At the heart of most theorizations of democracy is the idea of consensus: the capacity for people to come to an agreement, to achieve a group mentality and feeling. This idea rests on the philosophical imagination of a citizen-subject: that autonomous individual who possesses the capacity to consent—to give permission, to willfully negotiate power difference in a manner that preserves the supposition of agency. Consent is not only a mark of liberal democratic ideals, but also of specific concern within feminist discourses. As the recent minimization of sexual assault in the 2016 presidential election attests, the call for affirmative consent—the demand that we equate consensual sex with verbal affirmation (“Yes means yes”)—remains vital. It offers a legal tool that makes certain types of misogynistic violence both visible and prosecutable.
At the same time, consent marks not only a supposition of agency, but also historical positions of power and disempowerment. After all, the State disproportionately requires consent from the feminine, queer, black, brown, immigrant, and working class bodies that are the objects of not only sexual aggression, but also scientific and medical exploitation, labor abuses, and increased surveillance and government-sanctioned violence. When consent is coerced, interdicted, or inadequate framework for imagining our capacities, we might turn to another democratic concept: dissent—that is, the right to resist, to protest, to voice opposition.
Please join Fine Arts Faculty Aliza Shvarts on Wednesday March 29th, 6-8PM for CONSENT/DISSENT, a talk being given with Emma Sulkowicz at The 8th Floor. This talk will explore the relationship between the political traditions of consent and its opposite—dissent—which marks the capacity to resist and refuse. Using our practices as a jumping off point for conversation, we invite you to discuss with us a set of increasingly urgent political questions: How can we hold in tension the liberal requirement for consent with the radical capacity for dissent? How might consent and dissent inform a feminist capacity to act?
For more information and for suggested readings, please visit the event page.
The 8th Floor | 17 West 17th Street | 646.839.5908 | email@example.com