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Anarchistic Hermeneutics of Utopian Desires in the Late Nineteenth Century: Defining, Narrating, and Reading Anarchism


My dissertation articulates late-nineteenth-century anarchism as effective and discursive events that problematize certain modern tendencies that are, from the anarchist perspective, coercive, oppressive, and self-destructive. In order to go beyond what is traditionally understood by the term “anarchism,” this dissertation questions this name itself which has been almost coerced to incorporate nearly contradictory meanings and almost incommensurable positions, while embodying utopian reveries. Chapter One examines various forms and expressions of anarchist anxieties that creep into discussions of defining and giving an historical account of anarchism, but it also takes such anxieties as creative moments, foregrounding their troubling nature in discursive sites. By drawing on the method of problematization, developed by Michel Foucault, Chapter Two addresses the problem of articulating anarchism as a discipline, especially recent attempts by several post-anarchists who reconsider traditional anarchist thematics in postmodern terms. Calling into question their philosophizing orientations, it displaces the post-anarchist critique of past anarchism as essentialist and revisits both anew with the concepts of fiction and as if, elaborated by Hans Vaihinger. It proposes to read classical anarchism as explanatory fiction, where the reliance on essentialist constructs should not be seen as a sign of theoretical laziness but as narrative justifications with historically available givens and means. Chapters Three and Four offer close readings of the leading nineteenth-century authors, Émile Zola and Peter Kropotkin, respectively. Foregrounding oft-overlooked affective intersections with anarchist aspirations for betterment and justice, Chapter Three takes Le Doctuer Pascal, the last volume of Les Rougon-Macquart, as Zola’s narrative response to the destabilizing anarchist wishes. It also uses the novel to develop an anarchistic hermeneutics that defies the pre-existing disciplinary expectations and authorial intensions, revealing Zola’s wishful fiction of the fraternal primary being that could still appear within the naturalist logic of the historical novel. Chapter Four takes Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid as exemplifying anarchistic hermeneutics of reading the here and now reality almost against the grain and underscoring already existing communist feelings and practices. By reconsidering the question of anarchist trouble and examining Walter Benjamin’s philosophy of history, the Afterword concludes by making a case for anarchist historiography and hermeneutics.

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