Aletta J. Norval: “‘Writing a Name in the Sky’: Rancière, Cavell, and the Possibility of Egalitarian Inscription”

PSRThe latest issue of the American Political Science Review contains an article that discusses Cavell in relationship to the ideas of Jacques Rancière. I thought some of our readers would find this discussion of interest. The article, entitled “‘Writing a Name in the Sky’: Rancière, Cavell, and the Possibility of Egalitarian Inscription,” was written by Aletta J. Norval (Political Theory, Department of Government, University of Essex), and can be found online here. The article’s abstract is reproduced below. (Thanks to my friend and colleague Neil Roberts for letting me know of this piece!)

Abstract: Democratic theory is often portrayed as torn between two moments: that of disruption of rule, and the ordinary, ongoing institutionalization of politics. This dualism also marks contemporary democratic theory. In Jacques Rancière’s theory of politics it takes the form of an emphasis on the ruptural qualities of the staging of novel democratic demands and the reconfiguration of the space of political argument. The reconfiguration of existing political imaginaries depends upon a moment of inscription, which remains underdeveloped in Rancière’s work. Arguing that the possibility of inscription is indeed thematized in Rancière’s more historical writings, but is often ignored by commentators, this article seeks to draw out the implications of a focus on inscription for democratic theory and practice. To flesh out this account, the article draws on Cavell’s writings on exemplarity and the role of exemplars in fostering both critical reflection and the imagination of alternatives. The focus on such exemplars and an aversive, nonconformist ethos together facilitate a better understanding of what is required for such novel demands to be acknowledged and inscribed into democratic life.

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