Aziza Harmel: The Intellectual today between the contemporary sublime and urgency


Arnhem, June 2015


The Tunisian intellectual might have been an ally of the revolt of 2011, if not one of its catalysts. But today, she or he remains a problematic figure, too discreet, if not absent. It seems therefore useful to question the reasons for this paradox, and to eventually track the traces of a new intelligentsia. The Tunisian intellectual seems petrified by centuries of Arab decadence, identity crisis and unfinished reforms. She is mostly confined, in a rigid academicism and a problematic relation to the sacred. She also remains faithful to traditional processes of mediation between the public and knowledge, but also between urgency and abstraction.

We will try to propose solutions and attempt to find alternatives through defining different articulations between abstraction and urgency but also propose new notions of the intellectual in the era of the postmodern sublime. In order to examine this we will first explain the postmodern sublime, through the notions of the Differend and of real subsumptions. We will then illustrate each mode of articulation between abstraction and urgency through different intellectual models:

Abstraction precedes urgency: The Lyotardian intellectual

Urgency precedes abstraction: Badiou and the intellectual as a metapolitician

A collapse between urgency and abstraction: The cognitariat according to Franco Berardi