Tag Archives: Zizek in India

The Two Zizeks

Slavoj Zizek spoke on Tragedy and Farce in Delhi on January 5, 2010. He spoke for about an hour and a half, then I responded for about 18 minutes, then he came back spiritedly for about forty-five minutes. This post is in two parts. The first part is the brief intervention I made at Stein Auditorium. In the second part of this post, I expand on my critique in the light of his response. I could not of course, speak after he had spoken the second time, so I’m doing it here.

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A jinn appeared to a man and granted him three wishes. First, said the man excitedly, I want to be Slavoj Zizek. You idiot, said the jinn. You are Slavoj Zizek.

This is one of the many stories that the internet throws up on the eminent Slovenian Lacanian whom it has been our pleasure to listen to today. His own jokes and anecdotes are of course legendary, the medium through which he makes complex theoretical points. It thus becomes the burden of every unfortunate person writing about him or commenting on his work, to tell a few jokes themselves. Often Profesor Zizek’s own.

So. It struck me that the truth of the joke with which I began is that Slavoj Zizek longs to be Slavoj Zizek. He never quite makes it, though, because Zizek keeps escaping himself. In an interview to The Guardian a couple of years ago, he was asked – What do you most dislike about your appearance? And he replied – That it makes me appear the way I really am.

Having followed Professor Zizek’s work for a while now in growing bewilderment, I understand his predicament There are at least two Zizeks in there, and whichever one manifests himself, Slavoj is taken aback and rather dissatisfied. This is me? He seems to ask.

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The Žižekian Counter-Revolution

[Slovenian Lacanian-Marxist-Hegelian philosopher and cultural theorist, Slavoj Žižek is visiting India currently and will be delivering a few lectures here. This post is prompted by his visit. Interested Delhi-ites can catch him speak on

4 Jan 2010. 5 p.m. on
“Ideology in the Post-ideological World: The Case of Hollywood”
at Sarai-CSDS. 29 Rajpur Road, Civil Lines, Delhi
and
5 Jan 2010. 7 p.m.
“Tragedy and Farce”
Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi]


imaaN mujhe roke hai jo khiNche hai mujhe kufr
ka’aba mere peeche hai kaleesa mere aage

[Faith holds me back when infidelity beckons/
Behind me, the Kaaba; before me, the Church]

It is difficult to miss the immense subversiveness of the  dilemma encapsulated in Ghalib’s couplet above.  This dilemma of the believer is produced by the constant threat of corruption – the Kaaba behind the believing Muslim holds him back from indulging in, or falling prey to, the infidelities and temptations that always lie in wait.

Substitute Marxism for Kaaba  and ‘postmodernism’ for Church, and you have the perfect Žižekian incarnation of this classic Ghalibian dilemma: Not quite at home in the Faith (Lacan, jouissance, surplus-enjoyment, the Real…) and yet, not able to leave it either, for the fear of what might befall one deserting the Order. Faith is the anchor that holds one back from committing all kinds of blasphemies. Nevertheless, the seductions of infidelity force our philosopher to turn for sustenance precisely to the philosophers and ideas he mistrusts: unlike most members of the Marxist faith, he repeatedly returns to Nietzsche, Heidegger, to Derrida, Foucault, Laclau and Deleuze. He takes over their language and makes himself at home in it. Is there a hidden jouissance in thus frequenting this forbidden territory?

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