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Power and TimeTemporalities in Conflict and the Making of History$
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Dan Edelstein, Stefanos Geroulanos, and Natasha Wheatley

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226481623

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226706016.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Prehistory and Posthistory: Apes, Caves, Bombs, and Time in Georges Bataille

Prehistory and Posthistory: Apes, Caves, Bombs, and Time in Georges Bataille

(p.201) 7 Prehistory and Posthistory: Apes, Caves, Bombs, and Time in Georges Bataille
Power and Time

Maria Stavrinaki

University of Chicago Press

After the Second World War, the thinker who imagined the symmetrical rapport between pre- and posthistory in the most complex terms was Georges Bataille. His interpretation of history and time is all the thornier because it was completely opposed to his vision of history from the 1920s, notably as he had elaborated it in the journal 'Documents' (1929–1931). Prehistory as he had invented it in that early period undermined biological evolutionism, particularly by deconstructing the political rapports on which evolution’s political authority was founded. It had been the matrix of a contingent and formless conception of history that was devoid of any teleological compass. But after the war, Bataille placed prehistory in a highly antagonistic relationship with history. His reading of the cave paintings of Lascaux, determined by the catastrophes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, permitted him to weave a narrative of universal history. To reconstitute and analyze this narrative is to interrogate the relationships between history and fiction, between longue durée and the event, between evolutionism and catastrophism. In Bataille’s case, it allows us to track the movement of a thought that, fleeing the dystopian presentism of its era, took shelter in the Hegelian contemplation of the end of history.

Keywords:   Georges Bataille, prehistory, posthistory, end of history, Hegel, Atomic Age, Lascaux Cave

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