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Alister Wedderburn, ‘Cartooning the Camp: Aesthetic Interruption and the Limits of Political Possibility’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 47(2) 2019: 169-89.
Over the last 30 years, post-structuralist, feminist and other IR theorists have asked questions of the ways in which discourses on sovereignty seek to foreclose political possibility. To do so, they have advanced a decentralised, contested, incomplete and relational understanding of politics that presupposes some sort of intersubjective agency, however fragmented. There is one site, however, that appears to confound this line of argument insofar as it is commonly understood to exemplify an entirely non-relational, anti-political ‘desolation’: the concentration camp. Drawing on feminist theory to establish the terms of an aesthetic mode of ‘interruption’, this article will identify a compelling challenge to this position in a comic book drawn by Horst Rosenthal, a German–Jewish detainee at Gurs in Vichy, France, who was later killed at Auschwitz–Birkenau. Rosenthal’s piece will be read as an ‘aesthetic interruption’ that mounts a powerful critique of the logic underpinning his concentrationary experience, and in so doing demonstrates one way in which (to however painfully limited a degree) the political might be ‘brought back in’ to discussions about sovereign power.