eipcp Projects Europe as a Translational Space: The Politics of ... Conference

Jon Solomon

The Apparatus of Area and the Species of European Difference, or why Chinese Studies is good for the myth-of-the-West/rise-of-the East, but bad for living labor

Europe’s current troubles are an index of the apparatus of area in which we are caught. That the crisis—not just a “debt crisis” but a “democratic deficit” (Balibar 2004) that began long before 2008—has been focalized in Europe’s internal “crypto-colony” Greece (Herzfeld 2002) highlights the task ahead. Today more than ever, we are being called upon to think about and respond to the articulation between the regime of accumulation and the regime of anthropological difference through the apparatus of capture known as area. Through a circular process undertaken by the experts of speculative superimposition (seen for instance in the spatialized, epistemological representation of translational practice as exchange), the relation between the two instantiates and consolidates the subject of economy. This is the subject called forth by the apparatus of area. To call something an apparatus means, as Giorgio Agamben writes, three things: First, it encourages us to think about the links between nominally heterogeneous elements, such as economy, biology, and culture, as well as the separation between saying and doing; second, it alerts us to the primary importance of affect and desire in relation to knowledge—the importance, in a word, of subjectivity; and third, it calls for a political strategy to promote liberation from the domination of apparatuses. Agamben proposes the model of profanation, which returns apparatuses to the Common. Yet his formulation is compromised both by a gesture that ties the word to a civilizational history and by a residually-speculative perspective that favors contemplation over action. If not “profanation,” then what kind of action is required? We might infer from Etienne Balibar’s observation that, “the emancipation of the oppressed can only be their own work, which emphasizes its immediately ethical signification” (Balibar 1993, 49), the emancipation from the apparatus of area can be undertaken by any-body, yet never as an individual or an individualized collective, but only as a transindividual singularity in the Common. In the face of “Grexit” and “Gerxit”, what is needed is a cooperative exodus from Europe, a “jump” as would say Bernard Aspe, from thought to action, outside the apparatus of area.

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Jon Solomon: Born in the United States and trained at Cornell University, Jon Solomon has lived in East Asia for 25 years, North America for 23, and Western Europe for 2. He is competent in Chinese, French, English and Japanese, and holds a permanent position as Professeur des universités at Université Jean Moulin, Lyon, France. He is a practitioner in the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, enjoys the hobbies of backpacking, rangefinder photography, and the community of indie music in Taiwan.
His on-going intellectual project brings the theme of translation into the discussion about biopolitics as a privileged place for understanding and transforming the relations between anthropological difference and capitalist accumulation.