“Experience” is a thoroughly political category, a social and historical product not authored by any individual. At the same time, “the personal is political,” and one's own lived experience is an important epistemic resource. In Anaesthetics of Existence Cressida J. Heyes reconciles these two positions, drawing on examples of things that happen to us but are nonetheless excluded from experience. If for Foucault an “aesthetics of existence” was a project of making one's life a work of art, Heyes's “anaesthetics of existence” describes antiprojects that are tacitly excluded from life—but should be brought back in. Drawing on critical phenomenology, genealogy, and feminist theory, Heyes shows how and why experience has edges, and she analyzes phenomena that press against those edges. Essays on sexual violence against unconscious victims, the temporality of drug use, and childbirth as a limit-experience build a politics of experience while showcasing Heyes's much-needed new philosophical method.
Acknowledgments vii Introduction 1 1. Foucault's Limits: Experience at the Edge 27 2. Dead to the World: Rape, Unconsciousness, and Social Media 52 3. Down and Out: Temporality after Discipline 75 4. Anaesthetic Time 97 5. Child, Birth: An Aesthetic 125 Coda 141 Notes 147 References 159 Index 177
Cressida J. Heyes is H. M. Tory Chair and Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at the University of Alberta and author of Self-Transformations: Foucault, Ethics, and Normalized Bodies and Line Drawings: Defining Women through Feminist Practice.
“‘Anaesthetics of Existence,’ writes Cressida J. Heyes, ‘is a book about refusal, exclusion and liminality.’ More than this, it is a book about the unevenness of attention, about the tendency of bodies to flicker in and out of consciousness, and about extreme ordinariness and the increasing ordinariness of the extreme. This book is timely, original, and offers new insights within the philosophy of experience.”
~Jack Halberstam, author of, The Queer Art of Failure
“Incredibly smart, wide ranging, inventive, and timely, Cressida J. Heyes's Anaesthetics of Existence offers a detailed and philosophically rigorous phenomenological exploration of experience. Heyes does not merely report on phenomenology, she does it with an aliveness to her prose and an expansiveness to her thinking that feels fresh, original, and exciting. A marvelous book.”
~Gayle Salamon, author of, The Life and Death of Latisha King: A Critical Phenomenology of Transphobia
“Without a doubt, Heyes’ Anaesthetics of Existence is a marvelously written, timely, and exciting book. It is both a scholarly feat—impeccably researched and persuasively argued—and a pleasurable read that offers some respite and solace amidst the chaos of postdisciplinary time.”
~Corinne Lajoie, Contemporary Political Theory
“Anaesthetics of Existence is delivered with impressive brevity and wit. . . . Anaesthetics of Existence is a remarkably timely text because, as we desperately hope for an end to pandemic time, we must also critically consider the prepandemic world we’ve missed and how, in light of this disruption, we might establish different habits.”
~Lauren Guilmette, Political Theory
“Anaesthetics of Existence exudes a prescience for our current era unmatched by monographs composed in the period immediately preceding the COVID-19 pandemic. Heyes, a philosopher, undertakes poignant phenomenological case studies into urgent feminist issues, including date rape, the pressures of parenting, and childbirth.”
~Evangeline Holtz-Schramek, Humanities