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16 December 2004
State of Exception 
by Giorgio Agamben, translated by Kevin Attell.
Chicago, 104 pp., £8.50, January 2005, 0 226 00925 4
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... The Italian philosopher GiorgioAgamben does not want his fingerprints taken and, unlike like most European critics of the evil empire, he has been willing to forego an academic visit to the United States in order to prevent it happening ...

Sedan Chairs and Turtles

Leland de la Durantaye: Benjamin’s Baudelaire

21 November 2013
Charles Baudelaire: Un poeta lirico nell’età del capitalismo avanzato 
by Walter Benjamin, edited by Giorgio Agamben, Barbara Chitussi and Clemens-Carl Härle.
Neri Pozza, 927 pp., €23, December 2012, 978 88 545 0623 7
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... office. With the rise of Benjamin’s popularity in the 1960s more and more efforts were undertaken to trace the missing papers, all without success. And then, in 1981, a new detective on the case, GiorgioAgamben, while poring over Bataille’s correspondence, found a clue, and then another. A few months later he held five folders full of typescripts, fair copies, notecards, observations written on ...

I am the decider

Hal Foster: Agamben, Derrida and Santner

17 March 2011
The Beast and the Sovereign. Vol. I 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Geoffrey Bennington.
Chicago, 349 pp., £24, November 2009, 978 0 226 14428 3
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... theory has seen a marked turn to questions of ‘bare’ and ‘creaturely’ life. Why this interest in such threshold states? What’s at stake here? This kind of discourse, in which the ideas of GiorgioAgamben, Jacques Derrida and Eric Santner are central, has little to do with animal rights, and whatever bestiality is at issue is entirely our own. (As Derrida points out, animals are not cruel to ...

Between Two Deaths

Slavoj Žižek: The Culture of Torture

3 June 2004
... puts the prisoners in the position of the living dead. Their right to life is forfeited by their having been the legitimate targets of murderous bombings, so that they are now examples of what GiorgioAgamben calls homo sacer, the one who can be killed with impunity since, in the eyes of the law, his life no longer counts. (There is a passing similarity between this situation and the – legally ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Gospel According to Saint Matthew’

21 March 2013
The Gospel According to Saint Matthew 
directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
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... place and time (Italy, 1964, not Palestine, 28), they enact not the story of Christ but the mystery of the story. And there are faces that have an interest for other reasons: those of a 22-year-old GiorgioAgamben, of the novelist Natalia Ginzburg, or Pasolini’s own mother – as Mary grown older. The talk itself in the movie – that is, all the intense verbatim quotation of Christ’s words – ...

Death in Plain Sight

Marina Warner: Emily Davison, Modern Martyr

4 July 2013
... and doubtless very uncomfortable, resembles, in its verve and imagination, the attempt to put the movement’s favour on the royal colt. In both actions Davison was positioning herself in what GiorgioAgamben calls a ‘zone of indistinction’, an interstice, in order to demarcate a new space for women as citizens. Both the broom cupboard and the race track are non-places where non-citizens can ...

Are we in a war? Do we have an enemy?

Slavoj Žižek: Love Thy Neighbour

23 May 2002
... and non-criminals has no relation to that between ‘lawful’ citizens and the people referred to in France as the ‘Sans Papiers’. Perhaps the category of homo sacer, brought back into use by GiorgioAgamben in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1998), is more useful here. It designated, in ancient Roman law, someone who could be killed with impunity and whose death had, for the same ...

Six Wolfs, Three Weills

David Simpson: Emigration from Nazi Germany

5 October 2006
Weimar in Exile: The Anti-Fascist Emigration in Europe and America 
by Jean-Michel Palmier, translated by David Fernbach.
Verso, 852 pp., £29.99, July 2006, 1 84467 068 6
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... for a sensed loss of local autonomy. Nomadism (after Deleuze and Guattari) has become an appealing metaphor for all sorts of freedom, while the more negative refugeedom described in the work of GiorgioAgamben has been taken to define the condition of all of us in a world in which place-based civic and legal securities are increasingly being eroded by a volatile global economy. But if everyone is ...

The Whale Inside

Malcolm Bull: How to be a community

1 January 2009
Bíos: Biopolitics and Philosophy 
by Roberto Esposito, translated by Timothy Campbell.
Minnesota, 230 pp., £14, April 2008, 978 0 8166 4990 7
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... community, not as a form of ‘common being’ based on some shared characteristic, but rather as a ‘being-in-common’ of finite creatures who share nothing but mortality itself. Nancy, along with GiorgioAgamben, is one of Esposito’s major influences, but his insight wouldn’t have been out of place in the 17th century. Donne’s meditation presses home the same point: if it is true that ‘any ...

I lived in funeral

Robert Crawford: Les Murray

7 February 2013
New Selected Poems 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 310 pp., £14.95, April 2012, 978 1 84777 167 4
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... feeds The effect of sunrise and sunset, and of magnetically strong migratory instincts, is here dreamed and plotted with exactitude. Theorists may come to such work clutching the speculations of GiorgioAgamben on what differentiates human from animal, or swaddled in layers of eco-theory; but the liberating shake Murray has given to the perceptive power of language is what makes this poetry so ...

Forty Thousand Kilocupids

Marina Warner: The Femfatalatron

30 July 2014
The Erotic Doll: A Modern Fetish 
by Marquard Smith.
Yale, 376 pp., £35, January 2014, 978 0 300 15202 9
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... up the effect of uncanny lifelikeness: the contented husbands of ‘Dutch wives’ stage tableaux of their domestic bliss for the camera, in a Facebook realm of the unreal real. In contrast to this, GiorgioAgamben points out in ‘The Eternal Return and the Paradox of Passion’ that the word ‘likeness’ has the same root as the German word for ‘corpse’ (Leiche), and suggests that this arises ...


Ian Sansom: Iain Banks

5 December 2013
The Quarry 
by Iain Banks.
Little, Brown, 326 pp., £18.99, June 2013, 978 1 4087 0394 6
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... was certainly a political being, in a stunty kind of way: he cut up his passport and sent it to Downing Street, accompanied by a letter in the Guardian, in protest at the Iraq War – but he wasn’t GiorgioAgamben. ‘What a choice,’ he writes in The Quarry, ‘Neo-Labour, the toxic Agent-Orange-Book Lib Dems or the shithead rich-boy bastardhood that is the Tories. We really are all fucked, aren’t ...

Ruin and Redemption

David Simpson: Psychoanalysing Zionism

23 June 2005
The Question of Zion 
by Jacqueline Rose.
Princeton, 202 pp., £12.95, April 2005, 0 691 11750 0
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... and specific to the continuing crisis in Israel-Palestine, but its operations as here described are allied with (and thus appeal to) a wide range of modern nation-states which are invested in what GiorgioAgamben has called the ‘state of exception’ as the means of their own legitimation. Rose herself alludes to this conjunction (though not to Agamben) early in her book, noting that Israel is ...

Are we there yet?

David Simpson: Abasing language, abusing prisoners

17 February 2005
Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror 
by Mark Danner.
Granta, 573 pp., £16.99, February 2005, 9781862077720
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The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib 
edited by Karen Greenberg and Joshua Dratel.
Cambridge, 1284 pp., £27.50, February 2005, 0 521 85324 9
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... and had better act as if they do? The state of exception or emergency presumed by the ticking bomb scenario is in fact the normative state of the nation at war, and the US is now indefinitely at war. GiorgioAgamben tells us that the power of the modern state is always premised on the state of exception and on its ability to dispose of bare life as it sees fit and with impunity. The Jay Bybee memo ...

Slammed by Hurricanes

Jenny Turner: Elsa Morante

19 April 2017
The World Saved by Kids: And Other Epics 
by Elsa Morante, translated by Cristina Viti.
Seagull, 319 pp., £19.50, January 2017, 978 0 85742 379 5
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... He gave her a tiny part, as a prostitute in a prison, in his first film, Accattone (1961); she went on to choose the music for The Gospel According to Matthew (1964), which featured the philosopher GiorgioAgamben as the disciple Philip, the novelist Natalia Ginzburg as Mary of Bethany and Susanna, Pasolini’s mother, as the older Virgin Mary. A few years later, Pasolini wrote warmly about Morante’s ...

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