Lecture : 21 September 2012 01:01

Semesterplan – Autumn 2012: Lectures :

`The Articulation of Protest´ : Lecture by Alberto Toscano

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Social theorist and philosopher Alberto Toscano's lecture was dedicated to the rift between logistics, on the one hand, and protest, dissent and intervention, on the other. In his paper, Toscano analysed how the current focus on the politics of logistics and the insistence on invisible circulation might be undermining or sidelining the art of protest.

Invisibility, connectivity, the immaterial and the systemic, all associated to modern economic life, pose persistent problems that are even more urgent in times of depression. It is normally in these times when the interruption of the flow of goods and people makes the system and its mechanics visible. But, as Harun Farocki’s investigations into the language of war and marketing show, images of the symbols of power and resistance are often made not to be seen. Perhaps because of this, much recent artistic work that seeks to unsettle consensual perceptions of our world has been profoundly preoccupied by logistics – by the mutation of maritime space into a the space of containers, by the creation of virtual theatres of war, by the innervation of lived experience by abstract matrices of information and finance… However, is this almost ubiquitous focus on the logistical taking us away from the art of protest? Should we trust its suggestion that the only strategies we have left are blockage, interruption and sabotage, and no longer proposals for change? 

Alberto Toscano has written on militancy, egalitarianism, religious thought and social protest, in order to explore ‘the point at which theology (or religious practice and conviction) and social protest intersect’. His 2010 book Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea addresses a poverty of analysis and imagination resulting from the wish to remain within a closed theoretical horizon, in which, adopting the words of Margaret Thatcher, ‘there is no alternative’. In response, Toscano proposes a sociological critique that ‘can function as a potent antidote to the role of the concept of fanaticism as a kind of negative talisman, a tool for exorcism’, shifting the understanding of fanatical movements ‘beyond the merely ideational level, to that of social groups, interests, discourses, as well as their patterns of communication, and their specific intensities and patterns of emergence’.

Photo: OCA / Anne Marte Tørresen Sørås