Although stimulating, this is ultimately another testament to the failure of the post 1989 left.
It is particularly relevant in this age of diasporas and ever more blatant appropriation of public space but where we used to organise and protest, today's left is content to talk to itself in an intellectual bunker.
The class war is over. We lost. Where is the resistance?
on 2 August 2013
This is a dense book that perhaps should be approached as a 'stream of consciousness' perhaps more than anything else, as Athena Athanasiou discusses with Judith Butler a further development of Left politics with particular regard to feminist and queer issues.
The discussion is very 'european' in manner as would be expected, often meandering and ill-focussed but at other times deeply rich in thought and enquiry. As with such transcripts you have to take the rough with the smooth- it reminded me at times of Zizek at his most obtuse and meandering- but there is some good, sound thought in here worth digging for although you may well have to be prepared for much of it to wash over you in order to have them revealed to you. A worthy discussion, but perhaps a little more clarity would have been useful to get the thinking across....whatever, ideal for those who want to sit down with a complex analysis of Leftist thought and where it could go in the next few years.
on 31 August 2013
JB is a wellknown feminist writer and Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at Berkeley and AA is Associate Professor in Social Anthropology in Athens. Dispossesion is the condition of those who have lost land, citizenship, property and a broader belonging in the world through forced migration, homelessness, foreclosures and disparity of wealth. Like some previous polity publications the format consists in a dialogue between the two authors, which has advantages and disadvantages. What is a more significant disadvantage however, and for some perhaps insuperable, is that like some current philosophy it is conducted in a language that is private to the discipline and wellnigh inpenetrable to those not versed in it. So the general reader should be warned.
Rating 3 out of 5
If you were to conduct a fast show critique of academia then you would start and end with this book. The prose is dense to the point of parody. Two women are talking about dispossession, capitalism, the body and trying to reconfigure a new identity whilst being entrapped with the social pressures of the past and present. How do you make a sustainable future when you are conditioned by the same forces?
Yet the language they use, and this has nothing to do with Foucault, could be straight out of a 13th Century Latin Mass being broadcast to a bunch of German speaking peasants who are dazzled by their own lack and an attribution to the master of some divine power and insight due to the compound Latin twists added to the language.
Whilst the two women are nattering in their respective academic speak, they fail to get to grips with some of the very basic and readable insights previously proffered by Raoul Vanegeim, Lefebvre and Erich Fromm. They are completely adrift from the insights of Alfred Adler about the self and others. The prose appears a piece of camouflage for them to detail something profound but has been said much clearer and with more depth by numerous others.
Meanwhile the academic Ponzi scheme has several adherents who clap their hands to this type of offering as seal being thrown a fish at a circus. The audience only sees the external performance and not the beatings administered to get the stimulus response result.
If you are paying 9k per annum and you get this tripe thrown at you, start complaining, seriously I have taught across the various syllabi at many of these esteemed unis and there is no way this should be anywhere near a book list - it is utter drivel
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I have often complained that the failure of the European Left to present a credible challenge to neoliberal orthodoxy as expressed through austerity (amongst other things) is partly explained by the self-obsessed, irrelevant, faux-intelligentia navel gasing of a great deal of left academics. I ordered this title in the hope that it would address things in an understandable, sensible way, despite the fact that the words Foucault, queer theory and feminism were dead givaways of what was to follow.
I have no problem with queer-theory and feminism. In fact they offer great methodological insights that can be used along side traditional marxist methodologies in deconstructing structures of power and domination. Nonetheless, the work of the academic (so far as I undertand it) is to enlighten, to explain and mobilise.
How mobilised do you feel after reading the following?
"disposession signifies an inaugural submission of the subject-to-be to norms of intelligibility"
"does such collective action and affective alliance inadvertedly create its own fixed assumptions of placedness and belonging?"
The book is not helped by the writing style of one author following the other to congratulate them and agree with their points. If you read this stuff and think, yes, makes sense, I feel more engaged with political realities, well done, you are ready to submit your PhD at an institution which promotes 'critical thinking'. If you are one of the disposessed however, what have you learned?
What one learns from this book is that leftist academia resides in its own linguistic and methodological alternate reality. If you are pissed off and disposessed will you follow these people, or vote for Front Nationale or Golden Dawn?
Isn't it time to wake up and write FOR the people that we are pretending to write for?
I bet a lot of you reading this will not like it and vote this review as 'unhelpful'. Well, I choose to see Amazon reviews not as a popularity contest. Perhaps I am wrong about this, but I don't see the left making much headway after decades of this language and expression.
This book has a number of things going for it. The central subject - dispossession - is well worth exploring. Many of the discussions highlight the complexity of the matters dealt with (the first two chapters especially). There was a pleasing unwillingness to opt for easy answers, but rather to highlight what it is important to think about. The discussion format, sometimes at least, helps to clarify the ideas of both contributors; although, for my part, I found Judith Butler's attempts to clarify and elaborate on Athena Athanasiou's comments much more illuminating than vice versa. The book seemed to me to be a book of tangents, some of them stimulating (the discussion of recognition in the seventh chapter, for instance). However, there is a lot to distract the reader from this book's virtues. Among the interesting gems there are a lot of, it seemed to me, not especially interesting detours from the key topics. What made wading through this material harder was the style in which it is delivered. Unless a lot went over my head, many relatively straightforward points are considerably overcomplicated. This was a much more difficult read than it needed to be.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment, however, was that while a lot of the ideas raised were important and interesting, many are extremely familiar. There is not a great deal of expansion on what has been thought and written elsewhere. This left me wondering who exactly this book is for. For the aforementioned reason, I don't think it will be of much use for those who already share the political convictions of Butler and Athanasiou (beyond reinforcing ideas already held). I certainly don't see any critics of their approach (neo-liberals etc.) being swayed by it; that clearly isn't Butler and Athanasiou's intention. And, since this is a read which requires a fair amount of background knowledge and suffers from overcomplication, I wouldn't recommend it as a way into these issues to potentially sympathetic readers who haven't thought about them much before. So, despite some interesting moments in the discussion, and despite the importance of many of the issues considered, I was disappointed with this book.
Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou's Dispossession: The Performative in the Political etc- is a discourse on the timeless arguements surrounding the political and historical patterns which have structured western societies.Dispossession takes an academic feminist perspective and looks at where we have come from and where we are heading as conflicting groups within society battle it out to be heard and impact on the status quo. Not an easy read and rambling at times but fascinating nevertheless.
What I loved about this book was the choice to revisit the Classical dialogue format to present its arguments. It gives the chapters - which are all fairly concise - a natural motion and progression, making some quite challenging ideas accessible, dynamic and illuminating. It does suffer from a certain density of language - why use plain English when you can throw in a handful of sociological buzzwords to obfuscate every sentence? - but it comes with the territory, and it doesn't spoil an otherwise rewarding read.
As for the content, it couldn't come at a better time - drawing on contemporary events, and speaking to the power (as well as poverty) of dispossession, it offers both the problem and the solution, in the form of group action. An excellent, thought-provoking read.
This is an excellent book, but really only for those already quite well versed in the subject, or as in my cases somebody involved in education and thereefore used to some of the 'interesting' terminology and academic language evidenced. The subject is so important at this time and I would acknowledge that there is a need for discourse at all levels and this text is therefore well placed for those who have an interest at the academic level, however it is in my opinion very definitely not for a lay reader. Nonetheless I found the authors discussion highly stimulating and would reccommend it for those with a specialised interest in the subject matter.
This book is unlikely to attract the casual reader, but then again it is aimed at an academic audience. Nonetheless I found the style unhelpful with over-complex language being unnecessarily used almost to feed the authors ego. The result is a book which, thankfully, has concise and progressive chapters, but has a dense style which requires close reading.
The discussion on the left and queer and feminist theories is pretty insightful and relevant. However, I’d like the book to be more grounded in empirical evidence than appearing to be largely conjectural. As such I’d recommend only to a subject expert.