Editorial: In/Coherence
Liam Mitchell
Trent University

This issue of Peninsula draws several of its contributions from in/coherence: expression, translation, violence, the fourth annual (inter)disciplinarities conference. Held at the University of Victoria in April, 2012, the conference brought together young scholars and artists in the humanities and social sciences for a discussion of coherence and incoherence -- the sort of binary that privileges and naturalizes the first term while excluding the other. The word "incoherent" is a pejorative in science and economics: Sokal's criticism of the "nonsense" of postmodernism resembles Wall Street's jeering reaction to its aimless occupiers. The same kind of program is laid out in both cases: rationalize! Define your problem; describe your objective; state your assumptions; outline an agenda and follow it through. If you have a problem with the system, then start by trying to make sense of the way that it functions and tell us what, exactly, it is that you want. A change in the tax regime? A reduction in military spending? There are economic solutions to these problems. Or perhaps you find the system itself to be irrational -- governed by the interests of a few on the basis of partial information about what is, at the end of the day, a fiction of capital? These are the problems of an incoherent system -- an insufficiently systematic system -- and they can be addressed systematically.

Answers like these are provided on the basis of a binary assessment of economics: the tax regime is or is not fair; military spending is or is not excessive; Wall Street is or is not rationally ordered. This binary assessment is based, in turn, on a juridical understanding of politics: a system is or is not free from the irrational, human exercise of power. This is a repressive conception or power that, as Foucault argues, remains "under the spell of the monarchy"; progress can be measured by our distance from the sovereign, who wields the power of the sword across time and space. As universal, this conception of power is eminently coherent, applying in the same repressive fashion no matter the scale, context, or people involved.

The problem, of course, is that power is exercised by people and institutions other than the sovereign in non-repressive ways, and failing to recognize this means failing to recognize, or be able to appropriate, subtler forms of governance. The solution to this problem of political analysis cannot be found in a simple inversion of terms, which would mean, in this context, the valorization of the incoherent -- as if Foucault's injunction to "cut off the head of the king" were such a simple thing. Rebelling against the regime of rationality by invoking its opposite would only result in the replacement of one centre of power with another, leaving less apparent movements of power unexamined while clearing the way for a "new" sovereign.

The contributors to this issue avoid simple solutions to the question of in/coherence, choosing instead to illustrate how the binary functions, provide alternatives that exceed it, or propose interdisciplinary alliances to tackle the problem from another angle. Setareh Shohadaei's brief meditation demonstrates the violent decisionism of narrative delineation -- the way that the 2009 Iranian show-trials demanded a particular form of coherence in their construction of truth. Elina Hill problematizes the call to "always indigenize," suggesting that decolonization might provide a more productive model for academic work. Simon Labrecque, in a similar vein of reflection on the study of politics, turns to the logical problem of impredicativity, demonstrating the political value of Alfred North Whitehead's decidedly coherent philosophy -- "arguably the last philosophic system worthy of the name composed in the West." Beatriz Revelles Benavente analyzes a number of political speeches given by Hillary Clinton through the lens of new materialism, offering a methodology appropriate to a non-dualistic description of the world and rendering Clinton a "biomediated body" in the process. Finally, Stefan Morales offers the first of a two part essay on the hypnagogic state, suggesting that our most inventive thoughts come from moments that belong neither to the coherence of wakefulness nor incoherence of dream.





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