Who Can Be Defended
Jodi Dean considers constraints on speaking and thinking in light of the requirement that certain concessions be made for one to be allowed to speak at all. Rather than providing a genealogy that considers such requirements in light of McCarthyism’s demonization of communists, U.S. imperialism’s labeling of resistance struggles as terrorist, or the university culture of cancellation and language policing that renders discomfort with what is said a sign of the violent infliction of suffering, Dean situates the refusal to countenance violence in the enervation of a Left that gave up on communism, the Party, and the state and turned to ethics and aesthetics instead. Such a turn effaces the division constitutive of politics, displacing political speech and the political subject such that only the acts of non-resistant subjects are legible as resistance. It obscures the material histories of occupation and liberation and installs impossible standards of moral purity as conditionalities. To counter this depoliticization and displacement, Dean attends to images of flight and the Leninist theorization of struggles for self-determination.
Jodi Dean is a Professor of Politics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. She is the author or editor of fourteen books, including The Communist Horizon, Crowds and Party, Comrade: An Essay on Political Belonging and the recent collection Organize, Fight, Win: Black Communist Women’s Political Writing, co-edited with Charisse Burden-Stelly, all published by Verso.
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