Communities of Sense

Rethinking Aesthetics and Politics

Communities of Sense

Book Pages: 384 Illustrations: 28 illustrations Published: September 2009

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

Communities of Sense argues for a new understanding of the relation between politics and aesthetics in today’s globalized and image-saturated world. Established and emerging scholars of art and culture draw on Jacques Rancière’s theorization of democratic politics to suggest that aesthetics, traditionally defined as the “science of the sensible,” is not a depoliticized discourse or theory of art, but instead part of a historically specific organization of social roles and communality. Rather than formulating aesthetics as the Other to politics, the contributors show that aesthetics and politics are mutually implicated in the construction of communities of visibility and sensation through which political orders emerge.

The first of the collection’s three sections explicitly examines the links between aesthetics and social and political experience. Here a new essay by Rancière posits art as a key site where disagreement can be staged in order to produce new communities of sense. In the second section, contributors investigate how sense was constructed in the past by the European avant-garde and how it is mobilized in today’s global visual and political culture. Exploring the viability of various models of artistic and political critique in the context of globalization, the authors of the essays in the volume’s final section suggest a shift from identity politics and preconstituted collectivities toward processes of identification and disidentification. Topics discussed in the volume vary from digital architecture to a makeshift museum in a Paris suburb, and from romantic art theory in the wake of Hegel to the history of the group-subject in political art and performance since 1968. An interview with Étienne Balibar rounds out the collection.

Contributors. Emily Apter, Étienne Balibar, Carlos Basualdo, T. J. Demos, Rachel Haidu, Beth Hinderliter, David Joselit, William Kaizen, Ranjanna Khanna, Reinaldo Laddaga, Vered Maimon, Jaleh Mansoor, Reinhold Martin, Seth McCormick, Yates McKee, Alexander Potts, Jacques Rancière, Toni Ross


“[T]he editors and contributors are to be commended for engaging with a dynamic and much-contested approach to art, and doing so at an early stage of its reception in the Anglophone world. The editors’ introductory essay is a helpful positioning of this perspective, explaining how it relates to debates regarding modernism, postmodernism, relational aesthetics and other attempts to rehabilitate notions from the aesthetic tradition. . . . And Rancière’s essay is one of the best introductions to his recent work on the import of the history of aesthetics and the logics at work in contemporary art.” — Joseph J. Tanke, Parallax

“[A] provocative and wide ranging exploration of Jacques Ranciere’s (2006) controversial assertion that ‘politics is aesthetic in principle’ (p. 58) Although focusing largely on the discipline of art history, Communities also has a broad appeal for those interested in the connections between aesthetic philosophy, social theory, and art practices. Bookended with provocative essays by Ranciere and Etienne Balibar, the collection offers new insights into contemporary art, aesthetic theory, global citizenship, postcolonialism, architecture, and film studies. Just as Ranciere’s own writings encourage interdisciplinary hybridization that challenge canonical divisions between disciplines, so too the form of Communities embodies this fundamental political and scholarly commitment.” — Tyson E. Lewis, Teachers College Record

“A smart and timely consideration of the work of Jacques Ranciere in the context of contemporary art.” — Stephen Melville, co-editor of Vision and Textuality

“The essays collected here are more than timely. They speak to the blurring of aesthetic and political conflict that we are witnessing in the world at large. Both an aesthetic and a political object, Communities of Sense will be a reference work for the new directions in art criticism.” — Tom Conley, author of Cartographic Cinema


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Beth Hinderliter is Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Buffalo State College. William Kaizen is Assistant Professor of Aesthetics and Critical Studies at the University of Masschusetts, Lowell.

Vered Maimon is a full-time lecturer in the Art and Design Department at Northeastern University. Jaleh Mansoor is Assistant Professor in the School of Art at Ohio University.

Seth McCormick is a Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

Part One. Rethinking Aesthetics

Contemporary Art and the Politics of Aesthetics / Jacques Rancière 31

The Romantic Art Work / Alexander Potts 51

From Classical to Postclassical Beauty: Institutional Critique and Aesthetic Enigma in Louise Lawler's Photography / Toni Ross 79

Technologies of Belonging: Sensus Communis, Disidentification / Ranjana Khanna 111

Part Two. Partitioning the Sensible

Dada's Event: Paris, 1921 / T. J. Demos 135

Citizen Cursor / David Joselit 153

Mass Customization: Corporate Architecture and the "End" of Politics / Reinhold Martin 172

Post-Communist Notes on Some Vertov Stills / Yates McKee 197

Part Three. The Limits of Community

Experimental Communities / Carlos Basualdo and Reinaldo Laddaga 215

Prècaritè, Autoritè, Autonomie / Rachel Haidu 238

Neo-Dada 1951-54: Between the Aesthetics of Persecution and the Politics of Identity / Seth McCormick 267

Thinking Red: Ethical Militance and the Group Subject / Emily Apter 294

Interview with Étienne Balibar 317

Bibliography 337

Contributors 355

Index 359
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4513-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4497-1
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