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Revolution is also a language

Organizing Committee:

Radicalism, the guillotine, a new and sweeping fresh start, abolition of monarchy, modern citizenship, old versus new regime—what else at this time could equal it? This sparing use of the term revolution is not merely academic or theoretical. It produces its rareness and superiority over other forms of being- together that could be perceived as similar to it—revolt, rebellion, uprising, coup, solidarity, movement, partnership, participation or protest.

The forms of speech into which the concept of revolution is woven lie in wait of revolutionaries and of those who observe reality, think with and through it. Such forms induce them to minimize the events of the day, knowing in advance that what is happening in front of their very eyes does not suffice to merit the name ‘revolution’. This is a form of discursive practice, a model of producing knowledge and a regime practice, one of whose typical expressions is reading reality in comparison to the concept ‘revolution’, and judging historical events by their conforming to this concept.

Ariella Azoulay, "Revolution", Political Concepts, issue 2, 2012

I recently stumbled upon a talk by Ariella Azoulay "Revolution is a language" (available as video here and in a very similar version as text here). Starting from an investigation into the use of the term revolution from the 18th century onwards (what is considered a revolution and what is not considered a revolution), Azoulay goes on to research revolution as a "collection of civil statements and formations" with a focus on the role of photographs in the development and circulation of this language ("Since it is a language of gestures, photographs are its writing paper", she claims elsewhere). 

In this class I propose to talk about talking about revolution, as well as study the language of revolution itself, or revolution as a language, and try to read between the lines of signs and slogans, gestures, images and hashtags, as they circulate and get translated across different times, places and media.

We could start by reading Azoulay's text (link above) and the first chapter of Hannah Arendt's On Revolution. What other relevant texts or references can be brought in? 

Interested (13)
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fotini's picture

hi everyone,
apologies for the late notice but tomorrow's meeting will be postponed (to most probably next week). please stay tuned~~

caleb berlin's picture

After class last week I thought about a science fiction novel I read this past summer that may be of interest to the group called Embassytown (wikipedia link) by China Miéville (wikipedia link), published in 2011. Here is a review of the book by Ursula K Le Guin published in the Guardian:

It is also available on GRRAAAARG:

Great. Thanks Fotini!

fotini's picture

the mediafire link doesn't work, but the one on the right ("original upload") does. if that doesn't show up for you, try uploading a couple PDFs on aaaaarg and then a whole new world of links will magically appear, i believe. i'll email it to you now in any case. 

Anyone else having trouble with the Agamben link? Or might someone with the
file be able to upload a new one?


Thanks for setting the agenda Fotini, looks very good!
Looking forward to Saturday.
I wouldn't worry about moving in circles, we are dealing with revolution
after all:)

fotini's picture

in an attempt to set a realistic goal in terms of readings for this coming saturday, i suggest we all (1) read through the last pages of agamben's 'the sacrament of language' (p. 68 onwards, as per marguerite's recommendation) and (2) listen to the paul mason interview that josh and manuela mentioned. 

those two references along with some catching-up with readings from previous meetings (ahem) should give us enough material to move forward a bit. (or are we moving in circles?)

looking forward to next meeting~ 

mvansandick's picture

the future of the image   jacques ranciere

i was referring to this fragment starting last two sentences of 79 and entire pages 80/81


the sacrament of language  giorgio agamben

i would start page 68 second alinea, 'Linguists have often sought...' until the end of the book. to get a general idea. 

fotini's picture

here's some more links to the references that came up yesterday (thanks, josh!). will try to come up with some action plan for next meeting very soon.

Roman Jakobson, Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances
Roman Jakobson, Linguistics and Poetics

Kirill Medvedev, Beyond the Poetics of Privatization

Franco "Bifo" Berardi, Poetry and Finance

Giorgio Agamben, The Sacrament of Language: An Archaeology of the Oath (i hope that's what you were referring to, marguerite. if you can point us to a specific part, would be great..)

fotini's picture

hi ninja, this class will meet again next saturday october 12, at 16:00 at Archive, Dieffenbachstrasse 31——join us if you like! (and look here for information on readings, etc)



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