Monday, August 20, 2007

Baudrillard, Aphorisms, and Research

I am in the process of writing a paper on Baudrillard and International Politics, and want to argue Baudrillard can offer the discipline/subject a lot if we read him as a writer of aphorisms (especially post 1980 Baudrillard). These aphorisms within Baudrillards texts can trigger thinking through their creation of sensation in the reader, which fills them with the desire to produce research, even if this sensation is one of disgust. In particular I create the paper form a small aphoristic section in Simulations, which argues Disney Land is a deterrence machine. I then transform this insight/opinion into considering and examining the International Relations of tourism through analysing Caribbean tourism websites.

It is in the early stages, and here is the first section I have written. The other sections will be posted as I write them. (comments are gratefully received):


Reading Baudrillard as a writer of aphorisms:
The various controversial and antagonistic interpretations of Baudrillard, demonstrate reading Baudrillard is no easy task. Such readings have either encouraged us to forget Baudrillard, to concentrate on his earlier work and dismiss the later for its rejection of Marxism (Kellner), or to read Baudrillard from the radical Durkhiem tradition (Hegarty & Merrin). This paper does not intend to argue for one of these suggestions as being the ‘correct’ interpretation of Baudrillard, but rather constructs another way of (productively) ‘interpreting’ Baudrillard and furthering Baudrillard’s multiplicity. This interpretation argues Baudrillard, especially post 1980 Baudrillard, can be read as a writer of aphorisms, which can propel ‘Baudrillardian’ research that goes beyond Baudrillard.
Nietzsche, one of the greatest writers of aphorisms, wrote ‘he who writes in blood and aphorisms does not want to be read, he wants to be learned by heart’ and ‘aphorisms should be peaks, and those to whom they are spoken should be big and tall of statue.’[1] Aphorisms may lack the complexity of other forms of writing, but have the appeal of projecting short sharp blasts of arguments and opinion that disturb the reader, forcing a pause that instigates thinking. It is these (unsettling) pauses that Baudrillard creates in his writing the paper finds attractive, arguing these aphorisms offer a wealth of insights into International Politics. Instead of interpreting Baudrillard’s oeuvre, the aphoristic reader of Baudrillard waits in anticipation of that moment when the reading is paused, creating a sensation of disgust, interest, amazement, confusion… which then has to be thought through. The reader is then fixated on a particular statement or section from Baudrillard, which remains lodged in their thoughts. In short, the reader should feel intensely about their pause. This pause, which instigates thinking, creates what Deleuze and Guattari term a line of flight from the text, forcing the reader to think about (other) experiences of the world, and how one can use this aphoristic section to understand/contemplate the world – even in areas that Baudrillard did not intend or consider.
As expected, there are many dangers in reading Baudrillard as an aphoristic writer, and the greatest danger (or critique) is the accusation the reader avoids reading Baudrillard carefully or without rigor, completely misses his point(s). In addition large sections of Baudrillard’s writing are left aside and even disregarded as the reader concentrates on these aphorisms. However, while this critique is fair, it also fails to consider how aphorisms, or more accurately, reading Baudrillard aphoristically, avoids creating an idle reader of Baudrillard. The main danger of the idle reader is that they endless repeat Baudrillard without creating something new. Instead, the reading is propelled into thinking through the Baudrillardian aphorism, which provides the starting point of research. Baudrillard then merely provides a statement, opinion, or principle that research can build from. This means the research, while starting from Baudrillard, does not need to necessarily emerge as Baudrillardian.


[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Penguin: London, 1969) p67

17 comments:

VS said...

That's a very lucid description of what it's like to read Baudrillard..I find reading Baudrillard an absolute thrill; his ideas, his exaggerated style of writing (what he calls the "poetic singularity" of writing), and his sheer sexiness (for lack of a better word- maybe seductiveness?) give me a visceral reaction I don't get from any other writer, or at least any other philosopher. You describe this phenonmenon with good accuracy.

I suggest, if you haven't already, Baudrillard's book of interviews titled "Fragments": among other great comments on the matter, this one is my favorite-

“Aphoristic writing has no true legitimacy. Writing of that kind seems like the work of the devil, a sacrilege against the canonical form of the well-argued essay. They are, in fact, quite right in this, and that’s the whole point of it!”

I look forward to seeing the rest of your ideas on this topic.
-AY

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