Sunday, September 20, 2009

Giorgio Agamben Evening Lecture

Giorgio Agamben gave an evening lecture dealing with the etymology and ramifications of the term uficium, which becomes today our concept of "the Office" as in, "the Office of President."

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

First, why Law and then ontology. Why? Because these are the only fields Foucault did not work within. Second, because I want to know what is politics?

Recently I've been focusing on liturgy (liturgia). Ontology is filosofia prima.

What does it mean to act politically? Liturgy and Law both come from the same word. It's root means to work for the people. The history of the term coincides with the translation of the term.

First translations of liturgia were in reference to the cultic practices of the priests and the clergy.

This is the summary of the genealogy of liturgy; it's set in Germany in the 1920s - a time of movements and eschewing the "School" Freud didn't call it the psychoanalytic School, but the Movement.

We look to Casel and see that Liturgical mystery is not representation but an expression of the Mystery
  • Sacraments realize (enact?) what they mean, is a sign; but,
  • the particularity of the sacrament is that it realizes what it means
This particularity is the praxis of liturgia:
  • Opus operatum - work that will produce actions
  • Opus operandi - work of a moral entity
This distinction above arose in asking if a baptism would be illegitimate if the priest, while performing the sacrament, was thinking about raping a girl that was being raped.
  • They decided, Yes: the baptism would be legitimate.
  • the only circumstance in which it would not be legitimate would be if the priest were joking
The irony: the doctrine which grounded the priestly actions would be found in a discussion of opus operandi and opus operata of the Devil.
  • As the Devil's actions are in the service of God's Will, so the opus of the priest regardless of intent or inner state
  • The praxes of the priests became their ufici, their offices.
Heidegger: the locus of the transformation of ontology occurred in the 3rd century by Christians who were doing so in the conversations around the nature of the sacraments.
  • Heidegger saw that the term analogia, living and being, was what the Greeks employed, but the Christians translated the term as essentia
As soon as Pius XI is inaugurated (?) in 1922 (at the same time as Mussolini) he (Pius XI) changes the language of Christ the King.
  • This language (that the Kingdom of Christ will be at the end of time) is picked up by the fascists of Italy as well as in the Spanish Civil War
There was a strict link between liturgy and the avant-garde: the overcoming of the avant-garde and the Dadaists are all to be understood as liturgical gestures. Perhaps all performances today must be seen as such.

What is the nature of this liturgical mystery? The answer can only be politica.

This liturgical move has made an indelible mark on Modern ethics and politics.

I am deeply involved in the archaeology of the office.

Pseudo-Dionysus originated the term hierarchy, it meant the "heavenly power" and so he is the founder of the heavenly bureaucracy.

Effectus does not mean effect in the Modern sense; it originates from the word, originally efficio which means to realize. It is both being and action.

Judith Butler: Thank you, Giorgio. I wonder, what is the role of repetition in liturgy; because it seems that repetition is necessary for its efficacy.

Agamben: Christ only had to sacrifice once, Jews frequently. Of course, the Church has to repeat it. Within liturgia there is a contradiction that there is this need.
  • Each time a political element is added, so is added a political element
  • Augustine says that uficium is not an ethical issue because it is dependent upon one's position
  • We can't understand Protestantism if we don't understand that Luther was a monk and not a priest.


  1. just curious, did any of the theorists show powerpoint presentations? if so, which ones?

  2. Nobody used PPT. There were images shown, but these were from Flickr or simply .pdfs that were projected from their laptops.

    Actually, I used a PPT-style program and everyone was laughing at me. Or so I thought. It turned out that they were laughing because they thought my Venn diagrams looked too vaginal. And we had been drinking wine all night. So.