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Resisting Dialogue

Modern Fiction and the Future of Dissent

2019
Author:

Juan Meneses

Resisting Dialogue

A bold new critique of dialogue as a method of eliminating dissent

Is dialogue always the productive political and communicative tool it is widely conceived to be? In Resisting Dialogue, Juan Meneses reassesses our assumptions about dialogue and what a politically healthy society should look like, arguing that, far from an unalloyed good, dialogue often serves as a subtle tool of domination, perpetuating the underlying inequalities it is intended to address.

Deepening and widening a furrow first plowed by Jacques Rancière and Slavoj Žižek, Resisting Dialogue marks a refusal to underwrite ‘postpolitics’ as politics by insisting that unspeakable political ambition take its place, without apology, so that our voyage from a troubled modernist literature to the Anthropocene maps, simultaneously, a continuous trajectory and a jarring, disjunctive continuity.

Grant Farred, Cornell University

Is dialogue always the productive political and communicative tool it is widely conceived to be? Resisting Dialogue reassesses our assumptions about dialogue and, in so doing, about what a politically healthy society should look like. Juan Meneses argues that, far from an unalloyed good, dialogue often serves as a subtle tool of domination, perpetuating the underlying inequalities it is intended to address.

Meneses investigates how “illusory dialogue” (a particular dialogic encounter designed to secure consensus) is employed as an instrument that forestalls—instead of fostering—articulations of dissent that lead to political change. He does so through close readings of novels from the English-speaking world written in the past hundred years—from E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India and Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion to Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People and more. Resisting Dialogue demonstrates how these novels are rhetorical exercises with real political clout capable of restoring the radical potential of dialogue in today’s globalized world. Expanding the boundaries of postpolitical theory, Meneses reveals how these works offer ways to practice disagreement against this regulatory use of dialogue and expose the pitfalls of certain other dialogic interventions in relation to some of the most prominent questions of modern history: cosmopolitanism at the end of empire, the dangers of rewriting the historical record, the affective dimension of neoliberalism, the racial and nationalist underpinnings of the “war on terror,” and the visibility of environmental violence in the Anthropocene.

Ultimately, Resisting Dialogue is a complex, provocative critique that, melding political and literary theory, reveals how fiction can help confront the deployment of dialogue to preempt the emergence of dissent and, thus, revitalize the practice of emancipatory politics.
Resisting Dialogue

Juan Meneses is assistant professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Resisting Dialogue

Deepening and widening a furrow first plowed by Jacques Rancière and Slavoj Žižek, Resisting Dialogue marks a refusal to underwrite ‘postpolitics’ as politics by insisting that unspeakable political ambition take its place, without apology, so that our voyage from a troubled modernist literature to the Anthropocene maps, simultaneously, a continuous trajectory and a jarring, disjunctive continuity.

Grant Farred, Cornell University

Resisting Dialogue draws on literature to develop a fresh vocabulary of political activism and thetic force. Contrarianism, deadlock, impasse, silence, resilience, persistence, the power of unexceptional figures of history to block and oppose the status quo—these immobilizing postures acquire a make-over as acts of agency that contest the eclipse of political agency besetting progressive theories of the Political.

Emily Apter, author of Unexceptional Politics: On Obstruction, Impasse and the Impolitic

Resisting Dialogue

Contents

Prologue: Reading Dangerously

Introduction: Resisting Dialogue

1. Impasse: Cosmopolitanism at the End of Empire

2. Contra I: A History of Silence

3. Deflection: Neoliberalism and the Affective Regulation of Citizenship

4. Contra II: Terrorist Counters

5. Reframing: Visualizing Environmental Violence in the Anthropocene

Epilogue: Arguing On

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index