What makes us a person, our finest affinities and broadest dislikes, is achieved on multiple levels. They terrify for their arbitrariness, for being primarily outside our control, though we usually think of their results as emanations from our own desire or will. We might consider two such levels as rhythms of experience or significance, each proceeding in its own time: the first, the social dimension, what is variously called structure or mores or intersubjectivity, the realm of relations between subjects which is as much proscriptive as it is prescriptive, which determines possible relations between subjects before any two or three or more meet in actuality; the second is actual lived experience, the irreducible manifold that a person experiences as he or she moves through the world that takes up significance and is channeled in a large way through and by the structure of relations between subjects. This has ramifications that spread outward like a slow growing vine: our friends and lovers, our rivals and enemies, are not so in virtue of some inner quality but only as they have been positioned in relation to us both in structure and the world; positioned in relation to us culturally and in space and in time. Consider childhood friends: they were so for reasons of chance and ritual as much as personal affinity (leaving aside the question of how affinity is conditioned by structure in the first place): we fell in with them because they were in our class at school, because they lived on the same street, because both their and our parents required we attend Sunday school, because of innumerable chance events that occurred in such a way that a structurally sanctioned relation could arise. This can seem unsettling: our affinities and aversions are doubly conditioned by histories beyond us, and what remains of them is largely contingent on those same histories. Which leaves us with a question of how to relate to monstrous history in a manner suitably critical, to ply what agency we do have, and to what end.
Les arts ne prêtent jamais aux entreprises de la domination ou de l’émancipation que ce qu’ils peuvent leur prêter, soit, tout simplement, ce qu’ils ont de commun avec elles : des positions et des mouvements des corps, des fonctions de la parole, des répartitions du visible et de l’invisible. Et l’autonomie dont ils peuvent jouir ou la subversion qu’ils peuvent s’attribuer reposent sur la même base — Jacques Rancière, Le partage du sensible, p. 25