Panel at 2012 Žižek Studies Conference: “The Perverted Subject Does (not) Exist: Subjectivity and Žižek’s Ethics”

I’m very happy to announce a panel I’m putting together at the 2012 Žižek Studies Conference, “Neo-liberal Perversions: Fantasy and Gaze in Contemporary Culture” at the College at Brockport (SUNY) April 28-29, 2012.

At the recommendation of the conference director, Antonio Garcia (a great guy), I invited a few friends from the European Graduate School to present papers on Žižek’s ethics under the “Other” track. I think the papers that our team has come up with look very promising.

My own paper is based in part on a piece I wrote for the San Francisco Society for Lacanian Studies, “The Object of Proximity” when I was a graduate student at American University.

I hope that you can join us for what promises to be an incredible conference. Oh, and did I mention that Žižek will be there too?

Go here to register. The registration should be up by March 5th at the latest.

Here is what we came up with, see description of the panel and the title of each paper below.

Panel Abstract:

As Žižek reminds us, in his work on ethics, when faced with the ethical injunction “to love thy neighbor as thyself,” the postmodern multiculturalist approach keeps at bay the proximity of the neighbor, opting for an experience of the decaffeinated, “PC other”. For Lacan, a subject truly encounters the Other not when one discover her values, dreams, and wishes, but when the subject encounters the neighbor as jouissance. This encounter is characterized as monstrous, traumatic, and inhabiting the dimension of the real. It also becomes the founding of all ethics, as that which throws the subject out of joint.

Ultimately, the other of the real does not exist, and no reciprocal exchange is possible. In order to render bearable our coexistence with the thingness of the other in the real, we turn to the symbolic order that is either deprived of this monstrous thingness resulting in a flat, Habermasian lifeless and regulated sphere of communication, devoid of desire, or an excessive desire that is unable to be assimilated into the symbolic and teetering on fantasy.

Žižek does not waver in his radical call to stay true to loving the neighbor qua traumatic thing, a position he finds support for in the Old Testament and St. Paul. As one of our presenters will argue, Žižek’s subject is able to step out of the symbolic and into what German idealism called “radical negativity,” making his ethics one tied not to a lethal suicidal submersion into the thing, but one that desires a radical break with the fantasmatic coordinates of the symbolic.

This panel is the result of an ongoing debate and exchange amongst students of Žižek at the European Graduate School. We propose nothing less than a dialogue on and examination of Žižek’s ethical theory by working through his core concepts of subjectivity, otherness, and the way in which other psychoanalysts and continental thinkers inform his theory.

The paradoxical position of the subject constituted via the non-relation to the Other will orient the panel. What does the shrugging off of the big Other and fantasy imply for ethics? Does the other exist in Žižek’s ethical framework? One presenter claims that Žižek’s insistence upon Hegelian repetition is rooted in a theory of a subject that indeed exists; the perverted subject, that stems largely from a latent influence of the philosophers of life, specifically Spinoza, Nietzsche and Deleuze.

Our presenters will approach the question of the perverted subject from a number of different angles. One paper poses the notion of “distributed desire” as the emblematic feature of Badiou’s “faithful subject” emerging from the Event, putting into question Žižek’s perverted subject. Other papers will look at Žižek’s ambiguous allegiance to Paulinian militant ethics, examining the deadlock in today’s political theology, and looking towards a new conception of alterity. To complement our more theoretical presentations, the panel is excited to examine Žižek’s notions of alterity via popular culture, by asking: “Is Žižek Fanon for White People?”


Bree Wooten, PhD Candidate at European Graduate School, “Repetition in Hegel: The Perverted Subject Exists”

Am Johal, PhD Candidate at European Graduate School, “Is Žižek Fanon For White People? Reading Žižek Through Fanon”

George Elerick, Graduate Student at Exeter University, “The (dis)crete Psycho-Trauma in the Double-Return of the Other”

Panel Chair: Vincenzo Di Nicola, MPhil, MD, FRCP(C), FAPA, PhD Candidate at European Graduate School, “This Desire That Isn’t Mine: Distributed Desire and the Consciousless Subject”

Daniel Tutt, PhD Candidate at European Graduate School, “Radical Love and Žižek’s Ethics of Singularity”

Justin Joque, University of Michigan Libraries / European Graduate School, “The Third and the Other: Towards a Žižekian Ethic of Networked Life”