Book cart: Publics and Counterpublics; Michael Warner


Despite the dreaded Habermasian overtones of public sphere theory, this book sounds possibly interesting enough to warrant looking into, especially as it is published roughly 10 years after Nancy Frasier’s deft takedown of Habermas in her Social Text article wherein she discusses subaltern counterpublics. I freely admit I have a huge academic crush on that piece of writing.

At the same time, though, this book was published way back in 2002. I’m afraid it may yield precious little in the ways of digital/social media and networks into which I will be looking for my research. Still, it’s worth looking into what an early aughts book might give with respect to publics.

There is a book review here.

There is some sort of brief excerpt here.

There is a summary of Warner’s definition of a public here.

The blurb from Amazon:

Most of the people around us belong to our world not directly, as kin or comrades, but as strangers. How do we recognize them as members of our world? We are related to them as transient participants in common publics. Indeed, most of us would find it nearly impossible to imagine a social world without publics. In the eight essays in this book, Michael Warner addresses the question: What is a public?According to Warner, the idea of a public is one of the central fictions of modern life. Publics have powerful implications for how our social world takes shape, and much of modern life involves struggles over the nature of publics and their interrelations. The idea of a public contains ambiguities, even contradictions. As it is extended to new contexts, politics, and media, its meaning changes in ways that can be difficult to uncover.Combining historical analysis, theoretical reflection, and extensive case studies, Warner shows how the idea of a public can reframe our understanding of contemporary literary works and politics and of our social world in general. In particular, he applies the idea of a public to the junction of two intellectual traditions: public-sphere theory and queer theory.

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