Abstract

This article addresses the work of the German-language philosopher and theorist Theodor Adorno and the Palestinian Artist Mona Hatoum in order to ask after the form of the subject and the sense of life privileged in critique. I consider the form of the subject and the sense of the social presumed and generalized in Adorno in relation to his reading of Hegel and his discussion of race, anti-Blackness, anti-Semitism, and “the American landscape” in aphorisms twenty-eight and sixty-eight in Minima Moralia. Drawing on scholarship in Black and Indigenous Studies, I argue that in Adorno a particular sense of the subject, with and against Adorno’s language, is advanced: the subject of the law, right, property, and whiteness, what one might call the subject of settler life. I suggest that this is a sense of the subject that privileges its ethicality in relation to social violence and the world, and I notice that this privilege is constitutive of what critique, for Adorno, is. I then turn to Hatoum and offer a reading of several of her works and installations alongside her discussion of her art in a series of interviews, where I focus on Light at the End (1989), Present Tense (1996), Hair Lines (1979), and Socle du Monde (1992-1993). I study Hatoum’s work in order to understand the sense of the social it enlivens, and the sense of being and language it makes manifest, and I argue that, in Hatoum’s work, art becomes critique, critique becomes a theorization of the social, and theorization becomes a temporal practice of sociality, an inessential, inidentical sharing in language and form. In Hatoum’s art, a sociality of collective form displaces the critical terms of self-possession, self-orientation, and philosophical self-reflection, where property is unmoored as a logic of reading and life and a principle of form.

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