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Sedan Chairs and Turtles

Leland de la Durantaye: Benjamin’s Baudelaire, 21 November 2013

Charles Baudelaire: Un poeta lirico nell’età del capitalismo avanzato 
by Walter Benjamin, edited by Giorgio Agamben, Barbara Chitussi and Clemens-Carl Härle.
Neri Pozza, 927 pp., €23, December 2012, 978 88 545 0623 7
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... to trace the missing papers, all without success. And then, in 1981, a new detective on the case, Giorgio Agamben, while poring over Bataille’s correspondence, found a clue, and then another. A few months later he held five folders full of typescripts, fair copies, notecards, observations written on café stationery, drafts made on the backs of ...
State of Exception 
by Giorgio Agamben, translated by Kevin Attell.
Chicago, 104 pp., £8.50, January 2005, 0 226 00925 4
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... The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben does not want his fingerprints taken and, unlike like most European critics of the evil empire, he has been willing to forego an academic visit to the United States in order to prevent it happening. What is at stake, he explains, is the ‘new “normal” bio-political relationship between citizens and the state ...

I am the decider

Hal Foster: Agamben, Derrida and Santner, 17 March 2011

The Beast and the Sovereign. Vol. I 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Geoffrey Bennington.
Chicago, 349 pp., £24, November 2009, 978 0 226 14428 3
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... in such threshold states? What’s at stake here? This kind of discourse, in which the ideas of Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida and Eric Santner are central, has little to do with animal rights, and whatever bestiality is at issue is entirely our own. (As Derrida points out, animals are not cruel to one another; only ‘man is wolf to man,’ as the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Gospel According to Saint Matthew’, 21 March 2013

The Gospel According to Saint Matthew 
directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
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... of the story. And there are faces that have an interest for other reasons: those of a 22-year-old Giorgio Agamben, of the novelist Natalia Ginzburg, or Pasolini’s own mother – as Mary grown older. The talk itself in the movie – that is, all the intense verbatim quotation of Christ’s words – works as long as we can maintain the disconnect in our ...

Between Two Deaths

Slavoj Žižek: The Culture of Torture, 3 June 2004

... having been the legitimate targets of murderous bombings, so that they are now examples of what Giorgio Agamben calls homo sacer, the one who can be killed with impunity since, in the eyes of the law, his life no longer counts. (There is a passing similarity between this situation and the – legally problematic – premise of the 1999 movie Double ...

Six Wolfs, Three Weills

David Simpson: Emigration from Nazi Germany, 5 October 2006

Weimar in Exile: The Anti-Fascist Emigration in Europe and America 
by Jean-Michel Palmier, translated by David Fernbach.
Verso, 852 pp., £29.99, July 2006, 1 84467 068 6
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... metaphor for all sorts of freedom, while the more negative refugeedom described in the work of Giorgio Agamben has been taken to define the condition of all of us in a world in which place-based civic and legal securities are increasingly being eroded by a volatile global economy. But if everyone is an exile, don’t we risk ignoring the distinctions ...

Ruin and Redemption

David Simpson: Psychoanalysing Zionism, 23 June 2005

The Question of Zion 
by Jacqueline Rose.
Princeton, 202 pp., £12.95, April 2005, 0 691 11750 0
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... allied with (and thus appeal to) a wide range of modern nation-states which are invested in what Giorgio Agamben has called the ‘state of exception’ as the means of their own legitimation. Rose herself alludes to this conjunction (though not to Agamben) early in her book, noting that Israel is ‘not the only ...

Death in Plain Sight

Marina Warner: Emily Davison, Modern Martyr, 4 July 2013

... the movement’s favour on the royal colt. In both actions Davison was positioning herself in what Giorgio Agamben calls a ‘zone of indistinction’, an interstice, in order to demarcate a new space for women as citizens. Both the broom cupboard and the race track are non-places where non-citizens can take up a position, turning both the site of their ...

Forty Thousand Kilocupids

Marina Warner: The Femfatalatron, 31 July 2014

The Erotic Doll: A Modern Fetish 
by Marquard Smith.
Yale, 376 pp., £35, January 2014, 978 0 300 15202 9
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... their domestic bliss for the camera, in a Facebook realm of the unreal real. In contrast to this, Giorgio Agamben points out in ‘The Eternal Return and the Paradox of Passion’ that the word ‘likeness’ has the same root as the German word for ‘corpse’ (Leiche), and suggests that this arises through a classical concept of the eternal image: in ...


Ian Sansom: Iain Banks, 5 December 2013

The Quarry 
by Iain Banks.
Little, Brown, 326 pp., £18.99, June 2013, 978 1 4087 0394 6
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... Street, accompanied by a letter in the Guardian, in protest at the Iraq War – but he wasn’t Giorgio Agamben. ‘What a choice,’ he writes in The Quarry, ‘Neo-Labour, the toxic Agent-Orange-Book Lib Dems or the shithead rich-boy bastardhood that is the Tories. We really are all fucked, aren’t we?’ For the record, The Quarry contains the last ...

The Whale Inside

Malcolm Bull: How to be a community, 1 January 2009

Bíos: Biopolitics and Philosophy 
by Roberto Esposito, translated by Timothy Campbell.
Minnesota, 230 pp., £14, April 2008, 978 0 8166 4990 7
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... of finite creatures who share nothing but mortality itself. Nancy, along with Giorgio Agamben, is one of Esposito’s major influences, but his insight wouldn’t have been out of place in the 17th century. Donne’s meditation presses home the same point: if it is true that ‘any man’s death diminishes me,’ it is because mankind ...

Are we in a war? Do we have an enemy?

Slavoj Žižek: Love Thy Neighbour, 23 May 2002

... in France as the ‘Sans Papiers’. Perhaps the category of homo sacer, brought back into use by Giorgio Agamben in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1998), is more useful here. It designated, in ancient Roman law, someone who could be killed with impunity and whose death had, for the same reason, no sacrificial value. Today, as a term denoting ...

I lived in funeral

Robert Crawford: Les Murray, 7 February 2013

New Selected Poems 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 310 pp., £14.95, April 2012, 978 1 84777 167 4
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... dreamed and plotted with exactitude. Theorists may come to such work clutching the speculations of Giorgio Agamben on what differentiates human from animal, or swaddled in layers of eco-theory; but the liberating shake Murray has given to the perceptive power of language is what makes this poetry so rewarding. Not all Murray’s verse has such uncanny ...

Slammed by Hurricanes

Jenny Turner: Elsa Morante, 20 April 2017

The World Saved by Kids: And Other Epics 
by Elsa Morante, translated by Cristina Viti.
Seagull, 319 pp., £19.50, January 2017, 978 0 85742 379 5
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... on to choose the music for The Gospel According to Matthew (1964), which featured the philosopher Giorgio Agamben as the disciple Philip, the novelist Natalia Ginzburg as Mary of Bethany and Susanna, Pasolini’s mother, as the older Virgin Mary. A few years later, Pasolini wrote warmly about Morante’s Il mondo salvato dai ragazzini (1968), a dramatic ...

Are we there yet?

David Simpson: Abasing language, abusing prisoners, 17 February 2005

Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror 
by Mark Danner.
Granta, 573 pp., £16.99, February 2005, 9781862077720
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The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib 
edited by Karen Greenberg and Joshua Dratel.
Cambridge, 1284 pp., £27.50, February 2005, 0 521 85324 9
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... is in fact the normative state of the nation at war, and the US is now indefinitely at war. Giorgio Agamben tells us that the power of the modern state is always premised on the state of exception and on its ability to dispose of bare life as it sees fit and with impunity. The Jay Bybee memo provides empirical evidence of just this, as it argues ...

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