ESR 5 Blog May/June 2023: Claude Nassar

Ecstatic Futures?

Over the past few weeks, after having had developed a good portion of the main arguments of my dissertation, I have started thinking of how I want my dissertation to be concluded; or more specifically about what I want a reader to take away from the text; what are the arguments that the conclusion of my text will re-iterate, and how I can make my philosophical arguments translatable into meaning relevant to the lived experience of a reader. The individuated formulation of lived experiences is important because individuation is the site of the intersection between social complexity and of institutions of social order. In this sense, if I don’t make my argument understandable from an individuated outlook, I would be leaving the interpretation of my work to the individuated perspective of people engaging with my text to neo-liberalised institutions of knowledge production. However, given that my work draws on the de-colonial theorising of pluralist significance, I am faced with the following question: what is it to summarise and to draw conclusions when arguing for a plurality of meanings?

The tentative title of my dissertation is Ecstatic Futures. My concern is that upon first reflection this proposition seems to flatten complexity through the proposition of a monistic solution; a certain spin on toxic liberal positivity, and the slogans of its wellness industry: feel better all the time. The title, however, was meant to remind me of a certain theoretical attitude that I would like to avoid, which is the tendency to write theory in response to crisis which entails a sober, secularised imagination of an ordered society, capable of addressing a crisis of governance. I felt and still feel that such a reminder is important, precisely because in historical moments of crisis—as the one we are living—a modernist reaction seems the most pragmatic: living in a crisis, the present should be dedicated to the labour of restructuring, reforming, and reformulating different orders that would allow us to address the crisis, then we can consider how to feel better.

However, phrasing it like this makes clear my being pulled towards the formulation of ‘Ecstatic Futures’. In my mind this expression grounds the future in a present sensation that evokes an imagination of the future as a present re-generation of previously lived ecstatic moments. A temporal realignment of what is theorised, from a foretelling of a future with which the reader needs to catch up, to instead, a study of the present—not the present as fleeting transient moment, but as a cumulative, temporally complex unfolding. Until now, the title has been a reminder to not slide into linguistic formulations of an eternally postponable crisis where the function of producing theory becomes the imagining of socio-political strategies that attempt to address contemporary crises, without taking into consideration the collective practices to which neoliberal crises and their solutions are an assault.

Ecstatic imaginations in this sense are not a generic proposition related to an abstracted definition of joy, but one where feeling better is always already a socially formulated function that folds within its specific social and political logics – where ‘better’ is not a self-referential superlative that initiates a self-reproducing feedback loop of crisis and improvement. Feeling better, having the will to get out of bed, is then not separate from feeling better, or from being able to sense and make sense of the collectives I inhabit, my individuated cognition of such collectives – while not alienating myself from my affective associations and all their sensorial and syntactic manifestations. Anyway, I am not sure if ‘Ecstatic Futures’ is the best indication to such ideas.

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