The Nonappearance of Certain Results

Cameron Hu
Jonathan Liebembuk

This paper considers two scenes of the liberal state’s apparati of detection and surveillance — one drawn from nineteenth century American literature, the other from an ongoing ethnography of urban Indonesia— in which spectacles of disclosure turn out to reveal“nothing.” We aim to describe a species of disclosure in which a disclosure’s dazzling form — that is, spectacular disclosure as a dramatic social performance — outstrips its content and eclipses the disclosed thing. We place “nothing” in quotations because such spectacles ultimately reveal themselves as devices in broader dramatic structures of sociopolitical life. We offer an account of such scenes as engines that move readers and polities through endless cycles of suspicion, investigation, and revelation. Rather than generating “closure,” or initiating a new state of affairs, these scenes of disclosure appear as phases in a closed circuit, to be cycled through again and again. We argue, further, that through such compulsive repetitions specific political forms gradually congeal and consolidate.