Social Imaginaries
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Level: Graduate
Division: The New School for Social Research
Department: Politics
Course Number: GPOL 6610
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Politics
  • Social Development
  • Visual Culture
This is a new course exploring how social imaginaries are made and remade. Specific attention will be paid to different theorizations of the relationship between the seen and the unseen in political life. Many consider the unspoken or disavowed to be powerful forces in politics, often accounting for the passion and unexpected direction of political action in ways that deliberation cannot. Yet scholars disagree over exactly what the unseen or unspoken are, where they reside, how we access them, and how they shape politics. The central task of the seminar is to contrast several views of unknown/unseen political forces in order to attend to the ways in which different metaphors and theoretical presumptions shape the attendant conceptions of the political. The class is divided into fours sections. We begin with the Freudian unconscious, reading Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, some of Freud’s papers, along with some more recent psychoanalytic work on the psychoanalysis (Arnold Modell, Christopher Bollas, Daniel Stern, Siri Hustvedt). The second section of the class turns to affect theory and the sensorium (Maurice Merleau Ponty, Sarah Ahmed, Anne Cvetkovich, Zahid Chaudhary, Sharon Sliwinski). How does affect theory complement or contradict psychoanalytic notions of the unconscious? Can the differences between these two theoretical traditions be reconciled? Section three considers notions of habit and the sensible as yet another way of conceptualizing the unseen. How do arguments rooted in habit or practice capture the violence and force of asymmetries of power? How does Jacques Ranciere’s notion of “the partition of the sensible” reconfigure the politics of the unseen from Freudian notions of the unconscious? Ranciere, De Certeau, Herman Melville, Toni Morrison, Ros Posnock, and Kevin Bruyneel all are useful here. The final section of the class turns to absence, lack, and gaps via Lacan’s and Derrida’s readings of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Purloined Letter.” Though out the course, theoretical texts will be placed in conversation with a range of empirical and literary works as well as critiques of various theoretical positions.
Course Open to: Degree Students with Restrictions


Not open to Undergraduate students.