American Sociological Association

Elusive Events

The purpose of What Is an Event? by Robin Wagner-Pacifici is to “build a model for the analysis of events in general” (p. 3). To this end, it develops an “analytical apparatus, termed political semiosis,” the “basic features” of which are “performatives, demonstratives, and representations” (Chapter 1). At the forefront of this endeavor is the attempt to understand how “events take shape” (pp. 10, 83, 91, 109, 140) given the “grounds from which they erupt” (p. 48) and the “ruptures” that set them off (p. 105). “To model the emergence of event forms and track their flows,” the book “works through exemplary cases” (p. 3): “9/11” and its aftermaths (Chapters 1 and 6), six paintings, one sculpture, three personal accounts, the killing narrated in Albert Camus’s novel, The Stranger (pp. 78, 81), the killing in Kamel Daoud’s novel, Meursault, contre-enquête (pp. 81–82), the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman and the trial that followed (pp. 78, 80), the “French Revolution” (pp. 88–89), the “Paris Commune” (pp. 100–115), and posters displayed during the May 1981 referenda in Italy (pp. 118–20).


Ivan Ermakoff





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