Bülent Somay

(b.1956) is lecturer in Comparartive Literature at Bilgi University in Istanbul. He has published three books, Geriye Kalan Devrimdir [What remains is the revolution], 1997; Sarki Okuma Kitabi [Song reader], 2000; Tarihin Bilinçdisi [The unconscious of history], 2004; and a chapter in The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, 2005.


British feminist and psychoanalyst Juliet Mitchell talks to Cogito about her role in the British New Left in the 1960s. Mitchell was at the centre of the movement: as editorial board member of the New Left Review, as participant in Third World and anti-psychiatry movements, and as co-organizer of grassroots initiatives, including the “Anti-University”, founded on the steps of Shoreditch Church in East London. Here, Mitchell outlines her intellectual trajectory from her early Marxism, to feminism of the mid-1960s, and to psychoanalysis in the 1970s.

In his post-9/11 essay “Welcome to the desert of the real”, philosopher Slavoj Zizek argued fictions of the “stagedness” of life under late capitalism shockingly became “real”; that the attacks were an intrusion into US life from an “outside” at whose expense peace had been bought. Four years after 9/11, the US suffered another catastrophe. But the greatest shock of Hurricane Katrina was over the lawlessness that followed. Here, theorist Bülent Somay argues that when “the Real” upsets the balance of forces in US society, “civilization” itself breaks down; that when the coercive presence of the state is removed, the capitalist superego collapses. As natural and human disasters continue to strike around the world, placing the cohesion of societies under extreme duress, assumptions about “civilization” will increasingly need to be challenged. Arguments such as these are as important as they are uncomfortable.

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