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Abstract

What does politics have to do with aesthetics? Surely, both politics and aesthetics are concerned with imagining, envisioning, and even creating, yet aren't the kinds of things these fields of inquiry imagine, envision and create greatly disparate? Jacques Rancière argues that what is at stake in politics, just as it is in aesthetics, is the distribution of the sensible, and that politics happens not only through the disruption of a certain aesthetic organization of sense experience but through the eruption of a distinct aesthetics. Here I elaborate the Kantian foundation for Rancière's conception of the kind of aesthetics that politics must disrupt, drawn primarily from the Critique of Pure Reason. Yet I also look to Kant's Critique of Judgment to pave the way for the kind of aesthetics Rancière understands as synonymous with the political event. With this gesture, my intention is, first, to provide further support for Rancière's call for a distinct aesthetics by elaborating upon how such a distinct aesthetics may be both possible and realizable. Yet my intention is also polemical. Rancière is highly critical of the political potential to be found in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, namely due to the onus placed on the project of 'becoming-imperceptible,' a notion which, Rancière claims, leads politics to a dead end. Is not the Deleuzian turn towards imperceptibility a move altogether away from any aesthetics? Here, I argue that it is vital to identify Deleuze's notion of the imperceptible, like Rancière's politics, as situated in an engagement with Kantian aesthetics. It is only through attention to Deleuze's reading of Kant's Critique of Judgment that it becomes evident that the 'imperceptible' for Deleuze is also the 'percipiendum': that which must be perceived but cannot be perceived according to the delimitation of sense experience in the sensus communis. Through attention to Deleuze's own Kantian interlude, then, a political voice can be discerned in his philosophy in spite of Rancière's reservations. If we care about Rancière's 'Politics of Aesthetics,' we should care about this.

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