Adjacency and secession

Janet Roitman


What matters is not what we know but how we learn. This principle of inquiry shapes Paul Rabinow’s life work. It is also an ethics, an aspiration. This principle sustains the practice of problematization, or the delineation of zones of inquiry in terms of the conceptual interconnection of problems. In contrast to anthropological practice that is defined by the perpetual critique of existing relations, Rabinow assumes a mode of adjacency so as to consider the ways that we give form to objects of inquiry and to intelligible concepts. Adjacency is a commitment to actualize a differential—not to reproduce perpetual critique, but to practice inquiry as a mode of form-giving. And it entails secession, or a movement towards experimentation in diverse media. The secessionist move doesn’t revert to the authority of theory or ontology. It is a commitment to new forms, new futures, confidence in the future.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/716846