Pious Humor: on José Luis Villacañas’ Freud lee el Quijote. By Gerardo Muñoz.

villacanas freud leeThe almost banal simplicity of the title of José Luis Villacañas’ most recent book, Freud lee el Quijote (La Huerta Grande, 2017), could incite false expectations. This is not a book about the esoteric references of the Quijote in the father of psychoanalysis, and it is most certainly not a psychoanalytic contribution on Cervantes, the author. Although these principles are at the center of Villacañas’ meditation, they do not exhaust his argument. There are, I think, at least two other important premises that deserve to be noted at the outset: on the one hand, Freud lee el Quijote is a continuation, a sort of minimalist diagram, of Villacañas’ massive Teología Política Imperial (Trotta, 2016); while on the other, it is an exoteric ongoing polemic with Carl Schmitt, who understood Quijote as a Catholic hero of the European destiny in the wake of secularization and the crisis of the Catholic ratio. Although Villacañas does not explicitly cite Schmitt’s early essay on Quijote (preferring to polemicize with the late work Hamlet or Hecuba), Schmitt lingers as an accompanying shadow figure throughout Villacañas’ intervention [1].

It must be said that, at a time of contemporary debates around political theology and the future of Europe, Freud lee el Quijote is a salient exposition of a decisive question on the political and historical defeat. Villacañas’ book is really about an affirmation of defeat as an irreducible condition of the political. It does not come to a surprise that Villacañas is fully honest when he writes in the prologue: “… [este libro] es mi hijo menor, pero en verdad el de más larga gestión, y el más querido de todos mis libros” (Villacañas 9).

The names of Freud and Schmitt work jointly and at opposite ends and they limit the frame of Villacañas’ strong reading of the Quijote. The central idea is that Cervantes wrote neither a work of cruelty or tragedy, nor of comedy.  El Quijote for Villacañas is a work of humor. But let us step back from this assertion. Villacañas is generous and attentive to the archival sources (Freud’s letters to Silberstein, among other things), which allows him several factual connections, such as the mimesis between the Academia Española as an antecedent of the Psychoanalytic Association, or even the Coloquio de los perros as a formal precedent of the psychoanalytic session. But more importantly, these juxtaposed scenes pepper the ground for the question that Villacañas is after: how to think the heroic figure of the Quijote, and what relation does it contract with the origin of psychoanalysis?

Villacañas’ thesis is that the Quijote is an eruption beyond the comic and the tragic into the humorous. This is, he tells us at the very end, a process of moral rationalization that Freud understood only after Cervantes’ discovery of the “pious humor” (humor piadoso) (Villacañas 25). To understand the way to Freud’s reading of humor in Cervantes, Villacañas first needs to cross paths with Schmitt. He recalls that in Schmitt’s reading of European secularization, there are three potential mythical representatives. We should bare in mind that the three are intellectual representatives: that of the Catholic Quijote in Spain, the Protestant Faust in Germany, and that of the rational and doubtful Hamlet, pulled by the tragic phantasm of the Law-Father. Throughout the essay, Villacañas wants to correct Schmitt’s perhaps too hasty typology of the first heroic type. It is not that Villacañas wants to dispute Schmitt’s circumscription of Cervantes’ Quijote into the Spanish catholic tradition; the problem is that Quijote only emerges in the ruinous aftermath of the catholic imperial ratio. Quijote in La Mancha is an existential and moral figure of a defeat that confronts reality without resentment or guilt. Hence, Quijote, like the Marranos and the Spanish pícaro, affirms without reserve the time of the interregnum as a profane Post-Reform location. Spain is the land of a double fissure into modern secularization. Villacañas tells us:

“…allí donde dominó el catolicismo nacional posterior, tal proceso fue imposible, pues ese catolicismo se puso al servicio de toda tradición mundana. Entre un catolicismo que ya no podía ser universal y un Estado que nunca sería soberano, don Quijote es el héroe errante en un mundo escindido y roto, sin soberano estatal ni Iglesia universal: el mundo español. Por eso es que es mito existencial y concierne a cualquier español que reflexione sobre su destino histórico” (Villacañas 32).

Cervantes’ profane epoch is that of the newborn Leviathan, which Villacañas reminds us did not need to wait for Hobbes, since the myth was noticed by Juan de Santa María, a Felipe III’ censor, in his Tratado de república y policía cristiana. The mythic Leviathan demolishes the old principles of medieval history based on the absolute potentiality of God in the name subjective freedom protected by the new mechanicist secular state (Villacañas 34). Up to this point, this narrative is very much consistent with Schmitt’s The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes. But Villacañas abandons Schmitt when contenting that Quijote cannot amount and should not be reduced to a mythical Spanish katechon. Quijote is, in fact, the very opposite of any positing of time restrainer of terrestrial time. He is, unlike Schmitt, not the last witness of the European ius, but the prima witness of the time of ruin and devastation: “Don Qujiote es un héroe católico, pero su figura emerge de entre las ruinas de Roma y del Imperio” (Villacañas 37). Villacañas seems to place Schmitt, vis-à-vis Quijote, on its head: whereas in Hamlet and Hecuba, Shakespeare’s tragedy inscribed the irruption of history within the work, in Cervantes’ Quijote irrupts the historical end of the roman imperium, and the Catholic Church as form of the gnosis. But how does the humor play out within this configuration?

Quijote represents a turning point of the triumph of the modern gnosis, which in a turn to Hans Blumenberg’s Legitimacy of the Modern Age, equips Villacañas with the possibility of fleeing the stereotype of the reformist and salvific composition of the modern subject. For Villacañas, Don Quijote “es la paranoia del impotente y del solitario, mientras el reformado se entrega a la experiencia entusiasta y sin fisuras del que es consciente de su poder y lo ve compartido por los que confiesan con él” (Villacañas 68-69). Quijote is a marrano figure away from Protestant salvific subjection, but also turning its back to the messianic kingdom of the Catholic fidelitas. The wonder and uniqueness of the Quijote is that he represents a third option that does not run through resentment or will to power, since its compensation is a pious humor in the face of the ruinous and the powerlessness (impotencia). Villacañas summarizes the point in an important moment of his book:

“Lo decisivo está en la forma de interpretar las derrotas. La autoafirmación moderna no trata de culpabilizar a un poder mágico por sus fracasos, ni a una finalidad perversa del mundo, ni a un manipulador chapucero y cruel, sino solo a una falla del principio epistemológico respecto a lo real, lo que constituye un nuevo reto a la curiosidad” (Villacañas 73).

The disheveled Quijote can only compensate the wake of the imperial absolute trauma with humor. This is a complex game, Villacañas notes, since it is done through phantasy as the possibility of exodus for what otherwise could amount to the acceleration of the death drive, the sublimation of the Ideal, and the proximity with the speculative teleology of the genius and the superhuman. This latter was the rubric by which German Romanticism read and appropriated the “Catholic” myth as fetish after the failure of the Protestant bourgeois transformation. The work of humor is the possible thanks to the work of self-affirmation in the face of tragic finitude: “Está diseñado para mostrar la finitud del héroe que un día fuimos, y que todavía somos, y ese el trabajo del humor, el que asegura a pensar de todo el triunfo del yo y su condición narcisista” (Villacañas 88). While the joke and comedy are blind to loss, Villacañas goes as far as to claim that the joke or the prank are always potentially on the side of aggression (Villacañas 92). Not so the humor, which can divide itself in a psychic equilibrium between the Ego and the Super-Ego, between the playfulness of the youngster and the theatrical seriousness of the elder. The joke, as reactive mechanism, does not recoil back to the Ideal. Humor – as in “tiene sentido de humor” – is always a singular form of humility.

This is, at heart, the latent gnosticism of Cervantes as Quijote, and Quijote as Cervantes. The function of comedy, which Giorgio Agamben has elevated in work as a phantasm of Italian culture and of his own potenza, dissolves in the Hispanic Marrano tradition in which Villacañas places Quijote as a humorous figure [2]. The work of compensation of the super-ego makes humor a substrate of the psychotic figure of disbelief, while affirming the narcissist drive of a modern fragile and gracious “I”. It makes sense that Villacañas argues at the end of his book this superego cannot be tyrannical (Villacañas 99). This could open rich and important discussions that we can only register here.

As a treacherous hidalgo, Alonso Quijano is never a psychotic leader, but a humorous madman. And humor is only an aftereffect of an epistemological rupture of the modern, of an unclear and unforgotten defeat that characterizes modern man, and that characterized, no doubt, Cervantes himself in his attempt to find a proper balance to nihilism. But, did he succeed? The book does not say openly, but it is fair to say that the impossible balance to nihilism is also symmetrical to the nihilism of the political.






  1. Schmitt in his early essay on Quijote notes some of the aspects that he will take up in the late book on Hamlet, such as the “image of the Hispanic heroism”, and the “great sense of humor of the work”. See, “Don Quijote un das Publikum” (1912). There is a Spanish translation of the essay by Isabel Moreno Salamaña (2009).
  2. For Agamben on the comic as a category of Italian thought in the wake of Dante, see “Comedia” in Categorie italiane: Studi di poetica e di letteratura (2010). Most recently, this is also the problem at the heart of his book on the Neapolitan puppetry figure Pulcinella, Pulcinella ovvero divertimento per li regazzi (2016).

Good riddance! Apuntes sobre Marranismo e Inscripción. (Sara Nadal-Melsió)

Marranismo e Inscripción (Escolar y Mayo, 2016) traza un itinerario en tres estadios, cada uno marcado por efectos narrativos de sujeto que se descomponen en cada uno de sus tramos, como huellas borradas: la autobiografía/autografía intelectual, la entrevista-conversación, el ensayo teórico, la lectura interesada. En su centro aparece un dispositivo y un cálculo en los que el pensamiento se narra como huida para terminar convertido, en su tránsito por la escritura, en causa y razón, en militancia incluso. La autografía, la escritura como inscripción, permite a Moreiras, permutar la narrativa de un sujeto académico plenamente interpelado por la institución por una práctica de lo propio desde su afuera. Su propuesta se nos presenta como una táctica de apropiación de lo que se mantiene externo a la institución: la existencia y su facticidad, lo absolutamente singular en su contingencia.

Así la escritura de propio, el autografismo del marrano, se externaliza para convertirse en herramienta de transmisión no circunscrita ya ni a la enseñanza ni al saber; enfrentada a la producción de consenso a la que tiende el aparato académico y a su reducción de la transmisión a enseñanza, saber y disciplina. La institución no puede interpelar a lo propio, en tanto lo propio es un ejercicio de singularidad que no pertenece a la narrativa de sujeto. Lo propio funciona en el texto como un enigma estructurante. Moreiras es el enigma y el no-sujeto que se escribe frente a nuestros ojos mientras se descose como académico, como miembro de la institución y acatador de sus leyes.

Lo que transmite aquí Moreiras es la fidelidad a una idea impersonal que excede al sujeto. Se trata de un cálculo que está ahí desde el principio como intuición y que sólo puede vivirse como error o falta. Diría incluso que esa impersonalidad está en el centro de la tragedia académica a la que se alude como trauma del sujeto. La academia solo acepta y produce sujetos plenamente interpelados, todo lo demás simplemente no existe. En ese sentido es una estructura schmittiana de gobierno, no solo de amigo/enemigo, sino de sujeto y no-sujeto. El no-sujeto de lo impersonal no tiene cabida en su seno pero es también justamente el exceso impersonal lo que sobrevive a su tragedia, a la pérdida del cobijo académico y su producción de identidades.

Esta impersonalidad, anclada en el centro de un texto personalísimo, reclama un más allá de la voz que nos habla, nos cuenta y reflexiona sobre su insomnio, su desenganche del sujeto académico y de su falso cobijo. Maurice Blanchot tenía muy claro que escribir equivale a pasar de la primera a la tercera persona. Y esa tercera persona es también el lugar que Roberto Esposito describe como “la vela alucinada del insomnio” en Tercera persona: política de la vida y filosofía de lo impersonal. Cito:

“…no el yo que vela en la noche, sino la noche que vela dentro del yo despojándose de su rol de sujeto, de su identidad de persona, de su capacidad de imputación. Un acontecimiento, llegado desde afuera y dirigido hacia fuera, que se sitúa en un nivel completamente exterior respecto a la esfera personal de la conciencia.” (Esposito, 187).

El insomnio que acecha el subtítulo de Marranismo e inscripción: ‘Más allá de la conciencia desdichada’ alude a una escena originaria en la que la pérdida es aún solo eso. La lucha agónica y especular entre la primera y la segunda persona de “Mi vida en Z”, su tragedia, queda a lo largo del texto definitivamente desplazada en favor de una tercera persona que es a la vez singular y plural, ya que se relaciona con el mundo a través de su diferencia y nunca de su identidad interpelada. La solución está no solo en asumir la pérdida sino en celebrarla. El proceso no es reversible porque la lógica ternaria es irreducible ya a la binaria. No hay vuelta atrás: adiós a la conciencia desdichada. Good riddance!

El dispositivo teórico de Marranismo e inscripción demanda una estructura triple, liberada finalmente del agonismo trágico del diálogo a dos bandas (la lucha a muerte entre el tú y el yo que la institución demanda). A mi personalmente este dispositivo me recuerda un poco a la passe lacaniana, que es también la inscripción de la voz de la tercera persona, un salto de la tragedia a la política de la comedia, a su picaresca, a su ‘make-do’ con lo dado. Así, la relación central del texto, la relación entre vida y pensamiento, bios y logos, deja también de ser binaria una vez aceptamos que ni la una ni la otra coinciden con la subjetividad y sus trampas. La vida pensante que ejerce el “moralismo salvaje” propuesto por Moreiras solo puede ser impersonal, cómplice con la facticidad del mundo y su exterioridad.

En la textualidad misma de Marranismo e inscripción se produce otra no coincidencia, esta vez entre la letra y la voz, la aporía en la que texto se instala. El desborde producido por la voz propia amenaza con descoser la continuidad de la letra y su capacidad de construir una opción de lenguaje subjetiva. La singularidad de la voz es un índice de su exterioridad: la voz es siempre otra. Y escuchar la voz en la letra es desdoblar su identidad y su identificación monológica. La voz es siempre marrana y la cuestión es cómo sostener esa tonalidad en el acto de la escritura. Es ahí donde la picaresca de la voz de Alberto actúa como soporte de su marranismo, como antídoto a la institucionalización de su escritura.

Asimismo, asumir el accidente del marranismo (el “no querer estar nunca allí donde lo ponen”, 49) es un acto de voluntad política y una entrada en un mundo más allá del yo que demanda la incorporación de lo ajeno como propio. Se trata pues de un acto retroactivo que señala la extraversión como momento de inflexión; inscripción que transmuta la necesidad en elección, lugar al que sólo se llega después de pasar por el desierto y verse de bruces enfrentada a lo que no es “ni inagotable ni subsumible” (Moreiras, 56): la existencia como resto y como supervivencia. Algo que convierte a la precariedad de la superviviente, que sabe bien de la fragilidad del sujeto como cobijo, en condición voluntaria desde la que iniciar un ergon propio. Una práctica de no-sujeto que ponga a trabajar el tiempo exterior de la existencia, su singular facticidad, la de una vida no intercambiable con ninguna otra.


*Position Paper read at book workshop “Los Malos Pasos” (on Alberto Moreiras’ Marranismo e Inscripción), held at the University of Pennsylvania, January 6, 2017.

On Alberto Moreiras’ Marranismo e Inscripción. (Lacey Schauwecker)

In the preface to Marranismo e Inscripción, Moreiras warns readers of the book’s “carga afectiva,” a valence palpable throughout his rigorously critical, and yet also resolutely personal, chapters. It is “autografía,” which he describes as writing that “busca verdad y produce destitución” ( Moreiras 200). Autography inscribes both oneself and one’s unknowing, always oriented toward that which exceeds it, a surplus that itself produces.

I am inclined also to call this writing – this autography – literature, not as a fetish but as the desire to know that which remains necessarily unidentified ( Moreiras 27). As memoir, history, theory and fiction, Marranismo e Inscripción resists the reduction to a singular genre, or even discipline. In this sense, it performs its very call for radically interdisciplinary scholarship. What interests me most about this book, at least as a first impression, however, is its implications for teaching literature, and particularly Latin American literature. As a committed teacher and mentor, Moreiras makes various references to this aspect of his accomplished career. He is a professor who never had a passion for teaching survey courses, especially those which promote facile understandings of culture, politics, and geography. Additionally, he is a mentor who refuses to claim disciples — instead, he mentions interlocutors and friends with whom he resists hegemony of all types.

Describing himself as neither identitarian, nor a specialist in any one “discipline,” Moreiras likely would scoff at the idea of any systematic or curricular pedagogy (Moreiras 213). Even so, the question of how to create a community (an inoperative or unworked, desobrada, community) of counter-university scholars, both within and beyond the classroom, permeates his work and begs further consideration.

“Es un placer enseñar lo que uno sabe o cree saber a los más jóvenes,” he affirms, “pero es mucho más divertido aprender con otros, tomar riesgos, empujar lo permisible y exponerse” (Moreiras 16). This scholarship, he claims, no longer needs to place itself under labels such as Latinamericanism, which are only metaphors in need of deconstruction as demetaphorization: that is, a thorough consideration of what such metaphors exclude, betray, and foreclose. For Moreiras, the point is to take the field to its own limits. He does this naturally, driven by a question that he cannot yet name but nevertheless yields tentative answers, concepts that resist their own intellectual capture. I wonder if, and how, such uncompromising curiosity – which he also calls “goce” – can be taught: “…habrá quizás otras maneras de serlo en las que el goce que uno quiso buscar pueda todavía darse. Hoy ese goce, en la universidad, solo es ya posible contrauniversitariamente (Moreiras 16-17).

Within the context of Latin American literature, a deconstructive pedagogy requires liberating thought from the signifiers “Latin American,” “literature,” and “Latin American literature,” among others. This happens by researching and teaching from “otros horizontes y otros parámetros ya no regionalistas ni excepcionalistas” (Moreiras 132). Moreiras understands such horizons as beyond any prescribed geopolitical commitments, as well as beyond disciplinary norms and prescriptions, pointing to a theoretical and infrapolitical elsewhere. This “elsewhere” might be imagined through motifs of exteriority (exile, abandonment), but also—crucially and dangerously—as folds within such boundaries and norms: clandestine, secret, marrano. Marranismo e inscripción, dares us to take this risk together.


*Position Paper read at book workshop “Los Malos Pasos” (on Alberto Moreiras’ Marranismo e Inscripción), held at the University of Pennsylvania, January 6, 2017.

The Secret of Secretiveness: Response to Marranismo e inscripción

Cross-posted from Posthegemony

In the introduction to his book, Marranismo e inscripción, Alberto Moreiras tells us that “the sequence of writings that [he] offer[s us] is more than the history of a professional trajectory, and contains secrets that only appear in its trace and for the astute reader, if there are any.” This, of course, is a challenge: who would not want to be the reader astute enough to pry open the text and reveal its secrets? Who would not want to prove wrong the author’s suspicion that such readers are nowhere to be found? And perhaps Alberto would also want to be proved wrong. After all, he locates the book’s origins in what he calls “a period of profound personal disillusion that had as one of its effects the destruction for [him] of any notion of a public audience [público] for whom [he] might write.” Could now, ten years or more later, this new book appeal to a (new?) public of astute readers? Or perhaps the point is that the unknown, perhaps absent and unknowable, astute reader stands in for and replaces the terminally destroyed notion of public audience. Perhaps this is the book’s own marranismo: a publication or making public whose secret truth in fact only resides in its traces, to be read allusively and privately by a reader who we forever suspect may not even exist. Yet it seems, perhaps precisely for this reason, to invite inquisition.

For on the other hand, in many ways this is a very open book; it is a book in which its author “opens up” about his personal relationship to the academic and intellectual field in a way that is quite unusual. Indeed, also in the introduction, Alberto worries that he has said too much, too personally, too directly. He reports anxiously asking José Luis and the others who had interviewed him: “Didn’t I go too far [no me pasé], are you sure that I didn’t say anything indiscreet, is there something we should re-do?” For here, and for instance in the chapter entitled “My Life in Z,” any codes or attempts to obscure the true object of discussion are, at least on the face of it, all too readable. You do not have to be a particularly astute reader, after all, to know (or feel you know) where “Z” is or was. This is a “theoretical fiction” that may be all too transparent, all too close to the bone for some readers. For this book is also quite explicitly a settling of accounts: the disillusion of which it speaks has a history, and it is time for that history to be written–inscribed for all to see–for it to give up its secrets so we can all move on. Or better, it is time that we confront common knowledge that can only pass as secret because few dare to express it explicitly: “Yes, everybody knows, there are no secrets, we all hear over and over things that were never expected to come to our ears.”

Is there then a tension of some kind between the twin themes announced in the book’s title: between the subterfuge and unknowability of the marrano and the making public and putting on the record of the inscription? Perhaps, but another way of looking at it is that this is a book that declares an end not so much to secrets as to secretiveness. It wants to do away with the practices and rituals of academic life that promote only obscurantism and disguise only the bad faith of its participants. Rituals that everybody knows, but which are repeated and reproduced as the price of admission into the elect–even if one is admitted only subsequently to be churned up and abused, marginalized and disempowered. This is all too often, Alberto tells us, simply a formula for masochism: we accept the academy’s secretive code of (dis)honour so as to be close to institutional power, but that power holds us close only to ensure that we can never really threaten it. This, after all, is the (not so secret) reality of tenure, as well as so much else: a protracted euthanization as life itself is drained out of the institution’s over-eager young recruits. And Alberto’s project, in the end, is to reclaim life, and the possibility of a life well lived, from the twin threats of endless politicization (biopolitics) and bureaucratic obscurantism (unhappy consciousness).

Towards the end of the book, in response to a question from Alejandra Castillo about “autobiographical writing,” Alberto says that “the writing that interests me doesn’t seek constitution in the truth, rather it seeks truth and produces destitution. It seeks truth in the sense that in every case it seeks to traverse the fantasy, and it produces destitution in the sense that traversing the fantasy brings us close to the abyss of the real.” He points out, however, that this psychoanalytic language (borrowed from Lacan) can equally be expressed in terms of the secret. “For me, in reality,” he continues, “there is no other writing than the writing of the secret. Or rather there is, but it is not fit for purpose. The question that opens up then is that of the use of the writing of the secret, but that is a question that I don’t believe I am prepared to answer.” “Prepared,” here, has of course a double sense: it can mean that he is not ready to answer, that he cannot answer the question; or that he is not disposed to answer it, that he will not answer. The question of the use of the secret either cannot or should not be answered. At least, not yet.

In short, for Marranismo e inscripción, what is holding us back is secretiveness, the bluster of those who (believe they) hold the keys to institutional power. But the real secret there is that there is no power to their power; that their chamber of secrets is long empty, and has been replaced by the meaningless transparency of neoliberal quantification in the sway of general equivalence. As the university increasingly becomes a business, ruled only by calculations of profit and loss, we have less and less reason to abide by its masochistic code of omertá. This book aims to break that code. On the other hand, there are indeed some true secrets, and searching for them can unleash destructive forces. The question remains: what do to with them? And perhaps even the most astute of readers is not yet in a position to decide about that.

Ascesis universitatis: sobre Marranismo e Inscripción, de Alberto Moreiras. Por Gerardo Muñoz.

marranismo-inscripcion-moreirasMarranismo e Inscripción, o el abandono de la conciencia desdichada (Escolar & Mayo, 2016), el nuevo libro de Alberto Moreiras, es un compendio reflexivo sobre al estado teórico-político del campo latinoamericanista durante los últimos quince o veinte años. A lo largo de nueve capítulos, más una introducción y un epílogo, Moreiras traza en constelación una cartografía de numerosas posiciones de la teorización latinoamericana, sin dejar de inscribirse a sí mismo como actor dentro de una epocalidad que pudiéramos llamar ‘universitaria’, y cuyo último momento de reflujo fue el ‘subalternismo’. Además de bosquejar un mapa de posiciones académicas (postsubalternistas, neomarxistas, decoloniales, o deconstruccionistas), el libro también alienta una hermenéutica existencial que se hace cargo de lo que le acontece a la vida, y en su especificidad a la “vida académica”. Y los lectores podrán comprobar que lo que acontece no siempre es bueno. Marranismo e Inscripción explicita muy tempranamente en la introducción un tipo de denegación que configura el vórtice de este ejercicio autográfico: “…durante años pensé en mí mismo como alguien comprometido centralmente con el discurso universitario, como la institución universitaria. Hoy debo admitir que ya no – trato de hacer mi trabajo lo mejor posible, claro, pero algo ha cambiado. O seré yo el que cambió. Y entonces, para mí, ser un intelectual ha perdido ya su prestigio, el que una vez tuvo. Habrá quizás otras maneras de serlo en las que el goce que uno quiso buscar pueda todavía darse. Hoy ese goce, en la universidad, solo es ya posible contrauniversitariamente.” (Moreiras 16).

La tesis a la que invita Marranismo es la de abandonar la crítica universitaria (y la conciencia desdichada es un producto de la creencia en el prestigio de la labor crítica) en al menos dos formulaciones principales. Por un lado, la función de la crítica como apéndice tutelar del saber universitario entregado a su tecnicidad reproductiva. Y en segundo término, tal vez menos vulgar aunque no menos importante, el abandono de la crítica como operación efectiva y suplente de la crisis interna de la universidad. El ejercicio autográfico marcaría una modalidad de éxodo de la suma total de la razón universitaria hacia lo que se asume como una estrategia hermenéutica que implica necesariamente la indagación de una situación concreta que da el paso imposible ‘del sujeto al predicado’ [1]. Pero el paso imposible del marrano solo dice su verdad no como persuasión interesada de un sujeto, sino como hermenéutica inscrita en cada situación irreducible al tiempo del saber. En el ejercicio hermenéutico, el marrano deshace íntegramente la incorporación metafórica, sin ofrecer a cambio una paideia ejemplar, un relato alternativo, o recursos para el relevo generacional. Es cierto, hay un llamado a cuidarse ante un peligro que acecha, aunque esto es distinto a decir que el libro está escrito desde una situación de peligro. En realidad, el tono del libro es de serenidad.

En un momento del libro, Moreiras escribe: “…el próximo expatriado potencial que lea esto debe saber a qué atenerse, y protegerse en lo que pueda” (Moreiras 18). La pregunta que surge en el corazón de Marranismo es si acaso la universidad contemporánea está en condiciones de ofrecer un mínimo principio de autoconservación de la vida del pensamiento; o si por el contrario, la universidad es solo posible como pliegue contrauniversitario post-crítico, léase poshegemónico, para seguir pensando en tiempos intempestivos, atravesados por el ascenso de nuevos fascismos, y entregado a la indiferenciación técnica del saber en el seno de la institución. O dicho con Moreiras: ¿habrá posibilidad de ‘mantenerse en pie’ en los próximos años? Y si hay posibilidad de hacerlo, ¿no es una forma de contribuir a mantener en reserva el general intellect en función de una ecuación humanista? (ej.: más saber + más estudiantes = más progreso; pudiera ejemplificar lo que queremos decir). Todo esto en momentos, dicho y aparte, en donde la lingüística aplicada o la pedagogía derrotan en rendimiento a la ya poco digna tarea del pensar. Y si es así, la universidad contemporánea no estaría en condiciones de ofrecer más que humanismo compensatorio, donde el pensador solo puede disfrazarse de civil servant de la acumulación espiritual de la Humanidad. Desde luego que no hay curas ni bálsamos para dar con una salida a lo que Moreiras se refiere como un futuro “incierto e indecible abierto a cualquier coyuntura, incluyendo la de su terminación” (Moreiras 57). Pero tal vez hayan formas más felices que otras de entrar en relación con el nihilismo universitario en sus varias manifestaciones opresivas.

Por eso es que me gustaría invitar a leer Marranismo e Inscripción como una contestación a las formas sofísticas dentro y fuera del campo académico, exacerbadas en el momento actual del agotamiento de la universidad en el interregno. Y como sabemos, el interregno no es más que la imposibilidad de hacer legible el pensamiento en el momento del fundamentalismo económico. Pero es también la diferenciación cultural substituta como se ha demostrado con la hermandad entre multiculturalismo identitario y neoliberalismo. En el interregno el sofismo no solo crece y se alimenta, sino que dada la caída de toda legitimidad, la mentira solo puede asomarse como performance desnudo de la no verdad, puesto que ha agotado su efecto de persuasión posible, su validez efectiva, y cualquier ápice de razón. La tecnificación del pensamiento a través del marco equivalencial de la teoría supone la codificación del sofismo como valorización sin necesidad de apelar a la razón.

Por ejemplo, el éxito universitario de la decolonialidad, ¿no es la victoria de la irracionalidad como valor? A la decolonialidad no le hace falta ni le importa la razón – que para los llamados pensadores decoloniales es ya de antemano contaminación ‘eurocéntrica’ o ‘ego-política colonial’ – sino la afirmación nómica de un absolutismo cultural y propietario. La irracionalidad prometeica de las finanzas en el momento de la subvención real converge con un neomedievalismo crítico, y de este modo las piedades y doxologías retornan como figuras luminosas de un saber que parece haber saldado sus cuentas con la Historia. La anomia de la universidad contemporánea es principalmente una crisis de legitimidad, entendida como fin de su efecto de auto-convencimiento y ejercicio del pensar singular. Y así, no es sorprendente que la irracionalidad brille, triunfe, y cobre un peso irrefutable en las medidas tecnocráticas que regulan las Humanities.

La irracionalidad comparece a la tecnificación donde todo se ventila de antemano. Pensemos, por ejemplo, en la jerigonzas concurridas como ‘¿cuál es tu marco teórico?’ o ‘¿desde donde hablas?’ ‘¿cuál es tu archivo?’. Estas indagaciones solo pueden entenderse como formas de una máquina inquisitorial que la universidad alberga como principio de autoridad ante la caída medular de su legitimidad. Sería coherente pensar, entonces, que si estamos ante una máquina confesional, solo la mentira puede ofrecer salvación o posibilidad de ‘mantenerse en pie’ sin tocar fondo, o sin que le vuelen a uno la cabeza. Justo es esto lo que esgrime en En defensa del populismo (2016) el filósofo español Carlos Fernández Liria, quien sugiere que ante la consumación de la mentira en el campo político contemporáneo, no hay verdad que esté condiciones de legibilidad, ni de escucha, ni de generar efecto alguno ante un macizo ideológico impenetrable. La única posibilidad es expresar una contramentira. ¿Pero es ésta la única forma de contestación? Podemos ‘testear’ esta pregunta en un momento decisivo del libro, y que aparece condensado en la forma de un chiste. Valdría la pena reproducir el pasaje:

“La sospecha de no ser lo suficientemente correctos en política, con todo el misterio terrorífico que esa determinación tiene en la academia norteamericana, pesó siempre sobre nuestras cabezas como una grave espada de Damocles, y todavía pesa, y no importa lo que digamos o hagamos, porque estas cosas, como todo el mundo sabe, se solucionan a nivel de sospecha y rumor y susurro malicioso. O incluso: es una cuestión de olor u honor, como el cristiano nuevo perfectamente devoto que no puede evitar caer en manos de la Cruz Verde porque todo el mundo sabe que su piel no reluce con la grasa prestada de la sobrasada. O, en palabras de algún fiscal federal asistente en la nueva serie de televisión Billions, «Si alguien dice que Charlie se folló a una cabra, aunque la cabra diga que no, Charlie se va a la tumba como Charlie el Follacabras» (225-26).

Lo que he llamado la forma sofística de la retórica contemporánea transforma a todos en Follacabras, en miembros potenciales de algún siniestro grupúsculo de Follacabras, y no importa la verdad que salga de la boca de la cabra (si es que la cabra habla), o del propio Charlie, puesto que una vez que la marca de Caín reluce sobre el pellejo de la frente, ya estamos automáticamente condenados a participar de una exposición que nos arroja al juego de cazadores y cazados. Este ha sido siempre el campo de batalla de la hegemonía, y que hoy se vuelve sistemático desde su inscripción en la equivalencialidad general. Esto es, no hay quien se escape a su lógica. Es más, no hay quien no sea, a la vez, una excepción sacrificable a esta lógica.

Pero habría otra opción: los Follacabras o los condenados pudieran también rechazar el sofismo y sus afligidas metáforas, aceptando la verdad como ascesis, esto es, como ejercicio en éxodo de todo juego hegemónico efectivo. Es lo que parece estar pidiendo Moreiras en Marranismo e Inscripción, y eso es ya bastante, y nos obliga a repensar la cacería como único juego posible. Y es el ascesis donde pensamiento y vida entran en una zona de indeterminación, y desde donde la verdad puede comparecer como alternativa al yoga acrobático que ofrece la universidad contemporánea, ya sea en su forma inquisitiva que obliga a la mentira, o en su produccionismo metabólico desplegado en el consenso, o en la politización, o en las buenas intenciones. Fue Iván Illich quien notó que el ascenso de la crítica académica monástica, y cuya secularización es la sospecha hermenéutica, coincidió con la declinación del ejercicio ascético del singular [2]. Y esto tiene sentido, puesto que la función crítica solo puede apelar a una radicalidad en expansión, siempre y cuando se retraiga de pensar la facticidad que supone la irreversibilidad del capitalismo. No es casual que Moreiras hacia el final del libro, y en réplica a una pregunta de Ángel O. Álvarez Solís, recurra al arcano del ascesis, como abandono del juego hegemónico de las mentira, y que dibujo los contornos de una vida sin principio:

“La palabra «ejercicio» puede servir si la entendemos etimológicamente, desde ex + arcare, desenterrar lo oculto, des-secretar. Digamos entonces, todo lo provisionalmente que quieras, que la infrapolítica es una forma de ejercicio en ese sentido –busca éxodo con respecto de la relación ético-política técnica, busca su destrucción desecretante, para liberar una práctica existencial otra. Yo no tendría inconveniente en usar para esto una expresión que he usado en algún otro lugar, la de «moralismo salvaje». La infrapolítica, en su condición reflexiva, es un ejercicio de moralismo salvaje, anti-político y anti-ético, porque quiere éxodo con respecto de la prisión subjetiva que constituye una relación ético-política impuesta ideológicamente sobre nosotros como consecuencia del humanismo metafísico. Sí, ese paso atrás salvaje con respecto de la relación ético-política es an-árquico, porque no se somete a principio.” (Moreiras 208).

La ascesis dice la verdad en la medida en que siempre atraviesa una hermenéutica existencial, y da un ‘paso atrás’ que renuncia a las determinaciones fundamentales de la subjetividad. El ejercicio tiene como objetivo el cuidado ante previsibilidad del síntoma. Si la ascesis es contrauniversitaria, lo es no en función anti-universitaria, sino por su instancia necesariamente atópica, ejercida como expatriación y desvinculación de todo sentido de propiedad y pertenencia comunitaria. Para el marrano no hay pasos aun por dar, sino solo un paso atrás, que es siempre el paso imposible al interior del tiempo de la morada. Esto supone abandonar el fantasma hegemónico del campo académico como avatar del pensamiento. Se piensa siempre en otro-lado. Es este también el sentido, de otra manera incomprensible, desde el cual podemos entender el intercambio epistolar entre Celan y Bachmann: “No recuerdo haber salido nunca de Egipto, sin embargo celebraré esta fiesta en Inglaterra” [3].

Ese paso atrás es el de la posibilidad imposible para seguir adelante desde un pensamiento que renuncia a la presbeia para ser radicalmente amonoteísta. ¿Podemos acaso imaginar una universidad en Egipto? Solo esta sería una universidad post-deconstructiva. Marranismo e Inscripción invita a este éxodo como única posibilidad de mantenernos en pie, y de echar adelante. Y hoy, ya no perdemos nada con intentarlo.

*Position Paper read at book workshop “Los Malos Pasos” (on Alberto Moreiras’ Marranismo e Inscripción), held at the University of Pennsylvania, January 6, 2017.


  1. Arturo Leyte. El paso imposible. Mexico D.F: Plaza y Valdés, 2013. p.24-53.
  2. Iván Illich. “Ascesis”. (Manuscript, dated 1989).
  3. Paul Celan & Ingeborg Bachmann. Tiempo del corazón: Correspondencia. Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 2012.

Esse extraneum: on Emanuele Coccia’s Sensible life: a micro-ontology of the image. (Gerardo Muñoz)

coccia sensible lifeLa vita sensibile (2011) is Emanuele Coccia’s first book to be translated into English. Rendered as Sensible Life: a micro-ontology of the image (Fordham U Press, 2016), it comes with an insightful prologue by Kevin Attell, and it belongs to the excellent “Commonalities” series edited by Timothy Campbell. We hope that this is not the last of the translations of what already is Coccia’s prominent production that includes, although it is not limited to La trasparenza delle immagini: Averroè e l’averroismo (Mondadori, 2005), Angeli: ebraismo, cristianesitimo, Islam (co-ed with G. Agamben, 2011), and most recently Il bene nelle cose: la pubblicità come discorso morale (2014). One should take note that in Latin America – particularly in Chile and Argentina – Coccia’s books have been translated for quite a while, and have been part of a lively debate on contemporary thought. We hope that a similar fate is destined in the United States. For some of some of us working within the confines of the Latinamericanist reflection, an encounter with Coccia has grown out of our continuous exchange with friends like Rodrigo Karmy, Gonzalo Diaz Letelier, and Manuel Moyano. It would be superfluous to say that Coccia’s work is nested in the so called contemporary ‘Italian Philosophy’ (pensiero vivente, in Roberto Esposito’s jargon), although one would be committing a certain violence to reduce it to another ‘theory wave’ so rapidly instrumentalized in the so called ‘critical management’ within the North American university.

Coccia’s tropology (not entirely a set of fixed “categories” or “concepts” for a philosophical program), such as imagination, the sensible, and the averroist intellect are signatory relays for a potential history of thought against the grain of grand conventional histories and historiographies of Western philosophy, or even more so, against the reaffirmation of a principle of philosophy of history in the wake of nihilism and biopolitics. It is most certainty true that Coccia’s investigations share a horizon that we can call the “form of life” – some of us also call it “infrapolitical existence”, which for Coccia himself has translated as the vita sensibile – although both his approach and condensation of thought always presuppose an efficient interrogation of the singular indifferent to “influences” or “schools of thought” (even when Coccia moves deep into scholastic and medieval philosophy). Perhaps no less important of a metacritical index is the unreserved service for a reconsideration of the philosophical tradition – and more importantly, the transmission and disposition of a thinking that remains unwritten – beyond the history of metaphysics and political theology.

Sensible Life is not a book about the ontology of the image in the pictorial or phenomenological sense, but an investigation into the metaxy of existence and being in the world. As Coccia argues early on in the book, ‘the sensible life is a world given to us, and only as sensible life are we in the world’ (2). Against biopolitical or vitalist (neo-positivist) remnants of understanding as fated in the subject (or the persona), Coccia prepares the ground for a physics of the sensible that affects, without really transforming, the human as subject, although it does seek to exhaust itself in subjectivity. Coccia argues, as if implicitly taking up Simone Weil’s suggestion, that the form of sensation is always a modal relation with the outside, an improper distance (metaxu) of the ‘in between’, necessary for any schematization of concrete existence [1]. Hence, perception or sensing is only possible because there is metaxy, and not because there is a subject as the producer and commander of capacities and substances. Against distributive ontologies that design complex arrangement and division of ‘life’, Coccia’s sensibly maps out a region that has always already been there, and that turns to another relation with ontology and language.

In a large part, Sensible Life is vastly informed by his prior study on Averroes and the averroist tradition Averroè e l’averroismo (Mondadori, 2005), where Coccia studied the ways in which conventional Christian history of philosophy convicted the twelve century Iberian philosopher for the madness of positing a common and universal unity of the intellect. What Coccia thematizes in that study, but also in Sensible life with greater speculative freedom, is the extent to which reason depends on the potentiality of the intellect understood as the capacity for imagination. What is common and at the same time ‘improper’ to all beings is the potentiality of imagination that remains outside of life, never constituting a principle of sufficient reason nor the ground for dogmatic belief. The ‘scandal of averroism’, as Rodrigo Karmy has called it, was followed by the Scholastic ban on teaching averroism and removing averroists from the university. It is no surprise that this coincided with the development of the category of the person as a secondary reserve of Christian political theology and Roman Catholic ratio [2].

This is what lays bare in Coccia’s explicit condemnation of the Cartesian cogito, and his affirmation of the sensible as a de-metaphorized image without proper location, since it only dwells ‘where one no longer lives and where one no longer thinks’ (17). This impersonal drift of the sensible is what allows for an extreme de-localization in multiplicity of reproduction of images that serve to dislocate the very inside and outside of the constitution of the subject, but also of any constitution of life itself (31-32). Indeed, the first part of the book is said to write a physics of the impersonal and immaterial ‘third space’ (sic) – what in Aristotle’s vocabulary is the relation with the ‘externals’ [tōn exōthen], and in medieval scholasticism is the esse extraneum – that like marrano existence, it dwells on a dual exteriority. In a key moment of the development of Sensible life, Coccia writes:

“How, then, can we define an image? In his work on perspective John Peckham held that an image is “merely the appearance of an object outside its place (extra locum suum) because the being appears not only in its own place but also outside its own place”…Our image is nothing but the existence of our form beyond what makes up, the substance that permits this form to exist in an entirely extraneous matter to that in which one exists and mixes with. Every form is born from this separation of the form of a thing from the place of its existence: where the form is out of place, an image will have a place [ha luogo]. […] Thus, an image is defined by a dual exteriority: the exteriority from bodies and the exteriority from souls – because images exist prior to meeting the eye of the subject who observes a mirror” (19).

The reproductive machine of the sensible image does not ground itself unto the subject or the purely sensorial; a movement which would have produced yet another schism between mind and body, senses and reason, the visible and the invisible. Against the categorial arrangement of the persona (and its attributes, genus, and divisions), Coccia pushes forth a general theory of productions of forms that could account for the natural life of images (31). What is really at stake here is a medial process (provided by the medieval intentio) of multiplicity beyond being and substance, property and the proper of ontological assertion. Instead, Coccia affirms a cosmological understanding of the One. In fact, one could stress this a little bit further and argue that the averroist potential intellect is a singularization of the henological neo-platonic substance into one of pure externality beyond metaphysical structuration. But the question of henology and the overcoming of metaphysics is one that we cannot raise in the space of this commentary.

For Coccia the medial extension of the image (and the imagination) leads to a metaxy of coming together (simpatizzano, which is Italian ‘third person’ indicative for sharing, is the word he choses) that conspire to form a sort of clinamen effect of singularities. Not long ago Fabián Ludueña thematized this negative community in his important La comunidad de los espectros (Miño & Dávila, 2010) as a ghostly disfiguration that, vis-à-vis the nature of mediality, enters into relation with what is always unhomely and foreign (extraneum). That is the only possible form of the communitas in the sensible life.

The second part of the book made up of seventeen scholion unveil the way in which the sensible immaterial metaxy also provide for the man’s body that accounts for a mundane relation that exceeds and subceeds the psychological and the culturalist materialisms. By reassessing vita activa and mediality, dreams and the ‘intra-body’ (Ortega y Gasset), clothing and cosmetics, Coccia situates the sensible incarnation on the very surface of the body as momentary dwelling (52). As a general anthropology of the sensible, Coccia recoils back to the ‘subject’ and even ‘identity’, but only insofar as one recognizes in this an intention that he calls an ‘ontological indifference’ that allows for an outside projection of an “infra- or hypersychic consistency – a consistency that is almost hyperobjective. Here, “the intentional sphere does not coincide with the sphere of the mind even it includes the mind; it is, rather, the state of existence of all forms when they keep themselves beyond objects and on this side of subjects, or vice versa” (55). This “infra-subjective” solicits a concrete intentional relation of dwelling in the world.

Although the space of the political is not elaborated explicitly – and perhaps for Coccia there is no need for embarking on such a task – one could say that this region is consistent with the infrapolitical relation of the non-subject vis-à-vis the ontological difference. In fact, the marrano whose existence is necessarily infrapolitical in nature is consistent with the multiplied imposture that clothes every identity and every oikos an un-homely as being-in-the-world (91). In fact, Coccia is correct in taking this cue to the limit: “only those can make up and disguise themselves can truly say “I” (86). Marrano life is also the life of the outside, a borrowed life. It is in fashion understood as a tropological site of existence, where according to Coccia a style of the multiple is given its proper place, precisely because it lack costumes, essence, or meaning. On the contrary, fashion brings to bear that only modal relations can constitute forms of life (habits). Fashion has freed life to the sensible, through a suspension of all meditation with the metaphor as its end. Indeed, it is style and not metaphorization what provides for the sensible life.

The dwelling of the sensible is also incarnated multiplicity: it is the improper relation between man and animal, between living and dying. The sensible life as pure immersion, as Coccia has argued in another place, is a flow where movement and detention, action and contemplation become inseparable [3]. It comes as no surprise that Sensible life closes with a meditation on images for life and with a general economy of natality. Here perhaps one could raise the question about averroism as philosophical transmission, but also regarding its staging of ‘living with images’. Coccia argues that life is, above all, ‘what can be transmitted, the very being of tradition” (98). But to transmit is to re-enact a style that never took place: it is a becoming of singularity. In this sense, continues Coccia, ‘Life never stops producing and reproducing, and multiplying’. However, can there be ‘inheritance’ or even ‘legacy’ of that which lacks proper place, and that is always alocational? Is not the becoming of the reproduction of the sensible the very end of transmission, the very form of dis-inheritance from any nomic determination?

It is in this aporia where Coccia’s account of the sensible life (perhaps as a flight from the form of life) touches on the question of natality as a central problem for thought, which is fundamentally a question for the history of thinking. This is also the problem that Reiner Schürmann contemplated in his posthumous Des hégémonies brisées (1996) without really unrevealing its major consequences (except in the problem of finitude posed by the tragic denial). Coccia’s invitation is for us to reimagine imagination (la vita sensibile) outside of its proactive and transcendental saturation into a region that co-belongs with thought. To this end, the vita sensible cannot amount to another anthropology, since its taskless work is to render a life that is no longer one for labor and action, but affected by the immanence of what can be imagined.




  1. Simone Weil. “Metaxu”. Grace and Gravity. New York: Rutledge, 1999.
  1. Rodrigo Karmy. “La potencia de Averroes: para una genealogía del pensamiento de lo común en la Modernidad”. Revista Plèyade, N.12, 2013.
  1. Emanuele Coccia. “Speaking Breathing”. New Observation, N.130, 2015.

Línea de sombra ten years after: introductory remarks | ACLA 2016 Harvard University. (Gerardo Muñoz & Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott)

linea de sombra

Ten years have passed since the publication of Línea de sombra: el no-sujeto de lo político (Palinodia, 2006). It seems that this seminar received neither the most appropriate of titles, nor the most desirable one. At the end of the day, others are the ones that live by anniversaries, ephemerides, and revivals. In a way, to commemorate is a convoluted and dangerous move that recaps the jacobinist principle ‘down with the King, long live the principle!’

Something radically other is at stake here, or so we wish to propose. To the extent that something is ‘actual’ is so because it allows conditions for thinking and thought; that is, conditions of doing in thought. Then, of course, there are activities and activities. As Lyotard observed, there are some activities that do not really transform anything, since ‘to do’ is no a simple operation (Lyotard 111). So much is needed for this encounter to happen – and the purpose of this encounter with many friends here is Línea de sombra ten years after. This was Alberto’s fourth major book – after Interpretacion y diferencia (1992), Tercer espacio (1999), and The Exhaustion of Difference (2001), and that is without counting his early La escritura política de José Hierro (1987). Línea, we should not forget it, was published in Chile in 2006, under turbulent circumstances. We are referring here of course to Alberto’s exodus to Aberdeen, and in a way his “exile” from the enterprise of Latinamericanism. The drift to suspend the categorial structure of the Latinamericanist reflection was already underway in Tercer espacio and Exhaustion, books that radically altered the total sum of reflections on and about Latin America, in the literary and the cultural levels, and whose consequences were felt, though we are not too sure that they have been fully pursued and taken to its outermost transgressive limits. As Alberto has repeated often, the issues on the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s are still among us, but we have yet been able to deal with them radically, which means, to deal with them without just reproducing the constitutive limited structures and categorical systems that have informed Latinamericanism and Hispanism at large through the twentieth-century.

In this sense, Línea de sombra is an unfinished intervention. In part because it did not produce many interlocutors and readers when published, or perhaps because it was taken (and it is understood as such still today) as a book that transgressed the ‘Latinamericanist reason’, opening itself to a region of thought that was in itself undisciplined, savage, and for the same reason, considered an outlaw intervention (and we should keep in mind this tension between thinking and law). It does not matter. But what really does matter is that we consider the silences around Alberto’s intervention not as a personal affair, but as a particular effect of a certain disposition of hierarchies and prestige within the contemporary university. As if Línea (and the other books) were dammed from the beginning due to the constitutive limitation of Hispanism and due to the lack of interest in theoretical approaches coming form Latinamericanism, a field that was usually identified with the exoticism of political conundrums and the curiosities coming out of Third World countries.

Of course, the reverse side of this underprivileged condition of Spanish language for intellectual reflection is that it (re)produces reactive effects. For example, the decolonial option demands a constant revision of the privilege that Spanish has had in the process of representing Latin American realities. However, the paradox arises when this decolonial turn limits itself to the glorification of native languages as if they carry with them a more authentic access to the real, without questioning the self-limitation that both, Latinoamericanist criollo scholars and decolonial ones, show in restricting themselves to the same ethnographic task, avoiding not an explicit politics of identification, but avoiding the most urgent and radical politics of thinking. This politics of thinking doesn’t belong to disciplines and doesn’t follow University structruration. This is what we call infrapolitics.

In fact, we recently called this self-imposed limitation in Latinamericanism ‘late criollismo’ in relation to the last manifestations (political practices and historical forms of imagination) of a particular tradition of thought that, reactively, is confronting the dark side of modernity and globalization with a dubious re-territorialization of affects, practices and politics: from neo-indigenism to neo-communitarianism to literary New Rights, from neo-progressism to neo-developmentalism and neo-extractivism.

On the other hand, we should not forget it, Spanish was an imperial language, and the current (rhetoric of) privilege for ‘Spanish’ is also at the heart of the neoliberal university. In fact, it is what allows the expansion of the language programs, and by consequence, the expansion of ‘adjunct professors’ and ‘part-time post-PhD students’ that carry departmental duties. An exponential process of subalternization that professors that defend far-away subalterns always seem to forget. One might say, the psychotic decolonial affect is possible by the foreclosure of a minimal distance in favor of the maximization of their subjective drive, in a process of identification that is also a process of libidinal investment and insemination.

Línea de sombra appeared in this context, but we do not think it wants to take part on either the side of defending the underdog or assuming a counter-hegemonic capitulation of Spanish as the master language or even the variations of Spanish as a sort of a new pluralism against Iberian hegemony. Línea renounces what Derrida calls in an essay of Rogues the ‘presbeia kai dunamei’, which is roughly translated as ‘majesty and power’, but it also renounces to the privilege of the predecessor or forbear, the one that commands, the archē (Derrida 138). Alberto’s text is a call for releasement of such a demand as principle of reason into a different relation with thought – now we think it is fair to say that that relation is always an infrapolitical relation – positing the archē of the political parallel to the category of the subject. In the introduction Alberto lays the question:

“El subjetivismo en política es siempre excluyente, siempre particularista, incluso allí donde el sujeto se postula como sujeto comunitario, e incluso ahí donde el sujeto se autopostula como representante de lo universal…el límite de la universalidad en política es siempre lo inhumano. ¿Y el no sujeto? ¿Es inhumano? Pero el no-sujeto no amenaza: solo está, y no excepcionalmente, sino siempre y por todas partes, no como el inconsciente sino como sombra del inconsciente, como, por lo tanto, lo más cercano, y por ello, en cuanto que más cercano, al mismo tiempo como lo ineludible y como lo que más elude” (Moreiras 12-13).

So, el no sujeto is an excess of the political subject, an incalculable and unmanageable rest, since the non-subject of the political just is, without a why. Just like the counter-communitarianism cannot constitute a principial determination, the non-subject does not wish to do so either. Indeed, Línea de sombra unfolds a complex instantiation against every nomic determination that guarantees the truth of the idea or the concept. But the non-subject haunts its violence, its transgression. Following our recent encounter with Schürmann’s work, we can say it confronts the latent forgetting of the tragic condition of being.

Indeed, the political has rarely been thought against the grain of its nomic and decionist principles, and Línea de sombra was (and still is) an invitation to do so. Our impression is that it is a book that does not want to teach or master anything, but thematizes something that has always been already there, even if some prefer to sublimate it into the principle of satisfaction. The price to be paid for that is quite high. Hence the desire to move thought elsewhere: indifferent to legacy, proper name, inheritance, masters, and subjects.

We propose, then, to think collectively these days around the promise, the offer, and the gift of this book, but not necessarily to place it in a central canonical position. Rather we intend to open its questions to interrogate our own historical occasion.




Alberto Moreiras. Línea de sombra: el no-sujeto de lo político. Santiago de Chile: Palinodia, 2006.

Jacques Derrida. Rogues: two essays on reason. Stanford University Press, 2005.

Jean François Lyotard. Why Philosophize? Polity, 2013.

*Image by Camila Moreiras, 2016.

Against American gigantism: on Peter Trawny’s Heidegger & the myth of a Jewish World Conspiracy. (Gerardo Muñoz)

Trawny Heidegger Jewish 2016

One of Peter Trawny’s main theses in his new book Martin Heidegger & the myth of a Jewish world conspiracy (University of Chicago Press, 2016), if not the central one, is that the expansion of machination at world scale was identified by Heidegger not only as the invisible power in the hands of a “dangerous band of Jews” (as Jaspers writes in his Philosophical autobiography), but also as “North America”, understood as the hyperbolic location for the fulfillment of wordlessness calculation. “Americanism” was tacitly interpreted by Heidegger as completion of nihilism, due to a “gigantism” that surpassed even the English overseas imperial trade. America lacked a proper destiny.

Against the idea of Empire built on the thriving commercial rationality, Heidegger counter-posed a non-biological conception of race ingrained in the possibility for a German turning vis-à-vis the poetic, the gods, and “the encounter in which each learn through what is respectively foreign” (Trawny 2016, 52). Whereas the “other beginning” for Germans was marked by the event of being-historical, continues Trawny, “Americanism is simply incapable of a beginning because it does not know the “origin”, because it is the offspring of an English that pursues its “gigantic business” (Trawny 2016, 37).

Taking distance from American machination also implied an open anti-Semitism within the history-of-being, conditioned by a fear due to loss of ground and a-locational fissure of dwelling. If this is Heidegger’s position in the recently published Black Notebooks, one could read here a paradoxical conjunction between Trawny’s first book Freedom to fail: Heidegger’s anarchy (Polity, 2015)- where errancy signaled not just momentary slippages of thought, but constitutive phases of his philosophy – and now errancy as privation of historical destiny. It seems as if between Trawny’s first and second book on Heidegger’s Black notebooks, what we get are really two types of errancy: the first that has to do with the site of the philosopher’s thought in opening of the Ereignis and second phase, where errancy is externalized and deeply connected to the anti-semitic a-locational dwelling in America.

It is here where one could partially inscribe a distance against Heidegger’s anti-Americanism, and establish an alternative anti-anti-Americanism, which would neither affirm the dismissal of America as the site of nihilism in the name of “Destiny” or lack thereof, nor uphold a populist or American imperialism in the name of modern mass consumerism and historical exceptionalism. Rather, it is precisely the a-locational errancy which one could affirm as a third space of an American experience of freedom. This will be the Marrano freedom, both at the level of politics as well at the level of the work within the university (knowledge).

What is crucial here to understand seems to be that Heidegger’s dismissal of America as gigantism went beyond the well-known aristocratic resentment against modern industrial society, exemplified by poets such as Stefan George or R.M. Rilke; or reactionary conservatives such as Erik Peterson, Carl Schmitt, or Julius Evola. What differentiates Heidegger’s anti-Americanism revolves around the fear of errancy and foreignness that is predicated on “race” (Judaic domination and reproduction). As Trawny quotes Heidegger:

“World Judaism spurred on by the emigrants let out of Germany, is everywhere elusive. In all the unfurling of its power, it need nowhere engage in military actions, whereas it remains for us to sacrifice the best blood of the best of our people” (Trawny 2016, 30).

It would be wrong to infer from this annotation that Heidegger is making a plea for a sacrificial substance within the German history-of-being. In fact, as Trawny reminds us, Heidegger’s anti-Americanism is accompanied by a deep regret against Germans who, instead of following the path of poets and thinkers (the conference on Holderlin’s Ister was given during the war), were deceived by the “rootless foreignness” who reckoned unto German ground in Jünger’s total mobilization (Trawny 2016, 53). What fundamentally perturbed Heidegger, however, was not the errancy of the German destiny, but the fact that American machination had turned the “rootless foreign” in all directions and spaces. Returning invisibly to the very German ground.

Why was the radical thinker of finitude unable to comprehend the horizon of democracy as consistent with the tragic condition of thought? This seems to be the limit of Heidegger’s intra-war politicity. A limit that Reiner Schürmann and Hannah Arendt’s problematize in their respective endorsements of aprincipial democracy. Against an easy dismissal of Heidegger’s thought, Schürmann’s Broken Hegemonies could well be said to affirm the a-locational errancy of democracy through the development of two of his master concepts: singularization to come and the releasement of tragic denial effectuated in hegemonic order. Beyond Heidegger’s another beginning based on Parmenides, Schürmann’s destitution of henology is reworked precisely in the name of a tragic democracy.

It is interesting that both Schürmann and Arendt were thinkers committed to different projects of post-heideggerianism in United States and that neither affirmed an Anti-Americanism of North-American gigantism, nor assumed the conventional anti-imperialist anti-Americanism sentiment of so many Cold War Lefts. It would be naïve to say that Arendt or Schürmann “fixed” Heidegger’s anti-Semitic anti-Americanism, but both definitely rework the nexus between the democratic stature and the place of thinking against the grain of onto-theology. Trawny’s book do not take up these issues, but allow us to commence to discuss them.

Our task leaves us with the necessity of affirming Heidegger’s dismissal of a-locational foreignness as a space of freedom of thought, if we are to remain committed to what in recent times Alberto Moreiras and Miguel Abensour have called savage democracy. America could well be said to be the name of that inheritance that is no longer in need of affirming a destiny or “a people”.

Posiciones y apuestas de Crossing Mexico: Migration & Human Rights. (Gerardo Muñoz)

Primero, habría que decir que el evento que tuvo lugar en Princeton University bajo el título Crossing Mexico: Migration & Human Rights in the Age of Criminal Politics (pero que también se extendió a la New School of Social Research y a NYU) no fue una apuesta aislada de lo que varios de nosotros venimos pensando en los últimos años. Éste intentó abrir una escena crítico-política en torno a algunos problemas de este nuevo conflicto social y sus gramáticas que se extienden sobre los territorios de América Latina, pero cuya cartografía es hoy global.

Los que hemos venido pensado esto – los colegas Pablo Domínguez Galbraith, Jennifer Rodríguez, Jorge Quintana, Rita Segato, Rossana Reguillo, núcleos de amigos en Texas A&M, compañeros de Argentina y Chile, otros asentados en NYC o México- no ocupan ni quieren ocupar un pedestal de la hegemonía intelectual-académica contemporánea, a la cual entendemos como parte integral del reacomodo del poder simbólico en el momento de la consumación del nihilismo epocal instalado en el interior de la tardía universidad neoliberal. Situados dentro o fuera de la universidad, nos interesa lo que llamé en algún momento del congreso una posición marrana del intelecto. La tensión entre universidad y su afuera volvió con cierta recurrencia en los debates, si bien nuestra aproximación fue escasa y tímida por momentos.

En un momento en el cual la brutalidad de la universidad es explícita a todo nivel institucional- en términos de despojo, burocratización y fácil mercantilismo de ideas, precarización de la vida intelectual y sedimentación de la reacción política; continuos intentos de frustrar iniciativas que provienen desde abajo – apostamos por un tipo de intervención que busca acercarnos de manera transversal a nuestras realidades e iluminarlas, no desde el saber maestro y su suelo firme, tan común de la división del trabajo de la vida social, sino más bien desde la pregunta y el pensamiento que la coyuntura va arrojando sobre nosotros.

Esta apuesta marca nuestro límite y desacuerdo con todas las variantes de la razón criolla latinoamericana, así como de todo saber maestro, ya de por sí policial y disciplinario, de la universidad moderna constituida en su crisis no moderna, para parafrasear al homónimo libro del filósofo chileno Willy Thayer. No con esto queremos decir que la universidad no sea aun un espacio de tensiones productivas e incluso de problematizaciones al centro del abismo que nos sitúa a la palestra de una guerra global en curso y que pareciera ocupar la totalidad de eso que ingenuamente seguimos llamando “sociedad”. Solo asumimos que podemos dar una lucha y una apuesta dentro de otro tipo universidad: una universidad sin condiciones y atenta a la multiplicidad de actores, movimientos, discursos, lenguas, afectos, y pensamientos (no desde el “pluralismo” vulgar que aun esgrimen con temor las ideas del liberalismo o el más joven neo-liberalismo depredador).

Si el neoliberalismo ha podido dar su batalla desde abajo – conquistando afectos, cuerpos, y subjetividades en diversos grados de astucia y múltiples resonancias , como ha mostrado con fuerza recientemente Verónica Gago en su libro La razón neoliberal (Tinta Limón, 2015)- una conversación como la que estuvimos inmersos en los últimos días supone entender ya no solo la precariedad de las formas de vida contemporánea, sino la impotencia del poder en su fase an-árquica de acumulación cuyo tejido va elaborándose a partir de violencias expresivas sobre los cuerpos. Subrayamos esta “impotencia del poder”, puesto que las violencias que se ejecutan y diagraman sobre los territorios (desapariciones, desmembramientos, masacres masivas, nueva opacidad del poder) han dejado de pertenecer a la matriz concertada del poder, para signar una nueva forma oscura de un tipo de fuerza para la cual no tenemos nombre. Como nos ha enseñado Rita Segato, solo podemos leer el poder actual a partir de sus efectos. Nos encontramos en un nuevo “infierno” para el cual no hay Virgilio que nos acompañe.

Es obvio que toda esta novedad – “novedad” que es solo nueva en la medida en que explicita el imperi arcanum de la excepción soberana de la región, como propuso Villalobos-Ruminott – nos interpela a la vez que arruina el aparato categorial de la teoría política moderna, así como de las formas vinculantes del pensamiento “interdisciplinario” de la universidad contemporánea. No hay rigor con el cual, por lo tanto, podamos articular un mero ‘qué hacer’ vanguardista, puesto que los principios mismos de la acción y sus ontologías correspondientes han dejado de operar ante la inmanente dis-posición (o “sistematización del mundo”, digamos) del misterio de la fuerza que nos conduce hacia un nihilismo voraz de lenguas e intelectos.

Cómo hacerlo – quizás sea esa una forma mucho más modesta (que se abre hacia una relación inconmensurable más allá de todo cómputo), pero incisiva en la larga sombra que nos contiene en la insolación de un desierto global. Si al final de este evento, Segato afirmó que todo “fascismo es anti-teórico, y que la teoría es una pasión feliz” – lo que resonaba del pedido de la antropóloga frente a la crisis actual no era un abandono o retirada (patéticamente a veces entendida como suspensión de la “acción”), sino más bien un pensamiento que constantemente deshace los hilos de sus propias condiciones, puesto que ya ha dejado de hablar desde la sabiduría o la certidumbre escolástica.

Ese pensamiento salvaje y aprincipial (los términos los ha venido trabajando Alberto Moreiras y el Colectivo Infrapolitcal-Deconstruction) es el que hoy suscribimos como una modalidad para reflexionar en el interior de este infierno transitorio. Se nos hace lógico, por eso, comenzar una serie de podcasts que llamaremos “Pensamientos sin principios” que buscará seguir profundizando algunas ideas que se pudieron generar en conversación con una red de amigos, y así seguir los ecos sonoros que el evento Crossing Mexico ha conseguido instalar en la ontología del presente.

Cabezas’ A-Positional Freedom. By Alberto Moreiras

“No infrapolitics without exploitation; no exploitation without infrapolitics.”   The Introduction to Oscar Cabezas’ Postsoberanía: Literatura, política y trabajo begins by stating that post-sovereignty would be the condition of capital’s “absolute sovereignty,” that is, a capitalism without restrainer.   The hypothesis, or thesis, is that such is the regime of rule today, in virtue of which there is no limitation to the slavery imposed by capital. Post-sovereignty would describe the political terrain of globality, understood as the political terrain of exploitation.

But in the first chapter we read that there is no formal or real imposition of sovereignty, as the history of modernity shows, without the simultaneous production of a “judaizing remainder” (22), the organizer of the marrano figure, or register, as a radical exception to the sovereign community.   The marrano exception is an error or errancy as such, and marks or provides the “enigmatic experience” of something that, interpellated and informed by the law, is never quite subordinate to the unity of command” (23): an overflowing or desbordamiento “before the law.”

If the “community,” certainly in its modern form as national community, but presumably beyond that, is always an invention of power, even of inquisitional power (in the same way that the marrano is a figure within the law that exceeds the law itself, its counterpart, the Inquisition, or inquisitional logic, is “a power within the state superior to the state itself,” in Henry Charles Lea’s definition), then the marrano marks a decommunitarian option or position that, towards the end of the chapter, Cabezas will indicate as an a-positional position, an exodus from position (81).

Cabezas corrects Heidegger’s Parmenides by insisting that it is not the Germans, precisely, who could mark the very possibility of a non-Roman, non-imperial understanding of the political, but rather the marrano, as inquisitional excess.   He links this to Derrida’s messianism without the Messiah, hinting at, without fully developing, the idea that Derrida was the first to thematize political de-capitalization for a properly counterimperial, non-Roman thinking of the political.

But I wonder whether, within the confines of this chapter at least, Cabezas’ move is really towards counterimperial politics and not rather towards infrapolitical decapitalization.   Perhaps the most moving pages in the chapter are the central ones, the section entitled “Sovereign T-error, Exile’s Truth.” In them Cabezas pursues notions such as “subjectivity without subjection,” “apátrida thought,” “erratic language,” and “sovereignty without sovereignty” in order to affirm that it is only in them that a possible “relation to freedom” opens up in modernity and beyond modernity (43).   The radical sadness of exile, of ex-communication, of de-communitarization, is a condition of freedom under every regime of sovereignty, which the marrano abhors.

But can a radical opposition to sovereignty be identified as a political position? The language of the marrano is always a losing language, a language of loss or in loss (51). “Only a language of unity turned sovereignty can fulfill the function of union” (51). There can be no union under a marrano register, only separation.   But this then means, “the marrano condition of language” (61) is never political, and can only be infrapolitical. Cabezas says “clandestine,” “subterranean,” “invisible,” that is, it never rises, because it can never do, to heliotropic regions.

Marrano a-positionality is always already infrapolitical, which is its condition of freedom.   Freedom is never defined, only invoked.   So this chapter powerfully raises a question that it is not easy to come to terms with: the answer would be, there is no political freedom, in the same way there is no good community in community. But there is something like infrapolitical freedom, invoked, never defined.

Cabezas concludes: “Exile unbinds freedom doubly, as an experience in the open, but also as the impossibility for it to take place in the name of any modern genealogy of sovereignty or its criollo variations. Freedom is the experience of exile, and the whisper of a marrano who blows into your ear the destruction of the images of idols” (91).