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Potentiality after the (f)act : the act between agency and love Evans, Christine

Abstract

In Lacanian psychoanalysis, the moment which designates the appearance of an authentic ethico-political Act is fraught with competing potentialities; because this Act materializes “as if” from nowhere, an Act’s conditions of appearance are often only available to us retroactively. Critics and philosophers such as Slavoj Žižek have attempted to account for these retroactive appearances in both culture and politics. While I acknowledge Žižek’s contribution to the Act’s contemporary recrudescence, certain problematic fissures in Žižek’s theorization of the Act nonetheless require address. Primarily, while Žižek conceives of the subject as necessary to the Act’s performance, he formulates the Act as either perpetually abstracted or entirely possible; this contentiously obliges the acting subject to vacillate between potentiality (the endless horizon of abstraction) and actualization (that space of free action in which he can effectively “change everything”). Using these Žižekian horizons of potentiality and actualization to guide my analysis, I attempt in this project to engineer a condition of possibility for the acting subject which simultaneously accounts for the Act’s miraculous materialization and the acting subject’s constitutive “subjection” to Otherness. In a series of structural transpositions, I explore the subject’s relationship with the Act apropos of aphanisis (subject self-erasure), Christian love, and the Benjaminian recapitulation of past revolutionary potential. I contend throughout that the creation of a horizon of possibility for the Act is contingent on our primary recognition of the acting agent’s relationship with the Act’s dual impulses of destruction and renewal.

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