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Abstract

The following essay is a set of reflections prompted by my encounter with the writings of several Subaltern Studies authors during the period in which I was working on collective memories in the Siculo-Albanian village, Piana degli Albanesi. My encounter with Subaltern Studies, though limited, has been richly suggestive in providing new ways of thinking about collective memories, and perhaps also in rethinking a major point of theoretical contention within Subaltern Studies itself. This essay will address both of these issues. It is organized around two problem complexes emerging from the historiographical affinities between Subaltern Studies and Pianese peasants, both immediately pertinent to the study of collective memory: the delineation of collectives and the class framework of experience; and (subaltern) bodies as sites of memory. Encounters, however, are seldom one-way streets. Woven into my analysis of collectives and their memories is a comment on, possibly a contribution to, the theoretical debate that resulted in an abrupt shift in the intellectual history of Subaltern Studies from its initial focus on reconstructing forms of peasant consciousness to its later concern with deconstructing discourses.

In: Asian Journal of Social Science
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One of the most common critiques of Marx is that he mistook the birth pangs of capitalism for its death throes, on the basis of which he made the completely erroneous prediction of the increasing immiseration of the working class – a critique that rather superficially reduces immiseration to a simple matter of standard of living. The goal of this essay, however, is to expose the corporeal depths of Marx's notion of immiseration, and, in so doing, to show that immiseration is by no means a long-since disappeared attribute of early capitalism. To do so, I reread the chapters on surplus-value in

Capital

by following the corporeal leitmotifs suggested in Franz Kafka's short story, 'In the Penal Colony'. Kafka's narration of the condemned learning the meaning of his fate through the corporeal experience of wounding evokes Marx's very graphic narration in

Capital

of workers experiencing exploitation and immiseration on their own bodies. Raising themes found later in Kafka's narrative, Marx tells of the arranging of the entire workplace 'under the command of capital', of the design and employment of technology both to secure that command and to extract surplus-value; and he shows how capital, like Kafka's torture machine, writes its messages on the body of labour in a script not immediately decipherable by observers. The history that Marx tells in

Capital

is less graphic in form than Kafka's, but it is in content at least as fantastic and horrific – perhaps even more so. Their common concern with machines painfully inscribing bodies helps to highlight the corporeal dimension of Marx's concept of immiseration.

In: Historical Materialism
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In a seemingly offhand, often overlooked comment, Karl Marx deemed ‘human corporeal organisation’ the ‘first fact of human history’. Following Marx’s corporeal turn and pursuing the radical implications of his corporeal insight, this book undertakes a reconstruction of the corporeal foundations of historical materialism. Part I exposes the corporeal roots of Marx’s materialist conception of history and historical-materialist Wissenschaft. Part II attempts a historical-materialist mapping of human corporeal organisation. Suggesting how to approach human histories up from their corporeal foundations, Part III elaborates historical-materialism as ‘corporeal semiotics’. Part IV, a case study of Marx’s critique of capitalist socio-economic and cultural forms, reveals the corporeal foundations of that critique and the corporeal depth of his vision of human freedom and dignity.
In: Bodies and Artefacts: Historical Materialism as Corporeal Semiotics (2 vols.)