This is just to get a discussion going on Zivin’s work, I do not mean to write up any complete response to what I have been reading. Just a few thoughts–and they are not a critique, as it should be obvious but may not be!
“Beyond Inquisitional Logic” is, in a strong sense, a companion piece to the book Figurative Inquisitions. I say “in a strong sense” because it means to state what the book only leaves implicit, namely, that there is a political bite to the notion, in the book, perhaps its central or originary intuition, that “the subject is precisely the failure to become the subject” (Figurative 101), attributed to Mladen Dolar glossing both Althusser and Lacan’s notions of subjectivity, and sustained in Judith Butler’s theorizations as well. In a minimal formulation, what obtains is that “the sudden transformation of individual into subject necessarily produces a remainder” (101). The status of the remainder—radically, the nonsubject—triggers, I think, Erin Graff Zivin’s investigation, both in the book and in the companion piece.
The notion of that remainder is said to divide the intellectual field, tropologized as Latinamericanism in the article and as Luso-Hispanic Thought in the book. It prompts the emergence, necessarily retroactive, as only its naming brings it into being, of a pervasive “Inquisitional logic” in the tradition, which is, summarily, the logic of the negation of the remainder, against which another logic, less clearly named, opens up. This second logic “would subvert totalitarian or totalizing thought” (Figurative 105).
The question must therefore be asked as to the hold of the division: is the second logic a radical alternative to the first? Or it is simply the “shard” (a word that shows up several times in the book) within the first? Is the second logic simply the destabilization of the first, its ongoing deconstruction, if you will? Or is the first logic, in every case, the manifestation of a decision to foreclose the aporias and dead-ends of the second one, to get on with it and make a move towards some goal, to refuse paralysis or perplexity? Another way of putting it: Does Inquisitional logic know its other in advance, and likes to ward it off, or is it only the second logic that knows in advance, and always too well, always excessively, the sinister work of the first one? Is it the case that one of the two logics is in excess of the other, the excess of the other, or is it rather the case that both form a closed set (whose frontiers would also be the uncertain frontiers of the intellectual field) within which each of them occupies a certain amount of territory? Finally, is the second logic the auto-immunitary disorder of Inquisitional logic? Or is the second logic itself the remainder of the first one in the same sense that “the subject is the failure to become the subject”?
I do not know if there is a way of answering any of those questions satisfactorily, that is, without having any possible answer proliferate into a subsequent series of questions. Another way of going at it would be to say, perhaps, that Inquisitional logic occupies the political terrain for the most part, at least insofar as one holds to a conception of the political as the field of division between friends and enemies. Whereas the second logic does not so much refute enmity as it relocates itself in a space that it substracts from politics as such—while acknowledging the latter exists.
If so, what would be the “political bite” of the political subtraction? Zivin says, in the essay, “infrapolitics,” but she also says “democracy.” In fact, she also says “exposure without ulterior purpose.” Thereby linking the three answers into one.
The idea would be that a deconstruction of Inquisitional logic in every case would open the way for the possibility of democracy, would therefore be a condition of democracy, even a hyperbolic condition of democracy. Infrapolitical exposure without ulterior purpose—the specific “an-archaeological” destruction, or archic dismantling in any analysis, such as the analysis in display in the examples given (Draper, Williams, Steiner, plus of course Zivin’s own literary analyses in Figurative Inquisitions)—could not become a goal without incurring contradiction: it is not a goal, but a condition, in fact, the hyperbolic condition (that is, a condition that takes its conditional register to an unconditional extreme: a condition without condition) of a democratic practice, certainly at the level of thought, or intellectual activity within the field.
If so, then the second logic makes an incontrovertibly strong claim on the first or Inquisitional logic: Inquisitional logic is a political logic of mastery, in every case. But the second logic in every case un-masters mastery, lets it loose as the fantasy that it always is. Now, as fantasy, it will not fail to exercise power, as it is power itself. Inquisitional logic is therefore always already abominable, and always already there.
At some point Zivin says that we need, urgently, the translation of the ethical demand into a spectral demand. I take it she means we need the conversion of an ethical approach into something else, something that can and will haunt politics, or the political region, both critically (against Inquisitorial logics) and affirmatively (as democratic construction).
But the word “conversion” is crucial there: how is that demand for conversion—which is, really, the demand for infrapolitics to give up on subtraction, to invest the political field—not already caught up in the Inquisitorial injunction?
The latter is not a rhetorical question, it is however a question for which I do not believe we can find a productive answer (responding yes is not a productive answer, and responding no is probably an error). The problem is that, by being unable to move past that impasse, we seem to be sanctioning the endless survival of Inquisitorial logic. Can we do otherwise? Beyond literature or even in literature?