Cite as: Emily Apter, Blurring the Event: Micropolitics and Ecosophy, May ’68 to the ZAD, lecture, ICI Berlin, 11 March 2019, video recording, mp4, 49:43 <>
11 Mar 2019

Blurring the Event

Micropolitics and Ecosophy, May '68 to the ZAD
By Emily Apter
The ‘event’ has been marked as exceptional and momentous in postwar philosophy and theory. The recent spate of exhibitions, books, and conferences commemorating May ’68 from the hindsight of fifty years has reiterated that exceptionalism; as period nostalgia, political flashpoint, revolutionary reboot… ‘Eventalness’ – distinguished by singularity, rupture, the break, the interval, the void, the moment (Patrice Maniglier’s identification of ’68 with ‘le moment philosophique’) – coalesces into a grand aporia of the Political. What does it mean to take exception to this exceptionalism of the Political (a politics worthy of the name)? Félix Guattari’s writings on micropolitics and ecosophy answer this on the oblique by scoring sensate environments: intensities of power and desire; the viscosity of social atmospherics, psychic pulsations, and drives. These sensible materialities blur the sharp outlines of epic turning points that structure theories of the Political, blurring the perception of what politics is or where it happens, opening up other ways of naming the ‘matter’ of politics (a central concern of Apter’s book Unexceptional Politics: On Obstruction, Impasse, and the Impolitic, Verso 2018).

‘Micropolitics’, adduced as a fluid concept with reference to Guattari’s molecular ‘micropolitics of desire’; Foucault’s cellular ‘microphysics of power’; Antonio E. Casilli’s ‘microlabour’ (microtravail, a term applied to digital labour, work outsourced to machinic taskers like Amazon Mechanical Turk or Clickworker); and Grégoire Chamayou’s ‘micropolitics of privatization’ (a tactic by which the Thatcherite state put the micropolitics of ungovernability to neoliberal ends), grows into other glossaries: Sara Ahmed’s ‘atmospheric walls’ of social inclusion and exclusion; Achille Mbembe’s force-fields of ‘nanoracism’; Kris Manjapra’s ‘colonial entanglements’, which focus on political alignments sidelined in grand narratives of imperial domination; or the late Hayden White’s historical construct of ‘the practical past’ which refers to tactics of living, archived memories, affects, and dreams. Whether it is in small group associations that reorganize socioeconomic relations in the context of labour, education, and care, or the practice of listening, questioning, and struggling to find a voice, (a crucial narrative of feminist consciousness-raising), or in political technologies of destratification that are deployed both right and left, energies are recovered. They emanate from practical, ordinary acts as well as the stuff of decomposition, impasse, obstacle courses of junk and detritus (the ZAD, la zone à défendre at Notre-Dame des Landes). The rich poesis of ecosophy, offering up a micropolitics of densified milieu, environmental déclenchements, and resistant jardinage, lies in the fallows of post-’68; becoming perceptible in the blurred retrospect on ‘the event’ of ’68.

Emily Apter is Julius Silver Professor of French and Comparative Literature at New York University and a Remarque-Ecole Normale Supérieure Visiting Professor; she has also taught at the University of California, Los Angeles; UC Davis; Cornell University; and Williams College. Apter is editor of the book series ‘Translation/Transnation’ from Princeton University Press and serves on several editorial boards. Her books include Unexceptional Politics: On Obstruction, Impasse, and the Impolitic (2018), Against World Literature: On The Politics of Untranslatability (2013), and The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature (2006).


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)

Organized by

An ICI Berlin event in cooperation with The American Academy in Berlin

Video in English

Format: mp4
Length: 00:49:43
First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin