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The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune

A thrilling ride through the literature of Rimbaud in a France in the throes of revolution.

The 1870s in France – Rimbaud’s moment, and the subject of this book – is a decade virtually ignored in most standard histories in France. Yet it was the moment of two significant spatial events: France’s expansion on a global scale, and, in the spring of 1871, the brief existence on the Paris Commune – the construction of the revolutionary urban space. Arguing that space, as a social fact, is always political and strategic, Kristin Ross has written a book that is at once a history and geography of the Commune’s anarchist culture – its political language and social relations, its values, strategies, and stances.

Central to her analysis of the Commune as a social space and oppositional culture is a close textual reading of Arthur Rimabaud’s poetry. His poems – a common thread running through the book – are one set of documents among many in Ross’s recreation of the Communard experience. Rimbaud, Paul Lafargue, and the social geographer Élisée Reclus serve as emblematic figures moving within and on the periphery of the Commune; in their resistance to the logic and economy of the capitalist conception of work, in their challenge to work itself as a term of identity, all three posed a threat to the existing order. Ross looks at these and other emancipatory notions as aspects of Communard life, each with an analogous strategy in Rimbaud’s poetry. Applying contemporary theory, to a wealth of little-known archival material, she has written a fresh, persuasive, and original book.

Blog

  • Survival of the Paris Commune: an interview with Kristin Ross

    The Paris Commune - the great liberation of Paris for 72 days in 1871 - began on this day 145 years ago. But, what can this momentous event teach us politically today?

    To celebrate the history of the Commune and the launch of the brand new ROAR Magazine Issue 1: Revive la Commune, we bring you this interview with Kristin Ross. ROAR issue 1 features essays from George Ciccariello-Maher, Jerome Roos, George Katsiaficas, and more, on the history of the commune from Paris to Gwangju and beyond. 

    To first issue of ROAR is available now, and you have until this Sunday (20th March) to subscribe and be sure of being one of the first to recieve your issue. To subscribe, click here.


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  • The beauty of the commons: Wark on Communal Luxury



    Anarchist thought has lately picked up a rather worrying infestation of reactionary themes, such as a hyper-macho celebration of eternal combat, in which all that matters is the authentic act of aggressive self-assertion. It isn’t the first time. In this case, it’s a matter of paying too much attention to a scholastic, high theory tradition in which known Nazis such as Schmitt and Heidegger are treated with a respect that betrays the utter corruption of continental philosophy in its waning years.

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  • Kristin Ross: The contemporary relevance of the Paris Commune

    Interview with Joseph Confavreux for Mediapart on the occasion of the publication of the French translation of Communal Luxury:  The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune 

    Convinced that “the world of the Communards is closer to us than the world of our parents,” and that “it is actions that produce dreams and not the reverse,” Kristin Ross explores the imaginary and the practices of the Paris Commune, in order to show its political actuality today. At the juncture of a history of ideas, of imaginaries and of facts, Ross, a Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University, explores the Commune and its “afterlives,” in a book that is at once a textual study, an exploration of the thoughts and practices of Communards and their fellow travelers, and a political proposition for the present moment. 


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Other books by Kristin Ross Foreword by Terry Eagleton