Curiosity and Power

The Politics of Inquiry

2021
Author:

Perry Zurn

Curiosity and Power

A trailblazing exploration of the political stakes of curiosity


Perry Zurn explores the political philosophy of curiosity—the heartbeat of political resistance and a critical factor in social justice. Drawing on philosophy and political theory as well as feminist theory, race theory, disability studies, and trans studies, he tracks curiosity in the structures of political marginalization and resistance—from the Civil Rights Movement to building better social relationships.

Curiosity is political. Who is curious, when, and how reflects the social values and power structures of a given society. In Curiosity and Power, Perry Zurn explores the political philosophy of curiosity, staking the groundbreaking claim that it is a social force—the heartbeat of political resistance and a critical factor in social justice. He argues that the very scaffolding of curiosity is the product of political architectures, and exploring these values and architectures is crucial if we are to better understand, and more ethically navigate, the struggle over inquiry in an unequal world.

Curiosity and Power explores curiosity through the lens of political philosophy—weaving in Nietzsche, Foucault, and Derrida in doing so—and the experience of political marginalization, demonstrating that curiosity is implicated equally in the maintenance of societies and in their transformation. Curiosity plays as central a role in establishing social institutions and fields of inquiry as it does in their deconstruction and in building new forms of political community. Understanding curiosity is critical to understanding politics, and understanding politics is critical to understanding curiosity.

Drawing not only on philosophy and political theory but also on feminist theory, race theory, disability studies, and trans studies, Curiosity and Power tracks curiosity in the structures of political marginalization and resistance—from the Civil Rights Movement to building better social relationships. Curiosity and Power insists that the power of curiosity be recognized and engaged responsibly.

Curiosity and Power

Perry Zurn is assistant professor of philosophy at American University. He is coeditor of Curiosity Studies: A New Ecology of Knowledge and Intolerable: Writings from Michel Foucault and the Prisons Information Group (1970–1980), both from Minnesota.


Curiosity and Power

Contents


Preface


Why the Politics of Curiosity?


1. A Political History of Curiosity


Part I. Episodes from Political Theory


2. Friedrich Nietzsche: Curiosity and the Scene of Struggle


3. Michel Foucault: Institutionalized Curiosity and Resistance


4. Jacques Derrida: Sovereign Curiosity and Deconstruction


Part II. Archives of Political Experience


5. Curiosity, Activism, and Political Resistance


6. Cripping Curiosity: A Critical Disability Framework


7. Trans Curiosity: Beyond the Curio


Unsettling Curiosity


Acknowledgments


Notes


Index