Un-represent : Theorizing the reason of political fanaticism

Journal article

Poe, Andrew. (2021). Un-represent : Theorizing the reason of political fanaticism. Distinktion. 22(3), pp. 358-375. https://doi.org/10.1080/1600910X.2021.1946116
AuthorsPoe, Andrew

Recent theorizing on the concept of fanaticism has paid much attention to the identity of fanatics. Viewed in this way, fanaticism becomes a degradation, employed in the naming of existential political enemies. This political labelling helps foster identification, delineating the parameters of civility and extremism. And, in a politics that privileges compromise and sympathy, such parameters might be essential. Yet what results is a theory of fanaticism as an ideational void – always an identity applied to degrade another. By privileging incivility and extremism as political harms, such theories offer specific, rather than generalist accounts of fanaticism, as these harms are specific to secular liberal politics. Such theorizing poses a real danger, misrecognizing fanatics as only already political enemies, ignoring the positive political potential in yet incomplete fanaticisms. In this paper, I argue that failed fanatical efforts are those which receive publicly accepted identifications as fanatical, while successful fanaticisms are those which disrupt the very processes of representation. I engage a developing discourse, highlighting implicit tensions between political representation and the functioning of fanaticism. Ultimately, I aim to explain how the ascriptive irrationality applied to fanatics is only ever politically successful when fanaticism fails as a method, collapsing into an identity.

Keywordsfanaticism; slogan; political irrationality; Lenin; representation; affect; extremism; agency
Journal citation22 (3), pp. 358-375
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/1600910X.2021.1946116
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85118211038
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range358-375
Publisher's version
All rights reserved
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Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online27 Oct 2021
Publication process dates
Deposited02 Jun 2022
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