The mutual, dialectic constitution of parts and wholes has come under suspicion in critical discourse for exerting violence dissimulated as harmony, and for allowing no way out despite the exclusions that it produces. But how can we avoid entering this dialectics without reifying either wholes or parts as simply given, as safe starting points for critical reflection, analysis, or practice? The workshop addresses this question by inquiring about both the one and the not in the notion of ‘Wholes Which Are Not One’, this year’s ICI Research Focus.
Considering the one, the first two parts addressed issues of counting and accounting. What counts, for example, as valid reasoning in science? How does Darwin’s epistemology rely on an analogy with accounting? How can an opera contest both the certainty of counting and the accountability of language? How do certain accounts of history account for the desires incited and abjected by a traumatic past? How can hoarding help us make sense of what this whole that we call the market cannot account for? And what, indeed, would it be like to give an account that is not one?
The third part suggested that the not in ‘wholes which are not one’ emerges from a point irreducible to the ambivalent dialectic of wholes and parts. Motivated by the sense that such a dialectic is part and parcel of regimes of coloniality, the panel proposes the notion of the ‘annihilation of the world’, and articulates this proposal through a consideration of refusal, decolonization, and failure in the thought of Malcolm X; the use of apocalyptic language in discussions of terrorism; the appropriation of anti-colonial literature; and queer performance in dictatorship architecture.
Part 1: What Counts
- Stefano Osnaghi: Contradiction and Complementarity in Indeterminist Accounts
- Zeynep Bulut: Numbers, Syllables, and A Voice – Einstein on the Beach
- Alice Gavin: ‘I Don’t Answer For What You May Have Lost’
Part 2: Unsettling Accounts
- Nahal Naficy: There Was One, There Was Not One: Some Accounts of Contemporary Iran
- Volker Woltersdorff: Sexual Ghosts, or How to Make History Whole?
- Robert Meunier: From Collection to Experiment, from Accounting to Analyzing – Johannsen’s Critique of Darwinism
- David Kishik: Garbage Studies
Part 3: The Colonial Whole: Failure, Refusal, Annihilation
- Daniel C. Barber: Intelligence Against the World – Malcolm X on Race and the Religion of Recognition
- Anaheed Al-Hardan (with David Landy): Representing Palestine, Disappearing Palestinians – The Double Appropriation of Ghassan Kanafani’s Return to Haifa
- Bobby Benedicto: Paramodern Futures – Queer Space and Dictatorship Architecture in Metropolitan Manila
The event is part of the ICI Focus Wholes Which Are Not One. Wholes are said to be more than the sum of their parts. This ‘more’ contains both a promise and a threat. When different elements – disciplines, methods, cultures, individuals – form a whole, they not only join forces, but also generate effects of synergy and a surplus from which also the parts can benefit. Being part of a whole is a way to acquire meaning and to extend oneself beyond one’s limited existence; and having a part in the whole is to have an enlarged agency. But wholes are also more powerful than the sum of their parts. Wholes constitute their parts, determining what is a part and what is apart, what has a part and what is deprived of agency. Becoming a part requires submission and although parts may not pre-exist the whole, there may still be something in the elements that exceeds being a part – even if only the possibility of being part of a different whole. While a desire for being whole or part of a whole seems all-too natural, organic metaphors, which are often used to think part-whole relationships, have been criticized precisely for naturalizing relations of hierarchy and power. Yet, entirely abandoning the whole in favour of the part(icular) is also problematic. After the disenchantments of the postmodern post-cold-war period and in the face of global crises – be they financial, economic, political, or ecological – the critical need to include a holistic perspective is felt with renewed urgency, as is the concern that the situatedness of any such perspective and the multiple, incommensurable ways of constituting wholes may be forgotten.
The event, like all events at the ICI Berlin, is open to the public, free of charge. The audience is presumed to consent to a possible recording on the part of the ICI Berlin. If you would like to attend the event yet might require assistance, please contact Event Management.