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Title: Parasitic politics : on international relations and the comic
Author: Wedderburn, Alister Humphrey
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 8155
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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Tragedy has played a prominent and active role in the construction of Western political imaginaries. For many thinkers working not only in International Relations but also in a host of other disciplines including philosophy, political theory and psychoanalysis, tragic drama offers a singular and compelling representation of humanity’s social, political, and/or ethical capacities and limitations. This thesis begins by establishing a genealogical understanding of tragedy as a discourse embedded within relations of power/knowledge. In so doing, it problematises the genre’s current privilege within IR theory, asking questions of the ways in which the discipline has framed debates about agency, subjectivity, power, and the politics of culture and performance. This thesis makes an original contribution to these debates by asking, conversely, what a comic sensibility might have to offer to IR. Theorising the comic as a performative ‘way of operating’ – as a diverse and indeterminate assemblage of subject-producing practices neither detached from mechanisms of power nor reducible to them – the thesis embarks upon this task by turning to the parasite, a stock character of ancient Greek comedy. Informed in part by the theory of relations outlined in Michel Serres’ The Parasite, it argues that this ambiguous and ambivalent figure demonstrates one way in which comic practices might operate productively and creatively within and with the fields in, by and through which political (non-)subjects are constituted. Moreover, in so doing, the parasite also supplements existing accounts of difference and otherness within post-structuralist IR theory by introducing an indeterminate ‘third’ element into the self/other, identity/difference dialectic. The second half of the thesis juxtaposes this ‘parasitic’ understanding of comic-political subjectivity with three sites at which comic practices can be seen to have been charged with a political purpose or function: cartoons drawn in French concentration camps during the Second World War; smallscale direct action concerned with the global HIV/AIDS crisis; and carnivalesque mass protest around the 2005 meeting of the G8. Acknowledging the practical and tactical limitations of the comic, the thesis nevertheless concludes by arguing for its value as a field of practice in which dissonant and transformative subjectivities can (potentially, and only ever provisionally) performatively be enacted.
Supervisor: Aradau, Claudia Elena ; Busch, Peter Eduard Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available