Walter Benjamin and Kitsch Politics in the Phantasmagorical Age

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  • In this dissertation I explore the relationship between politics, aesthetics, culture and technology by (re)thinking and (re)conceptualizing the concept of kitsch as a theoretical construct in order to investigate the dream-worlds of Europe which sprang at the intersection of liberalism, social democracy and capitalism. I argue that the unexplored potentialities of kitsch, as a concept, reside in the analysis of the dream-worlds, which have been occupying the social and political imaginaries of Western individuals, communities and institutions since the disenchantment of the world. My methodological approach is built on Benjamin’s notion of historical materialism. Thus, I engage with the historical object(s) (e.g., arcades, fashion, technological reproductions etc.) not as “object(s) of experience” but as a “participant(s) in historical experience” (Caygill 2004, 90). Challenging the progressive notion of history, I argue that within the objective impenetrability of commodity fetishism a “sur-real” world of fetishized images – that is, kitsch – emerges, alienated from the individual and the collective, yet constituting and shaping them. By mapping out the implications of this “sur-real” world on “the political,” the collective (un)conscious and action, I conclude that alternative politics could arise from the unsettling interpretations of the reified and symbolic expressions of this same “sur-real” world, paving a path for new political imaginaries.

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  • Copyright © 2016 the author(s). Theses may be used for non-commercial research, educational, or related academic purposes only. Such uses include personal study, research, scholarship, and teaching. Theses may only be shared by linking to Carleton University Institutional Repository and no part may be used without proper attribution to the author. No part may be used for commercial purposes directly or indirectly via a for-profit platform; no adaptation or derivative works are permitted without consent from the copyright owner.
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  • 2016


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