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4405 Essay Question:

Due: April 11th in class

10-12 pages double-spaced 12 font


This paper is not a research paper: this means that you’re not expected to find and integrate a series of outside academic sources. Instead, this assignment asks you to do a close reading, a thorough and in-depth analysis, of the 3 texts that are outlined in each question. Each question includes one text that was not a class reading and it will be available on OWL. The challenge of the assignment is to figure out how the texts speak to each other and to organize your analysis around these points of contact. Cite the texts appropriately, focus on key passages and think through the ideas and arguments that are elaborated in them.


*You can do a question that only overlaps with 1 text that you’ve written a Critical Reflection/Presentation on. Come speak with me if you have any questions on this.




Adolf Eichmann’s infamous defense of his role in the Holocaust emphasized that he was a “desk-killer”– a bureaucrat in a large Nazi organizational structure who organized the death of millions without emotion and without seeing his victims face to face. The purpose of this question is to think through the implications of the “desk-killer” defense in reference to three authors – Arendt, Bauman and Stone.  

First, explain and assess Arendt’s controversial analysis of Eichmann’s defense. How does Arendt describe Eichmann and is she persuasive in her assessment of him? Second, consider Bauman’s argument that the Holocaust was driven by the unleashing of sinister forms of rationality within modernity, “a process of divesting the use and deployment of violence from moral calculus”. Third, consider how Stone’s work on “transgressive violence” rethinks the place of emotion within violence and the link between modernity and genocidal violence. Explore the implications of his argument and consider his position in relation to the other texts.


Bauman’s text “Modernity and the Holocaust” is available on OWL.

*Note this text by Bauman is different than the one we read in class “Modernity and Ambivalence”





Question 2


Butler maps out a theory of human precarity whereby only some lives are ‘apprehended’ and ‘recognized’ as fully human and therefore as ‘grievable’. The purpose of this question is to explore how modernity positions us in relation to the suffering of others through three authors: Butler, Sontag and Pinchevksi. First, explain Butler’s ideas about how not all lives are rendered equally “grievable”. Second, consider this in relation to Sontag’s work on the relationship between violence and the photograph. Third, consider how Pinchevksi’s work on PTSD triggered through mediated images of violence and suffering relates to these questions.


Sontag’s text “Regarding the Suffering of Others, Chapter Two” is on OWL.




Question 3:


Simmel argues that the “Stranger” is a distinctive social category. The “stranger” stays on indefinitely and is both near and distant from the group. First, explain and unpack Simmel’s argument. Second, consider Bauman’s argument that modernity is defined by the quest for order and how that the friend/enemy distinction is complicated by the increasing appearance of the “stranger”. Thirdly, consider these issues in relation to Alexander’s argument about the understanding of the relation between good and “evil” within society.


Alexander’s text “ A Cultural Sociology of Evil” is on OWL


Question 4:


Berardi’s critique of cotemporary high-tech capitalism argues that because “eros” and solidarity are absent in everyday life, they are redirected towards work. First, explain Berardi’s diagnosis of digitalization and its impact on labour, the individual and social relations. Second, consider Ahmed’s critique of the increasing importance placed on happiness within contemporary neoliberal society and how this may relate to Berardi. Thirdly, consider these questions in relation to Tokumitsu’s critique of the “Do what you love” ethos of our times.


Tokutmisu’s text “In the Name of Love” is on OWL.


The Ahmed text is the “Introduction” (p 1-20) of her book The Promise of Happiness on OWL.


Question # 5


Design your own question using 2 course readings and a third from an academic peer-reviewed source. I would suggest coming to speak to me about this before you start writing. Finding a way to frame your paper – both in terms of finding the right texts and a doable question – is really important.



A few more pointers:


1)    Be thorough and comprehensive in your analysis of the theoretical concepts and frameworks.

2)    Make sure to cite appropriately. Any style (ASA, Chicago etc) is fine, just be consistent. Come speak with me if you have any questions.

3)    Watch your paragraph structure. Make sure your text is broken down into paragraph units that make sense thematically

4)    Have a succinct intro paragraph with a thesis statement where you explain very  

clearly and directly the point of your paper. Using the ‘I’ is fine. Have a short conclusion where you reiterate the main points.

       5)   Edit, edit, edit! For grammar, typos, repetition, clarity and content.

6)    I will look at rough drafts/ essay outlines if you come and speak with me in person (but not over email).


Good luck!




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