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Textures of the OrdinaryDoing Anthropology after Wittgenstein$
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Veena Das

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780823287895

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823287895.001.0001

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The Boundaries of the “We”

The Boundaries of the “We”

Cruelty, Responsibility, and Forms of Life

Chapter:
(p.198) 7 The Boundaries of the “We”
Source:
Textures of the Ordinary
Author(s):

Veena Das

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823287895.003.0008

Through a triangular reading of J. M. Coetzee’s novels Waiting for the Barbarians and Diary of a Bad Year in conversation with the philosopher/psychoanalyst Jonathan Lear, this chapter depicts the nature of violence under Empire. It makes a case for the erosion, not only of this or that society under Empire but also of the human form of life. The question of responsibility is posed through the magistrate, a man completely unaware of his own complicity in projects of Empire and the torture practiced in it. Time is posited in terms of waiting so that violence from the barbarians may not have happened yet—but it is almost waiting at the door of reality. In the novel, the figure of the barbarian woman creates the possibility of a future together by a make-believe language that rejects the lure of any standing languages. Coetzee destabilizes the notions of author and reader in these novels, blocking any attempt at ersatz ethical posturing by narrative devices of a disfigured author function and the dispersal of the reader into different modes of reading. Both novels resonate with the idea of everyday as recovered from the debris of the political community.

Keywords:   author, Coetzee, empire, ethics, reader, standing languages, time, torture, violence, women

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