Mercy and its Transformations

[Appeared in Muzikološki zbornik, 2009, Vol. 45, No. 2, pp. 7-16. pdf] [Abstract:] Far from radiating the dignity of the severe but merciful rulers of Mozart’s early operas, Tito’s acts display features of hysterical self-staging. The falsity of his position is rendered by the music itself, which, in a supreme display of Mozartean irony, undermines the opera’s explicit ideological project. It is a very rare case that a (relatively) unpopular work like Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito[ …]

The Subject Supposed to Loot and Rape

According to a well-known anecdote, anthropologists studying “primitives” who supposedly held certain superstitious beliefs (that they descend from a fish or from a bird, for example) asked them directly whether they “really” believed such things. They answered: “Of course not–we ‘re not stupid! But I was told that some of our ancestors actually did believe that.” In short, they transferred their belief onto another. We do the same thing with our children by going through[ …]

Liberation Hurts, Interview with Eric Dean Rasmussen

Eric Dean Rasmussen: In The Puppet and the Dwarf one of your theoretical maxims is that “in our politically correct times, it is always advisable to start with the set of unwritten prohibitions that define the positions one is allowed to adopt.” You argue that although proclamations for various forms of multiculturalist spirituality are currently in vogue, professing “serious” religious beliefs – that is, proclaiming one’s faith devoutly and unironically – is an exemplary case of an[ …]

Will You Laugh for Me, Please

On April 8, Charles R. Douglass, the inventor of “canned laughter” – the artificial laughter which accompanies comical moments in TV-series – died at 93 in Templeton, California. In the early 1950s, he developed the idea to enhance or substitute for live audience reaction on television; he then realized this idea in the guise of a keyboard machine – by pressing on different keys, it was possible to produce different kinds of laughter. First used[ …]

The Interpassive Subject

[Delivered at Centre Georges Pampidou, Traverses, 1998. Minor editing, headings, etc.] Fetish Between Structure and Humanism According to the classic Althusserian criticism, the Marxist problematic of commodity fetishism relies on the humanist ideological opposition of “human persons” versus “things.” Is it not one of Marx’s standard determinations of fetishism that it deals with “relations between things (commodities)” instead of direct “relations between people”? In other words, that in the fetishist universe, people (mis)perceive their social relations[ …]