In response to distant suffering, global civil society is being consumed by a generalized witnessing fever that converts public spaces into veritable machines for the production of testimonial discourses and evidence. However, bearing witness itself has tended to be treated as an exercise in truth-telling, a juridical outcome, a psychic phenomenon or a moral prescription. By contrast, this article conceives of bearing witness as a transnational mode of ethico-political labour, an arduous working-through produced out of the struggles of groups and (...) persons who engage in testimonial tasks in order to confront corresponding perils produced by instances of situational or structural violence; it is the work of witnessing, the normative and political substance generated through the performance of patterns of social action, which matters. Using Celan's allegory of the poem as a message in a bottle, I consider bearing witness as a web of cosmopolitan testimonial practices structured around five dialectically related tasks and perils: giving voice to mass suffering against silence ; interpretation against incomprehension ; the cultivation of empathy against indifference ; remembrance against forgetting ; and prevention against repetition. (shrink)
This book brings together a collection of work from emerging and established scholars who have put forth a vision of what critical sociology is and what it could be in the early decades of the 21st century. Pushing beyond the theoretical outlines of sociological critique, the authors demonstrate how critical sociology is practiced through conceptual innovation and empirical analyses interweaving the themes of society, power, and culture. Interrogating the Social reinvents the project of critical sociology in two ways: by reflecting (...) upon society as an object of inquiry; and by questioning the existing social order's self-evident character and exclusionary effects. In doing so, it answers three related questions: How should social relations and interactions be re-thought today? What new institutional and discursive configurations of power are emerging? How do we make sense of contemporary cultural performances and movements This edited collection is suited to a wide and diverse audience across the disciplines of sociology, political science, social and political theory, and cultural studies. (shrink)
In the work of these thinkers, Kurasawa finds little justification for two of the most prevalent claims about social theory: the wholesale "postmodern" dismissal of the social-theoretical enterprise because of its supposedly intractable ...
This paper considers and evaluates Jeffrey Alexander’s strong program in cultural sociology, which represents an exercise in paradigm formation and an ambitious attempt to refound American sociology along interpretive lines. Cultural sociology is assessed according to four axes, namely its social constructivist epistemology, culturalizing methodology, analytical realism, and internal and external positioning. In addition to discussing the accomplishments and limitations of cultural sociology in all these areas, the paper indicates ways to strengthen it by setting it in conversation with other (...) and more explicitly critical currents of thought. (shrink)
The paper seeks to address the lag between, on the one hand, existing ethical and socio-political frameworks and, on the other hand, developments in the realm of techno-science. I argue that the growing power of science and technology has been fed by, and has itself fed, the confrontation of instrumentalism and autonomy defining the modern condition. Conversely, the project of self-management of techno-science by citizens needs to proceed by binding ethical and democratic dimensions of the problem, as well as the (...) public and subjective elements of autonomous existence. Techno-science can only be ethicalized if it is enframed in vibrant public spaces, at the same time as its democratization depends upon subjects sense of conscience and social responsibility. Key Words: autonomy democracy ethics public sphere technoscience. (shrink)
This paper examines how Western humanitarianism has attempted to work through its simultaneous commitment to individualized moral universalism and ambivalence about substantive global egalitarianism via what is identified as humanitarian sentimentalism, namely an ensemble of narrative and visual mechanisms designed to cultivate charitable moral sentiments among Euro-American publics toward victims of humanitarian crises in the global South. After briefly discussing how the aforementioned ambivalence is rooted in the founding philosophical principles of humanitarianism, the paper examines the visual economy of humanitarian (...) sentimentalism, constituted through four iconographic tropes found in the history of Western representation of humanitarian emergencies and injustices (personification, massification, rescue, and care), each of which aims to trigger sentimentalizing responses on the part of viewers. Hence, it is argued that if the Western humanitarian movement's dependence on visually based sentimentalism has been effective in generating a sense of concern for distant others, such concern has not been converted into a more radical and egalitarian set of political practices of global solidarity, which would aim structurally to transform the current world order in an egalitarian manner to tackle the systemic sources of humanitarian crises. (shrink)
This article argues that the implications of the recent eclipse of the construct of the `primitive' for the practice of the human sciences have not been adequately pondered. It asks, therefore, why and how the myth of primitiveness has been sustained by the human sciences, and what purposes it has served for the modern West's self-understanding. To attempt to answer such a query, the article pursues two principal lines of inquiry. In order to appreciate what is potentially being lost, the (...) space that may be closing up as a result of the death of the `primitive', the first part of the article strives to demonstrate the latter's significance for the self-critique of modern ways of thinking and acting by historiographically reconstructing its changing roles within and representations by the human sciences. In the second section, it is contended that the eclipse of primitiveness has created a potentially problematic situation for the human sciences, since the cross-cultural mode of critique cultivated through this myth risks being neglected in a post-`primitive' age. All in all, then, the article claims that continued engagement with cultural alterity is essential for the human sciences after primitiveness, and that such an engagement can be sustained by an understanding of the different ways in which the `primitive' has been defined and has functioned over the course of the modern era. (shrink)
This paper examines the relationship between Foucault's general concerns and his neglected work on non-Western societies. It does so by examining two related questions. Firstly, what role does exoticism play in his theoretical imaginary? Secondly, how does his work on Japan, Iran and the non-Western world contribute to a different understanding of his thinking? As such, four general themes will be followed in order to underline the interplay of cultural difference with Foucault's broader projects: the limits of Western reason, genealogical (...) schemes of history, power and resistance, and, finally, subjectification. Throughout, an attempt will be made to highlight the interdependence and mutual constitution of Foucault's thought and matters of cultural alterity. (shrink)