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CfH Lectures


Sudeep Dasguptas’s lecture is preceded by a lecture by Prof. Judith Butler.

Wars, and their visualization, involve a complex negotiation between detachment and attachment. Taking the constituted character of images of war as a given, how might a critical engagement with the politics of detachment and attachment enable a critical engagement with the labour of framing? As detachments, military forces “attach” themselves to populations elsewhere. The modalities through which detachment and attachment are combined conflictually determine the geopolitics of contemporary wars, emphasizing what being-together and being-apart might mean. Detachability is also integral to the very definition of frames, which, by enclosing images and travelling between and around them, circumscribe the field of vision and attempt the stabilization of visual encounters as normatively produced moments of meaning-making. Keeping in mind these twin military and aesthetic connotations of detachment and attachment furthers a critical look at contemporary framings of war by bringing such normative framings to crisis. The talk constructs the politics of detachment and attachment as a productive framework for interrogating war, by detaching the frames attached to certain images and events, and circulating them between other images, narratives and theoretical arguments. It first analyzes a photograph related to the ongoing war in Afghanistan as an enactment of this crisis, before reading a recent film around the 1982 Lebanon war which employs framing in the attempt precisely to avoid precipating a crisis. The talk thus explores how visual encounters provide the opportunity for countering hegemonic framings of togetherness and alterity in war today.

This lecture was given within the framework of the 2010 School of Critical Theory organized by the Centre for the Humanities in Utrecht. The programme was titled ‘Cosmopolitanism, Peace and Conflict’, and offered trans-national and interdisciplinary approaches drawn from the humanities, social sciences, law, philosophy and international relations. Its focus on the development of crossnational European perspectives in these areas, allows for the innovative use of key notions of cosmopolitanism and diversity as bridge-makers across different national, cultural and disciplinary traditions. The school consisted of three clusters, which focused on Populism and anti-cosmopolitanism in Europe today, Frames of War, and Legal Theory and Cosmopolitics.