Themes of visibility in Rancière, Butler and Cavarero

  • Timothy Huzar

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores themes of visibility in the work of Jacques Rancière, Judith Butler
and Adriana Cavarero. It argues that visibility is important for each author: for Rancière
the making visible of particular existents; for Butler the making visible of violences; and
for Cavarero the making visible of another’s uniqueness. However, these commitments
to visibility reach a limit when confronted with those who exist in indifference to
visibility, for example, the fugitive politics of the enslaved as detailed by Saidiya
Hartman. In these instances there is a danger that a fugitive politics is overlooked if
visibility is one’s primary frame of analysis. This thesis is interdisciplinary, bringing each
author into conversation with the others but not attempting to synthesise their thought
into a whole, nor to resolve the tensions in their work by privileging one author over the
others. Instead, and following Rancière, it reads each author for their aesthetic
contribution to making sense of the world with the aim of identifying the forms of
existence that are opened up in their work, but also those that are closed down.
The first chapter identifies themes of visibility in Rancière’s account of politics,
arguing that there is an ambivalence in Rancière’s politics but that in either case
politics is linked to the making visible of forms of existence that are otherwise rendered
insensitive. The second and third chapters identify themes of visibility in Butler’s
account of violence, arguing that Butler’s reflections on violence’s visibility are
overlooked in her consideration of nonviolence. The fourth and fifth chapters identify
themes of visibility in Cavarero’s work, arguing that her insistence on making another’s
uniqueness visible is made urgent because of scenes of violence. The sixth chapter
argues that Butler and Cavarero’s work should be understood as an insurrectionary
humanism centred on the paraontology of vulnerability. The seventh chapter reads
Rancière, Butler and Cavarero in relation to Hannah Arendt, arguing that it is Arendt’s
proximity to each author that enables a politics of fugitivity to become tangible in their
work. The eighth chapter reads Rancière, Butler and Cavarero against Saidiya
Hartman’s account of the Middle Passage, plantation slavery and its legacies to
demonstrate the limits of their commitment to visibility and to further manifest a sense
of a fugitive politics indifferent to visibility.
Date of AwardMay 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorMark Devenney (Supervisor), Clare Woodford (Supervisor) & Anthony Leaker (Supervisor)


  • Rancière
  • Butler
  • Cavarero
  • visibility
  • fugitivity
  • politics
  • violence

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