ISA 2018 Panel Proposal
International Politics and the Grotesque
In his 1974-75 lectures on The Abnormal, Michel Foucault describes a ‘category of historical-political analysis’ that he calls ‘the grotesque’ – a category that he defines by a particular disjuncture between appearance on the one hand and capacity for action on the other: ‘by virtue of their status, a discourse or an individual can have effects of power that their intrinsic qualities should disqualify them from having…’ (2003: 11-12). While Foucault locates the grotesque at the heart of sovereignty and bureaucracy, however, the grotesque – with its ambivalence and ‘clash of incompatibles’ (Thomson 1972) – has also been associated with popular practices of resistance, most obviously perhaps in the work of Mikhail Bakhtin (1984). This panel proposes to bring together these diverse approaches to the grotesque in order to ask how the grotesque might contribute to the study of international politics. What can the grotesque tell us about contemporary political mechanisms and dynamics? How might a diagnosis of the grotesque help us understand political power today? This panel invites contributions that engage a conceptualisation of the grotesque in relation to theoretical problems and/or empirical sites.