“Zora and Riva seem at peace with each other’s bodily being, and seem to have given each other what they came for: companionship, reciprocity, care, protection. Bodies make each other a little more possible: but they can’t do everything. My sight can’t give you your sight, my performative blindness may not even be empathy, and my mix of ability and impairment doesn’t impinge much on yours. What we do have together, in the middle of this thing, is a brush with solidarity, and that’s real. Zora and Riva are a team, a brace of utopian realists; they see things jointly, partially. A fantasy from the middle of disrepair doesn’t add up to repair. It adds up to a confidence that proceeds without denying fragility.” Lauren Berlant considers what our bodies, attachments, and solidarities make possible in the midst of structural cruelty. Asia Art Archive's IDEAS JOURNAL invites us to revisit Berlant’s revelatory "Note on the Cover Image: If Body: Riva and Zora in Middle Age" from Cruel Optimism.


Lauren Berlant was the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago, where they taught since 1984.


Asia Art Archive