Tanya Agathocleous Responds
For me, Nasser’s review highlighted the innovative and disparate ways in which the book deals with questions of form, finding the “poetics of sovereignty” in unexpected places and texts, such as the temporality of a photograph. He focalizes a different aspect of the book’s “curatorial” method than I did by drawing attention not only to the way the author-as-curator reads, but how he creates—within the scope of a book or a chapter—a sort of assemblage: a “critical constellation such that it becomes possible to see how texts articulate the framing contradictions of the society they come from.”
Inspired by the book, Nasser also raises the crucial question of “everyday rottenness,” and how we might think about forms adequate to its representation. While Hensley shows us how violence on a “world historical” level is legible in a wide range of Victorian texts and in unexpected places, Nasser encourages us to think about the kinds of violence (related to the world-historical kind but impinging on the local) that permeate our lives and that we have become expert at ignoring. As Hensley reminds us, the wars of liberal empire are endless wars, connected to our present predicament. So, to paraphrase him in Nasser’s terms: in what ways might we think about how every artifact of American culture is an artifact of neoimperialism? Nasser also urges us to shift our perspective on violence to the side of its object, the “little Mutinies, little Rebellions, and little Wars” of anticolonial struggle. Violence is not just the other side of liberalism but also the other side of resistance. It has its own internal dialectic wherein the targets and subjects of imperial violence fight against it, often in the service of anti-colonial ideals that sought to unthink the liberalism that generated the violence in the first place. The forms used to represent anticolonial violence and its political ideals were in dialogue with Hensley’s imperial forms and this dialectic is one worth understanding in the new ways his book exemplifies. Nasser’s review asks us both to expand our view of violence and to draw it inward, so we might see its quotidian banalities.