Incapacitations: Tradition, Destruction, and Forms of Life

Incapacitations: Tradition, Destruction, and Forms of Life is an interdisciplinary project that explores the incapacitation of tradition as part of the unfolding of violence and destruction in the contemporary world. It is led by Milad Odabaei and co-investigators Basit Kareem Iqbal and Aaron Eldridge. The project is funded by a grant from the Social Science Research Council and hosted by the Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at Princeton University. Additional support has been provided by Princeton University’s Humanities Council. Incapacitations began in July 2022 with the monthly gathering of an interdisciplinary group of scholars and will culminate in a 3-day workshop at Princeton University in May 2023.

We approach incapacitation as an anthropological condition that affects not only social realities, but also the possibilities of posing questions and conducting critical inquires that are meaningful in relation to a distinct form of life. Consequently, we distance our approach from the well-rehearsed diagnostic critique of tradition and its modern fate that seeks to relieve confusion and yield historical consciousness. Instead, we draw inspiration from Michel Foucault’s (1970) methodological innovations in the French tradition of historical epistemology and explore incapacitation epistemologically, archaeologically, and genealogically. Epistemologically, we address incapacitation in relation to the discursive practices internal to a scientific tradition (law, theology, sociology, etc.) that enable the formation of concepts and theories and distinct modes of veridiction. Archaeologically (or epistemically), incapacitation marks the discursive practices external to a set of scientific fields that constitute their historical condition of possibility, i.e. their capacity to emerge as a paradigm of knowledge (savoir) and subjectivation. Finally, genealogically, incapacitation renders the contingent relations of power that traverse a particular historical and ethnographic situation (authority, ideology, violence, etc.).