PhD(ABD), Philosophy, Media and Communications, The European Graduate School
Magnolia Pauker is a lecturer in Critical and Cultural Studies at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design on the unceded Coast Salish territories also known as Vancouver, Canada. A doctoral candidate at the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia, she is currently writing her dissertation entitled, “Philosophy as Radical Journalism: The Public Intellectual and The Rise of the Philosopher Journalist.” Her practice takes up the philosophical interview as a model for critical engagement, knowledge production, and pedagogy. Sketching the edges of philosophy, cultural studies, journalism, and critical media studies she is committed to working in response to contemporary aesthetic and political events. In her ongoing dedication to learning in public, she co-facilitates a feminist free school, Pleasure + Protest, Sometimes Simultaneously! She is co-editor with Anna Street and Julien Alliot of Inter Views in Performance Philosophy: Crossings and Conversations forthcoming from Palgrave Macmillan (2016).
Dissertation: Philosophy as Radical Journalism: The Public Intellectual and the Rise of the Philosopher Journalist
In the French tradition, genealogies of journalism and philosophy converge in the production of the public intellectual: from Voltaire, who was recently accorded the title of “father of investigative journalism”[i] in the pages of Le Monde, to Zola’s journalistic advocacy during the Dreyfus affair,[ii] and Sartre’s preeminent role as Universal Public Intellectual.[iii] In the constellation of competing and conflicting social movements, activisms, and discursive entities and practices, the figure of ‘the intellectual’ emerges as a site of contestation and confluence — volumes have been written on the topic both in France and abroad.[iv] Much of this literature argues that the ‘public intellectual’ is constituted not through publication, but through public engagement with activist and social movements.
Public engagement in post-’68 France included some active participation in protest ‘on the street’ both during and after May-’68, but predominantly involved forms of applied media production such as press conferences, press releases, editorials, public lectures, and interviews that together comprise a critical investment in the present day, what Michel Foucault called “philosophy… [as] a kind of radical journalism.”[v] Often deploying the mass media as their medium, Foucault and his contemporaries struggled to respond to rapid changes at the juncture of political, philosophical, and journalistic fields. These shifting modes of public address relate to political and ideological upheavals in the public sphere as much as to the proliferation of new media forms including print, radio, television, and film.[vi]
Dominant among technologies and methodologies in communication, ‘the interview’ constitutes a multi-mediated mode of public speech at the intersection of promotional culture, public advocacy, and social movement activism. Indeed, the intellectual interview is a scene of diverse display and performance. The hegemonic practice of the interview as a ‘straight documentary’ form stages the intellectual as Modernist leader of the people — think, for instance, of Sartre’s celebrity persona as ‘universal intellectual’ to whom the media appealed for comment on all matter of issues. Thus, my dissertation research identifies the intellectual interview as a performative apparatus configuring relations of power, knowledge, and subjectivity. Put another way, the intellectual interview — as an embodied interaction and a textual production — constitutes the very figure it appears to represent, that of the public intellectual. As Stuart Hall has taught us, representation structures reality.
My analysis of the scene of the intellectual interview is theoretically indebted to the post-Structuralist critique of Structuralism as a practice that in fact produces the knowledge it claims to discover. In fact, I have identified a resistant mode of the intellectual interview engaged by the very generation of scholars who initiated post-Structuralist critique and who take up the interview in such a way as to defamiliarize the very conventions that enable it. Enacting a post-structuralist performance of the intellectual interview effectively destabilizes traditional distinctions between critical analysis and applied approaches as between theory and practice.
Thus, this research takes as its archive the large body of interview work produced by Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida, Barthes, and their interlocutors to identify and theorize what I term the philosophical interview. A distinct form of counterpublic engagement across a variety of media, the philosophical interview constitutes a theoretical practice comprising, at once, ontological and epistemological interventions in the configuration of knowledge and the figuration of the intellectual. In its apparently populist doing of philosophy in public, the philosophical interview establishes a substantial and under-realized body of work in the production of a critical counter-tradition that is today understood as “French Theory.” Indeed, Foucault advocates for a practice of philosophical journalism precisely as an alternative to the universalizing tradition of first philosophy, arguing that “[s]ince1956… philosophers have no longer been able to think history by means of pre-established categories. They therefore have to resensitize themselves to events. Philosophers must become journalists.”[vii] Refusing the disciplinary demands and demarcations of the dominant tradition of philosophy, the philosophical interview presents a particular a mode of philosophical journalism oriented towards critical analysis and cultural change.
Philosophical Interview Series: “Revolution Itself is Out-of-Order”[viii]
My theoretical interest in the interview derives from my critical media practice as an interviewer. In 2003 I initiated a series of interviews around the theme of “With Us/Against Us: The Choice of No Choice” in response to the US-led invasion of Iraq. To date I have compiled more than twenty-five interviews with philosophers, theorists, and artists.
While I am keenly aware of the interview’s use within promotional culture — Rosi Braidotti, for instance, has pointed out how with every new book comes the inevitable and often much dreaded program of interviews[ix] — I am committed to deconstructing the binary between ‘academic’ and ‘public’ discourse. My experimental interview practice emerges in part out of my dedication to learning in public as a form of counterpublic engagement and through my anti-colonial, queer, feminist commitment to avowing the material conditions of knowledge production along with its relational structure. Put another way, these interviews are “concrete practices… [that] disclose the social’s inherent relationality.”[x]
This project aims to rigorously deinstitutionalize philosophy through performance in public in an attempt to denaturalize the western philosophical tradition of the authoritative, objective, and disembodied address of the sovereign subject. No easy task, this is a life-long process in which I approach the interview as a performative apparatus to explore how each interview configures a distinct structure of relations, a differential mode of interdiscursivity — wherein neither the individual nor the discourse may be composed as a discrete or complete entity. Thus, my philosophical method of interviewing entails embodying relational praxis as an approach to inhabiting our inherited histories in a questioning, rather than declarative, mode.
Each interview undertaken is rooted in substantial research, which begins with reading the primary texts written by the interviewee and then involves situating their work within the secondary literature. I also read, listen, and view previous interview work to gain an understanding of their approach to the interview as a social practice. I write questions throughout this process and then return to the list as I seek to understand the narrative that I have composed. Next, I try to question my own narrative to generate questions that might invoke responses that depart from the all-too-easy dialectics of Q&A as self-fulfilling prophesy. While I take the list of questions with me to the interview, I try to let them go, and to listen to each response to engage with what the interviewee is saying rather than with what I projected. Finally, I transcribe the interviews, a process that has taught me much about the distance between verbal and written methodologies in communication, and together the interviewee and I edit the materials to produce a text that indexes not only the content, but the formal dynamics of our engagement.
As critical pedagogical praxis, I seek with my interview-work, to produce a frame — more precisely, a series of frames — through which contemporary philosophers and theorists reflect upon their own thinking with another. A performative acknowledgement of the dynamics of relationality and positionality, I engage each interview as an ethical scene in which thought is always already interlocutory. For, such a questioning orientation toward the other generates the conditions of possibility through which we might yet decenter the ‘self’ in the production of a-yet-to-be-determined future. Thus, while this interview series may seem to feature the speaking subject as central, it is, ultimately, subjectively, for me, a practice grounded in listening as a “political modality.”[xi]
[i] Richard Holmes, “Voltaire’s Grin,” The New York Review of Books 42, no. 19 (1995), accessed October 18, 2016, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1995/nov/30/voltaires-grin/.
[ii] See especially: Tom Conner, The Dreyfus Affair and the Rise of the French Public Intellectual (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2014).
[iii] See: Patrick Baert, The Existentialist Moment: The Rise of Sartre as a Public Intellectual (London: Polity Press, 2015).
[iv] See: François Cusset, French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008) and Kristen Ross, May ’68 and Its Afterlives (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002).
[v]Michel Foucault, “Le monde est un grand asile,” in Dits et Ecrits I. 1954-1975, ed. Daniel Defert, François Ewald, and Jacques Lagrange (Paris: Quarto Gallimard, 2001), 1302. My translation.
[vi] See, for example: Tamara Chaplin, Turning on the Mind: French Philosophers on Television (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007); Régis Debray, Teachers, Writers, Celebrities: The Intellectuals of Modern France (London: NLB and Verso Editions, 1981); Jacques Rancière, The Intellectual and His People: Staging the People Volume 2 (New York: Verso, 2012); Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual (London: Vintage, 1994).
[vii] Michel Foucault, quoted in Colin Gordon, introduction to Power: Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984, Vol.3, ed. James D. Faubion (New York: The New Press, 2000), xxxvi.
[viii] The title for this work is taken from Jean-Luc Nancy’s comments in interview. See: Magnolia Pauker and Jean-Luc Nancy, “Revolution Itself is Out of Order: Interview with Jean-Luc Nancy,” Pyramid Power, 7 (2010), 40-45.
[ix] Rosi Braidotti, interview by Magnolia Pauker, May 7, 2015.
[x] Benjamin Woo, Jamie Rennie and Stuart Poyntz, “Scene Thinking: Introduction,” Cultural Studies 29, no. 3 (2015), 286.
[xi] Zoë Druick, “Small Effects from Big Causes: The Dialogic Documentary Practice of Natalie Bookchin,” Camera Obscura 31, no.2 (2015), 4.
Edited book: A. Street, J. Alliot & M. Pauker (Eds.). (Forthcoming 2017). Inter Views in Performance Philosophy: Crossings and Conversations. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. (33.3% contribution)
Book chapter: Pauker, M. (Forthcoming 2017). The Philosophical Interview: Queer(y)ing Performance. In A. Street, J. Alliot & M. Pauker (Eds.), Inter Views in Performance Philosophy: Crossings and Conversations. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Book chapter Alliot, J., Pauker, M., & Street, A. (Forthcoming 2017). Introduction: Genealogies of Performance Philosophy. In A. Street, J. Alliot & M. Pauker (Eds.), Inter Views in Performance Philosophy: Crossings and Conversations. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. (33.3% contribution)
Book chapter: Pauker, M. (Forthcoming 2017). The Philosopher’s Masks: Michel Foucault at the Scene of the Interview. In Gotman, K., Katsouraki, E. & Fisher, T. (Eds.), Theatre, Performance, Foucault. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. (25 pp.)
Book Chapter: Pauker, M. & Butler, J. (Forthcoming 2017). The Scene of Philosophy: Interview with Judith Butler by Magnolia Pauker. In A. Street, J. Alliot & M. Pauker (Eds.), Inter Views in Performance Philosophy: Crossings and Conversations. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Book Chapter: Pauker, M. & Ronell, A. (Forthcoming 2017). Philosophical Proving Grounds: Interview with Avital Ronell by Magnolia Pauker. In A. Street, J. Alliot & M. Pauker (Eds.), Inter Views in Performance Philosophy: Crossings and Conversations. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Book Chapter: Alliot, J., Pauker, M., Street, A. & Zerbib, D. (Forthcoming 2017). Performance Knots: Crossed Threads of Anglo-American Thought and French Theory: An Interview with David Zerbib by Julien Alliot, Magnolia Pauker, and Anna Street. In A. Street, J. Alliot & M. Pauker (Eds.), Inter Views in Performance Philosophy: Crossings and Conversations. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Book Chapter: Pauker, M. & Schmidt, H. (2014). Emergent Praxis: Holly Schmidt in Conversation with Magnolia Pauker. In H. Schmidt (Ed.), Grow: DIY Manual (75-114). Vancouver: Other Sights for Artist’s Projects.
Chapter in Exhibition Catalog: Pauker, M. & Briard, A. (2014). Sight Shifting: Poetics of Perception with Annie Briard. In A. Briard (Ed.), Sight Shifting (N.p.). Montreal: Joyce Yahouda Gallery.
Chapter in Exhibition Catalog: Pauker, M. & Taşdelen, E. (2012). Playfulness as a Strategy: Inter-view with Erdem Taşdelen. In B. McBay (Ed.), What a Drag (5-23). Vancouver: 221a Artist Run Centre.
Commissioned Interview: Pauker, M. & Wall, J. (2012). Unsettled Method: The Cinematic Pictures of Jeff Wall. Art & Australia, 49(4), 656-663.
Journal Article: Pauker, M. & Haraway, D. (2010). Technoscience is Everywhere, but is Not Everything: In Conversation with Donna Haraway. Pyramid Power, 7, 80-86.
Journal Article: Pauker, M. & Nancy, J.L. (2010). Revolution Itself is Out of Order: Interview with Jean-Luc Nancy. Pyramid Power, 7, 40-45.
Pauker, M. (2015). Suffrage Campaigns & Enfranchisement, With Special Reference to Canada: Extended Bibliography. In Women Suffrage and Beyond: Confronting the Democratic Deficit. (1-167). Retrieved from: http://womensuffrage.org/?attachment_id=22661
Pauker, M. (Ed.) (2014). Fire/Fire: Marina Roy & Abbas Akhavan. Vancouver: Malaspina Printmakers.
Pauker, M. & Moss, L. (2014). Bringing CWILA into the Classroom: A Resource for Critical Pedagogy. In CWILA: Fostering Community for Canadian Women in the Literary Arts. Retrieved from http://cwila.com/bringing-cwila-into-the-classroom/ (contribution 80%)
Cutler, R.L. & Pauker, M. (2012). “FeminismS without End…,” Fuse Magazine, 25(3), 8-10. (contribution 50%)