This introduction to the special focus section, “Emergent Precarities and Lateral Aesthetics,” takes the recent work of Lauren Berlant and Judith Butler as its point of departure to map the parameters of lateral agency and precarity as a means of exploring what options are available for artistic and cultural projects that attempt to imagine their way through, and/or intervene in, the neoliberal forces producing these attritions in, and of, labor and life. Drawing from certain developments in postwar avant-garde art and culture (e.g., Debord's notion of drift) as well as more recent investigations in art, aesthetics, and politics (e.g., Rancière's notion of indeterminacy), this essay proposes that new habits of attenuation, diminution, and collective de-dramatization, along with new modes of perception — to which “emergent precarities” and “lateral aesthetics” offer a tentative name — serve as options for projects in literature, visual art, and related modes of cultural production that work to describe, investigate, and at times interrupt the conditions of neoliberalism.

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