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Figuring the Human : : Aesthetics, Politics and the Humanity to Come


In this dissertation, I argue that the emergence of aesthetics is central to a modern biopolitical definition of man that serves to enable particular forms of identitarian oppression. I utilize Foucault's analysis of the formation of man in The Order of Things, to examine aesthetics as a discourse that subjects the anarchic range of human praxis to a regime that produces the figure of man in its modern form and, in doing so, has never ceased to produce Man's human others. I further employ this historical analysis to examine contemporary forms of affect theory which mediate similar problems under the conditions of late capitalism, but ultimately displaces the political into the realm of ontology. Instead, I formulate a Marxist understanding of the problematic through an analysis of figures of non-anthropophorous humanity--beings within the range of the human who do not bear the proper name of Man--produced under late capitalism, and contained in the Chinese coolie in Latin America and the historical zombie that originates in Haiti. While I draw deeply on historical materials, my immediate concern is with politics in the present. The political, as Jacques Rancière is not the sphere of consensual agreement, but the realm of conflict at the basis of determining who belongs within the limits of the polis and who resides beyond its limits, who can be recognized as having the capacity for speech and who can produce only the animal cry of pleasure or pain. In this way, Man itself is the central arena of the political, and a facile liberal humanism serves to obscure the constant power that must be exerted to maintain the limits of Man. Throughout my analyses, I examine the genealogical and etymological traces in the concepts of aesthetics and of politics in order to formulate them anew in a manner that remains faithful to the ever-present alterity of the human. This alterity cannot be dismissed by a simple posthumanism that seeks to abolish the name of Man, but instead places the human as a point upon our horizon which is, and perhaps must remain forever, yet to come

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