Hope: The Elements of Hope – Chapters One and Two

41XCGFX846L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_For the third edition of BOOK CLUB we will review Mary Zournazi’s Hope: New Philosophies for Change. Starting this week, a new post will be published every two weeks focused on each section of the book. For each section, Temporary contributors will initiate a discussion through the comments in the post and anyone may continue the discussion by contributing their own comments and observations on the text.

BOOK CLUB Schedule
October 27: The Elements of Hope – Chapters One and Two
November 10: The Elements of Hope – Chapters Three and Four
November 24: A Politics of Hope – Chapters Five and Six
December 8: A Politics of Hope – Chapters Seven and Eight
December 29: Revolutionary Hope – Chapters Nine and Ten
January 12: Revolutionary Hope – Chapter Eleven

“Writer and philosopher Mary Zournazi brought her questions to some of the most thoughtful intellectuals at work today. She discusses “joyful revolt” with Julia Kristeva, the idea of “the rest of the world” with Gayatri Spivak, the “art of living” with Michel Serres, the “carnival of the senses” with Michael Taussig, the relation of hope to passion and to politics with Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau. A dozen stimulating minds weigh in with their visions of a better social and political order. ”

Hope: New Philosophies for Change may be purchased as a hard copy or is available as a .pdf download courtesy of University of Wollongong’s digital archive.

Excerpt from Prologue: This is a book about hope. To me, ‘hope’ is about a certain generosity and gratefulness that we all need in life. If life is a series of encounters and chance meetings, events and social relations, then hope lies across all of these. It is a basic human condition that involves belief and trust in the world. It is the stuff of our dreams and desires, our ideas of freedom and justice and how we might conceive life. In this book, hope is also about a spirit of dialogue, where generosity and laughter break open a space to keep spontaneity and freedom alive – the joyful engagements possible with others. For in any conversation – individual or political, written, spoken or read – there needs to be the ability to hear, listen and give. If we shut down a discussion through resentment, fear or unwillingness – through adversity or polarised individual or political positions – generosity ceases, and the openness of real discussion and debate is diminished. When a dialogue is not permitted there can be no space for exchange – words and ideas become self-enclosed and the exchange becomes a kind of monologue, a type of depression and narcissism where territories are defended and the stakes raised are already known. Reflections, conversations and dialogues build new social and individual imaginaries – visions of the world that create possibilities for change. They lift us out of despair and let us take new risks in our encounters with each other. What I pose here is the ethical and political responsibility we can share in writing and thinking about hope. This is about collaboration – in writing, in thinking, in politics – how working ideas together, across different styles and traditions, can let new ideas, views and expressions emerge. This involves a sense of trust and a ‘faith without certitudes’ about where hope may lie in thinking about the future. In secular times, when hope has moved out of the religious sphere, the turn towards the future may be found in struggles for individual justice, and in political activity across the globe.


We look forward to the discussions!


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  1. Sarrita Hunn

    First, I think it is important to note that this book was actually first published in 2002 – long before anyone had ever heard of Barack Obama, much less his campaign for HOPE and CHANGE. It also was written before, during and after September 11th, 2001 and that is noted in the book in some interesting ways. But mostly, this book feels as much, if not more, relevant today – after decade-long foreign wars, the 2008 “Great Recession,” Occupy and even Ferguson – if not only because we need to have this discussion that much more.

    The first section, The Elements of Hope, roughly discusses our experiences of hope in our daily lives. I have found the relationship of Hope to Fear to be really insightful. In the introduction Zournazi states, “When, for the benefit of our security and belonging, we evoke a hope that ignores the suffering of others, we can only create a hope based on fear.” In this case, she is talking about how “The success of right-wing governments and sentiments lies in reworking hope in a negative frame.” As I said in a recent review (http://temporaryartreview.com/academy-of-asociality/) – It is always a deferred hope, selling us what we hope to be – as an individual, and most importantly, as a consumer.

    In the first chapter, with Alphonso Lingis, they also discuss the importance of hope in the overwhelming presence of fear, and the importance of being sensitive to others – as an ethical stance. On the final page, he explains the role of ‘running away from your problems’ as a strategy of disruption, to get a different perspective and return to the problem anew, a different person even.

    As a starting point: In the face of despair/hopelessness, can (blind?) hope allow a (new) space for possibility – a disruption? based on compassion – as opposed to fear?

  2. Yaelle

    As I was reading the first two chapters, I found my mind really wandering off into thoughts about how much hope and possibility can be found in community. When people look upwards to leaders for answers, they are often disappointed and maintain a sense of hopelessness. But when looking inward to our immediate community–the day-to-day interactions and (frequently) intuitive support–we find ourselves feeling empowered to lead ourselves into new possibilities. Leaders are easy to use as a crutch and a way to fend off responsibility. When Alphonso Lingis says (p.23): “Hope arises in a break with the past”, I hear that as a call to walk back into our community.

    Another quote that resonated with me appears on p. 38, also from Lingis: “Just because [revolution] doesn’t endure doesn’t mean it was a failure. But one of the great intoxications of revolution and the reason that it does continually recur is that those who fight the revolution find it a kind of moment of effervescence, of transfiguration. Even if it fails, it was a summit experience for people in common.” And if that isn’t a hopeful (and convincing) call for change by your own means, I don’t know what is!

  3. Sarrita Hunn

    I think Yaelle alludes to an important point which is that it is hard to summarize the book well because it meanders through the interview format. Many great points are made in each chapter, and each section of each chapter, but there is not an overall trajectory. In the end, it is one of the things that I enjoy about the book. There is a real complexity to how each subject is discussed, but also a lot left open to consider further.

    With all that in mind, I wanted to write a bit more about the second chapter with Michael Taussig. Titled “Carnival of the Senses,” this is a real, but also fantastical, anthropological discussion of hope. From the first section of this chapter, “Dialogue, carnival and the senses” Zournazi and Taussig discuss an historical perception of despair being profound, and/or linked with genius or revelation, and what that means for the role of hope. Something I picked up here that I have been thinking a lot about is how criticality (critical thinking, theory and the like) that is so pervasive in art (from exhibition reviews to studio critiques), leaves no room for a spirit generosity and is inherently a negation. Later they explicitly discuss how hopes lies outside of reason (or even an rational/irrational dichotomy). (45) So, these two aims seem at odds. There is a great reference to Gramsci which he statedthe need for “pessimism of the intellect and optimism of will.” (46) and asks “So how do you combine those two apparently opposed forces which [are] so important?”

    One suggestion was to look at Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ) as written about by Peter Lamborn Wilson (Hakim Bey). This was a book first published by the anarchist in 1991 and “describes the socio-political tactic of creating temporary spaces that elude formal structures of control.” (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temporary_Autonomous_Zone) It is “the idea is that there are moments, hours, weeks, months or even years whereby groups of people get together to test freedom…And then it collapses – so these experiments, these temporary autonomous zones, are bound to fail. You enter into them with the notion that is it like a carnival…” I think there are many examples within art that function this way (pop-up galleries, artist-run residencies, etc.) but those operate very differently than the critical dialogue we experience in academic art writing and graduate programs. I wonder then, was is the future of critical theory in this scenario? What can we still hope to gain from critical discussions and what must we leave aside?

    The section ends with Taussig stating, “So, that seems to me what human beings are about – that level of complexity, the ability to hold opposite ideas at once – and I think that is where I would really be most comfortable talking about hope – in a field where hope and lack of hope are organized into a sort of dynamic mix.” (47)

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