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Three brief commentaries on the event of National Socialism in Germany help me to situate my focus in this investigation of politics and time. The first, by the late sociologist C. Wright Mills, addresses the responsibilities associated with the vocation of critical thinking:

When events move very fast and possible worlds swing around them, something happens to the quality of thinking. Some…repeat formulae; some…become reporters. To time observations with thought so as to mate a decent level of abstraction with crucial happenings is a difficult problem. Its solution lies in the using of intellectual residues of social-history, not jettisoning them except in precise confrontation with events.1

Mills's observation raises the question of the event-adequacy of theoretical discourses. To pursue that question, I want to note my accord with answers provided decades later by Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault. When Deleuze famously insisted that philosophy must be worthy of the event, he was not simply suggesting that “events serve to confirm or refute particular theories.”2 He was advocating a philosophy that privileges critical thinking by inventing concepts that create the possibility of something new, by reframing events to allow for new kinds of subjects and new forms of relationship to emerge.3 For Deleuze, such a philosophy must enable an ethics of the event (a perspective I treat more extensively in chapter 1).

While Deleuze's approach to the relationship between thinking/theorizing and events devolves toward an ethics, Foucault's moves toward a politics of discourse. In one of his earlier discussions of the value of a theoretical discourse (framed as a position on how to interpret the statements in a “discursive formation”), he refers to how to “weigh” the “value” of statements:

A value that is not defined by their truth, that is not gauged by the presence of a secret content; but which characterized their place, their capacity for circulation and exchange, their possibility for transformation, not only in the economy of discourse, but more generally in the administration of scarce resources…[a discursive formation in short] appears as an asset – finite, limited, useful…an asset that is, by nature, the object of a struggle, a political struggle.4

In the passage's focus on epistemology, Foucault rejects both representational and hermeneutic approaches to statements, substituting a political pragmatics. What he adds to Mills's observation about the theory−event relationship is a political economy of discourse. Treating statements as assets, he evaluates the discourses in which they function in terms of the resources they differentially deploy, creating spaces for recognition and action by advantaging some subjects of enunciation and disadvantaging others. Similarly, much of my analysis in succeeding chapters offers a politics concerned with the advantages distributed by interpretive practices. As I contrast the mainstream media's with critical artistic genres' interpretations of events, my emphasis is on the way a conceptual framing of events can accord recognition to subjects who are absent in the official discourses that constitute and react to key historical moments.

Crucially, the “subjects” whose recognition to which I refer are not to be regarded as preexisting unities that stand apart from the conceptual frames in which they are allowed to appear. The interpretive practices, resident in a variety of genres, in which subjects are accorded space, participate in fashioning those subjects as historical events. Foucault makes that point evident in his analysis of Edouard Manet's paintings. Manet, he suggests, was the painter most responsible for the emergence of the “modern viewer.”5 In contrast with the world of immobile subjects that had been summoned in prior artistic practices, in Manet's canvases, the spectator becomes “an individual exiled from his certainties regarding his place in the world.”6

The second commentary on the event of National Socialism I summon is by Primo Levi, a Holocaust survivor (who did not survive his survival). Levi provides an account of a micro event within the larger event of the Holocaust; it's an utterance by a child in his barracks in the Auschwitz Lager, where he was a prisoner. The child, Hurbinek, was “the smallest and most harmless among us…the most innocent”: “Hurbinek was a nobody, no one knew anything of him, he could not speak and he had no name, that curious name Hurbinek had been given to him by us, perhaps by one of the women who had interpreted with those syllables one of the inarticulate sounds that the baby let out now and again.”7 Levi and his barrack neighbors were attentive to Hurbinek's sounds: “During the night we listened carefully…from Hurbinek's corner there occasionally came a sound, a word…It sounded something like ‘mass-klo’ or ‘matisklo.’ ” Heeding the child's voiced demand for a presence in the world, Levi grants that presence, allowing “Hurbinek, who fought like a man, to the last breath, to gain entry into the world of men from which a bestial power had excluded him.” Specifically, by repeating Hurbinek's word, he lends Hurbinek's existence a duration. His account of the micro event of Hurbinek's utterance renders Hurbinek as a historical subject, playing a political role. Levi's brief discursive gesture constitutes a powerful political pedagogy about the force of a few words. Marking the event of Hurbinek's life and death, he provides an exemplary instance of the ethics and politics of the event. As he sums up his contribution to Hurbinek's presence, Levi writes: “Nothing remains of him: he bears witness through these words of mine.”8

The third commentary on the event of National Socialism I want to reference is by another Holocaust survivor, the Nobel prizewinning author, Imre Kertész (who survived his survival). In response to an interviewer's question about how the Holocaust has been treated as historical memory in the East and the West, Kertész provides a way to conceive such events: “The Holocaust is an absolute turning point in Europe's history, an event in the light of which will be seen everything that happened before and will happen after.”9 Slavoj Žižek gives us a perspective on the theoretical implications of the way Kertész renders that event: “An event is…the effect that seems to exceed its causes…a change in the way reality appears to us…[perhaps] a shattering transformation of reality itself?”10

My investigations of politics and time in this book are focused initially on another reality-shattering event, the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, in part because my inspiration for this study is owed to an invitation to contribute to a monograph issue of the journal Thesis Eleven, devoted to the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Having been recently attuned to a grammar-temporality rendering of that atrocity by Rosalyn Deutsche's excellent book Hiroshima after Iraq, I responded to the invitation with an essay entitled “Hiroshima Temporalities” (the prototype for chapter 2, which preserves that title).11 My opening chapter prepares the way for my analysis of the Hiroshima event in two ways. First and foremost, I respond to the issue of “events” by reviewing and applying the critical philosophical perspectives that shape my analyses and, second, I do a reading of Chris Marker's (semi)-documentary Level Five which treats the Battle for Okinawa as an event that helped legitimate the US decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

My analyses throughout the chapters presume that events involve what Claude Romano refers to as “the temporalization of time,”12 where to refer to temporality rather than mere time registers time as lived experience for particular historically situated subjects. Péter Forgács's documentary work, in which he recovered decades of Hungarian private life by collecting home movies and adding documentary footage (primarily from newsreels to mark the periods in which the home movies are made), is an instance of treating time as lived experience. His approach “marginalizes official history…[in order to have] us understand that time does not unfold through a collective narrative.”13 In effect, Forgács's documentaries substitute the micropolitical aspects of events − the way they bear on lived experience for a variety of individual subjects − for the official national narratives that constitute collective histories.

Heeding Forgács's approach to historical time as a multiplicity of micro events of lived experience, I focus my Hiroshima investigation on a contrast between the United States' official version of the bombing and the experiences of the Japanese target/victims, articulated in a variety of genres and testimonies. I follow that chapter with more temporality-relevant chapters, each of which builds on the problematic that frames what precedes it. Thus because my Hiroshima chapter concludes with a reading of Silva Kolbowski's video After Hiroshima Mon Amour, which substitutes a black woman for the French actress Emanuel Riva, thereby reflecting on the ethnic color-coding of events, it is appropriate to follow the Hiroshima chapter with “Hurricane Katrina's Bio-Temporalities” (chapter 3) in which I emphasize the way the hurricane and the policy responses disproportionately victimized black bodies (the African-American population of New Orleans). To treat the inattention to the disproportionate suffering of those bodies, the chapter focuses on Spike Lee's documentary When the Levies Broke and David Simon's fictionalized version of Katrina's aftermath in his television series Treme, both of which inter-articulate the history of the African-American soundscape with the historical trajectory of Katrina's aftermath.

The Katrina chapter ends with a treatment of what I call the “racial sublime,” noting that of late the US media are finally acknowledging that (as I put it with the help of Michael Eric Dyson) “it has becomes evident in a way not previously appreciated by white America, ‘the lived experience of race feels like terror for black folk.’ ”14 Having appreciated and utilized the concept of the sublime to treat the broader implications of the Katrina event, I enlisted the concept of the sublime to shape parts of chapters 4 and 5, which focus among other things on the sweatshop and weapons sublimes respectively. More generally, the conceptual issues I have needed to think through (rehearsed in the various chapters) are the relationships between temporality and grammar, the fluid boundaries of events, the relationships between official modes of problematization that emerge as “history” versus the lived temporalities of diverse human assemblages; the media and artistic genres within which critical thinking about temporality can be articulated (featured in chapters 1−3); the contentions between the rhythms imposed on bodies by coercive forces (which produce morbidity and hasten death), and the artistic practices that evince the counter-rhythms through which those coercive forces are confronted and resisted (the focus of chapter 4); and the contention between the biographic scripts lent to persons by official agencies (for example, the CIA's bio-anthropologies that select those who are targeted for state murder) and counter-biographies summoned in fictional and documentary texts which challenged the official, assassination-justifying biographies (the focus of chapter 5).

In this brief preface, I want to provide an elaboration of only the first issue, the grammar−temporality relationship, because it shapes not only how I conceive the objects of my investigation but also the grammatical rhythms of my text as I seek to make my analyses “worthy of the event[s]” (to enlist a Deleuzian phrase). My attention to grammar was developed in a prior investigation concerned with the temporality of citizenship.15 There, I was especially alerted to the grammar−temporality relationship by Thomas Pynchon's fictional construction of a group discussing a world-shaking, comprehension-challenging (i.e., sublime) event, the decision by the head English astronomer (in 1752) to remove eleven days from the English calendar so that English time could become compatible with other global times (instituted in 1582 by a calendar reform commission under Pope Gregory XIII). As a conversation among patrons in an English pub articulates reactions to the event, one speaker, wondering about “the kind of people who could accept such a change with equanimity,” remarks that the astronomer would have to hire:

A people who lived in a different relation to Time – one that did not, like our own, hold at its heart the terror of Time's passage, far more preferably Indifference to it…The verbs of their language no more possessing tenses, than their Nouns Case-Ending, for these People remains as disengaged from Subject, object possession, or indeed anything which among Englishmen require a Preposition.16

To pick up on the insight provided by Pynchon's character, I want to note that the verb tense that plays a central role in my analyses is the future anterior, the will-have-been, because much of my focus is on the way past events reemerge not only in the present but also enduringly into contingent futures. Specifically, for example, I speculate about how such events as the bombing of Hiroshima and Hurricane Katrina will-have-been after succeeding events give them new political relevance.

The analytics and ethos of my investigation are well captured in a remark by Foucault in his Introduction to the English translation of Georges Canguilhem's The Normal and the Pathological: “Error is not eliminated by the muffled force of truth which gradually emerges from the shadow but by a new way of ‘speaking true.’ ”17 My adaptation of that commitment allocates the “way of speaking true” especially to critically oriented documentary films, whose insights I draw on in each chapter. They are critical in the sense that (to use Deleuze's terms) they are “false narrations,” rather than simple chronologies. As a result, they are involved in “shattering systems of judgment”18 by providing “counter-histories.”19 The documentaries upon which I focus provide challenges in the form of counter-narratives and counter-visions to what Foucault famously calls the “truth weapons” of governments which try to quarantine events within official interpretations, sedimented within (among other places) national museums and archives.



While many colleagues, students, and friends have contributed to my thinking – with reactions, insights, and suggested references − I want to single out Sam Opondo who read most of the chapters with amazing discernment and made many helpful suggestions. I also want to acknowledge those who invited me to lecture and/or contribute essays that turned out to be prototypes (or sections) of my chapters: Rune Saugmann Andersen, Garnet Kindervater, Luis Lobo-Guerrero, Mustapha Pasha, Keith Tester, and Juha Vuori.

Almost everything in this book was delivered in lectures and discussions in my courses at the University of Hawaii and at PUC-Rio (the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro). I am grateful to all my students (too numerous to mention) in both places for contributing to the stimulating conversations that affected much of the writing. I want to acknowledge one student in particular, Isabela Carpena, who sat in on one of my courses at PUC-Rio in the summer of 2014 and turned me into a cinematic character. She made a (professionally edited) “Shapiro” biopic in which the rhythms of the montage (mostly film clips and musical interludes interspersed with my commentary) introduce me to a subject/scholar I only vaguely knew. I want also to express my gratitude to my PUC-Rio colleagues for the repeated invitations and support of my teaching of the materials in this book to an attentive and challenging student constituency: Paulo Esteves, Marta Fernandez, Monica Hertz, Joao Nogueira, and Roberto Yamato.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the outstanding support of my acquisition and managing editors, Louise Knight and Nekane Tanaka Galdos, who, along with two anonymous readers, provided valuable insights that found their way into the final draft. A shorter version of chapter 2, “Hiroshima Temporalities,” was published in the journal Thesis Eleven. I am grateful for their permission to reproduce that material here. And an earlier version of chapter 3, “Hurricane Katrina's Bio-Temporalities” is published in Anna M. Agathangelou and Kyle D. Killian (eds), Time, Temporality and Violence in International Relations (Routledge, 2016).