Exposed singularity

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34 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

In his photographs of children in displaced persons' camps, Salgado takes each subject seriously. His images dis-place us through their dignity and presence. We are no longer spectators but engaged: each gaze demands a response and produces the self as exposed. Pictures of prisoners from Tuol Sleng in Cambodia take the same form: a single figure facing the camera. Here, however, we are caught in an additional and irresolvable aporia: we are faced with thousands to whom we cannot adequately respond. As Derrida argues, responsibility is only possible by sacrificing ethics: we can respond to one only by sacrificing whatever obliges us to respond to others. In the final set of images considered here, Daravuth's positing of the indistinguishability of victim and perpetrator disturbs any easy response once more. A reading of Nancy alongside and against Derrida points to significant differences in emphasis between the two, and throws further light on the aporia of responsibility. The essay concludes that Nancy's being singular plural is productive in emphasizing the need, politically, to focus not on how we might establish a bond between us, but rather on how it is that we seem separate at all. The photographs expose us to our inevitable engagement or being-with.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359 - 386
Number of pages28
JournalJournal for Cultural Research
Volume9
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 04 Oct 2005

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