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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Use and Abuse of Guilt
by Frouzesh, Sharareh, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 2013, 244; 3566050
Abstract (Summary)

I pursue the double bind of the political institution through one of its symptoms, guilt, and the relationship between the attribution of guilt and the very law which announces and justifies the double bind of the political institution. My dissertation is an interdisciplinary engagement with various contemporary—explicitly political—invocations of the notion of guilt. Specifically, I'm interested in the ways in which the attribution of guilt to subjects, to leaders, and to institutions operates in various discourses and disciplines, including politics, literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and law. These various political uses of the concept of guilt – as criminality (chapters 1 and 2), as femininity (chapter 3), and as homogenized resistance (chapter 4) – are a kind of shorthand, a cover, for the law. I will be arguing that "guilting" operates dominantly as justification, erecting a screen on which the undecidability of the law is simultaneously displaced and projected as the certainty of guilt. The irony is that guilt always reveals the law only in its failure. By guilting "the sovereign" revolutionary movements inaugurate and certify a new law; similarly, the government (judicial, police, and military bureaucracy) preserves the law through the guilting of its supposed others (criminals, the enemy). This desire for the law that the analysis of guilt reveals is a desire to master contingency and difference: it is a desire for a purified, contained, predictable, and thoroughly utopian space of relationality, a site where difference is rendered docile. In following the nuances of different political iterations of guilt as well as its political uses as justification for violence and force, each chapter reveals guilt as a crisis endemic to the law itself. However, in so far as it is a crisis of identity, each chapter, I hope, provides openings through which our own personal and phenomenological attachments to those very identities can be considered and challenged, perhaps allowing for the possibility of a working through those very attachments and the recognition of the irretrievable heterogeneity of their meanings.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rahimieh, Nasrin
Commitee: Balibar, Etienne, Schwab, Gabriele
School: University of California, Irvine
Department: Comparative Literature - Ph.D.
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 74/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Comparative literature, Law, Womens studies
Keywords: Criminality, Guilt, Resistance, Sovereignty
Publication Number: 3566050
ISBN: 978-1-303-16789-8
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