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Giorgio Agamben at the Berlin Poetry Festival

es was a memorable performance by the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who this year will be guest of honor at the Italian Cultural Institute Berlin for a week under the project "Dedika". At the Poetry Festival in Berlin last Sunday, he talked as abstractly and knowingly as impressively about the political power of language, without politicizing it in a manner that is otherwise common in the inquisitors of a supposedly all – encompassing politically correct language makes meaningful speech impossible.

Hannah Bethke

Language always remained here also an aesthetic experience, a sensual experience in which Agamben's political system of coordinates is simultaneously conveyed. He is never exclusively concerned with beauty. He distrusted the category of aesthetics that language can not be reduced to. Poetry, and for him that is their special social power, let the language live – in a time characterized by hate speech, fake news and language deficits on the Internet and in social networks.

The framework for this linguistic analysis is also, compared to Agamben's previous writings, highly political: With his theory of the state of emergency in his major work "Homo sacer", the seventy-seven-year-old philosopher became known to an international audience. "Sovereign is who decides on the state of emergency," wrote in 1922 known to Carl Schmitt, with the Agamben has dealt extensively. For him, however, the state of exception is not just a past phenomenon that paves the way for totalitarian forms of rule. Agamben traces processes of dehumanization that reduce people to their "bare lives" -in the present, notably through the torture practices at the Guantánamo Detention Center and Abu Ghraib Prison.

Language can change society

To this day, Agamben offers links to a radical critique of society with this unusual access. A current example of this is the recently published book "Gegenrevolution" by political and legal scholar Bernard E. Harcourt: an analysis of the creeping decomposition of American democracy, in which the state of emergency has become the rule.

In this structure sketched by Agamben, language acts as a powerful instrument, which is not only susceptible to political manipulation, but can also become a productive force for social change. Poetry keeps language alive, it preserves what threatens to be destroyed by digitization. She is, in the best sense of the word, Minister of Culture Monika Grütters in her appreciation of the poetry festival as "creative power of poetry against the discourse poisoning" has called. Agamben warned against the digital "devices and scaffolding" that would have deeply changed the language. Digitized language lost by the written continuous communication every reference to its source reason, which he recognizes in the dialect, in the dialect.

Resistance to the brutalization of speech

Every poetry is inherently bilingual – there is dialect and grammatically regulated language that can degenerate into technocracy and political propaganda. With school education and literacy, we lose the pure verbal language. Poetry finds itself in the space between the oral, the dialect, and the standard language. It is therefore, if one understands this location politically, a haven of resistance, an art that is beyond the manipulation of fake news and a brutalization of speech. Agamben describes this mobility of poetry as "bilingualism". This does not let language die, but create something new: the "coming language".

(TagToTranslate) Giorgio Agamben (t) Carl Schmitt (t) Fake News (t) Poetry Festival (t) Berlin


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