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Working Papers

Series Edited by Claire Blencowe


Volume 2, Issue 1

Controlled Nature Disorder and Dissensus in the Urban Park, by Samuel Kirwan

Volume 1, Issue 1

Political Performance: Reading Parliamentary Politics, by Shirin Rai

Volume 1, Issue 2

Biopolitical Authority, by Claire Blencowe

Volume 1, Issue 3

The Aesthetics of the Performance of Self in Mid Eighteenth Century Economic Thought, by Matthew Watson

Volume 1, Issue 4

Representing systemic violence: the example of Laundry by Anu Productions by Lisa Fitzpatrick


Volume 2, Issue 1 - Samuel Kirwan

Controlled Natures Dissensus and Disorder in the Urban Park

This article addresses the distinction between ‘the commons’ and ‘enclosure’ as a historical and present tension within the study of urban space. The article focuses upon urban parks, commonly presented as sites for the imposition of bourgeois codes of conduct; as ‘moral geographies’ (Driver, 19) enabling the suppression of an autonomous working class culture. While urban parks are commonly presented as the antithesis of the urban commons, using the theoretical work of Jacques Rancière, the article foregrounds instead the moments of creative resistance and aesthetic appropriation that characterised Victorian working-class use of urban green space. It argues that, rather than spaces of enclosure, parks might be explored instead for their re-introduction of the commons as practices of dissensus. Rather than imposing this past upon the present through the enduring symbolic barriers and governmental regimes that constitute green space, the article argues that we might look instead to the moments in which new languages of appreciation, experience and ownership are formed by marginalised groups - in particular young people.

Volume 1, Issue 1 - Shirin Rai

Political Performance: Reading Parliamentary Politics

In this paper I develop an interdisciplinary politics and performance framework across two axes to study political claim-making in democratic states. The first axis includes the body, the stage, speech/voice and performing; the second includes authentic of representation, mode of performance, liminality and resistance. A focus on reception/audience links the two together. Through this framework I demonstrate how a focus on performance allows us to ask different questions about political representation and claim-making. I suggest that by focusing on how the claims of representation are made, where are they made and why, we can challenge some claims to representation by bringing into view the person/subject that is the representative as well as the subject/citizen that is represented. The testing ground for this framework is parliamentary politics in India.

Volume 1, Issue 2 - Claire Blencowe

Biopolitical Authority

Authority is a powerful concept for coming to terms with the diversity of power, and especially for highlighting the role of contexts, aesthetics and structures of experience in the constitution of both power and politics. This article reframes the concept of ‘authority’ and attempts to articulate its continued utility and relevance in a context of radical contingency, deterritorialisation and biopolitics. It argues that authority is essentially objectivist. This account of authority is then developed, in order to address the question of whether biological-type knowledge and relations destroy or foster capacities for politics. Biopolitics is conceived as a historical process of constituting (and relating to) biological life and economic forces as objectivity. Arguing against Arendt’s diagnosis of the fate of authority in modernity, the article maintains that biological knowledges and economism create new groundworks of politics, citizenship and authority. This suggests that politics is instigated not simply through breaking given aesthetic orders (Rancière), but also through aesthetic productions of objectivity.

Volume 1, Issue 3 -Matthew Watson

The Aesthetics of the Performance of Self in Mid Nineteenth Century Economic Thought

There is a tendency to view the turn towards aesthetics in political economy as something distinctly new, as a move made in opposition to the contemporary strength of economists’ assumptions about culturally-abstracted utility-maximising
rationality. However, in this paper I present a rather different position on the issue by exploring the role that the aesthetic dimension took at the birth of what we today call economics in the mid eighteenth century work of Adam Smith. These origins are to be found in Smith’s 1759 Theory of Moral Sentiments rather than his better known
and more obviously economic 1776 Wealth of Nations. He used the earlier book to enter the debate between Mandeville and Rousseau on the nature of luxury to argue that the aesthetic traits which allow the market economy to flourish have regrettable social consequences when it comes to the constitution of the individual as an autonomous moral agent. Indeed, in the strongest version of his commentary on these dynamics, the demands placed upon individuals to submit themselves to the spectacles associated with commercial society are so pronounced that the performance of the self which emerges from that experience is necessarily morally corrupted. Smith could not bring himself to be an outright critic of consumerism because the unintended economic consequences of its enactment led, in his way of thinking, to potential escape routes from poverty. Yet he remained a cultural critic of consumerism right up until the last edition of The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1790. In that edition he highlighted even more strongly than before the possibility
that the link between aesthetic performance of the self and individual moral decay results in a generic tension between the needs of a self-perpetuating market economy and the needs of a self-sustaining market society. His work therefore stands as the culmination of an eighteenth-century tradition in which the aesthetic dimension of acquisitive individualism was often seen as a source of instability within market life and, as a consequence, it was often treated as an unfortunate manifestation of modern existence.

Volume 1, Issue 4 - Lisa Fitzpatrick

Representing systemic violence: the example of Laundry by Anu Productions

This essay seeks to explore the theatrical or performative representation of the abuse of power, drawing upon Slavoj Žižek’s discussion of systemic and symbolic violence (2008: 1) and relating it to the performance of gendered violence. It also draws upon Gay McAuley’s concept of ‘vanishment’ (2006: 154-5), which describes a process whereby rejected or abjected individuals can disappear from public sight and discourses and so, ultimately, from public consciousness. The essay uses Anu Productions 2011 performance Laundry, directed by Louise Lowe at the Dublin Theatre Festival, as an example of work that attempts the representation of an historical and systemic abuse of power, to illustrate the discussion.