In Favor of Ambiguity. The Essay as a Political Genre

Thursday, 28 November 2019, 6:00pm - 7:30pm, IWM library
Since the election of Donald Trump in the US and the rise of populist parties all over Europe, writers on the left have emphasized the importance of “positioning”, or the orientation of thinking around the achievement of a political goal. In times of polarization, the luxury of ambivalence and doubt has been called into question.

What does this imply for the essay, the premier genre of intellectual reflection, be it in film, literature or journalism? Is the signature prose form of magazines like wespennest, itself celebrating 50 years in the Austrian public sphere, still a relevant form for thinking about politics? Does the essay still have the power to liberate minds as well as societies?


Jyoti Mistry is Professor in Film at Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She works with film both as a research form and as a mode of artistic practice. Recent works include: When I grow up I want to be a black man (2017), Impunity (2014), 09:21:25 (2011). Recent publications: Places to Play: practice, research, pedagogy (2017) explores the use of archive as an exemplar to rethink colonial images through “decolonised” film practices. She has edited a special issue of the Journal of African Cinema: “Film as Research Tool: Practice and Pedagogy” (2018).

John Palattella is an editor at The Point. From 2007 to 2016, he was the literary editor of The Nation and in the late 1990s was an editor at Lingua Franca. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, The Point, The Nation, and The Guardian Longread, among other publications. Currently he is a Visiting Fellow at the IWM.


Réka Kinga Papp is editor-in-chief of Eurozine, the European network of cultural magazines, based in Vienna. A journalist specialized in sociography, Papp was a Milena Jesenská Fellow at the IWM in 2017.

Organized in cooperation with wespennest

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