Giorgio Agamben  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Giorgio Agamben (born 1942) is an Italian philosopher, noted for such concepts as the "homo sacer."


Agamben was educated at the University of Rome, where he wrote a thesis on the political thought of Simone Weil. Agamben participated in Martin Heidegger's Le Thor seminars (on Heraclitus and Hegel) in 1966 and 1968. In the 1970s he worked primarily on linguistics, philology, poetics, and medievalist topics, where he began to elaborate his primary concerns, though without as yet inflecting them in a specifically political direction. In 1974–1975 he was a fellow at the Warburg Institute, due to the courtesy of Francis Yates (whom he met through Italo Calvino), where he developed part of the volume Stanzas (1977).

Close to the italian writer Elsa Morante, on whom he has written, and with the poets Giorgio Caproni and José Bergamín, he developed friendships, relations and collaborations with eminent figures of our times as Pier Paolo Pasolini (in whose The Gospel According to St. Matthew he played the part of Philip), Italo Calvino (with whom he collaborated, for a short while, as counsellor of the publisher house Einaudi and developed a project for a magazine), Ingeborg Bachmann, Pierre Klossowski, Guy Debord, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Derrida, Antonio Negri, Jean-François Lyotard and so many others.

His strongest influences include Martin Heidegger and Walter Benjamin, whose complete works he edited in Italian translation (until 1996), and which was for him a kind of antidote to the strong influence Heidegger. Of Benjamin, he discovered several important manuscripts, some at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Within these, and of great relevance, were found the manuscripts of the thesis On the Concept of History. Since the nineties, he was mainly concerned with: the political writings of the German jurist Carl Schmitt, of whom we can read extensively in his Stato di eccezione (2003); and with Michel Foucault, from whom, in the last years, he confesses to have «had the opportunity to learn so much».

Agamben's political thought - which started mainly as a revisitation, with rare deepness, of Aristotle's Politics, the Nicomachean Ethics and the short treatise On the Soul, and the exegetic late-antiquity and medieval tradition around them - draws on Hannah Arendt's and Foucault's studies and on the wide discussion initiated with the publication of Nancy's article La communauté désoeuvrée (1983), and the immediate response to it by Maurice Blanchot, La communauté inavouable (1983); all these concerned with the notion of community at a time when the European Community was under a main debate. From such thoughtful texts and discussions, came, a few years later, his own proposal - La comunità che viene (1990/ translated in english in 1993), at a time when he was working around the ontological condition and «political» attitude of Bartleby (from Herman Melville's short story) — a scrivener who does not react, and «prefers not» to write.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Giorgio Agamben" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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