IMPASSE

Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

This is not an impasse to pass on.

1. We had thought of political depression not as steady-state negativity but more dynamically, as a kind of holding pattern, a hoard of living political desires that had no worlds adequate to living them vitally.[1] Political negativity from rage to cynicism to apathy to detachment might have been a placeholder[2] for a yet unshaped or atrophied demand, and/or a site of immanence for a refusal whose form was also yet undeveloped. We worked between the sense of depression as a physical state and a mental one, from something a thumb can make on flesh to a sense of lives shaped by overwhelming obstacles. We were charting a field of states that we saw as relations to the political, as negative ways of experiencing belonging to a space of injustice, one that ejects us from an easy sense of membership in the social.

2. The 2004 election in the U.S. taught us nothing, changed nothing, confirmed a lot. We were not surprised or changed by the event that was also an imposition of an official continuity of the terms of our (non)belonging and (non)representation.

3. At the same time it has opened us into yet another affective temporality: that of the impasse: that place beyond which a map uses dotted lines to point to what there is to be done. [3]

4. At first we thought it had been in effect only for a very short time. We couldn't quite pinpoint the moment when our hold on a sense of Better Futurity got foreclosed, but we were sure that only a little while ago, a very little while ago, a free-floating opening had hovered there, no, there, in the space between dream and anxiety. Anxiety is not merely hope on a bad day. They always go hand in hand. Now, some days, we're in Uhopia, an affective nowhere that's everywhere.

5. The impasse is a lame space. It's not the same as Movement time, that time of disappointment and doggedness and collective refusal when the desire is to open up practice to possibility. Impasse produces impassivity when elites are winning the struggle to define what's possible and plausible in the activity of imagining the meaning of what presents itself and any future good life.

4. The affect of impasse is different than that of political depression, although it might be a symptom of it: it ranges through suspension, shock, imminence, distraction, disorientation, foreclosure (no future), disbelief, unsteadiness, disbelief, incredulity. [4] It involves the anti-utopian temporality of foreclosure, of the "not yet that can not be imagined as an "as if; a sense cluster of exhausted, but not defeated, desires.

5. Giorgio Agamben provides us with a way to describe affective suspension: the "whatever community.[5] In The Coming Community "whatever is a placeholder term allowing for collectivity to exist not only without guarantees but without foundations and taxonomic clarity about the conditions of solidarity. One senses it and builds from it around but not through the registers of claim and demand. Often I imagine this comes from the collective perception of an unlivable injustice that does not, necessarily, provide a platform for a party to grow from. But that perception becomes the referent for the "whatever community, and takes on solidity by its formal referential function. Its very mobility, its circulation, produces its potential.

6. In his essay "Movement Agamben queries "the 'whatever' community in a different register. His affective language about the undefinedness of "movement is instructive: "malaise, "embarrassment: and what is embarrassing (among other things) is that the movement marks a "threshold of indeterminacy in the relation of the political and the nonpolitical. I'll stop here. This essay raises the stakes of thinking about depression as political matter lived nonpolitically, or perhaps we are saying that between the political and the nonpolitical there is something else: this space of Plan B, the place suspended with the fullness of the inadequacy of the political world for our political desires.
********************************__
[1] Synonyms for "hoard from thesaurus.com: abundance, accumulation, agglomeration, aggregation, amassment, backlog, cache, collection, conglomeration, cumulation, fund, garner, heap, inventory, mass, nest egg, pile, reserve, reservoir, riches, stock, store, supply, treasure, treasure-trove, trove, wealth, excess, inventory, quantity, reserve(s), reservoir, resources, stock, stockpile, store, supply, accumulating, acquiring, acquisition, agglomeration, amassing, amassment, anthology, assemblage, assembling, assembly, assortment, batch, bringing together, caboodle, clump, cluster, collation, combination, company, compilation, congeries, congregation, convocation, crowd, digest, gathering, group, heap, kit, levy, lot, mass, medley, mess, miscellany, mobilization, number, pile, quantity...

[2] Synonyms for "stand-in from thesaurus.com: alternative, substitute, agent, alternate, backup, delegate, deputy, expediency, expedient, fill-in, makeshift, pinch hitter, proxy, recourse, refuge, replacement, representative, resort, resource, stand-in, stopgap, sub agent, alternate, assistant, auxiliary, backup, changeling, delegate, deputy, double, dummy, equivalent, expediency, expedient, fill-in, ghost, ghost writer, locum, locum tenens, makeshift, pinch-hitter, procurator, proxy, recourse, refuge, relay, relief, representative, reserve, resort, resource, ringer, stand-by, stand-in, stopgap, sub, succedaneum, successor, supplanter, supply, surrogate, symbol, temp, temporary, temporary expedient, understudy...

[3] According to Etymology online, (Etymonline.com), "impasse was invented by Voltaire, who wanted a euphemism for the all-too-sexual "cul de sac. 1851, from Fr. impasse "impassable road, blind alley, impasse," from in- "not" + M.Fr. passe "a passing," from passer "to pass."

[4] Synonyms for "suspension from thesaurus.com: abeyance, abeyancy, adjournment, break, breather, breathing spell, cessation, coffee break, cold storage, concluding, conclusion, cutoff, deferment, disbarment, discontinuation, discontinuing, doldrums, dormancy, downtime, end, ending, finish, five, freeze, halt, heave-ho, intermission, interruption, latency, layoff, letup, moratorium, pause, period, postponement, quiescence, remission, respite, stay, stoppage, suspense, ten, termination, timeout, cessation, deferral, discontinuation, dormancy, inaction, inactivity, intermission, latency, pause, pending, postponement, recess, remission, waiting, break, deferment, deferral, prorogation, recess, stay, blow, breather, breathing space, caesura, cutoff, downtime, halt, hiatus, interlude, intermission, interval, lacuna, layoff, let-up, letup, lull, pause, rest, ten, time off, time out, adjournment, bind, check, dawdling, demurral, detention, dilly-dallying, discontinuation, downtime, filibuster, hang-up, hindrance, hold-up, holding, holding pattern, impediment, interval, jam, lag, lingering, logjam, loitering, moratorium, obstruction, postponement, problem, procrastination, prorogation, putting off, remission, reprieve, setback, showstopper, stall, stay, stop, stoppage, surcease, tarrying, tie-up, wait...

[5] Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community (Minneapolis MN: Univ. of Minnesota Press).

Enter labels to add to this page:
Please wait 
Looking for a label? Just start typing.