This contribution to the twentieth anniversary issue of differences asks: What would not be theory? And what theory now? How does the contingent and conjunctural moment interact with or determine our theory and the understanding we seek from our theories? If theories are a form of representation, can one then say that representations are theories? Drawing on the work of Alain Badiou, Gilles Deleuze, and Slavoj Žižek, this essay explores these questions through the notion of the event, considering how our theories manage the terror of the contingency of events. Psychoanalysis, on the other hand, theorizes not the event but the drive to theorize the event—including the event of femininity—to make it precisely some thing, a symptom. But, as Lacan emphasized, the facts miss the point, and naming things is not the same as being able to articulate “the thing” of lack, the real of “missingness” constitutive of subjectivity. Various theorizations of difference, through concepts such as patriarchy or racism, come up against the problem of how difference can be different for us now. What, then, is the relation of the event to thinking the new? In her concluding discussion of Clio Barnard's mobile phone video, Dark Glass (2006), the author asks if film, as a time-based art that makes every recorded “then” a “now” in the experience of viewing, can also engage us in the contingent as the traumatic real to be made knowable. Would such a documentary event be what Badiou calls a poeticization, that is, would it constitute a “procedure of truth” that “throws us outside of ourselves”?
Elizabeth Cowie; Thinking Differently. differences 1 May 2010; 21 (1): 178–193. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2009-026
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