eipcp transversal inventions
01 2011
print

Swarm of Events

What is New in History and the Politics of Enunciation

Translated by Aileen Derieg

Stefan Nowotny

Stefan Nowotny

biography


Aileen Derieg (translation)

biography


languages

Deutsch
English

transversal

inventions

Events only exist in plural. That means, first of all, they are only to be found where other events also take place, have taken place or will take place, so that every event that concerns us or that we may be involved in always already comes about in a swarm of events. And events can literally come about from far away. Things may have occurred somewhere and sometime, to which concatenations of events have attached themselves, which become manifest in certain “oddities”, in deviations from the familiar course of things. These deviations can in turn merge at one point or another in “one” event, perhaps beginning before that to represent “one” event – the significance and scope of which has yet to be determined.

It is, for example, a veritable event, when a gap opens up one day through the middle of the Pyrenees, which ultimately results in the Iberian peninsula separating from the European continent and drifting out into the open Atlantic. And those who can conscientiously recount an event like this, such as Jose Saramago[1], can also tell of the scattered little bizarre details, in which it is heralded: a stone hurled out to sea flies much further than its weight and the physical strength of the thrower would normally allow; a woman scratches a line on the ground with an elm twig, and lo, in a remote village the dogs start to bark that have always been mute there before; a man gets up from a chair onto his feet to become the only person far and wide to feel the earth trembling; another is suddenly accompanied day in and day out by a flock of starlings … These are occurrences conspicuous enough to unsettle a few people and send them out in search of others, who have may not have perceived exactly the same bizarre details, yet sense something that cannot be explained from the usual course of things and thus raises questions that are perhaps new and unheard of. These are occurrences, moreover, of which it cannot be said that no actions of any kind were involved in them and their genesis – but of which it can also not be said that they were entirely “effected” by certain actions.

That events always only occur in plural is consequently not solely to be understood as meaning that every event is always one of several. Rather, every event is inherently always already manifold, a complexity that factors of action may enter into as well as event components that precede the action or reach beyond its scope. If it is nevertheless possible to speak meaningfully here and there of “one” event, then this possibility is thus always also due to certain procedures of interpretation, of which the precondition is in turn that the focuses of events and concatenations of events constituting “one” event transgress certain thresholds of perception and namability and appear as connected at the same time, so that “this one” event can be imbued with its specific profile. But multiplicities also enter into these procedures themselves: multiplicities of experience, of perspective, of interpretive processes, multiplicities of proximity or distance to the event or of positioning within the event concatenations, sometimes multiplicities of access to “sources” or “documents” that refer to it, etc.; in short, multiplicities that cannot be completely grasped by even the most commanding “representative” portrayal of the “one” event.

In addition to this, every event is contingent. It is only an event in that it could also not have happened or have happened differently – just as the Iberian peninsula, for instance, could have not separated from the European continent or could have pressed into the Mediterranean in an unparalleled maneuver, colliding there with the closest islands. Saramago’s novels increase our awareness for this point, as they repeatedly develop detailed descriptions of events and chains of events that are so “improbable” that there is always a certain amazement about it that the world is as it is and not otherwise. And at the same time they demonstrate – in that because of the event it is exactly so with the world – very clearly the implications of the fundamental contingency of the event for every action. For the action experiences its own contingency in the event: it is not only the case the no certain action has effected the event as such (even if various actions may have been involved in its genesis), but also that there is no action equipped with enough “power” that it could reliably halt the event. The “effects” of certain actions are measured in the face of the event not necessarily by the authority of their authors, not even when the measures mobilized in reaction to the event spotlight an exacerbation of existing gradations of domination and inequality. On the contrary, it is much more the concatenations of events that sometimes seem to link presumably insignificant actions with astonishing consequences and may conversely lead to the weight of endeavors undertaken by presumably significant actors to thwart the event being the measure of their impotence and even their ludicrousness.

 
Event Thinking as Historical Mythology

The reason why I have focused on both aspects of the constitutive multiplicity and the contingency of the event in the introduction is because from the start I wanted to counter a certain exaggeration, even fetishizing of the concept of the event, which is occasionally to be found today. As an example of this, a passage can be mentioned here from an interview with Alain Badiou, initially published in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. Asked about both the event character of the founding of the state of Israel and the Palestinian uprising, Badiou responded by reading both from the start into a superordinated grid of “event” and “counter-event”:

The founding of the Zionist state is a mixed, deeply complex reality. On the one hand it is an event, part of a more comprehensive event: the emergence of the great revolutionary projects, communist and socialist. The idea of founding a completely new society. On the other hand, it is a counter-event that is part of a more comprehensive counter-event: of colonialism, the brutal conquering of new areas of land by people from Europe, in which other human beings, other peoples lived.[2]

Here I want to stop just briefly to express surprise at the use of a concept of “complexity” that is obviously exhausted in the construction of a binary opposition: one could regard it with the derision that Nietzsche addressed to Goethe and even more to his educated bourgeois followers in light of an understanding of conflictual soul relations expressed in the statement that someone has “two souls beating in his breast”. More important here, however, is that in Badiou’s idiosyncratic and yet highly unoriginal reading of the conflict that has developed with and since the founding of the state of Israel, the “event” along with its counterpart, the “counter-event” (and along with all the categorizations of both in “more comprehensive” events and counter-events), becomes an all too convenient foil: a foil, upon which historical processes can be subordinated to a reading grid promising orientation without requiring more in-depth investigation themselves. In other words, it is no longer the concrete historical processes themselves and the events intervening in them and possibly giving them a different direction that are of interest. Instead, the “event” of revolutionary communism/socialism on the one hand and the “counter-event” of colonialism on the other hand are suspended over history like iron-clad tablets of the history of being[3], which each have their own genesis, but then reign over the fates of things – in order to demonstrate at the same time which actions and events are to be entered into which scheme of interpretation.

In this way, the concept of event becomes a circuit board organizing an entire historical-political hermeneutic, thus alleviating the need to discuss even once the historical intertwinings of concrete relations, actions, subjectivities, experiments, negotiations and conflicts or even ultimately the events that do not fit in the scheme communism/socialism vs. colonialism.[4] And what is problematic about this is not only that these events (or following the Badiouan binary order: “counter-events”), which are not schematically provided for, include, in this specific case, especially the Shoah. What is no less problematic about this is that this kind of historico-mythological grid leaves little room for a serious discussion of what Gershom Scholem (who as a “religious anarchist”, by the way, did not at all envision founding a state when he went to Palestine in the 1920s) called “plastic moments” in the pre-history and history of Israel and the Jewish-Arab relations; and consequently it leaves just as little room for a serious discussion of those partly “eventful” closures of plastic moments that do not connect solely with the consequences of Nazi mass persecution and mass annihilation.[5] In short, a grid like this is just capable of focusing in much too predetermined perspectives on what the actual use of event thinking could be: namely reaching an understanding about a historical space and event space, which is permeated by multiplicities and contingencies, by openings and closures, by the emergence of the new and by irreversibilities, and in which the task cannot be to cleanly “separate”[6] event and counter-event from one another, but rather to create new plasticities in the midst of all that, even where the social and political terrain appears to be hopelessly rigidified.


“Weak” and “Strong” Event Concept of Poststructuralism

In the quoted passage Badiou’s concept of event ultimately appears to look like a caricature of what has crystallized in the theory and discussion fields especially of French poststructuralism as the question of the event. For he alludes to what is new and unheard-of about the event, but only to shift what is new and unheard-of almost entirely outside the history and present in question. And although he advances a difference between what is evental and the simple historical course of things (we will return later to the question of this kind of difference), it is only to elevate this difference to the difference between major events arching over history and in fact entirely withdrawn from it on the one hand, and events that literally “fall under history” on the other with no ontological weight of their own.

In contrast, a “strong” and a “weak” aspect of the concept can be distinguished in poststructuralist thinking of the event, which – according to my thesis – are equally significant. I consciously speak of aspects, because if they are well understood, then as I see it, they do not permit completely isolating a strong and a weak concept of the event from one another. Instead, they enter into the event concept as indispensable components, so that it is only possible to speak of a strong and weak event concept in the sense of one accentuation or another. In other words, the “strength” of the event concept can only be understood against the background of its “weakness”, just as its “weakness” needs to be conceived in the open horizon of its “strength”.

The strong aspect of the event concept is to be demonstrated here, first of all, with a reflection from Derrida, which relates to the kind of event, of which the name heads the series of assemblies into which this lecture is inscribed – namely the invention: “Invention is an event; the words themselves indicate as much. It’s a matter of finding, of bringing out, of making what is not yet here come to be.”[7] In its strong aspect the concept thus highlights what is new, specifically the unheard-of new, that which “is not yet here”, but is made to “come to be” – in fact, that which was not even predetermined in its possibility of existence: “For there to be an invention event, the invention must appear impossible. What is impossible must become possible. The only possibility of invention is thus the invention of the impossible.”[8] It is not necessary to follow the paradox that Derrida aims for in playing with the modalities of possibility and impossibility in order to capture the central point: if invention or event involves the “possibility” of the emergence of something new, then this possibility is not to be understood in the sense of the old metaphysical (Aristotelian) tradition, according to which a prior reality grounds all possibility, which has then only to be implemented, “realized” (in such a way that the emergence of something fundamentally new would be virtually “impossible”). Instead, this is a possibility, which certainly does have its initial conditions and into which various elements and actions enter, but of which the effectuation cannot be explained, or at least not entirely explained, from these conditions, elements and actions or traced back to them. It is precisely for this reason and in this sense, that what emerges from them is new – and the conditions, elements and actions involved in the emergence of this new are themselves changed to a certain extent, because they become conditions, elements and actions of something that was not previously inherent to them (also not as a predetermined potentiality, “Intelligent Design”, intention, etc.). In short, the event concept in its “strong” aspect describes a relation of emergence.

The “weak” aspect of the event concept, on the other hand, has to do precisely with the constitutive multiplicity of the event and with its fundamental contingency. It is only weak in the sense that, in and of itself, it does not yet explicitly name or highlight the aspect of newness, of invention, etc. Yet at the same time, it is not to be separated from the strong components of the concept, especially since the question and the problem of the new and its emergence first attain their full and precise sense against the background of the multiplicity and the contingency of the event. And these are specifically foregrounded in the weak accentuation of the event concept: it means that the things, happenings, and even meanings we are concerned with are the “results” of compositions that follow no higher necessity at all, and the effects of which, as binding as they may seem to be, constantly remain permeated by imponderables; that they are not realizations of an “essence” inscribed in them, but rather effects of a certain dynamizing of heterogeneous components that have linked together into a specific and never completely stable assemblage.

It could therefore be said that the weak aspect of the event concept is directed exactly against the kind of mythologem in the view of historical relations that a statement like Badiou’s (this time specifically in reference to the event) newly threatens to install. For, in a sense, it restitutes to history exactly the events that are interwoven in it, which are to be understood as far as possible – and with all the complexities and “chance occurrences” – from history and what it has facilitated, and which allow history to be more and other in its continuation than the mere further development of the existing. This restitution of the evental can therefore be understood, by the way, not only as a restitution to history, but also as a restitution of historicity to times, phenomena and circumstances that have allegedly been excepted from history. And this in turn is not only to be related to times, phenomena and circumstances that are imagined to have arrived at the proclaimed “end of history”, but also to those that have purportedly not yet or not sufficiently arrived in it.[9] The “difference” that exists between history and event is thus ultimately to be understood as a difference that does not so much apply to two actually different orders. Instead, it challenges the thinking of historical relations itself to dispense with auxiliary constructions removed from history – whether these may consist of the construction of a beginning or end of history or of the construction of inevitabilities and determinisms, to which historical processes are supposedly subjected.

Or finally of the construction of one or more “subjects” or “sub-subjects” of history, which has considerably abetted the establishment of mythologems of historical understanding. The uses of the “weak” poststructuralist event concept may perhaps be most clearly read from the relentless criticism of these kinds of subjects and sub-subjects. The articulation of this criticism already began in structuralism (and even here sometimes with reference to events), and in the field of poststructuralist thinking it assumed contours that were even clearer and even more unmistakeably linked with the question of events. Several examples of this kind of criticism relating one after another to work by Lévi-Strauss, Foucault and Deleuze/Guattari:[10] One speaks of “archaic cultures”, which go on existing in their “authenticity” without history? Perhaps one has simply found no access to their transformation, for methodological reasons or because certain events have robbed these “cultures” of the means to evolve dynamics like those that can certainly be observed elsewhere. One constructs a temporal threshold between nature and culture, which allows placing the latter at the beginning of all that is capable of history (even if the “primitive” or “archaic” variations of “culture” have not yet opened themselves up to it)? Perhaps this is only an analytical threshold, which is imposed on historical-social phenomena, without it being possible to secure its unambiguousness? One speaks of the “humanizing” of criminal justice in the course of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century? Perhaps it has more to do with the crystallization of a new political-economic dispositive of power seeking to discipline individuals (instead of killing and martyring them). The human being is placed altogether in the center of history? Perhaps the human being is just the result of certain economic, philological and biological dispositions of knowledge, and an “event” can be imagined that lets us wager that he will one day again “vanish like a face in the sand at the edge of the sea”. Sexuality is regarded as a vector of liberation from repression? Perhaps this is just a specific dispositive of power that always paradoxically engenders an interminable talking about sex, where one allegedly has to do with nothing but its repression. One wants to search out the seething of drive and libido in the underground of history and, most of all, its actors? Perhaps desire is only imaginable as a machinic assemblage, as a concatenation of heterogeneous elements, bringing forth productions of productions, anti-productions and consumptions – without desire having its preferred place in the mysterious depths of “subjects”.

The various battle zones that these attacks on what is presumably taken for granted have opened up cannot and need not be pursued here in detail. Yet one of the central stakes, around which the conflict in them revolves, can be clearly named: events are asserted, which are actually not events or which are not accessible (such as the transition from “nature” to “culture”), or again events that are poorly interpreted, because a subject that is by no means evident is uncritically imputed to them (such as “culture” or the “human being”); at the same time, other events are ignored, which concern, for example, the concrete history of these presumed subjects or the genesis of specifically the dispositions of knowledge that make them plausible; and finally, events that could happen one day – such as the “end of the human being” as subject of history, for example – are made purely and simply unimaginable, because thinking of history without the substruction of this kind of subject has never been learned.


The Emergence of New Political Subjectivities

What poststructuralist event thinking confronts us with then is an open field of multiplicities and contingencies that calls for a new view of historical processes that casts off certain mythologems. Yet even though this critical disposal may already be a concern of the “weak” aspect of the event concept to a high degree, this does not mean at all that its “strong” aspect can be dispensed with. A relinquishment of this kind is all too familiar today. It permeates a significant portion, for example, of investigations devoted to the “cultural turn”, which sometimes consider it already a great insight to demonstrate the “mutability” of “power structures in the cultural field” along with an understanding of their contingent formation. Counter to Badiou’s detachment of the strong aspect of the event concept, here its weak aspect is detached, and we find ourselves confronted with a field of chronicling the variabilities and mutabilities, which may be able to keep flocks of researchers busy, but of which no one really knows in the end how the emergence of the new should actually happen in it.

In conclusion, a special case of events should be mentioned here, which relates to the emergence of new political subjectivities. It does not involve merely the appearance of a further variation of “cultural articulations”, nor simply the newest garb that principally well known political stances and currents put on, but rather exactly the kind of enunciation that allows a new “subject” of enunciation to emerge. And this actually means a new subjectivation that is carried out, not least of all, over and through the enunciation of itself: “I, a member of the Third Estate and thus of the nation”; “I, woman and citizen”, “I, Sans-culotte and as such a citizen”; “I, Sans-papiers and …”. I am obviously limiting my examples and relate at least the first three of them to one and the same context, namely that of the French Revolution, which I want to consider less as “one” event, but rather as a swarm of events.

First of all, let us recall the “plan” of the pamphlet Qu’est ce que le tiers-état? by Emmanuel Sieyès, circulated in January 1789: “1. What is the Third Estate? – Everybody. 2. What has it been hitherto in the political order? – Nothing. 3. What does it desire to be? – Something.[11] We have long known that the explosive force that these sentences bore witness to and which they incited at the same time were to explode in the direction that this “something”, which the Third Estate desired to be in the political order, rose up to become the “everything” that the Third Estate, at least according to Sieyès, already was: namely the “everything” of the “nation”, which – considered with Sieyès as a political economy of earning and trade with various riches, personal care benefits and the filling of public functions[12] – needs no other Estate. To be precise, however, we cannot say that the “Third Estate” was already the “Nation” before the upheavals of the Revolution years: the Revolution was to cast off the old Estate order, but there was to be no more “Third Estate” in the political order, and it was specifically in this that the political life of the “Nation” was to unfold. The conditions of the event before the event are not the same as the conditions after the event. Rather, what they actualize in the event is at the same time a transformation of the conditions themselves. What we find with Sieyès is an anticipation, a writing in the horizon of the impending Revolution, which basically proposes the following logic: if the desire of the Third Estate to be something is fulfilled, then it will be everything, because it has basically always been everything; yet it will only have been everything by becoming everything, namely the “Nation”, and by people being able to say, “I, a member of the Nation, citizen”.

An event cannot be completely anticipated, however, even if certain signs – if we recall Saramago – may indicate that something, anything, or  something more or less (but never completely) determined is about to happen. And even though Sieyès’ anticipation may have proved to be quite apt (for which reason his texts are regarded today as classic literature of the French Revolution), this still does not mean that they provide a reliable source of information about the “one” event. For they can only be anticipation at all by being, first of all, one of its enunciations, remaining as such approximate and provisional and, even if perhaps appearing especially “apt” ex post, most of all not alone and even less remaining alone.

In the course of the revolutionary upheavals, in 1789 a “Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen” (“Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”) was proclaimed, reserving the newly won rights (political rights, property rights, etc.) to men? In 1791 Olympe de Gouges hurled a counter declaration:

Bizarre, blind, bloated with sciences and degenerated, in this age of enlightenment and wisdom, into the crassest ignorance, he [man] wants to rule like a despot over a sex which has received all the intellectual faculties; he pretends to rejoice in the revolution, and to claim his rights to equality, in order to say no more about it.[13]

It is the economically dominant bourgeoisie who establish themselves as the predominant spearhead of the Revolution, and then someone wants to know, who are the Sans-culottes then, who do not wear knee-breeches [culottes], but rather ankle-long trousers more suitable for labor? An anonymous text written in 1793 from the circles of the Sansculotterie, in whose name craftsmen, small shopkeepers and others had joined forces, provides an answer to this “impertinent” question “lacking soundness”:

A Sans-culotte, you gentlemen scoundrels? That is someone who always walks, who has no millions, as you would like to have […]. He is useful, because he knows how to plow a field, to forge, to saw, to file, to fix a roof, to make shoes, and how to give his last drop of blood for the good of the Republic.[14]

And when it is additionally pointed out in an answer like this that a Sans-culotte “always has his saber polished to cut off the ears of the enemies of the Revolution”, then this is by far no longer addressed only to the aristocrats, but also, to a hardly lesser degree, to the bourgeois “enemies of the Revolution”.[15]

Certainly there are important differences between these two objections, for instance that Olympe de Gouges’ “Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne” was initially published, despite the contemporaneous existence of “patriotic women’s clubs”, in a minimally small edition of five copies; in comparison to this, the Parisian Sansculotterie (even though the quoted text was confiscated before publication) was organized in “sections” of considerable political weight. Or also that Olympe de Gouges sought to include the political subjectivity of women in the superordinated political subjectivity of the “Nation” virtually as an extension and completion (the “Nation” is “nothing more than the union of Woman and Man”, it says literally in Article III); whereas the Sans-culotte demands for a limitation of property included that some presumable members of the Nation could not be considered a rightful part of it (such as people who, without having to work, could live on the revenue drawn from their property). In some respects it could also be said that Olympe de Gouges’ Declaration was for its part an anticipation, but one which – enriched by other events and concatenations of events, through differently contextualized historical-political subjectivations – in France was not to correspond to the institutional anchoring of women’s suffrage until 1946, for instance; whereas the Sansculotterie articulated a political-social antagonism that was highly effective in the Revolution years and the years of the Reign of Terror, the outcome of this antagonism was not only decided to the disadvantage of the Sansculotterie, but also soon overtaken in its virulence by the antagonism between the “working class” and the “bourgeoisie”.

Moreover, in the context of the swarm of events in the resonance field of what is all too often faded down to the “core event” of the French Revolution, the first revolution of the nineteenth century should not be forgotten, which turned against colonialism and slavery, leading with the founding of Haiti in 1804 to the first free state of Blacks. What is crucial for our question in all these cases, however, is the eventfulness of political subjectivation, which certainly knows its “objective” conditions, but cannot be completely explained from them (or transform them itself), and which may know different periods of incubation and virulence, but nevertheless indicates a shift in the articulation assemblage of the political. This subjectivation irrupts into a historical-political context, which is not characterized solely by the fortification of certain positions of domination and by the rule of certain mechanisms of power, but rather – in various alliances with them – also by the “compulsions”, “necessities”, “impossibilities”, “natural givens” and “chains of causality”, to which it is presumably or actually subjected. And what this subjectivation therefore makes clear, first of all, is that the fields of the historical and the political cannot be reduced to relations of determination, but are instead relations of expression or enunciation, an enunciation which is not only important for what is said about the world in it, but no less for what is articulated in it as an embodied world-relationship and differential self-effectuation in this world. A new political name that may emerge from this kind of subjectivation is, in this sense, an enunciation of an effectuation in this world, which transforms the conditions to which it is subjected and which are, to this extent, shared conditions. It expresses a certain situation, but as a new name it goes beyond it at the same time, as it is not the situation that determines the name, but rather conversely the subjectivation invested in it that articulates that situation as problematic.

“Sans-papiers” is this kind of (relatively) new name in our times. It is not by chance that it indicates a political subjectivity that can be least inscribed into that of the “Nation”, apart from brief initial impulses of opening.[16] To this extent, it indicates an incubation period of long duration and a contemporary virulence of great clarity. At the same time, it indicates a rejection of the names that the contemporary conditions provide instead of this name, and in which the relentless and ultimately politically blind logic of determination, but not the logic of enunciation is manifested: “clandestine”, “illegal”, “alien”, “social parasites”, “criminals”, etc. It indicates processes of social exchange and organization, for instance such as those that led to the occupation of the Saint Bernard Church in Paris in 1996, which is at the starting point of the current circulation of this name. It indicates a highly precarious point of intersection between dispositives of inclusion in current capitalist forms of production and reproduction (agricultural and industrial production, services, the broad field of “care” work) and the simultaneous exclusion from political and social rights. It indicates global production and power relations, in which the destruction of foundations of existence are part of daily business, while at the same time, there is an insistence that people should stay where they are and invent new foundations of existence for and by themselves. It indicates cheap tomatoes in European supermarkets and cheap “Holland flowers” in European flower shops, sexual services and the care of parents and grandparents dependent on care. It indicates all of that – and yet still more: namely a new political subjectivity that cannot be reduced to all of that. For all these reasons, it would be impertinent and lacking in soundness, if one were to ask who the Sans-papiers “actually are”. Yet it could well be wagered that one event or another will make the Nation challenged by this name one day vanish “like a face in the sand by the sea”: “I, Sans-papiers and …”?

 



[1] Cf. Saramago, Jose: The Stone Raft, Mariner Books; Rep Tra edition 1996.

[2] Badiou, Alain: “Entretien dans le journal Haaretz”, in: ibid.: Circonstances, 3. Portées du mot ›juif‹, Paris 2005, p. 87–100, here p. 89.

[3] My choice of terms here naturally alludes to Heidegger’s thinking of the ontological difference, which became a “history of being” event thinking following Heidegger’s so-called “turn” and which Badiou adapts in a specific way.

[4] … which is not intended to imply, however, that Badiou himself does not occasionally carry out this kind of discussion.

[5] Cf. Biale, David and Scholem, Gershom: “The Threat of Messianism: An Interview with Gershom Scholem”, in: The New York Review of Books, 1980, No. 13, p. 22.

[6] Cf. Badiou: “Entretien dans le journal Haaretz”, in: Circonstances, 3, op.cit., p. 89: “The fate of Israel must be to separate what it is constituted of. The Zionist state must become what it had that was just and new. It must be the least ‘racially’, the least religiously, the least nationalistically determined of all the states. The most universal of all.”

[7] Derrida, Jacques: “A Certain Impossible Possibility of Saying the Event”, trans. Gila Walker, in: Critical Inquiry 33 (2007), p. 441-461; here: p. 450. – Derrida alludes to the etymological proximity between invention (‘invention’) and événement (‘event’), based on the Latin words invenire and evenire.

[8] Ibid., p. 450 f.

[9] Cf., for example, the infamous speech held by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy on 26 July 2007 at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, instructing the audience there – taking up motifs from the European nineteenth century, which may be found, for instance, in Hegel or Victor Hugo – that “the African has not yet sufficiently entered into history”.

[10] To be precise, the examples refer to passages from “The Concept of Archaism in Anthropology” (in: Structural Anthropology I) and Elementary Structures of Kinship by Claude Lévi-Strauss, Discipline and Punish, The Order of Things and The Will to Knowledge by Michel Foucault and Anti-Oedipus by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.

[11] Sieyès, Emmanuel: Qu’est-ce que le tiers-état?, Paris 1988, p. 31f.

[12] Cf. ibid., p. 33ff.

[13] Gouges, Olympe de: “The Rights of Woman”, in: Wollstonecraft, Mary, A vindication of the rights of men; A vindication of the rights of woman, Edited by D.L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf, Broadview Literary Texts 1997, p. 380-381.

[14] “Réponse à l’impertinente question: Mais qu’est-ce qu’un Sans-Culotte?” (anon.), in: Markov, Walter and Soboul, Alain (Ed.): Die Sansculotten von Paris. Dokumente zur Geschichte der Volksbewegung, 1793–1794, Berlin 1957, p. 2-5.

[15] On the history of the Sansculottes, cf. Soboul, Alain: Französische Revolution und Volksbewegung: die Sansculotten, Frankfurt/M. 1978.

[16] Cf. Wahnich, Sophie: L’impossible citoyen. L’étranger dans le discours de la Révolution française, Paris 1997.