Resisting Agamben: The biopolitics of shame and humiliation

Philosophy and Social Criticism 38 (1):59-79 (2012)
Abstract
In Remnants of Auschwitz , Giorgio Agamben argues that the hidden structure of subjectivity is shame. In shame, I am consigned to something that cannot be assumed, such that the very thing that makes me a subject also forces me to witness my own desubjectification. Agamben’s ontological account of shame is problematic insofar as it forecloses collective responsibility and collapses the distinction between shame and humiliation. By recontextualizing three of Agamben’s sources – Primo Levi, Robert Antelme and Maurice Blanchot – I develop an alternative account of shame as the structure of intersubjectivity , and of a collective responsibility that is more fundamental than the subject itself. On this basis, I sketch the preliminary outline of a biopolitics of resistance rooted in the ethics of alterity. The intuition driving this approach is that life is never bare ; even in situations of extreme affliction there remains a relation to alterity which provides a starting point for resistance
Keywords Agamben  Shame  Auschwitz  Primo Levi  Robert Antelme
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DOI 10.1177/0191453711421604
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