Skip to content

Public, Life

Principal Investigator(s): William Mazzarella

How can we begin to theorize the connections between the most intimate practices of self-making and the most impersonal currents of mass publicity? This project explores the relation between inner and outer worlds through figures of mimesis, contagion, mediation, and ethics. On the one hand, it will be focusing on radical and utopian practices of self-cultivation that are intended, through various kinds of intimate discipline, to effect transformations in collective life. On the other hand, we will be moving toward the same point from the opposite direction, exploring how attempts to manage and mobilize publicity, whether through the circulation of mass-mediated imagery or the harnessing of crowd energies, solicit transformations in subjective experience. From both perspectives, we propose, the issue is not one of cumulatively making better societies by making better people. Rather, Public, Life tracks the startling recurrence of the quasi-magical figures of mimetic influence, repetition, and transformation across intimate and anonymous domains of public life.

Michael Taussig event poster, The Operators Call them Angels