This paper aims to conceptualise the figure of hunchback in modern art as a visual paradigm that signals the existence of an adjacent presence generated in the production of the human subject through normalisation. I investigate how hunched posture becomes a matter in the discourse of body in modernity and explore its transgressive possibility of questioning normative upright figure fostered by biopolitical administration. Discussing hunching in relation to fragmentation and normalisation of body in modernisation, I exemplify it in the works of Théodore Géricault and Otto Dix, which depict bodily life in extreme states in social/political upheavals.
More specifically, I draw on the image of hunched creatures inhabiting threshold zone in Kafka’s stories including Odradek as its prototype, which is taken by Benjamin and Agamben for their thoughts on history and violence. Benjamin refers to hunchback as an allegorical figure that embodies distortion of time and space in history. Agamben engages with Benjamin’s image of a distorted figure of the nonhuman as a witness to the world of forgetting especially in theorising the Muselmann in Auschwitz as a place of desubjectification and survival. Hunchback can be discussed as an allegorical representation of life on the threshold, which appears in the zone of indistinction between activity and passivity in face of violent circumstances. They embody the vulnerability of human being whose life is radically exposed to violence, while they also hold onto the resistant passivity of bearing witness to the forgetting, what is excluded and unrepresentable.