Irmgard Emmelhainz’s public lecture: “Gut_Brain: Destructive Desires and Other Destinies of Excess”

15 Feb 2024 - 16:00 / 15 Feb 2024 - 18:00

The Centre for Comparative Literature presents
“Gut_Brain: Destructive Desires and Other Destinies of Excess”

a public lecture by
Irmgard Emmelhainz

Thursday, Feb 15, 2024, 4-6pm
VC 101, Victoria College
91 Charles Street West, Toronto

Malaise, mental and physical and illness traverse the entire social globalized field. Almost a hundred years after Bataille wrote “The Solar Anus,” the excess that he argued, became industrial production, has now been transformed into a global and interdependent economic system that generates excess waste inassimilable by nature’s cycles. In tandem, consumerism and individualist hedonism follow the systemic mandate to pursue individual happiness, which considers suffering as personal failure and negates death. Therefore, human behavior is determined by the fulfillment of desires to increase hedonistic pleasure, decrease pain, and postpone death. Currently, excess consumption, the negation of death and hedonistic desires, have become forms of necropower and represent a further stage than biopolitics. Necropower produces diseased and addicted bodies to manage remaindered populations through the creation of the for-profit pharmaco-industrial and processed foods complex and the dismantling of social welfare infrastructures. Necropower manifests itself through slow violence, subjugating forms of life through the perspective of death and illness, leading to a contemporary epidemic of inflammatory diseases (depression, Alzheimer’s, IBS, diabetes etc.), addictions and feminicide. In our toxic world, moreover, we find pleasurable and desirable perfumes, cleaning products, foods, commodities laden with chemicals and commodities manufactured through enslaved labor and extractivism. All of these ultimately damage us and the planet, so, How is it that we are doing this to ourselves? Can the drive to waste: populations, commodities, unasimilable trash leading to a metabolic rift become something else? Perhaps due to colonization of the unconscious by the capitalist machine and corporate interests, desire has been transformed into a desire for self-destruction. This talk will be drawing on the theoretical and literary corpus of Walter Benjamin, Emile Zola, Pierre Klossowski, Annie Ernaux, Neferti X.M. Tadiar, Mark Fisher, Franco Berardi,  Silvia Federici, and modern and contemporary art practices of Remedios Varo, Yoshúa Okón, Jo Ann Callis, Ane Graff, Rebecca Belmore, Regina José Galindo, and Safe (1995) by Todd Haynes.

Irmgard Emmelhainz is a global scholar, writer and professor based in Anahuac Valley (Mexico City). She holds a Ph.D. from the Art Department at the University of Toronto (2009) and an M.A. in Art History, Theory and Criticism from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2004). Her work on film, the Palestine Question, art, culture and neoliberalism has been translated into over a dozen languages and has been presented at an array of international venues. Her works in English include The Sky is Incomplete: Travel Chronicles in Palestine (forthcoming, Vanderbilt 2023),  Toxic Loves, Impossible Futures: Feminist Living as Resistance (Vanderbilt, 2021), The Tyranny of Common Sense: Mexico’s Postneoliberal Conversion (SUNY 2021), and Jean-Luc Godard’s Political Filmmaking (Palgrave, 2019). She is currently curatorial research fellow at the Blackwood Gallery at U of T working on a book project and exhibition titled Gut_Brain. She is a faculty member of La Esmeralda, National School of Engraving, Painting and Sculpture in Mexico City.

For further info, please contact Professor Comay at