Omnicide: Mania, Fatality, and Future-in-Delirium (review) [Book Review]

Philosophy East and West 69 (4):3-6 (2019)
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Omnicide: Mania, Fatality and Future-in-Delirium (2019) finds Iranian-American philosopher and comparative literature theorist Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh carving the figure of the diffracted neo-Bedouin wanderer, whose mania we tail through the book’s haunted pages. The book’s namesake, “omnicide,” refers to the complete and total erasure of the Earth--the term has most recently been generally applied in ecological contexts, most markedly in regards to the Anthropocene and futurology. However, it is the explicitly poetic and literary intersection between mania and the grotesque that Mohaghegh inches us towards, lifting omnicide from its proscriptive use in the Western philosophical/sociological tradition and goading it towards an unfamiliar cryptic terrain. Surveying ten contemporary Middle Eastern poets and fiction writers, including Sadeq Hedayat (Iran), Réda Bensmaia (Algeria), Samuel Adonis (Syria), Joyce Mansour (Egypt), Forugh Farrokhzad (Iran), Ibrahim al-Koni (Libya), Ahmad Shamlu (Iran), Ghada Samman (Lebanon), Mahmoud Darwish (Palestine) and Hassim Blasim (Iraq), Mohaghegh parses curious stanzas and plucks spectral paragraphs from myriad texts so as to navigate the largely occluded and excised narratives of the contemporary Middle Eastern philosophical-literary canon. Not only does Mohaghegh acuminate the multifaceted question of mania and its variegated networks, chambers, byways and sunken burrows--so as to juxtapose two different world literatures (East and West)--but Mohaghegh also illuminates this oeuvre to affront the Western psychoanalytic treatment of mania as an exclusionary vessel. Thus, despite Mohaghegh avoiding any explicit references to Western philosophers and scientists, both the codified dictum of the medical decree and the hyper-genealogical superlative tradition of Georges Canguilhem, Michel Foucault and their contemporaries rankle Omnicide’s annals.

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