Towards a Politics of Singularity, or Beyond Identity Politics

Cutting across the boundaries of recent political theory, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, this project aims to show that the link between one human being and another, the social bond, consists of a traumatic encounter. I argue that the self relates to the uniqueness of the other human being as something that is beyond its reach, grasp or understanding, in other words, that it represents an absolute limit to its power and intelligence. In addition, I show that the self tends to conceal this trauma by objectifying the other human being under gender, race, or class identities.

The overall aim of the project is to think the social bond between human beings beyond the constraints of the language and politics of identity.

This project is carried out in two stages.

The first stage consists in laying out the theoretical framework supporting the characterization of the social bond as a traumatic encounter between the self and the other human being. To this end, it draws on some of the recent findings in trauma studies, as well as on theories in the field of ethics, philosophy and political theory.

The second stage consists in showing to what extent this understanding of the social bond helps clarify (a) how the nation has been imagined and constructed since the 18th century and, relatedly, (b) how the construction of European and African identities has taken place since colonialism and the birth of nationalism in the 19th century.

Project leader(s):
  • Rafael Winkler (Department of Philosophy, University of Johannesburg)

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