The images of absence
Paper short abstract:
This paper, drawing on the visual fieldwork material from Chechnya, explores the theoretical tension between the claims that consider unrepresentable states of being in terms of ontological absences and the analysis that sees such absences rendered (in)visible by specific modes of representation.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the theoretical tension between the claims that consider unrepresentable states of being in terms of ontological absences and the analysis that sees such absences rendered (in)visible by the specific modes of representation. The paper invites to rethink this tension as the limit of representability of the states of bodily pain and mutilation while drawing on the visual fieldwork material from post-Soviet Chechnya and setting up the dialogue between Jacques Rancière and Alain Badiou. Jacques Rancière (2007) famously argued that aesthetic regime of modernity, concerned to demonstrate that certain objects, materials, and events are always in excess of the means of artistic expression, is actually producing and dramatizing this excess, while placing it back into materiality of things. Alain Badiou (2001) on the other hand maintained that the singularity of unknown or unthinkable should be understood, not solely as the product of a particular regime of representation, but as a rupture of the consensual situation of subjectification and signification, which demands the rendering of unknown into existent rather than presenting it as unrepresentable. The paper argues that, while this tension could be employed to examine the political implication for ethnographic representation, the account of body and its states remains inadequate in such discussions. Bringing the images and narratives of torture and disappearance in Chechnya, the paper insist on the need of the specific figuration of words and images that would expose the limits of representability while conveying the bodily states it depicts.
Anthropologies of art