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Zoran Oklopcic, Beyond the People: Social Imaginary and Constituent Imagination


"The Constitutional Governance and Social Change Group in Trinity College Dublin
is pleased to present a book seminar"

Zoran Oklopcic, Beyond the People: Social Imaginary and Constituent Imagination

Tuesday, 28 May 2019, 2-4 pm - Venue: Room 11, House 39, Trinity College Dublin.

The spectre of popular sovereignty is (still) haunting Europe. Rather than confronting its features by asking ‘Who is a sovereign ‘people?’, Prof Oklopcic begins with a couple of questions destined to take inquiry about the manifestations, functions, and implications of popular sovereignty in a different direction: Can a concept that has long been recognized as ‘invented’ ever be theorized non-purposefully? Can a concept which manifestly refers to a community that is ‘imagined' ever be reconceptualized non-imaginatively? Can a political concept, whose polemical nature is widely recognized across disciplinary boundaries, ever be articulated non-polemically? Finally, would a theoretical articulation of such a concept ever manage to organize our intuitions about constitutional government, democratic decision-making or political legitimacy, without making at least some reference to the scenes in which someone, somewhere and in some way exercises their power, will, or authority? As Prof Oklopcic argues in his recently published book, Beyond the People: Social Imaginary and Constituent Imagination (OUP 2018), those questions must be answered in the negative. Put more generally, not only does theorizing popular sovereignty require imagination, but theory (as a practice) may itself be seen as a (more or less disciplinarily disciplined) mode of imagining. Starting from the troubling manifestations of popular sovereignty in present-day Europe, my presentation will draw attention to the optical, figural, scenic, and topographical assumptions behind its theories in order to demonstrate, by way of example, how a more explicit and deliberate practice of theoretical imagination may look in action. An attempt to do so may be important for more than just a handful of theoretical approaches to popular sovereignty. Though increasingly appreciative of imagination as a socio-historical phenomenon, it scholars are yet to offer an analytically sophisticated, conceptually illuminating, and practically useful account of imagination as an ongoing, purposeful, and inter-subjective activity.