The 41st Annual German Studies Association Conference
October 5-8, 2017
Are rage and justice mutually exclusive or is there a way to conceive of them as mutually supportive in properly political terms? The aim of this panel is to examine how the work of German writers, thinkers, and filmmakers sheds light on the notion of raging justice.
On the one hand, the question alludes to a longstanding and more or less dominant argument in Western political thought. According to this position, emotions obscure and incapacitate clear-headed judgments about communal matters of concern. At least since Seneca, anger has been dismissed as a destructive emotion whose unruliness precludes responsible political action. More recent defenders of this argument include, among others, Kant, John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas, and Martha Nussbaum. On the other hand, the notion of raging justice in its kinship with the more morally defensible righteous anger or indignation takes its cues from unresolved and contentious debates in the humanities and the social sciences where it is increasingly recognized as the central driving force behind every subversive critique of injustice or immorality. In this line of inquiry, it is not just the case that political activism is mobilized by anger or another emotion; additionally, raging justice reveals the deeply injurious nature of Western liberal tradition.
The critic’s assessment of rage in the face of injustice takes one form in Heinrich von Kleist’s novella Michael Kohlhaas, where Kohlhaas’s outrage after having experienced injustice prompts a terrifying challenge to the corruption of an aristocratic and nepotistic world. It takes quite another in Herbert Selpin’s Nazi propaganda film Carl Peters, where the colonial ruler acts in similarly impulsive ways to execute East African resisters to colonial oppression. Although scholars have long investigated these and other aspects of an avenging justice of rage, what remains to be explored in greater detail is the role of rage in introducing a radically alternative framework for politics and society. Last but not least, Peter Sloterdijk’s Zorn und Zeit traces the long history of rage, thymos, in Western civilization, thus paving the way to an affective analysis of sociopolitical injustice today.
To address the question of raging justice within different historical contexts and with a variety of aesthetic texts and theoretical frameworks, the panel comprises of papers that consider, among others, the following relationships:
- Rage and reason
- Rage and rhetoric
- Rage and religion or secularism
- Rage and forgiveness
- Rage and love
- Gewalt as power and violence
- Racial, economic, and gender inequalities and rage
- Rage and solidarity
Please send a 500-word-long abstract via email to the panel organizers David Kim (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Patrick McConeghy (email@example.com) by January 15, 2017. Selected presenters will be notified by January 22, 2017.