George Shulman: “Acknowledgment and Disavowal as an Idiom for Theorizing Politics”

The new issue of Theory & Event (Vol. 14, Issue 1) includes an essay by George Shulman (Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University) on a topic that we thought would interest readers of this blog. To access Prof. Shulman’s essay, which is entitled “Acknowledgment and Disavowal as an Idiom for Theorizing Politics,” please click here.

Here is the essay’s abstract:

This essay explores the limitations of the “turn” in political theory toward ethics and ethos. It does so by tracing how Stanley Cavell and Judith Butler use the concept of acknowledgment, and its conceptual twin disavowal, as an idiom by which to depict the ethics or ethos that should guide or frame political life. Rather than ask, who or what should we acknowledge and how—the normative and ontological questions driving theories that situate politics in relation to ethics or ethos—I ask, how does this idiom displace politics? By comparing Cavell and Butler to James Baldwin and Michael Rogin, who also use this idiom, my goal is not to reject but to politicize the concepts of disavowal and acknowledgment, for the sake of complicating, not reifying, the distinction between “politics” and “ethics.”

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