Reading the Enemies

Reading the Enemies is a research project consisting of a series of workshops where invited speakers present readings of their enemies: texts or arguments that are in opposition to their own politics. The workshops allow the participants to engage head-on with the political aspects of intellectual and artistic practices. While scholarly work normally tends to downplay, if not bracket, subjective positions, Reading the Enemies aims to bring such positions to the fore. The aim of the project is to create a collective space for the production of shared political opinion.

In the events invited artists and theoreticians from the broad range of humanities present readings of their ‘enemies’ – that is, texts or discourses that are in opposition to their own theoretical and political premises. How to understand the idea of enemy is left at the discretion of the speakers. An enemy can be an author who represents a political stance to which the participant is opposed, a theoretical opponent in the same discipline, or perhaps both at the same time. It can also be problematised whether it is useful to talk about enemies in this sense at all.


The project looks into different ways in which political positions take form in theoretical and artistic practices. The speakers are asked to explicate and analyse the positions that form the background of their readings, and reflect on the intellectually and politically legitimating principles at work in them. In this way, their readings help analyse the political stakes of the respective fields of the participants and map out the dividing lines of their theoretical practices. The problematic of the workshops asks how theoretical or artistic practice gives rise to the principles that guide and qualify it, and how this kind of work relates to its material, historical and institutional conditions.


The notion of enmity constitutes one of central problems of the project: How do theoretical and artistic practices constitute their positions in relation to enemies? What are the modes of reading that such constitutions implicate or put to work? The notion of enemy serves to mark a fundamental difference, the most extreme oppositional quality, a pure exclusion, or an impossibility of a shared meaning. The notion of reading, in contrast, implies a possibility for a meaningful articulation of a relation to that which one is speaking of. How, then, to subject the enemy to a reading practice without rendering it into a partner in a dialogue? How to read an enemy while retaining it as a fundamental point of opposition and not intending to compromise one’s own position?


Reading the Enemies is funded by the Kone Foundation. The project is run by Jaakko Karhunen.


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