Davide Panagia, Ten Theses for an Aesthetics of Politics [Book review]

2017-05-23T13:32:46Z (GMT) by Zachary Kendal
A short volume, Davide Panagia’s <i>Ten Theses for an Aesthetics of Politics</i> (2016) sketches a thought-provoking framework for the reconceptualisation of the aesthetic experience. Panagia’s sense of frustration with contemporary approaches to aesthetics is evident from the outset, as he indicates his wariness of the assumption that “appearances are deceitful” and that the aesthetic demands “epistemic critique” (xii). In a particularly poignant moment in the preface, Panagia describes his project as being spurred by dominant responses to images of people seeking asylum. He observes that we have become so accustomed to distrusting appearances that when faced with images of desolate refugees and asylum seekers, we respond first with suspicion: “How do I know that she really is the way she appears to be?” (xiii). This acute observation, which would no doubt resonate throughout much of the world today, recalls popular discourses around asylum seekers in Australia. As we are confronted by images of people in off-shore detention, subject to imprisonment at the behest of the Australian government after having fled war and persecution, we question the images’ validity and rationalise them to minimise their impact. With this context in mind, one can recognise the urgency of Panagia’s attempts to explore “the possibility of a pre-judgemental moment of experience where our most heartfelt critical intuitions about how the world ought to be ordered become undone” (xiv). To examine how Panagia attempts to achieve this, I will briefly move through his ten theses, one by one, to see how they articulate his vision of a new aesthetics of politics.