The Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths University of London

Research Centre run jointly between the Departments of Sociology and English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths University, London

Under Representation – David Lloyd with Lucie Mercier (21 June)

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Under Representation: A Conversation between David Lloyd and Lucie Mercier on race and aesthetics

June 21


Margaret McMillan Building Room 220

David Lloyd’s Under Representation: The Racial Regime of Aesthetics (Fordham, 2018) shows how the founding texts of aesthetic philosophy ground the racial order of the modern world in our concepts of universality, freedom, and humanity. In taking on the relation of aesthetics to race, Lloyd challenges the absence of sustained thought about race in postcolonial studies, as well as the lack of sustained attention to aesthetics in critical race theory.

Late Enlightenment discourse on aesthetic experience proposes a decisive account of the conditions of possibility for universal human subjecthood. The aesthetic forges a powerful ‘racial regime of representation’ whose genealogy runs from enlightenment thinkers like Kant and Schiller to late modernist critics like Adorno and Benjamin. For aesthetic philosophy, representation is not just about depiction of diverse humans or inclusion in political or cultural institutions. It is an activity that undergirds the various spheres of human practice and theory, from the most fundamental acts of perception and reflection to the relation of the subject to the political, the economic, and the social.

Representation thus regulates the distribution of racial identifications along a developmental trajectory: The racialized remain ‘under representation’, on the threshold of humanity and not yet capable of freedom and civility as aesthetic thought defines those attributes. To ignore the aesthetic is thus to overlook its continuing force in the formation of racial and political structures down to the present.

David Lloyd is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, He is the author of Nationalism and Minor Literature (1987); Anomalous States (1993); Ireland After History (1999) Irish Times: Temporalities of Irish Modernity (2008) and Irish Culture and Colonial Modernity: The Transformation of Oral Space (Cambridge University Press, 2011).   His new book, Beckett’s Thing: Theatre and Painting, came out with Edinburgh University Press in 2016. Under Representation: The Racial Regime of Aesthetics (Fordham University Press, 2018) collects his essays on race and aesthetics. He is co-author and editor of many other path-breaking books. He is an active supporter of Palestine solidarity work.

Lucie Mercier is a Lecturer at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP), at Kingston University. Her PhD thesis (2015) looked at the philosophy of translation from the triple standpoint of postcolonialism, Michel Serres’s early works and Walter Benjamin’s philosophy. Her research focuses on the emergence and the continuous effects of the problematic of race and postcoloniality on philosophical thought. Her recent publications include ‘Mathematical Anamneses’, which addresses Michel Serres’s conception of the historicity of science (Bloomsbury, 2019), and an interview with Trinh T. Minh-ha (‘Forgetting Vietnam’, Radical Philosophy, 2018). She is a member of the Radical Philosophy editorial collective.

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