulate humans for partial and often deficient successes.  Let us take the various Latin American cases as an example.  Or even better: let us take Spanish America as a whole as an example.  After Independence, roughly between 1810 and 1825, with some exceptions, the Latin American criollo class, which means, not just the so-called whites, as in many countries many criollos were the offspring of mixed races and were themselves mestizos or mulattoes or any of the other many hierarchical racial divisions invented by the colonial casta system, the criollo class, I was saying, as the dominant class, a class directly produced by the imperial system, took over and engaged in a process of so-called nation-building that produced a neo-colonial state form: things had indeed changed, Indians were declared citizens in many countries, slavery was by and large abolished within ten or twenty years of Independence, but the dominant class, now split between conservatives and liberals, sought not equality but domination.  We may call it hegemony, since that is indeed what it was.  Which should warn us about making hegemony a key term for leftist practices today.  Republican hegemony in most Latin American countries–I actually cannot think of any exception, except of course for Cuba and Puerto Rico–was the new regime of domination, and it was brutal enough.  For the subaltern population, Republican hegemony, even when it did not degenerate into civil wars and commisarial dictatorships, as often happened, was pretty much still an imperial regime, albeit different from the Spanish imperial one, and, from the perspective of the subaltern, not necessarily much better (for instance, many liberal and conservative republican governments engaged in a policy of land and capital accumulation that reenslaved in everything but name large segments of the Indigenous and Black population). 

            So we have republican hegemony, and it is the hegemony of the criollo class.  Such hegemony needed to be conceptualized, articulated, indeed named through the 19th century.  What old Angel Rama called the “lettered city” came to fulfill that function: there was a big momentum for the articulation of a nation-building ideology, which had specific local differences (different in Argentina and Uruguay and Mexico or Bolivia or Venezuela or Nicaragua).  Intellectuals were servants of their criollo masters, their organic ideologues.  And this happened at a very massive level, to the extent that exceptions were hardly ever tolerated–we know of few of them.  We must assume that indigenous life was still resistant, we must assume that disenfranchised segments of the population, such as former slaves, were resistant, we must assume, perhaps, that women were resistant, but we have inherited few and far-between articulations of that resistance, or of those resistances: they emerge in counterinsurgency prose and literature, for instance in gaucho literature, or in crime ballads.  Certainly in juridical archives.  But they never coalesce into any sort of counterhegemonic bloc.  Not even at the time of, say, the Mexican revolution.  And they have not come easily to us through the historical archive. 

            I would claim this forms the background of the extraordinarily difficult problem Willie brings up in his paper.  Let me propose two theses for its interpretation: the first thesis is, Willie is trying to uncover the possibility of a non-hegemonic articulation of republican politics in the Latin American 19th century, and he must do so by working spectrally, with ghosts, through ghosts, since that is all the archives can offer him.  And my second thesis is: his motivation, at perhaps some deeper-than-consciousness level, is primarily not historical but rather motivated on the misery of university discourse in the present.  I present these two theses not in order to establish them as true theses, of course, rather in order to give Willie a chance to respond to them.  Since that is my function as discussant.  So let me elaborate a bit, just to be fair, just to offer Willie some more solid grounds for his response.  So that he does not have to guess at my intentions. 

            But let me frame that first.  Willie’s paper is, for me, the first occasion when I encounter in the critical literature of Latin Americanism a serious engagement with the tradition of Black Study.  This is monumental.  Black Study is today one of the very few developments where something other than the misery of university discourse is pursued and attempted.  We can leave aside for the moment the deep irony of the fact that Black Study is a form of university discourse that has no choice but to present itself as post-university, or ex-university.  There are deep reasons for it.  At some point in his paper Willie refers to the notion of fugitivity developed by Fred Moten, and then Moten and Stefano Harney.  Black Study is fugitive discourse.  I will say that Willie’s paper is a Latin Americanist instantiation of fugitivity.  It is what we could call an exodic paper, a marrano paper, we could say, adapting to generally Hispanic conditions Afropessimist or Black-Ops postulates or conditions of enunciation.  Which may explain, at least for Willie’s ears, why my second thesis proposes that his, that is, Willie’s, interest is primarily motivated on the misery of university discourse in the present.  The misery prompts fugitivity.  The misery prompts exodus when not abandonment.  I welcome this.  It is a necessary fugitivity. 

            Regarding my first thesis, namely, that Willie’s paper wants to uncover a spectral or ghostly non-hegemonic articulation of republican politics: what I mean by this is that he must proceed on the basis of a radical absence in the archives.  Our common friend Nahum Chandler is among those who have established the deep and extraordinary pertinence of the work of W. E. B. Du Bois for Black Study, an indispensable reference.  Latin American Study lacks such reference or anything remotely similar to it.  Du Bois offers a path, or many paths, to what we might name, following Chandler, the question of exorbitance.   It is through exorbitance, through its elaboration, historically and theoretically, and politically, that Black Study has managed to break away from hegemonic configurations of the political and from hegemony itself as the only available political configuration.  We must also situate Willie’s fugitivity at the point of such a break.   As I confess I have not read Lastarria myself, I will not question Willie’s reading.  What is important in it is the interrogation he brings to bear, not his possible conclusions, which in fact only figure the very inconclusiveness of Lastarria’s take at the point of Willie’s interrogation.  At the time of nation-building Lastarria was lucid enough to understand that a mere hegemonic incorporation, an incorporation into hegemony, of Indian heroes, of figures from the Indian past, would quickly break down.  Which leaves Willie in the difficult predicament of having to follow his own path spectrally, precisely through the detection of discursive breakdowns, of absences and hesitations, through the tremor of the archives when they are finally seen as possessed by inarticulate ghosts.  

            This is extraordinary and path-breaking work, and I am looking forward to seeing the rest of his dissertation, from which I understand this paper has derived.  And I congratulate Willie for his courage and determination–but I must also warn him that they will not come without exacting a price.  For which he must be ready, fugitively.

            Before turning the word back to him, or to all of you, let me add something else that I believe is necessary.  What I called earlier the Neocolonial State Form was historically followed by and large by what we could call the National Popular State Form.   I think we need to understand the National Popular State Form as a continuation of the Neocolonial one–its discursive expression was still an articulation of hegemony, now through discourses of transculturation.  Transculturation was the dominant discursive state form through most of the 20th century, until the gradual consolidation of the Neoliberal State Form, itself still to be understood, not as a break, but a continuation of the previous forms (hybridity discourse, identity politics proper, and decoloniality are its results).  Thought–the production of the lettered cities–was organic to those state formations.  In Latin America such thought manifested itself in the form of identity thinking.  Identitarianism has been the single thought or the single umbrella for thought that has survived through the various metamorphoses of the state throughout Latin American history.   The way I understand Willie’s position is that Willie is actually proposing a break away from all identitarianism–that is what a non-hegemonic republicanism might some day accomplish.   Like in Black Study, Willie’s break from identitarianism is first of all a refusal for thought to be the servant of the current state formation in any of its guises and disguises.   It announces stateless thinking, a thinking beyond the state. 

            It is difficult to imagine any properly post-identitarian configuration of Latin American thought.  What we have available is not moving in that direction.  I do not want to become too polemical so I will spare you my explanation for that sentence.  And yet perhaps there is nothing more important.  Willie’s focus on the absences and breakdowns of criollo discourse, on what he calls the vagary of its articulation,is subversive and dissident when it refers to the 19th century and to the cherished and normalized discourses for mainstream historical self-understanding.  To the extent Willie’s discourse refers not just to history but primarily to our present, I find it equally subversive and dissident, or fugitive, regarding the current accommodations of identity thinking in Latin Americanist university work.  And there is little else.  And the problem is, there is precisely little else at a historical moment when the thorough collapse of hegemonic discourse makes it imperative that we develop new inventions of thought that might become commensurate to current challenges, such as climate breakdown. 

            A couple of days ago I finished reading Deborah Danowski and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s The Ends of the World.  They make a fine point: they say that the end of the world has always already happened for Indigenous and Blacks in Latin America.   And that perhaps only they may therefore teach the late criollos, which means all of us, or most of us, what it takes to survive it.  It is a strange fugitivity that we have inherited, but it is a fugitivity we must take up.

Another Autobiographical Note, if That is What This Is. By Alberto Moreiras.

            We were eating breakfast at the Zeitman’s Deli in downtown Bryan, just after doing some shopping at the farmers’ market, when the question came: “So, doctor, I hope you don´t mind my asking.  What happened at Duke?”  The question came from a Mexican student who is spending some time with us in Texas.  Teresa and I looked at each other before responding “We do not know what happened at Duke.  They made our lives impossible.  You should ask them.  Why do you ask?”  “Oh, it is because I heard some rumors that do not seem to match . . . ”  “What rumors?”  “Oh, essentially that you are a very difficult person, conflictive . . . ”  “And you heard this in Mexico?”  “Yes, from my professors there.”

So, that is how it goes.  Were they warning her not to come?  We left Duke in 2006, which means sixteen years ago.  That is, two years more than we actually spent at Duke as professors.  And the rumors persist.  They are international now.  I suppose I ought to be grateful to my colleagues of those years that they did not spread worse (and falser) rumors, since we all know there are worse (false) rumors to be spread about those you wish to cancel.  And there was plenty of malice to go around.  So I am grateful.  A bit.  They say I am a difficult person.  Conflictive.  Compared to some of the people I have had to share my life with, some of the very people that made us move towards leaving Duke, I do not think I am particularly difficult.  Or conflictive.  I may be a bit arrogant, sure, which is why I thought back then there were things I should not let pass without responding.  After all, I was a distinguished professor at the time (the Anne and Robert Bass Distinguished Professor of Romance Studies and Literature), was directing more dissertations than anybody else in those units, and was coordinating more working groups and organizing more workshops and more conferences than anybody else around. I had given my life to the university, after all.  At some cost to my family and to my writing.  When things became bad enough, and we were certain that they were after me–banal mobbing, perhaps, but extensive, and it hurt–, we decided to apply for jobs elsewhere, not even thinking, at first, that we were going to leave Duke.  We thought that telling them we had offers and we might leave would be enough for them–well, for the administration at least–to tell us they did not want us to do that, that they would support us, protect us.  But it did not happen.  Yes, the dean was new and knew nothing–only what he heard.  He said there was not enough support in the department for him to make a counteroffer.  So we left.  It just so happened the place we went to did not work out for us, so we ended up regretting it. 

We were lucky to receive offers of employment from Texas A&M in 2010, in the middle of the post-2008 hiring crisis.  We did not know then that those offers would save our careers.  Other options became closed to us, which would have been par for the course, had I not heard several times in later years that there was nothing casual about the rejections or the non-consideration.  Everybody had heard rumors, but they would not say what rumors.  Duke rumors, rumors of conflict.  We were too hot, possibly even dangerous.  Things came to a head when the Chancellor at University of California Irvine told me I would be receiving an offer to become Dean of the Humanities at Irvine and the offer never came.  A few months later somebody told me the Chancellor’s Office had received an unrequested letter about me and he got cold feet.  Never called me.  Never told me.  I wrote the lawyers at the university and they told me that, yes, there was a letter, but they could not or would not share it with me.  I let it go.  A few months later something similar happened at University of Southern California, when the dean made me an offer he knew I would not be able to accept.  He told me, hard to forget, “you are already making too much money for a Spanish professor.”  Later, I heard he wanted me to decline because, yes, there had been some kind of interference from third parties.  I never did find out anything else. 

So we gave up.  Texas was to be our place, and we would eventually retire here.  No problem.  We are happy enough, we have plenty of time, we have a good life.  But those rumors persist, and they are still interfering.  I do not know what my professional life would have been like without those rumors, those interferences: perhaps quite different.  I no longer care, frankly.  I read and I write and I go east in the summer.  And I never think of Duke or my old colleagues, why should I?  They no longer matter.  Yes, the absence of remaining love is disturbing: I thought I had made many friends over those fourteen years, but no, it was a mistake, a delusion.    

I no longer have nightmares.  I no longer obsess trying to understand what happened or what my own responsibility might have been.  I have new friends now, and I continue to have students.  Which is what, perhaps mistakenly, perhaps wrongly, makes me write this.  There is after all something sinister about the whole thing.  Is it hurting my students?  My prospective students?  Perhaps it is.  Who is to say?  Only those who know.  But I do not know.  All I know is that I have always behaved properly, always behaved ethically, have always tried to help others, and I have never engaged in conflict except as a response to attacks by others.  Is that not enough?  Well, it should be.  There is something sinister going around.  Still.  After sixteen years.  Is that part of what one should expect as a university professor?  Perhaps, if you think so, you would care to explain why.  In any case, perhaps there is something to be learned here by others.