communication as the paradigm of ethics. I
do so because McCabe’s stress on the bodily character of communication challenges
the presumption that communication can take place without people actually being
present to one another.
Pentecost: learning the languages of peace
Moreover by focusing on McCabe’s account of language I hope to show how,
at least for Christians, the assumption we must choose between membership in a
particularistic community or some version of a more inclusive humanism is a false
alternative. For the
For over four decades, events in Palestine-Israel have provoked raging conflicts between members of British universities, giving rise to controversies around free speech, ‘extremism’, antisemitism and Islamophobia within higher education, which have been widely reported in the media and subject to repeated interventions by politicians. But why is this conflict so significant for student activists living at such a geographical distance from the region itself? And what role do emotive, polarised communications around Palestine-Israel play in the life of British academic institutions committed to the ideal of free expression? This book invites students, academics and members of the public who feel concerned with this issue to explore the sources of these visceral encounters on campus. Drawing on original ethnographic research with conflicting groups of activists, it explores what is at stake for students who are drawn into struggles around Palestine-Israel within changing university spaces facing pressures associated with neoliberalism and the ‘War on Terror’. It begins from this case study to argue that, in an increasingly globalised world that is shaped by entangled histories of the Nazi Holocaust and colonial violence, members of universities must develop creative and ethical ways of approaching questions of justice. Tragic Encounters and Ordinary Ethics curates an ethnographic imagination in response to the political tensions arising out of the continuing violence in Palestine-Israel. It invites students and academics to attend to lived experiences within our own university institutions in order to cultivate ethical forms of communication in response to conflicts of justice.
public audience. While the participants in this event valorised practices of
communicative rationality, explicitly highlighting the cool logic of their own arguments, the debate itself was a profoundly theatrical, affective and sensual experience.10 As theories of social performance have highlighted, the (re)production of
normative cultural meanings relies on forms of aesthetic communication which
create not only cognitive understanding but also a sensation of being compelled
and moved among an audience (Alexander 2005a). As such, the
superiors and parish priests had agendas of their
own that determined their responses. It was important to the bishops
not to alienate the republican camp, but they also had to respond to
the criticisms of scandalised conservatives, while ensuring that lines
of communication with the government in Dublin Castle remained
open. Moreover, they were concerned for the Irish church’s reputation abroad, especially in the Vatican. Religious superiors wanted to
avoid internal conflict within their communities, and parish priests
often simply wished to keep trouble away from their
Conclusion: good relations, free
speech and political activism
What did she learn in order to do that? What did she learn from having done it?
If she had never made such leaps, she would never have walked into speech.
Having made it, meadows of communication can grow for us.
(Stanley Cavell 1999: 172, original italics)
To encounter the Palestine–Israel conflict in British universities is to be confronted
with an unsettling, tragic situation. This is a site of contestation not only in relation
to the substance of justice claims, but also with regard to how to
world of the Enlightenment’.1
Second, this critique undermines Christianity’s relation to a ‘politics of rights’
that, according to Hauerwas, distorted twentieth-century theology with its focus
on universal claims for individuals. Third, Hauerwas’s Christianity assumes that
faith-community is destroyed by the autonomy of individuals that he ﬁnds in
the secularising of liberal theology. But, in his terms, the ‘events’ of ‘Babel’ and
‘Pentecost’ reveal a theological remedy for the sin of autonomous individualism:
the ‘bodily’ nature of ‘a community of communication’ is
and deference that had previously been convent protocol. Communication skills needed to be relearned.
Not all religious institutes experimented with silence in the 1960s and 1970s. One sister explained the discomfiting consequences in the mid-1970s of transgressing convent silence not by speaking, but by introducing sound:
I can remember, in the holidays we had to scrub the school from top to bottom … And I switched the radio on, so I had the radio going as I was scrubbing some stone stairs. I mean it wasn’t anything sort of wild and sort of … you know, it
power will need to give way to a logic of communication
and mutuality Putting this another way, if, with Irigaray, it is possible to
develop mutuality between sexually (or multiply) different subjects, then
in so doing we will also have pointed the way to a revision of the logic
which had kept the barriers in place.
Feminist strategies of logic
But how can we proceed? Even if logical systems have often been used as
technologies of control, it remains the case that most people (including
most logicians) do want to think clearly and do not want to be deceived.
the start of this chapter, we saw scenes of political activism which diverged from
the liberal vision of democratic public spheres as arenas of rational communication
Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics
between objective actors. Students not only responded to events in Gaza with
rational arguments, but also expressed passionate irreconcilable personal commitments over the stakes, form and scope of this politics. Students clashed over their
dissonant experiences of their campuses during the occupations over ‘Operation
Cast Lead’; some felt a swelling of
develop engaged communication amongst ourselves; yet in
her writings the voices of women are effectively silenced, and there is as
little evidence that Irigaray is listening to them as there is that Freud or
Lacan or Heidegger took women’s voices seriously.
One could argue in mitigation that in order to create a space for a
female subject within philosophy, Irigaray has to address what Braidotti
calls the ‘masters of philosophy’ (1994a: 129). Nobody can do everything.
Irigaray has done so much; it is churlish to complain that she has not done