Rafael Sánchez: "Humpty-Dumpty Populism in Venezuela (and Elsewhere)"

Oct 9, 2018, 12:00 pm1:20 pm
216 Burr Hall



Event Description

Focused on Venezuela but with references to the current situation in the US, this presentation explores how in the age of the ‘retreat of the theologico-political’ populism mutates. If, as the “royal road” to the political, according to Laclau classical populism enables through appeals to the people the hegemonic reconstitution of political orders rent by intractable antagonisms, making them whole again, then it is my argument that nowadays, in the midst of the mentioned “retreat,” these people-appeals are enunciated within a non-hegemonic political logic where what is at stake is not the reconstitution of any totalizing order but the establishment of a war machine. Bent on “dominance without hegemony” (Guha) and centered on affect and the body, such machine operates vis-à-vis an ever more fragmented social terrain which it does not seek to totalize but, rather, assumes as the endemic predicament that is its enabling precondition. In what, in our current “post-truth” predicament amounts to a Humpty Dumpty logic (“a word means what I say it means” says Humpty Dumpty to Alice in Alice through the looking glass), at this point the ‘people’s referent is not, as in classical populism, any numerical majority but, more tribally, “my people,” those who, whether or not they are the majority, whenever summoned to do so from the state are ready to go and bodily crush the enemy.

Rafael Sánchez is Senior Lecturer at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. He has carried out extensive field- and archival research in Venezuela. His publications have focused on media, mass politics, populism, and spirit mediumship. His book Dancing Jacobins: A Venezuelan Genealogy of Latin American Populism appeared in Spring 2016 with Fordham University Press. His current project “The Fate of Sovereignty in the Landscape of the City” focuses on forms of popular imagination and territorializing practices in contemporary urban Venezuela. He has also begun another project on post-truth populism from the vantage of Venezuela.