Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Hi campers,

I'm happily following up on our discussion from last week with a reference that came up. Around page 258 in Latour, we started to question the limits of his description of the law, and how well his case for the law's stability functions when applied to, for example, developments in European law leading up to WWII. We were looking at the section where he establishes that the difference between police and thugs depends on the entirety of the law (a fabric of sanctions and decrees makes the act of search and arrest legal rather than an act of thuggery -- there is a lot to unpack).

There is a footnote on Vichy in Latour, but not much else to contextualize what his conclusions here regarding the Council of State might say about systematic removal of civil rights, states of exception, and so on, which led me to mention Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer. 'Homo sacer' is a feature of Roman law, a person who can be killed but not sacrificed. It does take a book to sort out what that means, a paradox in which someone is excluded from the law and thereby included and identified under it -- in Roman law it applied to banishment, and today we would also talk about it in terms of stripping civil rights. Agamben looks at the early roots of these laws regarding the 'sacred man' and in particular at developments in European law leading up to WWII.

So if you finished Latour thinking, 'What about ..' -- this book may add to the conversation.

Happiness with a cup of tea and Zizek in hand to you all --

1 comment:

Annie Heckman said...

And to show what page of Zizek I was on when I wrote this.. On page 49 of 'In Defense of Lost Causes' Zizek mentions Agamben in relation to the torture.