September 11, the subway bombings in Europe, and Hurricane Katrina occurred in rapid succession. The outsized relationship between their historical significance and chronological span also marked these episodes as “events.” Focusing on the recent rise of “the event” as a form of experience and its simultaneous reemergence as a central term in critical theory, this special issue of difference
s links contemporary critical discourse on the event—Badiou, Sewell, Derrida—to long-standing conversations in philosophy, history, literary studies, media studies, and cultural theory. It also indicates how event analysis might begin to provide an analytic framework different from the conventional modes of historicism currently dominating cultural studies.
One essay identifies flash points when “the event” has preoccupied Western thought from Plato to Freud. Others show how particular events—Hurricane Katrina, the Algerian War, the Haitian Revolution—betray the inadequacy of traditional nation-based frameworks for understanding the course of history. Media representations also are a central concern, as in one contributor’s analysis of how child abductions turn some (white girls’) bodies into events while other (brown girls’) bodies are denied that status. The final essay is a meditation on the end of the world that explores how the idea of the end as event transforms everyday language into cryptic signs.
Contributors: Andrew Aisenberg, Wai Chee Dimock, Jonathan Elmer, Akira Lippit, Lloyd Pratt,Rebecca Wanzo, Hayden White