Exposure : Erin Graff Zivin

Erin Graff Zivin / Photograph by the Author

Exposure : Erin Graff Zivin

Two propositions. First proposition: exposure is a political concept. Second proposition: exposure is a method describing the performative articulation of political concepts. The current formulation, as well as the limits, of the concept “exposure” are found in Emmanuel Levinas’s thought, characterized by some as ethical philosophy.1  I want to expand and translate this formulation, while exposing its limits, via Fred Moten’s critique of Levinas. In what follows, I propose that we expose exposure, that exposure be understood constatively and performatively, as both concept and method. I put exposure to the test, asking what happens when Levinas’s work is subjected to the critique of Moten, when we expose a certain ethico-philosophical tradition (for which Levinas does and does not stand, metonymically) to the “social aesthetics of black radicalism,” to read Levinas against Levinas, from and through the blind spot(s)—or tone deafness—of his work.2 Attention to music and medium, temporality and tone, the latent poetry and rhythm in Levinas’s later work, I suggest, opens his thought to that which stands as its simultaneous condition of possibility and impossibility. I conclude by proposing that it is the task of political thought, today, to expose (rather than create) concepts, or to understand political concepts as always already exposed: exposed to ethics, to music, to the textures and rhythms of our sensory imaginings.

1. Translating Exposure

What is exposure? Let’s begin with a definition, a term. Exposure hails from the Latin exponere “set forth, lay open, exhibit, reveal, publish,” from ex “from, forth” and ponere “to put, place.”3 We employ the term “exposure” across different registers: visual (photographic exposure), climatic (exposure to the elements), bodily (indecent exposure). Across Roman languages, exposition can also refer to public speaking, or to the public display of works of art, a making-public or even making-political. I will return to this. Now, Adi Ophir situates concept-work—a discussion and project to which I am arriving belatedly—within the realm of the linguistic: “By asking ‘what is x?’ across several language games in which ‘x’ is used quite distinctly, one is looking for a possible ‘conceptual definition’ that somehow encompasses a variety of uses, and yet is not reducible to any one of them.”4 This seems to me to be, in addition to a philosophical, a literary-critical task, as it involves interpretative labor that traces and guards the blind spots of and between the distinct linguistic instances of a given signifier. Indeed, exposure may be a somewhat extreme example of this task. I confess that it has felt counterintuitive, perverse, even violent to imagine exposure as an ethical or political concept during a global pandemic, particularly during those early, grim months before vaccines became available, a time when exposure to others meant certain death for many of our most vulnerable friends and family, with this vulnerability reverberating differentially and exponentially across race and class lines. It has felt counterintuitive, perverse, violent to be holding up exposure as an ethical or political concept as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Tanisha Anderson, and countless others have been murdered by the police, their bodies unjustly and unevenly exposed in their cars and even in their very homes. 

Yet exposure does not stand as an ethical ideal or prescriptive in Levinas, for whom “exposure” holds together senses and scenes that might, to some, appear contradictory. Rather than a prescription, exposure enters the Levinasian lexicon as a description, a phenomenological statement. The other for whom I am responsible is characterized as exposed, naked, impoverished, vulnerable, wounded; it is the precarity of the other (to use Judith Butler’s language) that demands and constitutes my responsibility.”5 Yet this account of ethics is consistently misunderstood as an ethics of the other, the other as victim, a characterization that far too easily falls into a rather different notion of ethical subjectivity, one in which (I am paraphrasing a myriad of conventional yet erroneous, that is, literal, readings) a primary, stable, and sovereign self exists in a relation of compassion or charity to a secondary other who needs my protection.6  Conceiving of the other as victim only strengthens a stable version of the sovereign subject, to whom, according to Derrida, “nothing ever happens.”7 This is quite different from Levinas’s view of things.

Responsibility for the other, in its antecedence to my freedom, its antecedence to the present and to representation, is a passivity more passive than all passivity, an exposure to the other without this exposure being assumed, an exposure without holding back, exposure of exposedness, expression, saying. This exposure is the frankness, sincerity, veracity, of saying. Not saying dissimulating itself and protecting itself in the said, just giving out words in the face of the other, but saying uncovering itself, that is, denuding itself of its skin, sensibility on the surface of the skin, at the edge of the nerves, offering itself even in suffering – and thus wholly sign, signifying itself.8

Here, he emphasizes the vulnerability of the self (what could be described in political terms as a constitutively wounded sovereignty9) in its primary exposure to or dependence upon an other, an experience that appears as both embodied and discursive: it is this condition of being exposed, naked, or passive (to the exposure, nudity, and passivity of the other) that characterizes ethical experience. At the same time that my constitution as an ethical subject is predicated upon my exposure to the suffering of the other, I am also exposed to the otherness within the same, to my constitutive heteronomy.

Now, you will have noticed that I am already slipping into political terms, I am already translating, exposing, the ethical sense of exposure to the world of political concepts. If I am indeed translating, performatively, for and before you, I am not doing so within a temporality in which one would “first” be constituted as an ethical subject and then translate an ethical demand to a political demand. The self does not exist in a prior, autonomous state, as an ego that is subsequently defeated: rather, the other is prior to this self, in terms of priority but also in terms of an antecedence that pushes back on temporality itself; to employ a Levinasian syntax, a before before a before. I will return to the repeating rhythms of Levinas’s strange syntax below.

Let me take a breath, and begin again.

Exposure can be thought in a multitude of contexts; indeed, it is the slippage across, the haunting echoes within, and the disturbing differences between these contexts that emerge when we shake or unfasten “exposure” from its status as “term,” when we transport or translate it to the realm of ethics and politics. I expose myself when I speak before a public of friends and strangers, my body trembling, my breath and heartrate quickening. I expose myself when I take to the streets or join a boycott, but also when I articulate a position without knowing how it will be received by the other. I expose myself when I travel to a country or even a neighborhood whose tongues or habits are foreign to my own; when I open myself to the perspective of another that reveals my subjective position to be inextricably bound to my lived experiences and intergenerational memory; or when I enter the desert, unsure of how or when I will find water or shade. I expose myself when I fall in love, when I open myself to the other and make myself vulnerable to and before an other who undoes me, the “me” I thought I was. I expose myself when I dance or sing in public; when I listen to music that moves me and that may even break me; I expose myself when I dare to hope, and when I give myself over to grief.

Yet, if many of the aforementioned examples could be characterized as desirable experiences, as adventures that bring pleasure, depth, intensity, texture, and meaning, others involve the risk of danger or harm we would normally seek to reduce, avoid, or eliminate—exposure to a deadly virus, to the police, to natural elements without shelter—in order to survive. Now, you might hear my insistence upon exposure’s translatability, which may resemble a certain universality, as violent. To risk failure in a professional setting is hardly comparable to risking one’s life, you might protest, noting the violence in the very gesture of comparison of incomparables, the violence of the exposure of one sense of exposure to another. We know that risks are posed differentially and unequally, so that the risk one takes driving a car increases exponentially when one is “driving while Black,” the risk one takes walking down the street is multiplied when one presents as a woman, or as queer, or as trans. We must and do close ourselves off to risk in order to persevere in our being: yet that very same self-preservation eats away at our being-aliveness, at the possibility of reducing the very harm we seek to avoid. Yes: our very lives depend not only upon strategies of physical and psychic survival but also, paradoxically and counterintuitively, upon our exposure to the very risks that threaten our ability to survive and thrive, to offer and receive care. In order to be truly alive and in relation, with and against ourselves and others (“against” in the double sense of conflict and contact, like one body against another), in order to live as sensual and interconnected, ethical and political beings, we expose ourselves to risks that are both a shelter from the storm, and the storm itself.

2. Exposing Exposure

Is it possible to displace or relocate exposure, to facilitate or trace its traversal from an ethical to a political context, from (ex-) one place (pos-) to another, given the trouble Levinas himself had making the passage from ethics to politics (he famously wrote that “the way [from proximity to justice] leads from responsibility to problems”)? What are the points of opacity or untranslatability, the blind spots and errors, the latent, impossible rhythms beating within Levinas’s work, an otherness within for which he has failed to account sufficiently? Where does Levinas fail to be Levinasian, how might he or we signal such failures? Recall that Levinas, in his later work, was responding, on a formal level, to Derrida’s criticism, in “Violence and Metaphysics,” of his ontological language, that it conditioned and made possible a more experimental syntax in Otherwise than Being, that it produced the strangely poetic anaphora we witness in his description of ethical subjectivity (“a passivity more passive than all passivity,” “denuding of denuding,” “saying saying saying itself”).10  We could call this Levinas “Levinas-after-Derrida.”11 How, then, might he have responded to the challenge of Moten, a challenge that is at once poetico-rhythmic and ethico-political, and which may prove impossible to surmount? Is a reckoning with these ghosts possible? Let us bear witness to, let us rehearse and reenact, the exposure of Levinas to Moten, the impossible but necessary translation of the (untranslatable) ethical demand to the political (a translation that may expose both ethics and politics, ethical and political concepts, as constitutively impossible).

The title of the first chapter of Moten’s 2018 The Universal Machine—“There is No Racism Intended”—is a direct quote from a 1986 interview with Levinas published as “Intention, Event, and the Other.”12 In it, the philosopher makes self-consciously troubling statements reminiscent of his 1982 commentary on Palestine (which has been debated at length and which I will not have time to discuss here). Here is an excerpt from the 1986 interview:

EL: I always say—but under my breath—that the Bible and the Greeks present the only serious issues in human life; everything else is dancing. I think these texts are open to the whole world. There is no racism intended.

Questioner: “Everything else is dancing”—one could naturally think of Nietzsche.

E.L.: Yes, but you know, television shows the horrible things occurring in South Africa. And there, when they bury people, they dance. Have you seen this? That is really some way to express mourning.

Q.: It, too, is an expression.

E.L.: Yes, of course, so far I am still a philosopher. But it supplies us the expression of a dancing civilization; they weep differently.13

Moten then cites a 1987 interview in which Levinas speaks of the threats to philosophy by the audiovisual, issuing a warning not “to let oneself be swayed or intoxicated by the rhythm of words” but rather “to speak truly, not as one sings; to awaken; to sober up; to undo one’s refrain.”14  The question that Moten raises is whether these interviews contain “one-off” comments to be understood as peripheral or even in contradiction to Levinas’s ethical framework, or whether they are symptomatic of fundamental problems that can be traced throughout his work. He concludes that Levinas’s (unintended) racism is inextricably bound to his thinking on the translatability or universality of philosophy, the status of “things,” and exposure itself. Emphasizing the need for “an ever more rigorous engagement with his work,” Moten makes the compelling claim that only once an honest and open reckoning with Levinas’s prejudice against rhythm, song, and “dancing civilizations” has been undertaken will it be possible “to amplify certain radically important insights that emerge in his thought.”15 He underscores the necessity to “appeal to . . . the social aesthetics of black radicalism” in dialogue with a Derridean deferral of and distancing from “(the ends of) philosophy” and (the ends of European) man, that, taken together, allow us to read Levinas against Levinas, to expose exposure.16 

“Dedication to the movement of hips requires asking whether Emmanuel Levinas’s refusal of dance is anything more than a moment,” Moten begins, referring to the “brash, invasive stillness that has enforced the openness of the whole world to the Bible and the Greeks.”17 Yet it is not merely a question of asking, as Moten does, what Levinas would say “were he both consistent in his analysis and proficient in his dancing,” if he were found to be “less devoid of funk.”18 Moten’s use of the conditional/subjunctive highlights in black and blue tones the failures of the ethical philosopher, and in doing so posits or performs ethico-political thinking as that which inserts or reveals a fold, a gap between what is and what could be. It is not a cheap joke or throwaway line (white men can’t jump, Jewish philosophers can’t dance), but a formal intervention into what I want to consider as a formal problem.

Now, Moten’s text is long, and there are a number of issues with it, but in the limited space I have I’ll underscore one aspect that gets at the heart of Levinas’s blind Eurocentrism and violent universalism.19 This more fundamental problem has do with Levinas’s disparagement of dancing and rhythm as necessarily related to a broader denigration (Moten’s word) of “things,” which (Moten insists) maps onto the cultural, philosophical, and religious context of Europe and its others when Levinas insists that “the Bible and the Greeks” are open to the whole world. Challenging this imperial(ist) vision of translatability in Levinas, Moten identifies “unintended” racism in Levinas’s treatment of “the thing”: “Levinas becomes the thing he denigrates in his disavowal of the thingly by way of a liquidation of the thingly in his own work that cannot be fully accomplished,” proposing in critical response “another way of thinking of things that is offered in the social aesthetics of black radicalism and its improvisatory protocols.”20 What instrument, what medium, what rhythm will animate the thing that is never merely a thing? Moten imagines an escape from “the labor of the negative via self-inflicted release into the thingly, a simple autopossessive gift of self to instrument that resets both self and instrument.”21 I’ll return to rhythm and sound, the instrumental and the thingly, in a moment, holding onto the necessarily relational quality of the thingly in Moten, its refusal to be “mere” object, but rather something that might push past and expose a subject-object dichotomy through the instrument, which also cannot be reduced to object.

Levinas’s nonattunement, his tone-deafness, his denigration of sense more generally, goes beyond the racial, cultural, or philosophical chauvinism that Moten identifies, even as it is profoundly and inextricably related to it.22 I refer to Levinas’s preoccupation with the form and shape of language, its rhythms and its movement. Or rather: the contradictions, aporias, inconsistencies, or even hypocrisy of Levinas’s work has as much to do with whether argument X contradicts a prior or subsequent argument Y as it has to do with the at times insurmountable abyss between the constative and performative aspects of and in his work. Levinas’s ambivalence toward visual and sonic aesthetic, cultural, and corporeal experience, despite the latent presence of rhythm in his work, suggests that they mark internal nodes of untranslatability or impossibility. By turning to these infrequent, quasi-subterranean moments in Levinas—moments that are later suppressed or rejected by Levinas himself—I want to hold together the (im)possible demand that resides at the heart of his work, a demand that demands its own exposure to an outside, or an outside-within. The exposure of Levinasian ethics to the rhythmic beat knocking from without and within, to the political demand of Black radical poeisis, requires that we understand these realms to be necessarily in relation, that we conceive of ethics as necessarily exposed to politics. Yet exposing exposure also implies, paradoxically and counterintuitively, that we may abandon exposure as a “properly” ethical or political concept. In this sense, you may notice that “exposure” shifts from the thematic or constative into the (purely?) performative.

3. Sensing Exposure

Well before the aforementioned interview remarks concerning song and dance, Levinas famously condemns art as irresponsible (“like feasting during a plague”) in early work such as the 1948 “Reality and its Shadow.”23 Yet in Otherwise than Being—a text Moten unfortunately does not discuss—a different approach can be witnessed: “Through art essence and temporality begin to resound with poetry or song. And the search for new forms, from which all art lives, keeps awake everywhere the verbs that are on the verge of lapsing into substantives.”24 In a radical turn away from prior and subsequent positions, Levinas affirms that artistic media—painting, poetry, song, architecture, and forms yet-to-come—cause Being to tremble, awakening and enlivening the “saying” within the “said.”

In painting, red reddens and green greens, forms are produced as contours and vacate with their vacuity as forms. In music sounds resound; in poems vocables, material of the said, no longer yield before what they evoke, but sing with their evocative powers and their diverse ways to evoke, their etymologies; in Paul Valéry’s Eupalinos architecture makes buildings sing. Poetry is productive of song, of resonance and sonority, which are the verbalness of verbs or essence.25

Here, forms and materials evacuate, encompass, and structure spaces within which distinct aesthetic objects act as verbs. Things (colors, sounds, buildings) are not inanimate objects; forms act, materials enliven: “red reddens,” “green greens,” “forms vacate with their vacuity,” “sounds resound,” “poems and buildings sing.”26 And, while these visual-sonic-poetic-architectural examples may appear to direct us away from language, the syntactical play with nouns and verbs allows Levinas to paint a picture of the complex rapport between saying and said in and beyond language. If language is central to exposure as ethical experience, the present passage allows us to see that we can trace a similar movement in and across media: architecture, and not only poetry, produces song. Each form is exposed to another, revealing the constitutive heteronomy or relationality of sense and medium. Moreover, Levinas explains, this performative movement, the verbalization of nouns, introduces temporality into what would seem to be frozen in being—essence is temporalized. “It is as though the differences of pitch, register and timber, color and forms, words and rhythms, were but temporalization, sonority and key.”27

As an example, he turns to the 1966 “Nomos Alpha for Unaccompanied Cello,” an avant-garde piece by composer, music theorist, and architect Iannis Xenakis (whose very work embodies relations between mathematics, architecture, music, and visuality).

What is taking place in this work? Is a soul complaining or exulting in the depth of the sounds that break up or between the notes which hitherto in their identities succeeded one another and contributed to the harmony of the whole, silencing their grating, but which now no longer melt into a melodic line? What misleading anthropomorphism or animism! The cello is a cello in the sonority that vibrates in its strings and its wood, even if it is already reverting into notes, into identities that settle into their natural places in gamuts from the acute to the grave . . . Thus the essence of the cello, a modality of essence, is temporalized in the work.28

The struggle between anthropomorphism and its refusal is intense: almost more intense than either the personification or the thing personified. Levinas wants to underscore the compelling aliveness of the musical work without losing sight of its status as object. Xenakis’s cello—a thing, a noun—is temporalized, made verb, in its sonority: its vibrating vitality, its thingly quality, is predicated upon its status as instrument, medium. Its equivocal, undecidable state, somewhere between thing and person, object and subject, points in the direction of something that does not yet have a name in Levinas’s (now exposed) philosophical lineage.

4. Grieving Exposure

I’ll conclude by giving the last word to 17-time Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Kendrick Lamar. Hailing from Compton, California (just down the road from my home institution), Lamar received his most recent Grammy for “Best Rap Album” for his 2022 Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.29 Listen to the first song on this album, “United in Grief,” in order to hear a rather different vision of exposure and “universal mourning” than Levinas was capable of imagining. After opening with a sample of Not the Two’s song “Paradise,” interrupted by a voice exhorting the lyrical subject to “tell ‘em, tell ‘em, tell ‘em the truth, tell ‘em your-” Lamar enters confessional mode, revealing a personal crisis following the release of his 2017 album DAMN (for which he won the Pulitzer). His vulnerability is conveyed through emotive piano chords, interrupted by a high-speed drum beat in which he describes the wealth, consumption, and fast-paced existence he has lived, culminating in an affair with a green-eyed woman from Chicago (“energy in the room like/Big Bang for theory”). The slow, mournful piano and accelerated percussion then meet as the lyrical subject states “I grieve different” (a chorus that will later evoke the response “Everybody grieves different”). Now, I do not have time to relate a series of failures by musicologists to represent what is happening here.30 The simultaneous musical temporalities that exceed any attempt to mark and measure it, however, seem to me to be related to Levinas’s failure to comprehend non-Western mourning rituals as philosophically, ethically, and politically relevant. “They weep differently,” he remarks, and upon first glance Lamar seems to agree: “I grieve different.” Yet the choral response “Everybody grieves different,” together with the non-dialectical relation between the slow, mournful piano and the accelerated drum beat, suggests that Lamar’s “United in Grief” advances—lyrically and polyrhythmically—a universalism that is neither translatable nor untranslatable, a universalism that is “open to the whole world” not through the exposure of the Bible and the Greeks to “everyone else,” but through a kind of mutual exposure in which no one subject, no one world, no one thing, would emerge autonomous, much less dominant.

After Levinas, after Levinas-exposed-to-Moten and to Lamar, we can now hear, and we can now say: Levinas’s work is not just tone-deaf. It is not “merely” unintentionally racist, Eurocentric when it claims to be universal, translatable. It is all of these things, but it is also more: even in its failure. Thus we will not set aside his thought entirely because, like Moten, we want to attend to the urgent questions his work poses to us, while attending to the lyrical-rhythmic, poetico-political demand that Moten’s thought poses to Levinas and to us. In this double attending, this double exposure, we are called upon, compelled to interrogate Levinas’s “unintended racism” while acknowledging its relation to the universal translation it seeks to carry out, under the guise of a non-exclusion: a painful paradox at the very core of an ethical thought that condemns, elsewhere, the conversion of the other into the “imperialism of the same.” We’ll respond to Moten’s demand and Lamar’s grief, attend to the exposure of the limits of Levinasian ethics while holding fast to its haunting imperative. Guarding, honoring, responding to this imperative involves exposing Levinas to the rhythms and sounds, the tones and temporalities, that reside at the heart of the demand posed by his own work, and to the “incalculable rhythm, moving in and out of measure, like a fugitive” that Moten imagines, and Lamar performs. It also involves bidding farewell (adieu) to Levinas, grieving the loss of what his work might have been, but to do so dancing, to mourn “(the ends of) philosophy and (the ends of European) man,” in order to give the last word not to racism, but to rhythm, and to those who, in the words of Lamar, “grieve different,” which is to say, to us all. This is what the task of imagining, performing, exposing, shaping, and moving political concepts promises today.

Published on April 29, 2024


Erin Graff Zivin is Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Comparative Literature at USC Dornsife


1. Levinas himself refers to ethics as “first philosophy” in Justifications de l’ethique (Bruxelles: Éditions de l’Universite de Bruxelles, 1984), 41–51.

2. Fred Moten, The Universal Machine (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018), 10.

3. See Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. “Exposure,” available at https://www.etymonline.com/word/exposure.

4. Adi Ophir, “Concept,” Political Concepts (2012); available at https://www.politicalconcepts.org/concept-adi-ophir/ (last accessed February 25, 2024).

5. Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (New York: Verso, 2020).

6. For a discussion of this misunderstanding, see Erin Graff Zivin, Anarchaeologies: Reading as Misreading (New York, Fordham University Press, 2020), 39–41.

7. Jacques Derrida, The Politics of Friendship, trans. George Collins (London: Verso, 1997), 68. 

8. Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being, or Beyond Essence, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1998), 15.

9. Erin Graff Zivin, Anarchaeologies: Reading as Misreading (New York: Fordham University Press, 2020), 141.

10. “Subjectivity, locus and null-site of this breakup, comes to pass as a passivity more passive than all passivity.” (Levinas, Otherwise than Being, 14–15); “But saying is a denuding of denuding, a giving a sign of its very signifyingness, an expression of exposure, a hyperbolic passivity that disturbs the still waters, in which, without saying, passivity would be crawling with secret designs. There is denuding of denuding, without this ‘reflection’ or this iteration having to be added afterwards to the denuding.” (ibid., 49); “Saying saying saying itself, without thematizing it, but exposing it again. Saying is thus to make signs of this very signifyingness of the exposure; it is to expose the exposure instead of remaining in it as an act of exposing. It is to exhaust oneself in exposing oneself, to make signs by making oneself a sign, without resting in one’s every figure as a sign” (ibid., 143). 

11. Erin Graff Zivin, Anarchaeologies, 91.

12. See Emmanuel Levinas, “Intention, Event, and the Other (1986),” in Is It Righteous to Be?: Interviews with Emmanuel Levinas, ed. Jill Robbins (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 140–157.

13. Emmanuel Levinas, “Intention, Event, and the Other (1986),” 149; cited in Fred Moten, The Universal Machine, 1.

14. Emmanuel Levinas, “On the Usefulness of Insomnia,” in Is it Righteous to Be, 234; cited in Fred Moten, The Universal Machine, 25.

15. Fred Moten, The Universal Machine, 9.

16. Fred Moten, The Universal Machine, x, 10.

17. Fred Moten, The Universal Machine, 1.

18. Fred Moten, The Universal Machine, xiii.

19. “It would be wrong to attempt to debunk or discredit Levinas by locating and exposing him at his worst; and it would be fruitless either to evade or obscure him by dwelling on work that some would argue lacks his distinctive and mature signature,” Moten writes (The Universal Machine, 4). I take Moten at his word, but regret that he does not engage Otherwise than Being, the book in which Levinas most attempts to challenge the limitations of his own thought.

20. Fred Moten, The Universal Machine, 10.

21. Fred Moten, The Universal Machine, 19.

22. In a brilliant discussion of Moten’s critique of Levinas, Ethan Kleinberg points out that Levinas’s prejudice against dance is related to a dissensus internal to Judaism: “Levinas’s understanding of authentic Judaism and Jewish teaching emphasizes a highly intellectual study of the Talmud, in opposition to the miracles and wonders of the Hasidic movement with its emphasis on prayer. I want to emphasize Levinas’s distrust of, and distaste for, the miraculous, the mystical, and the enchanted, which should surely include the ecstatic emotional connection to God brought on by song and dance . . . . This is not to say that Levinas was totally devoid of funk or humor but that his understanding of authentic or exemplary Judaism is defined against the Eastern European or Hasidic Jew who is, for Levinas, the initial other Other” (Emmanuel Levinas’s Talmudic Turn: Philosophy and Jewish Thought [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2021], 155).

23. Emmanuel Levinas, “Reality and Its Shadow,” The Levinas Reader, ed. Seán Hand (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1989), pp. 129–143.

24. Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being, 40. 

25. Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being, 40.

26. I am grateful to Adi Ophir, who observed that such a characterization of painting does away with the spectator. The (human) subject—the subjective experience of the aesthetic—is indeed liquidated in this scene. The object (“red” or “green”) substitutes the spectator as the (grammatical) subject.

27. Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being, 41.

28. Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being, 41.

29. Kendrick Lamar, “United in Grief,” Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, 2002; available at https://youtu.be/tvNSXS4x9nc (last accessed March 11, 2024).

30. See “Music Professor Analyzes Kendrick Lamar’s ‘United in Grief’” (available at https://youtu.be/xoUs4b3euBI [last accessed March 29, 2024]) and “A Composer Breaks Down the Music Theory Behind Kendrick Lamar’s ‘United in Grief’” (https://www.stereogum.com/2188951/a-composer-breaks-down-the-music-theory-behind-kendrick-lamars-united-in-grief/columns/in-theory/ [last accessed March 29, 2024]).