The Cassandra Complex: On Violence, Racism, and Mourning

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Title: The Cassandra Complex: On Violence, Racism, and Mourning
Author: Frankowski, Alfred
Abstract: The Cassandra Complex is a work in the traditions of critical philosophy and psychoanalysis. In The Cassandra Complex, I examine the intersection of violence, racism, and mourning. I hold that analysis of this intersection gives birth to a critical view on the politics of memory and the politics of racism as it operates in its most discreet forms. What makes violence discreet is that it escapes identity or is continually misidentified. I call that structure of violence that escapes being identified as such "White violence" and argue that this structure of violence undermines our normative ways of addressing racist violence in the present. This creates a continual social pattern of misidentification, mistaken memory, and mistaken practices of thinking about the violence of racism, both past and present. The present form of this misidentification could be called post-raciality, but it is specific to how we understand and remember our own history of anti-Black violence. I argue that post-racial memory produces memory only to facilitate forgetting and thus is only seen as a social pathology in the public sphere. The term "Cassandra Complex" provides an identity for the type of social pathology that appears at the critical edge of political discursivity. From the analysis of this social pathology, I argue that aesthetic sorrow, allegorical memory, and a sublime sense of mourning disrupt the normative functioning of the social pathology. Indeed, I argue that aesthetic sorrow makes the present strange by making the politically unbearable aesthetically unrepresentable. This sense of loss constitutes its own history, appearing first as an aesthetics of anesthesia, then as a memory that is also an amnesia. Thus, I hold that a robust notion of allegory that can be translated into the public sphere as a way of exposing the degenerative effects of post-racial memory. Moreover, I hold that allegory allows for a social analysis of those political conditions that make public that which has gone silent. I argue that an understanding of the political significance of that continual movement of silence is the task of understanding the present form of violence in the post-racial.
Date: 2012

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