Towards a Public Unconscious

Authors: Scott Sharpe*, University of New South Wales at Canberra
Topics: Cultural Geography, Social Theory, Geographic Thought
Keywords: Unconscious, Microperceptions, Micropolitics, Deleuze, Leibniz, Public, Private, Arendt
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 2, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As geographical interest in the idea of micropolitics gains momentum, it is timely to attend to the precise genealogy of, and role played by, the concept of the unconscious in the micropolitical. In this paper, I elucidate the link between a Deleuzian theory of the micropolitical and the notion of the unconscious, via Deleuze’s reading of Leibniz in The Fold, and specifically his reversal of the conventional manner in which we understand the relationship between the private and public. Firstly, I outline what we might call the major tradition of understanding the political, in which it is the harsh light of the public, as opposed to the intimacy and darkness of the private sphere, which guarantees political action. Secondly, I explore the very different distribution of the private and public found in the work of Leibniz, and the role played in this reversal by the concept of the unconscious. Leibniz arrives at a concept of the unconscious that is, contra to the better-known psychoanalytic account, precisely not an individual, interior or private matter. Rather, the unconscious is theorised as minute, material, dark and yet public perceptions, which are obscurely expressed in the world. Finally, I intimate the significance of this reversal for our understanding of the micropolitical today. At a time when everything appears to be illuminated by the harsh light of politics, I suggest that attuning to the unconscious perceptions that constitute the collective character of the public opens us to a more micropolitical, and perhaps more potentialized, thought.

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