In/visibility: Perspectives on Inclusion and Exclusion

It is not otiose to assert that the themes of inclusion and exclusion adequately capture, if not define, some of the most central issues, questions, and problems that confront us today. To a great extent, social-political matters – on local, global, and virtual levels – and issues concerning selfhood, embodiment, and personal nature are determined by an antecedent demarcation of what is deemed to be essential and relevant, from what is judged to be external and superfluous. Yet, it is not enough to make explicit the constitutive role of such, often tacit, demarcations on our theoretical practices. We must also acknowledge that these demarcations are neither static, trans-historical, nor extraneous to our human nature. With the rise of globalization and the ubiquity of technology, questions posed by the dichotomy of inclusion and exclusion become all the more relevant. Indeed, we live in a world where boundaries between countries, religions, political structures, cultures, and individuals are constantly being drawn, questioned, torn down, and reconstructed: boundaries that call into question our inherited beliefs and ideologies, and also our very concepts of what constitutes a nation and an individual. A malleable and ever-changing social-political, religious, and intellectual environment inevitably gives rise to a dynamic and active individual.

It is thus incumbent upon any analysis of the self, society, and the state to adopt – or at the very least, be open to – a methodological plurality that is capable of embracing all defining factors. As dynamic subjects, we are not only defined by our place in history, our geographic location, race, class, and religion (or, lack thereof), but we are also defined and constituted by the social-political context into which we have been thrown, the economic situation that envelops us, the recognitive structures that determine our relations with others, and also by our education, gender, moral fabric, personal habits, and individual choices and relationships. All of these complex, overlapping, and intertwining aspects begin to define us, but also potentially exclude us from the dominating ethos of our time and place, if we can even speak of such a thing.

This intimate interconnection between the individual and the collective, theory and praxis, is mirrored in the essays that comprise In/visibility: Perspectives on Inclusion and Exclusion. In response to the thematic problematics that have been outlined, the articles that comprise In/visibility: Perspectives on Inclusion and Exclusion take an interdisciplinary approach – from the perspectives of cultural studies, sociology, political science, and philosophy – to draw out the complexities that arise when we question the boundaries and structures that comprise, dominate, and determine our cultural, political, historical, and social, and ontological existence.

In the first essay, “Urban Heterotopia: Zoning Digital Space,” Clemens Apprich investigates how in recent years, digital networks have become one of the determining morphologies of our society. He examines how digital space constitutes itself as a counter-site, which is to say, a heterotopia in the Foucaultian sense. Apprich uses the city as spatial metaphor to describe how digital networks allow further conclusions to be drawn regarding the implicit assumptions of today’s network society. With respect to the current discourse over these new dynamics, Apprich contends that Foucault’s “theoretical kit” provides a specific perspective in which the description of the global network society can be confronted with a variety of local forms of knowledge. Apprich presents the digital city not only as a spatial metaphor to structure Cyberspace, but also as a background to a new regime of governance, which is characterized by strong patterns of inclusion and exclusion. The “ concepts of inclusion and exclusion,” Apprich writes, “transform the pure data space into a highly contested social place.” Digital networks, he claims, are an attempt to govern our virtual age with new political technologies of space. Apprich argues that Cyberspace – considered as a virtualized reality, which composes the horizon of possible expectations – is not only a structural, but always a cultural, phenomenon as well. His paper thus brings to light some of the ways in which media archaeology constructs an answer to certain questions of how technology – and more specifically, the discourse over technology – has been crucial for understanding the dominant organizational form within the information age.

In the second essay, “ Negotiating Precariousness: Navigating Discursive In/Visibilities,” Magdalena Freudenschuß takes up the theme of inclusion and exclusion from a sociological perspective. In/visibility, she claims, is a central feature of discursive negotiations on hegemonic and counter-hegemonic readings of precariousness, which some sociologists propose as the “new social question” of the 21 st century, since they sketch out how social reality should be understood, how society works, and which roles individuals are supposed to take up. Freudenschuß retraces the function of in/visibilities in discursive struggles over the concept of precarity/precariousness and she singles out the discursive strategy of constructing the collective subject of a “we,” which she uses as an illustration of the underlying discursive dynamic. Examining the public discourse of German and Austrian print media, Freudenschuß tells the ambiguous story of precariousness by looking at the arrangements of different discursive elements in the continually changing field of work within Europe. Taking the contributions of Laclau and Mouffe (2006) as her point of departure, she argues for an understanding of in/visibilities as chains of equivalence, or linkages between different discursive elements . Within these reconstructed chains, she pays special attention to the function of in/visibilities, which enable her to point out possibilities for political consequences and interventions. “Like the visibility of a collective ‘we,’” Freudenshuß writes, “in/visibilities in general have to be considered a powerful instrument in the struggle over hegemony.” The discursive negotiations on precariousness, she contends, rely to a great extent on the navigation of discursive in/visibilities and can thus be understood as one necessary and challenging point for political activism.

In the third essay, “ Populism in Poland: In/visible Exclusion,” Olga Wysocka takes up the theme of inclusion and exclusion from the perspective of political science. Her point of departure is the result of the 2005 parliamentary elections in Poland, which was claimed by the so-called “populist” party and which came as a great surprise to citizens and scholars alike. The unforeseen political victory spurs Wysocka to ask precisely what populism in Poland means today. In order to answer this question, she undertakes a qualitative analysis of specific primary sources from political programs and election party platforms, articles from national newspapers and clips from radio programs, and personal and public testimonies from interviews with political party members and leaders in Poland from 1989 until today. Analyzing these diverse sources, Wysocka’s essay unfolds in four parts. First, it explains and clarifies the concept of populism and specifically, its relation to democracy. Second, it illustrates selected examples of populism in Poland since 1989 and offers some insight into why populism has become such a powerful and successful political tool. Third, it emphasizes the role of populism in Polish government between 2005 and 2007 and in so doing, considers whether populism is a country – specific issue. The forth and final part of the essay attempts to draw together the author’s complex findings, and to re-tell the story of populism in Poland: a story of historical activism that has not yet been, and perhaps will never be, overcome. Populism is not only a sign of the past, although, as the author writes, “its rhetoric is based on the ‘unfinished’ history,” but rather, “it also responded to some problems of democracy.” Wysocka concludes that populism, which is “the voice of the people,” is an important and integral element of a democratic system, which, in its positive and negative effects, is confirmed by the Polish story.

In the fourth essay, “The Upsurge of Spontaneity and the Rise of an Undivided Subject: The Role and Place of Merleau-Ponty in the Dreyfus-McDowell Debate,” Andreas Elpidorou undertakes a philosophical investigation of the nature of the subject. Taking as his point of departure the debate between Hubert Dreyfus and John McDowell, Elpidorou first seeks to clarify the place of Merlau-Ponty in this debate and consequently, presents an account of the subject, which is in line with Merlau-Ponty’s writings. Although both Merleau-Ponty and Dreyfus agree that conceptual activity is founded upon a pre-thematic and unreflective engagement with the world, Elpidorou argues that Dreyfus’s description of these modes of human existence is only partially in agreement with the one advanced by Merleau-Ponty. More explicitly, Elpidorou demonstrates that whereas Dreyfus holds that the difference between the nonconceptual and the conceptual is a difference in kind, Merleau-Ponty puts forth a more nuanced explanation of the relationship between the two: namely, that they differ both in degree and in kind. Consequently, Merleau-Ponty does away with the exclusive dualism that Dreyfus inherits by maintaining a difference in kind, which is a radical or categorical difference. Ultimately, Elpidorou’s analysis aims to show that Merleau-Ponty presents us with a picture of human nature which is unified and not divided into two distinct modes of existence: one wholly reflective and one wholly engaged in praxis. The theme of inclusion and exclusion is thus prominent is Elpidorou’s essay, since the advanced position opposes a bifurcation of the human subject.

In the final essay, “Love is Not Blind: In/Visibility and Recognition in Martin Heidegger’s Thinking,” Lauren Freeman discusses themes of visibility and recognition from a philosophical perspective. She begins by examining a peculiar account of love in Heidegger’s 1925 lecture course, History of the Concept of Time and relates it to what she argues is an account of recognition in his 1927 magnum opus, Being and Time. Freeman finds that although throughout his career, Heidegger tries to distance, if not entirely remove, himself from the tradition that equates knowledge with perception (or, vision), there is at least one place where Heidegger casts what is perhaps the most important element of his Daseinanalytic – namely, care (Sorge) – in a visual metaphor. Moreover, there he also speaks of the authentic modification of care not only in terms of sight, but also in terms of love. The essay first discusses the dichotomies of sight and blindness, love and urge, freedom and unfreedom and then relates these dichotomies to Heidegger’s discussion of solicitude (Fürsorge) in Being and Time, where she argues that he presents us with an account of recognition and reification. Freeman goes on to suggest that Heidegger’s account has normative implications, insofar as it sheds light upon one way of understanding what he means by “authentic” and “inauthentic” existence. “Authentic vision or authentic understanding of oneself as Dasein,” Freeman writes, “entails a recognition of the other as Dasein. By contrast, a failure to see or understand oneself as Dasein – that is to say, existing inauthentically – results in a reification: both of oneself and of the other.” Notwithstanding explicit intentions to the contrary, Freeman claims that Heidegger’s existential analysis provides not only conditions for the possibility of thinking about recognition, but an account of recognition. In turn, such an account provides us with a necessary (but not a sufficient) condition for an account of love between individuals.

In sum, the essays included in this volume present different facets of the multidimensionality of selfhood and the social-political structures that constitute it: selfhood defined (and perhaps in some cases, determined) by virtual relationships and patterns, working contexts and socio-economic situations, politics and citizenship in post-communist democratic societies, metaphysical and ontological composition, and inter-personal ethical relationships to others. It is our hope that this volume provokes stimulating questions from a variety of perspectives on the nature of ourselves, our existence, and our present-day situation in an ever changing globalized world, in which we are and continue to be in/visible actors.

All of the papers that comprise this collection were developed under the auspices of the Junior Visiting Fellows program at the IWM. On behalf of each author, we would like to extend our great thanks to the fellows and staff of the IWM for their gracious hospitality and for helping us to cultivate, build, and sustain a rich, stimulating, and friendly intellectual environment during our tenure as Visiting Fellows.


In/visibility: Perspectives on Inclusion and ExclusionIWM Junior Visiting Fellows’ Conferences, Vol. XXVI
© 2009 by the authors
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Preferred citation: Freeman, Lauren, and Elpidorou, Andreas. 2009. Introduction. In: In/visibility: Perspectives on Inclusion and Exclusion, ed. L. Freeman, Vienna: IWM Junior Visiting Fellows’ Conferences, Vol. 26.