The Other Side of Popular by Gareth Williams, Chapter 7
Operational Whitewash and Negative Community
In this chapter, Williams moves around to many different topics that fall within a subaltern and post-hegemonic realm. In parts I felt kind of lost because of the transition between some of these ideas. He is most interested in this idea of “perhaps”. In quoting Derrida, he states “And there is no more just category for the future than that of the ‘perhaps’. Such a thought conjoins friendship, the future, and perhaps to open on to the coming of what comes – that is to say, necessarily in the regime of a possible whose possibilitization must prevail over the impossible” (275). This idea of perhaps is meant to join together different possibilities rather than whitewash some of these issues. He also goes into the idea of whitewashing to explain some of the ways in which voices of the other and the history of certain nations have been erased in order for progress to happen. When I read this section it made me think about national memory and in particular a book entitled States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering by Stanley Cohen. His book deals a lot with the covering up of certain atrocities (genocides) in order to cleanse the past. It seems that whitewashing is not only conducted by a state, but also by the individuals that live within it. This is not to say that the state has less of a role in the covering up of its own past, but there are many players in this system. We must also be interested in the citizens within the country and how they are complicit in these denials.
Williams also speaks about Autrui (which loosely means other) in order to conceptualize how the other is used in many of these cases. He states “As such, perhaps we would have to take into consideration the singular relation between thought and its objects (between intellectual engagement and subaltern affect)…”(288). We need to both feel connected to each other at the same time that we are distinct individuals. I am still a bit confused with how he examines the portraits at the end of this chapter. El infarto del alma (heart attack of the soul) is images of people in an insane asylum in Chile. He argues that it is a “community of those who have no community” (293). He states that it is “the exposure of abject, impoverished, speechless, yet dignified commonalities grounded in subaltern affect that challenge and undermine the notion of intellectual work and, indeed, make such a notion withdraw before its uncomfortable relations to abject love against all odds and without apparent reason” (295). He, in effect, argues that these images challenge the naturalness of genealogy. I supposed I get confused with what he is trying to argue overall. I think that he is trying to present this as an alternative to the ways in which we think about history and what is natural. These people do not live within a normal community and yet still seem to have a vibrant one within the walls of their asylum. Perhaps we need to challenge some notions of what it means to be normal as well as who gets to be represented in history. He states “Thus we are exposed to the demand to establish critical relations with subaltern affect that do not ground themselves in nor reproduce historically constituted (colonial, national, imperial, or neoliberal) notions of a subsistent ground or of a common measure for being-in-common” (301). It challenges what it means to be in common.