Saturday 15 April 2023
08.30 - 10.30
Group Identification in Marxism and Psychoanalysis
Abdallah Al Ayache :
The Question of Sectarianism and Sects: History, Modernity, and Desire
The question of political, cultural, and religious identities has troubled Arab intellectuals since the early 20th century. During the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of colonial state formation, anxiety dominated Arab intellectual debates on the necessity and mode of embracing modernity, and overcoming “premodern” identities while retaining ... (Show more)
The question of political, cultural, and religious identities has troubled Arab intellectuals since the early 20th century. During the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of colonial state formation, anxiety dominated Arab intellectual debates on the necessity and mode of embracing modernity, and overcoming “premodern” identities while retaining a sense of authenticity. Within this overarching historical context and intellectual mood of alienation, the question of sects and sectarianism became increasingly urgent for Lebanese intellectuals especially with the rise of sectarian tensions in the mid-20th century. On the one hand, right-wing thinkers such as Michel Chiha and Charles Malek essentialized sects as the transhistorical substance of the Lebanese nation. However, they still understood the sectarian state system to be in contradiction with a complete bourgeois modernity. On the other hand, left-wing thinkers such as Mehdi Amel and Waddah Charara understood sects as historically specific political entities and sectarianism as a mode of social classification. Leftist thinkers agreed that sectarianism was a symptom of history’s retardation, producing a feeling of alienation. For them, while premodern sectarian ties changed in nature, they persisted in form due to the specific development of colonial capitalism.
In recent years the question of sects and sectarianism regained urgency within different fields of Western academia due to the rising intensity of sectarian conflicts across the Arab world. The question is considered no longer particular to Lebanon, rather to the situation of the Arab world as a whole. Academic attitudes towards sectarianism have varied widely. While essentialist approaches take sects as ‘given’ primordial entities tending towards violence, cultural approaches understand sectarianism as an expression of deeply divided societies, and structuralist approaches view sectarian relations as instituted by the state and reproduced within civil society. Even though each approach has relative explanatory pertinence, recent scholarship regarded them as inadequate to explain the nature of sects and sectarian conflict. More recently, scholars have moved away from sectarianism as social fact to a new analytical paradigm taking sectarianization as a process. This analytical paradigm understands society as a process of fluid formation whereby sects are not “givens”, rather they are constantly made and defined along the limits of porous borders.
While building on the academic literature which focuses on sectarianization as a process, this paper shows that the latter theoretical attempts have avoided the main problem of historical alienation which had troubled Arab intellectuals. This paper attends to the question of history in the analysis of sectarianism and sects. It develops a theory of sectarianism by reconciling Durkheim’s principle of social forces with Marx’s critique of political economy via Lukacs’s account of history and Lacan’s concept of jouissance. This paper proposes to understand sectarianism as a mode of reification of desire and a principle of organising a historically specific political economy of enjoyment, while producing sects as incomplete objects of desire that aim to successfully replace the position of phallic lack. (Show less)
Mats Deland, Paul Fuehrer :
The History of the Authoritarian Personality
More than sevety years ago, the concept of the authoritarian personality was coined by a research team at the Stanford University led by the German philosopher and sociologist Theodor W Adorno (and in actual fact, by the Ukranian (born Austrian and raised in Poland) child psychologist Else Frenkel-Brunswik. However, the ... (Show more)
More than sevety years ago, the concept of the authoritarian personality was coined by a research team at the Stanford University led by the German philosopher and sociologist Theodor W Adorno (and in actual fact, by the Ukranian (born Austrian and raised in Poland) child psychologist Else Frenkel-Brunswik. However, the concept has a pre-history in the debate about the failed German revolution and the left-leaning psychoanalytical community in Germany (Berlin) and Austria (Vienna) through the twenties until 1933-34. It also has an after-history, through the de-politization of psychoanalysis during the cold war and the technicalisation of sociology from the 1980s on. With a wink to Koselleck’s conceptual history, we will follow the development of the authoritarian personality as a research concept from the conflicts stabilization of psychoanalytical theory in the 1920s over its alliance with critical Marxism in the Frankfurt school (in exale), further on to its alliance with liberalism and empirical positivism during the large scientific project of antisemitism in the USA during and immediately after the war, the empirical and ideological critique in the 1950s to 1980, and its later integration among the tools of large scale attitude surveys particularly in Germany. The development and changes of the approach gives an insight in how social science has changed through political and institutional changes and how political meanings and interpretations are encapsulated in the course of scientific debate. The paper sums up a research project into the history of radical sociology that is published in Swedish in fall 2022, and poses questions about the place of social scientific history in society. (Show less)
Natasha Gasparian :
Much Ado About Nothing: Anxiety and Authority in Aref El-Rayess’s The Resurrection of Che Guevara
In the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, a range of politically committed painters, musicians, and poets turned to Che Guevara as the concretisation of an ideal guerrilla combatant in their work. The Egyptian singer Sheikh Imam (1918-1995) composed his famous and elegiac song “Che Guevara is Dead,” in which ... (Show more)
In the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, a range of politically committed painters, musicians, and poets turned to Che Guevara as the concretisation of an ideal guerrilla combatant in their work. The Egyptian singer Sheikh Imam (1918-1995) composed his famous and elegiac song “Che Guevara is Dead,” in which he mournfully warbles, “The ideal freedom fighter died / a hundred losses for men”. Leftist artists in the Arab world looked to Che Guevara as a model for the fida’iyeen of the Palestinian resistance, with whom they identified. A poem by Abbas Beydoun (b.1945) on the fida’i in southern Lebanon was translated by Lebanese singer Marcel Khalifé (b.1950) into the song “Tango for Che Guevara,” and Aref El Rayess (1928-2005) collaborated with the designer Waddah Faris (b.1940) to adapt his painting of Che Guevara, originally titled The Resurrection of Che Guevara into a poster re-entitled, Che Guevara, The Palestinian. Guevara was resurrected in the figure of the fida’i in the local and regional imaginary. However, the identification with Che Guevara on the part of Arab leftists was tenuous at best. In Aref El-Rayess’s Resurrection, Guevara appears as nothing more than a spectre – a stand-in for nothing. In my presentation, I will look closely at Resurrection to delineate the anxious and phantasmatic relationship held in relation to Che Guevara, whose sole authority rested on his function as a master-signifier for Arab leftists. I will then trace the political implications of this group psychology on the contemporary crisis in authority in the Arab world and beyond. (Show less)
Ziad Kiblawi :
In What Vile Modernity Doth My Name Lodge? The Arab Ego in Question
June 1967 marked the defeat of Arab liberation armies comprised of armies from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. The war lasted 6 days from the 5th until the 10th of June. Its effects reverberated across the Arab world, but its symbolic significance served as a monolith during the long sixties, particularly ... (Show more)
June 1967 marked the defeat of Arab liberation armies comprised of armies from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. The war lasted 6 days from the 5th until the 10th of June. Its effects reverberated across the Arab world, but its symbolic significance served as a monolith during the long sixties, particularly on a cultural and intellectual register. This watershed crisis remapped the political configuration from a sequestered pan-Arabism whose creed was “unity first, socialism second” to one geared towards the liberation of Palestine. It prompted wide-scale dissatisfaction with hegemonic ideological trends such as Arab nationalism, Syrian nationalism, Ba’athism, existentialist humanism, and orthodox Marxism and sparked a series of self-critical public debates. By 1967, a young New Left found its raison d’être outside of antiquated party lines. The late sixties in the Arab world were part of the global sixties which witnessed the retreat of revolutionary anticolonial politics around the world.
Post-1967 Arabic intellectual history has been at the centre of recent academic scholarship after two decades of near absence. New trends in intellectual historiography of the Arab world are producing a catalogue of nominalist contributions whose organising principle is the identity of the Arab or the category of the decolonial. These categories are more indicative of contemporary philosophical ideologies within intellectual historiography and rather than the vast ocean of intellectual thought in the Arab world. While the culturalist concern with the Arab identity was present during the Nahda and was the slogan of some Arabist movements, intellectual practices in the Arab world were not exclusive to a provincialized identity that sought to restore Arabness. Similarly, while anticolonial and decolonial literature dominated Leftist circles, questions pertaining to the social totality were more present. It is in the theoretical and literary works that take stock of the social totality, that a critical appraisal of the historical identification with the figure of the Arab becomes apparent.
In my presentation, I will trace the phantasmatic projection of the Arab Ego in Arabic social theory. It will historicize declensionist accounts of thought and commitment and will theoretically locate melancholia in psychoanalytic terms in order to challenge crude narratives of disillusionment and defeat. The return of psychological considerations since their initial appearance during the Nahda will be compared to the increased prevalence of daily thought or daily critique as a substitute of critical practices. (Show less)
Radhika Saraf :
Confronting the Legacy of History: the Structure of Sacrifice in the 1928-29 Textile Mill Strikes in Bombay
From April to October 1928, approximately 1,50,000 workers in Bombay participated in what became known as the largest industrial strike in the world at the time. And yet, only a few months later, the same workers engaged in violence against the figure of the Pathan—historically money-lender and strike-breaker—which transformed into ... (Show more)
From April to October 1928, approximately 1,50,000 workers in Bombay participated in what became known as the largest industrial strike in the world at the time. And yet, only a few months later, the same workers engaged in violence against the figure of the Pathan—historically money-lender and strike-breaker—which transformed into a full-scale communal riot, thus returning Hindu-Muslim conflict as a pivotal concern to the city’s landscape. This apparent contradiction—of working-class unity and fragmentation—has been the central preoccupation of South Asian labour historiography. Concomitant with trends of the cultural and linguistic turns, it has sought explanation through emphasis on identities, positing either a dichotomy between the modern and primordial or laying stress on the existence of multiple identities. While these are rich narrative accounts, their attempts to demonstrate the existence of class-consciousness or lack thereof reveals an unwillingness to question the usefulness of class-consciousness as an analytical category or interrogate the meaning of revolution for the Bombay Marxists. In so doing, I argue, these attempts indicate a separation between theory and historiography because rather than asking new questions relevant to our present, a present in which the futures that our anti-colonial ancestors had imagined has already become our unfulfilled past, these narrations take a historicist view of history which, while sympathetic of the oppressed, takes for granted the victory of capitalism and only seeks to provide justification for it. In so doing, these accounts remain within History. In this paper, I attempt instead a practice of writing history from within a tradition of Benjaminian dialectical materialism, which asks us to question not only the place of failure but also the very idea of progress and its telos.
Rather than simply a matter of class-consciousness then, I want to understand working-class action, both strike and riot, as an encounter of the Bombay Marxists with the question of minority existence. I suggest that while the ecumenical ideology of the Soviet Union enabled the Bombay Marxists to envision an alternative political form, the 1929 riots demonstrated a first instance of how, in their attempt to create an imagined proletarian identity, the Bombay Marxists deployed what René Girard calls a scapegoating mechanism. Rather than confront the problem of minoritisation underway as part of the project of colonial enlightenment, the Bombay Marxists would create a sacrificial victim of marginalised figures most susceptible to minoritisation. If in this case, if it was the Pathan whose very similarity to but sufficient differentiation from the Muslim enabled his victimhood, this process of scapegoating would structure the praxis of the Bombay Marxists and re-emerge in different forms at crucial points in the future. In so far as their fetish of labour reveals their delimited understanding of revolution as an all-encompassing transformative moment, their paucity of imagination is grounded in misrecognition, an ideological structure inherent to the very nature of capitalism. (Show less)