How to do Politics with Words

By:
Oliver Feltham
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The French revolution not only transformed France’s political institutions and society, but it also effected a change in the very way in which politics took place as an art of speech. Terms belonging to a marginalized history, such as ‘nation’, ‘citizen’ and ‘republic’, found themselves in a foundational position. The language of politics - acts of law voted on in the national parliament – was physically transported into outlying villages of forgotten regions and translated into local dialects in order to not only inform people of their rights but help them exercise such rights in the settling of social conflict. It is my contention that these changes in the language of politics are not secondary or super-structural but form the very base of the revolutionary process. In other words, the consistency of revolutionary praxis resides in the construction of a new apparatus of communication whose singularity operates at three levels: the level of vocabulary (master-signifiers), the level of typical speech acts, and the level of technologies of communication. To conceptualize this apparatus I will have recourse to three unlikely bedfellows, John Austin, Alain Badiou and Gilles Deleuze. The goal of this research is to develop a theory of emergent apparatuses of communication in periods of political transformation.


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Oliver Feltham

American University of Paris
France

Oliver Feltham wrote his doctorate in philosophy (Deakin University, Melbourne) on praxis, work and ontology and has recently completed his translation of Alain Badiou’s Being and Event for Continuum. He co-edited and translated a collection of Badiou’s papers, Infinite Thought, for the same publishing house. He currently teaches in the areas of philosophy and theatre, philosophy and urban technology, critical theory and media analysis in the Departments of Comparative Literature, International Communications and European Cultural Studies at the American University of Paris. His current research bears on the role of speech acts and emergent apparatuses of communication in periods of political transformation, with a focus on modern France. He is also working on an ‘explosive genealogy’ of theatre and performance in their relation to philosophy.

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