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Notes for the project in progress: on animated absence and belonging

“We might say, in Benjaminian fashion, that thought emerges from the ruins, as the ruins, of this decimation. It does not constitute its reversal or recuperation, its ANIMATED AFTERLIFE. Animated precisely by what is not recoverable, this is a thought that is unthought to itself and thus opaque, but nevertheless alive and persistent. What results is a melancholic agency who cannot know its history as the past, cannot capture its history through chronology, and does not know who it is except as the survival, the persistence of a certain UNAVOWABILITY THAT HAUNTS THE PRESENT. Places are lost – destroyed, vacated, barred – but then there is some new place, and it is not the first, never can be the first. And so there is an impossibility housed at the site of this new place. What is new, newness itself, is founded upon the loss of original place, and so it is a newness that has within it a sense of belatedness, of coming after, and of being thus fundamentally determined by a past that continues to inform it. And so this past is not actually past in the sense of “over”, since it continues as an ANIMATING ABSENCE IN THE PRESENCE, one that makes itself known precisely in and through the survival of anachronism itself.

We could say, with well-deserved pathos and in the voice of traditional modernism, that this new place is one of NO BELONGING, where subjectivity becomes untethered from its collective fabric, where individuation becomes a historical necessity. But perhaps this is a place where belonging now takes place in and through a common sense of loss (which does not mean that all these losses are the same). Loss becomes condition and necessity for a certain sense of community, where community does not overcome the loss, where community cannot overcome the loss without losing the very sense of itself as community. And if we say this second truth about the PLACE WHERE BELONGING IS POSSIBLE, then pathos is not negated, but it turns out to be oddly fecund, paradoxically productive. ”


(Judith Butler. After Loss, What Then? In Loss. The Politics of Mourning, ed. David L. Eng and David Kazanjian (UCP, Berkeley: 2003), p. 468)



About Lina Žigelytė

Queer activist, writer, educator, interdisciplinary artist. Based in Rochester, NY.

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