This lecture considers the claim that we feel horror and moral repulsion about the destruction of certain lives and righteous justification about the destruction of other lives. It considers Talal Asad’s thesis that under contemporary liberal conditions, state-sponsored violence is more likely to be approved than the violence of counter-insurgency. The affects of horror and righteousness are formed in part through implicit modes of interpreting and imposing differential categories for human lives, producing an unreasoned schism at the heart of moral responsiveness. Through a consideration of Klein that takes her insights firmly outside the domain of ego psychology, we can develop an account of human destructiveness and guilt that locates survivability in interdependent forms of sociality. Finally, the poems that have recently emerged from the Guantanamo Bay prison suggest that survivability depends upon maintaining a distinction between vulnerability and injurability, and forming affective responses through lyric appeal that politically contest the dominant affective politics of war.
This lecture was given within the framework of the academic year-long lecture series on postsecularism, a collaboration of BAK and the Faculty of Humanities at Utrecht University, marking part of the research trajectory of Concerning the Post-Secular, a long-term, multifaceted project at BAK. The lecture series aims at investigating the “post-secular” as a central aspect of our current historical condition and the mutual engagements of secularism and religious discourses especially in contemporary Europe. It maps the intersections of the “post-secular” with social and political theory as well as cultural and artistic practices and movements with special emphasis on issues of political theory, Islam in Europe, ethics, human rights, feminist practices, contemporary art, and the European tradition of liberal humanism.