ABSTRACT

In this succinct and eloquent passage, Marks connects a number of key facets of conventional Enlightenment thinking on aesthetics: pleasure, sensory hierarchies, colonial power and knowledge. But the development of aesthetics was, like colonial domination of the ‘Orient’ itself,2 a multi-layered, uneven and contested process. Despite the repetitious and over-determined practices, discourses and debates which were intended to achieve the complete cultural and political dominance of the ‘West’ over the ‘East’, and the ‘rational’ over the ‘sensual’, hegemony was never attained in either sphere. That is not to say that the material and ideological practices which constituted ‘Orientalism’ were anything less than iniquitous and exploitative, it is simply to argue that resistance and exchange were always also part of the relationship. So too, the traditional sensory hierarchies, and the epistemological order which they signalled within aesthetics and beyond, were never undisputed. Indeed, exploring the radical potential of aesthetics to ‘reorient’ subjects through pleasure, knowledge and multi-sensory encounters with difference is still possible and pertinent, if exhausting.