Thing: a fugitive in( )operation

Elliot Mason

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    ‘Thing’ conducts an antiracist intervention in Agamben’s “inoperativity”, operating contemporary Black studies into Agamben’s Heideggerian absences. Opening the subject to the impotentiality of Bartleby the Scrivener’s preference not to, Agamben seeks to disable the mechanisms of the world for a new politics. However, this poetics leaves the internal constitution of the subject, allowing the forces of operativity to maintain their operation as the constitutive ontology of subjectivity.

    Into this troubling remnant in Agamben I bring Hortense Spillers, who explores the constitution of the non- or anti-subject, constructed through the racializing operation of subjectivity that allows Agamben’s subject to remain intact throughout the process of being rendered inoperative. The Black non-subject, Spillers theorizes, is not constituted by the body that Agamben’s (White) subject requires; instead, she is formed of flesh, which is antecedent to subjectivity’s hegemonic form. Flesh is the materiality of racialization in the operativity of world.

    Fred Moten’s numerous works on Blackness and otherwise ontologies allow this deep aporia in Agamben’s thinking to open into a radical poetics of antiracist inoperativity, disavowing its constitutive subjectivity. In this essay, I closely read Agamben and Heidegger, with the thinking of Hortense Spillers, Sianne Ngai, C. Riley Snorton, Alexander Weheliye and Fred Moten, arriving somewhere closer to the Black beyond of inoperativity’s antiracist refusal.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)163-189
    Number of pages27
    JournalJournal of Italian Philosophy
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2020


    • Moten
    • Black studies
    • inoperativity
    • flesh
    • value form


    Dive into the research topics of 'Thing: a fugitive in( )operation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this