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Subjectivity is one of the central issues of twentieth-century philosophy, literature and art. Modernism, which “discovered” the subconscious, put an end to the belief in the Cartesian Subject as the autonomous centre of knowledge and self-consciousness. Instead, the subject became something uncontrollable, unreliable, incomplete and fragmentary. The attempts to recapture the unity of the subject led to the existential quest and the flight into ideology (nazism, communism).
Postmodernism, the cultural movement of the second half of the twentieth century, did not consider the subject any longer as an important category. Attention was focused on the “I” and the “Other”, on dialogism and polyphonism (Bakhtin). Ideology lost its appeal and so did the “great” stories (Lyotard).
In this issue of Avant-Garde Critical Studies the problem of subjectivity in twentieth-century culture is discussed from various angles by specialists in the field of philosophy, literature, film, music and dance.
The Botanical Emergence in Contemporary Art
Volume Editor: Giovanni Aloi
Winner of the 2019 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Why Look at Plants? proposes a thought-provoking and fascinating look into the emerging cultural politics of plant-presence in contemporary art. Through the original contributions of artists, scholars, and curators who have creatively engaged with the ultimate otherness of plants in their work, this volume maps and problematizes new intra-active, agential interconnectedness involving human-non-human biosystems central to artistic and philosophical discourses of the Anthropocene.

Plant’s fixity, perceived passivity, and resilient silence have relegated the vegetal world to the cultural background of human civilization. However, the recent emergence of plants in the gallery space constitutes a wake-up-call to reappraise this relationship at a time of deep ecological and ontological crisis. Why Look at Plants? challenges readers’ pre-established notions through a diverse gathering of insights, stories, experiences, perspectives, and arguments encompassing multiple disciplines, media, and methodologies.
The Image in French Philosophy challenges dominant interpretations of Bergson, Sartre, Lyotard, Baudrillard and Deleuze by arguing that their philosophy was not a critique but a revival of metaphysics as a thinking pertaining to impersonal forces and distinguished by an aversion to subjectivity and an aversion of the philosophical gaze away from the discourse of vision, and thus away from the image. Insofar as the image was part of the discourse of subjectivity/representation, getting rid of the subject involved smuggling the concept of the image out of the discourse of subjectivity/representation into a newly revived and ethically flavored metaphysical discourse—a metaphysics of immanence, which was more interested in consciousness rather than subjectivity, in the inhuman rather than the human, in the virtual rather than the real, in Time rather than temporalization, in Memory rather than memory-images, in Imagination rather than images, in sum, in impersonal forces, de-personalizing experiences, states of dis-embodiment characterized by the breaking down of sensory-motor schemata (Bergson’s pure memory, Sartre’s image-consciousness, Deleuze’s time-image) or, more generally, in that which remains beyond representation i.e. beyond subjectivity (Lyotard’s sublime, Baudrillard’s fatal object). The book would be of interest to scholars and students of philosophy, aesthetics, and film theory.
Morality and Marginality: Towards Sentient Conservation?
Nature conservation in southern Africa has always been characterised by an interplay between Capital, specific understandings of Morality, and forms of Militarism, that are all dependent upon the shared subservience and marginalization of animals and certain groups of people in society. Although the subjectivity of people has been rendered visible in earlier publications on histories of conservation in southern Africa, the subjectivity of animals is hardly ever seriously considered or explicitly dealt with. In this edited volume the subjectivity and sentience of animals is explicitly included. The contributors argue that the shared human and animal marginalisation and agency in nature conservation in southern Africa (and beyond) could and should be further explored under the label of ‘sentient conservation’.

Contributors are Malcolm Draper, Vupenyu Dzingirai, Jan-Bart Gewald, Michael Glover, Paul Hebinck, Tariro Kamuti, Lindiwe Mangwanya, Albert Manhamo, Dhoya Snijders, Marja Spierenburg, Sandra Swart, Harry Wels.
Volume Editors: Holly Lynn Baumgartner and Roger Davis
Hosting the Monster responds to the call of the monstrous with, not rejection, but invitation. Positing the monster as that which defies classification, the essays in this collection are an ongoing engagement with that which lies outside of established boundaries. With chapters ranging from the monstrous mother or the deformed child to subjectivity in transition, this volume is not only of interest to film and gender scholars and literary and cultural theorists but also students of popular culture or horror. Its wide appeal stems from its invitation both to entertain the monster and to widen the call to and the listening for the monsters that have not yet, and perhaps must not yet, come calling back. This sense of hospitality and non-hostility is one guiding principle of this collection, suggesting that the ability to survey and research the otherwise may reveal more about the subjectivity of the self through the wisdom of the other, however monstrous the manifestation.
Aesthetic Anxiety analyzes uncanny repetition in psychology, literature, philosophy, and film, and produces a new narrative about the centrality of aesthetics in modern subjectivity. The often horrible, but sometimes also enjoyable, experience of anxiety can be an aesthetic mode as well as a psychological state. Johnson’s elucidation of that state in texts by authors from Kant to Rilke demonstrates how estrangement can produce attachment, and repositions Romanticism as an engine of modernity.
Some Lessons in Existential Education
Author: Herner Saeverot
While existential issues perhaps concern people the most, today’s education is not as preoccupied with such issues. Instead, education is becoming more uniform and streamlined; more and more one-sidedly directed towards what is useful. The purpose of this book is to focus on education’s existential dimension. Such a focus requires at least three things. Firstly, we need to justify why it is necessary to reconnect with existentialism in education. Secondly, we need to undergo an examination of the quality of existential education, so that we can have a basis as to what kind of educational interests teachers should have. Thirdly, we need to gain knowledge about how teachers may teach in light of existential matters.
However, to teach in light of existence is highly paradoxical in that existence cannot be forced on someone, but is rather a subjective matter. Teaching which is non-ironical or too direct can thus be very problematic concerning existential issues. The reason being that there is no objective truth in terms of existence. There is only a matter of subjective or existential truth, which is only true for the single individual. Therefore, the book suggests that the approach teachers’ take must be discrete and indirect so as to create room for students to take responsibility for their subjective truth. Such an indirect pedagogy is not a programme, but rather a form of existential education.
The overall aim of the book is, by way of introducing and developing the concept of indirect pedagogy, to extend and reinvent the language of teaching.
Volume Editor: Murat Aydemir
In the West, once apparently progressive causes such as sexual equality and lesbian and gay emancipation are increasingly redeployed in order to discipline and ostracize immigrant underclass subjects, primarily Muslims. Gender and sexuality on the one hand and race, culture, and/or ethnicity on the other are more and more forced into separate, mutually exclusive realms. That development cannot but bear on the establishment of queer and postcolonial studies as separate academic specializations, among whom relations usually are as cordial as they are indifferent. This volume inquires into the possibilities and limitations of a parceling out of objects alternative to the common scheme, crude but often apposite, in which Western sexual subjectivity is analyzed and criticized by queer theory, while postcolonial studies takes care of non-Western racial subjectivity. Sex, race: always already distinguished, yet never quite apart.
Roderick A. Ferguson has described liberal pluralism as an ideology of discreteness in that it disavows race, gender and sexuality's mutually formative role in political, social, and economic relations. It is in that spirit that this volume advocates the discreet, hence judicious and circumspect, reconsideration of the (in)discrete realities of race and sex. Contributors: Jeffrey Geiger, Merill Cole, Jonathan Mitchell and Michael O'Rourke, Jaap Kooijman, Beth Kramer, Maaike Bleeker, Rebecca Fine Romanow, Anikó Imre, Lindsey Green-Simms, Nishant Shahani, Ryan D. Fong, and Murat Aydemir
The Societal Unconscious presents an innovative development of theory and methodology for adult education and learning research, recognizing psychodynamic dimensions of learning processes. With few exceptions the unconscious has been neglected in critical adult education research. The psychosocial approach in this book seeks to re-integrate the societal and the psychodynamic dimensions in analyzing adult learners and learning processes.

The book responds to contemporary awareness of the societal and cultural nature of subjectivity with a new material and dialectic psychosocial theory, comprising conscious as well as unconscious levels. Tracing interdisciplinary inspirations it sets a new broad horizon for in-depth understanding of learning in everyday life.

A number of empirical analyses demonstrate the entanglement of societal and psychodynamic dimensions of learning. Firstly, a part of the chapters deals with the complex subjective continuities and discontinuities in individual learning and career. Secondly, other chapters comprise analyses of leadership and the social psychology of organizational processes, and the psycho-social aspects of institutional regeneration. Thirdly, the book presents outlooks into the social psychology dimensions of wider societal and political processes, including "identity politics" and xenophobia. A last chapter finalizes the theoretical basis of the methodology.