Institute of Advanced Studies


Paraontology: A Public Lecture with Nahum Dimitri Chandler

Start: Jun 30, 2017 06:00 PM
End: Jun 30, 2017 08:00 PM

Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Nahum Chandler Image

Please join us for an evening lecture with Professor Nahum Dimitri Chandler (School of Humanities, University of California, Irvine) as part of the culmination of the 2016/2017 “Sediments and Arrhythmias” seminar series at IAS.


This presentation reflects upon the possibility and the necessity for theoretical work to cultivate an order of critical theoretical fiction as a fundamental dimension of its practice. Whereas, I believe such theoretical work must of necessity occur without or beyond any name, as such, it remains that if we take it as otherwise than a thought of the historial as oriented first of all or ultimately by existence as being, I would propose to think of the concern of such practice as a paraontology. Elsewhere, I have elaborated the necessity of such real fictions in practical-theoretical labor – under the heading of a problem for thought, X: The Problem of the Negro as a Problem for Thought (Fordham Press, 2014) – as given by way of example in the itinerary of W. E. B. Du Bois, specifically in this thought, respectively of a global level “problem of the color line,” and a concomitant yet productive sense of “double-consciousness.” This presentation offers a certain form of elaboration – an annotation – of those formulations.

Herein, too, triangulating further this reference of a supposed African American horizon of problem, I situate the complex thought of “ambivalence” that is adduced in the work of Hortense Spillers, in part by her reference to the writings of Ralph Ellison, all in a distinct relation to the work of Du Bois. As a further annotation, this essay takes resource from Gayatri Spivak’s formulation and engagement of the thought and term “theoretical fiction” a generation past. Specifically, I propose a certain order of reception of her reading of the subaltern studies question with regard to colonial India, where in turn, she references Sigmund Freud’s formulation – in the closing section of his watershed discourse on the “interpretation of dreams” – of the aconceptual concept of the “unconscious” by way of his thinking through of the limits of consciousness, in which therefrom he adduces the thought of the unconscious, which may be understood precisely as such a theoretical fiction. Within this same locution, I also recall and annotate at this precise theoretical juncture a certain conceptual reception of Edward Said’s formulation of the necessity, or imperative, of a “permission to narrate.”

Yet, further, comprising the root interstices of the whole thought developed here –by way of interwoven reference to the work of both Cecil Taylor and Jacques Derrida – is a conception of the reciprocity of ostensible origin and supposed end in the making of historical possibility and limit, in which the sense of the origin is always at stake and can only be declared in the arrival of a supposed telos. Yet the supposed origin can be named only in and by way of that ostensible arrival. Genesis is never given. In such a thought, not only can the supposed repetition or expression of an origin be thought of in this sense as the origin of the origin, but the arrival of an apparent telos is only the articulation of another form of problem, the constitution of another possible sense of a supposed futural origin. I think of this as a root formulation of a conception of historicity. Such a formulation may be nominalized as the alogical logic of the originarity of the second time.

Here, I am concerned to accent such supposed theoretical disposition and premise as always and first, so to speak, practical, the practical theoretical. In my ongoing meditations on this problematic such question definitively marks the whole terrain of a politics – a theoretical politics if you will – the practices of a paraontology that might address our common contemporary colonial and postcolonial nexus on a worldwide ensemble of horizons across the centuries to come. 


Nahum Dimitri Chandler serves as Professor in the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. His teaching and research is in the fields of African American studies, English literature, comparative literature, and modern intellectual history, notably the history of the human sciences. He is the author of Toward an African Future – Of the Limit of World (Living Commons Collective, 2013) and X: The Problem of the Negro as a Problem for Thought (Fordham University Press, 2014), as well as the editor of a volume of work by W. E. B. Du Bois, The Problem of the Color Line at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: The Essential Early Essays (Fordham University Press, 2015). He is a founding co-principal investigator for the multi-campus University of California Consortium for Black Studies in California, inaugurated in 2015. He also serves as associate editor for the journal CR: The New Centennial Review. 

All welcome.

Register here

If you have any questions, please email Dhanveer Brar (d.brar@ucl.ac.uk).