In this paper I draw together the notion of the absent referent as proposed by Carol J. Adams, and the notions of literal and symbolical sacrifice by eating the other — or ingestion — advanced by Jacques Derrida, to characterize how animals are commonly perceived, which ultimately forbids productive arguments for vegetarianism. I discuss animals as being literally and definitionally absent referents, and I argue, informed by Derrida’s philosophy, that it is impossible to aim at turning them into present referents (...) without reinforcing symbolic ingestion by linking symbolic ingestion to epistemic appropriation or conceptualization. With this, I highlight the ethical importance of discussing symbolic ingestion in animal philosophy. (shrink)
Lynn Turner’s research focuses on the significance of species and sexual difference in culture and philosophy and her current work is especially concerned with the relationship between human and non-human animals. The Animal Question in Deconstruction is an exploration of this relationship in eleven essays, eight of which are new, two previously-published (in Nicholas Royle’s The Uncanny  and Kelly Oliver’s Technologies of Life and Death: From Cloning to Capital Punishment ), and one of which appears for the first time (...) in English (‘Un Réfugié’ by Hélène Cixous, initially published in L’Amour du loup et autres remords in 2003). (shrink)
Responding to Elizabeth Rottenberg's invitation to consider good signs, I first raise a question about “good” and “too good” signs by referring to a letter of Louis Althusser's that describes the risk that “too good” signs will be misread. I then turn to the distinction Rottenberg makes between deconstructive signs and Immanuel Kant's historical signs. Borrowing an image from Jacques Derrida's The Animal That Therefore I Am (2008), I suggest that we think of the task of abolition of the death (...) penalty as requiring a particular kind of strangulation of Kantian discourse, a strangulation that would reach the center of its nervous system and disarm its powers without putting it to death. Finally, I turn to a recent initiative by a Belgian nongovernmental organization (Groupe d'action dans l'interet des animaux or Global Action in the Interest of Animals [GAIA]) in their campaign to abolish the practice of castrating piglets without anesthetic, reading it as an example of a strategy that mobilizes the discourse of rights while at the same time undermining the sovereign power that sustains it. This provides an image of the sort of stranglehold with a certain lightness of touch that, I argue, Derrida's work on the death penalty prescribes as the task for unconditional abolition. (shrink)
Prompted by Derrida's work on the animal-fable in eighteenth-century debates about political power, this article examines the role played by the fiction of the animal in thinking of pity as either a natural virtue (in Rousseau's Second Discourse) or as a natural passion (in Mandeville's The Fable of the Bees). The war of fables between Rousseau and Mandeville – and their hostile reception by Samuel Johnson and Adam Smith – reinforce that the animal-fable illustrates not so much the proper of (...) man as the possibilities and limitations of a moral philosophy that is unable to address the political realities of the state. (shrink)
In this paper I focus on recent artworks by South African artist Nandipha Mntambo. I read these for the ways in which the discourse of species works within and against the humanist sacrificial economy of the subject that Jacques Derrida calls “carno-phallogocentric”. Drawing on Derrida's “metonymy of ‘eating well,'” Achille Mbembe's analysis of colonial violence, and Julia Kristeva's theory of abjection, I argue that these works inscribe and disturb a speciesist, sexual, and racial politics of animalization, and do so by (...) figuring a transgressive animality that stalks the “origins” of “the human” and troubles its carnivorous and colonial relations of “eating the other.” The works render ambiguous the humanist border that separates “man” from what he calls “the animal” and thicken the singular division between edible and inedible bodies, and literal and figurative eating. I suggest that this figures what Haraway might call an “eccentric subject”, one that not only holds open the possibility of a nonanthropocentrism but, as Haraway would say, “nourishes indigestion” at the heart of “carno-phallogocentric” power. But this is risky practice, as a recent controversy about reading Mntambo's work shows. (shrink)
Derrida asks us to consider the violence we do in the name 'animals'. The violence is both material and symbolic and relies on the elision of internal distinctions between animals. This article is concerned with what constitutes a sufficient response to violence. Animal and feminist geographies challenge instrumental abstractions of space to 'raw materials'; the suppression and/or exclusion of emotional responses to space and place; and document current and alternative engagements with animals and environments. However, to challenge violence they must (...) also address issues of power, ethical dimensions of action, and generate new conceptions of animal-human spatial relations. This article argues for a compassionate geography informed by Derridean philosophy, which reconceptualises and reconstructs animal-human spatial relations and postcolonial ecocriticism, which attends to the colonial politics of images, stories of place, and their imaginative reoccupation. (shrink)
abstract: This essay explores the connections between speculation, spectacle, and the death penalty, particularly insofar as they bear on what is “proper to man” and on the man–animal distinction. Returning to a scene of death from Derrida's seminar The Beast and the Sovereign, specifically the scene of an elephant's autopsy, we see how what he calls “the globalization of the autopsic model” of sovereignty requires the death of the animal (Derrida 2009, 296). Following Derrida, we see how man's dominion over (...) other animals is built on a model of sovereignty as necropsy that erects itself through the autopsic model of power, which ultimately is built on the scaffolding of death and the death penalty. Following the history of the death penalty, however, we see that it becomes the property of man through its exercise on animals, particularly through the capital punishment of animals, which inaugurated the codification of law in Europe, and Thomas Edison's electrocution of animals, which inaugurated the electric chair as a form of execution in the United States. Moreover, the case of Edison (who invented both the electric chair and the first moving pictures, many of which were images of execution) makes manifest the connection between spectacle, animals, and the death penalty. (shrink)
This paper evaluates Jacques Derrida’s startling claim that “the relations between humans and animals must change... both in the sense of an ‘ontological’ necessity and of an ‘ethical’ duty,” through an assessment of the ethical appeal emitted by nonhuman witnesses of catastrophe. Drawing upon contemporary theories of ethics, photography, and animality, it analyzes Charley Riedel’s iconic 2010 photograph of a bird covered in oil in the Gulf of Mexico, arguing that attending to visual testaments to disaster is one way to (...) begin to challenge an anthropocentrism that has rendered life outside “the human” unworthy of ethical and political consideration. (shrink)
First words on silence -- The secret of literary silence -- Law, "life/living," language -- Between Derrida and Agamben -- The wild child : politics and ethics of the name -- The wild child and scientific names -- HumAnimal acts : potentiality or movement as rest.
First words on silence -- The secret of literary silence -- Law, "life/living," language -- Between Derrida and Agamben -- The wild child : politics and ethics of the name -- The wild child and scientific names -- HumAnimal acts : potentiality or movement as rest.
Prologue : on the freedom of non-identity -- Otherwise than human (toward sovereignty) -- What is human recognition? (on zones of indistinction) -- Desubjectivation (Michel Foucault's aesthetics of experience) -- Becoming animal (some simple ways) -- Derrida's cat (who am I?).
Following on from The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume I, this book extends Jacques Derrida’s exploration of the connections between animality and sovereignty. In this second year of the seminar, originally presented in 2002–2003 as the last course he would give before his death, Derrida focuses on two markedly different texts: Heidegger’s 1929–1930 course The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. As he moves back and forth between the two works, Derrida pursuesthe relations between solitude, insularity, world, (...) violence, boredom and death as they supposedly affect humans and animals in different ways. Hitherto unnoticed or underappreciated aspects of Robinson Crusoe are brought out in strikingly original readings of questions such as Crusoe’s belief in ghosts, his learning to pray, his parrot Poll, and his reinvention of the wheel. Crusoe’s terror of being buried alive or swallowed alive by beasts or cannibals gives rise to a rich and provocative reflection on death, burial, and cremation, in part provoked by a meditation on the death of Derrida’s friend Maurice Blanchot. Throughout, these readings are juxtaposed with interpretations of Heidegger's concepts of world and finitude to produce a distinctively Derridean account that will continue to surprise his readers. (shrink)
This essay explores the important role played by the figure of the virgin girl at the centre of The Beast and The Sovereign. Derrida hints that she may offer a figure between the beast and the sovereign, between the two marionettes of Nature and Culture. Moreover, it seems that she is both what props up the fabled distinction between man and animal and at the same time that upon which man erects himself as sovereign lord and master. Taking Derrida's suggestions (...) further, I argue that the virgin girl both does and undoes sovereign power as phallic power. She is the figure behind the erection of sovereignty. Indeed, her appearance is both necessary and threatening insofar as she both erects sovereign phallic power and threatens to reveal its impotence. In this way, the girl operates between feminine and masculine, between Nature and Culture, between the beast and the sovereign, particularly as her virginity and its deflowering are essential to the cut between the two sides of these traditional binaries. Finally, her appearance is telling in relation to the movements and rhythms of Derrida's deconstructive approach to philosophy and literature in this seminar and in his work more generally. (shrink)
This article inquires into a paradoxical position held by the concept of ‘nature’ in Derrida's thought. While a pivotal part of his project of deconstruction is devoted to a critique of the metaphysical privileging of nature over its others (technics, culture, and so on), the same project also aims at dismantling the hierarchical binary opposition of man/animal. Insofar as the term ‘animal’ or ‘animality’ to a large extent overlaps with nature, these two strands of his thought appear to stand in (...) a significant tension with each other. I explore this conceptual tension by re-examining Derrida's early critique of the notion of nature – specifically in his reading of Rousseau – in conjunction with his later engagement with the question of animality. As my reading shows, deviating from his early approach, his later work indicates the way in which animal others (and, by extension, all living and non-living others) are indeed constituted by supplementarity and yet, in their irreplaceable singularity, exceed the very structure of supplementarity. This opens up a new way of conceiving nature, no longer as originary presence nor simply as an effect of supplementary play, but in terms of the aporetic relation between supplementarity and what may be termed ‘the unsupplementable’. (shrink)
This essay traces the history of Jacques Derrida's engagement with the question of the animal and the methodology Derrida follows in his 2008 The Animal That Therefore I Am . As Derrida demonstrates, the history of philosophy is marked from its inception by an attempt to draw a single, indivisible line between humans and all other animals by attributing some capacity to humans (e.g., language, culture, mourning, a relationship to death) and denying it to animals. Derrida thus begins by questioning (...) the supposed fact that animals do not have such and such a capacity or attribute but then quickly turns to questioning the principle by which philosophers have claimed that humans do . In all his work on the animal, therefore, Derrida questions the confidence with which humans attribute certain capacities to themselves while denying them to animals, all in the name of a pervasive and yet repressed violence against the animal world. (shrink)
The scene of philosophical interest in nonhuman animal life seems to have always been lacking in robust theoretical resources. The philosophical canon from ancient Greece onward contains only a few rare exceptions, and even in the past century, when research on nonhuman animals seems to have gained new momentum, this interest has remained confined primarily to conversations having to do with the moral status of animal life, with these discussions roughly divided into two major camps: animal rights discourse and a (...) utilitarian critique (à la Peter Singer) of that rights discourse. Against this historical backdrop, Jacques Derrida's The Animal That…. (shrink)
"When he died in 2004, Jacques Derrida left behind a vast legacy of unpublished material, much of it in the form of written lectures. With The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume I, the University of Chicago Press launches an ambitious series of English translations of these important works based upon the meticulously established original French editions." "In this seminar from 2001 and 2002, Derrida explores the persistent association of bestiality or animality with sovereignty and continues his deconstruction of the traditional (...) determinations of the human. The beast and the sovereign are connected, he contends, because neither animals nor kings are subject to the law - the sovereign stands above it, while the beast falls outside the law from below. He then traces this association through an astonishing array of texts, including La Fontaine's fable "The Wolf and the Lamb," Hobbes's biblical sea monster in Leviathan, D. H. Lawrence's poem "Snake," Machiavelli's Prince with its elaborate comparison of princes and foxes, a historical account of Louis XIV attending an elephant autopsy, and Rousseau's evocation of werewolves in The Social Contract." "Deleuze, Lacan, and Agamben also come into critical play as Derrida focuses in on questions of force, right, justice, and philosophical interpretations of the limits between man and animal." --Book Jacket. (shrink)
In ‘L'Animal que donc je suis’, Derrida analyzes the paradoxical use of discourses on shame and original sin to justify the human domination of other animals. In the absence of any absolute criterion for distinguishing between humans and other animals, human faultiness becomes a sign of our exclusive capacity for self-consciousness, freedom and awareness of mortality. While Derrida's argument is compelling, he neglects to explore the connection between the human domination of animals and the male domination of women. Throughout ‘L'Animal’, (...) Derrida equivocates between ‘man’ and ‘humanity,’ and between the biblical figures of Ish and Adam. In so doing, he repeats a gesture that he himself has insightfully criticized in other philosophers, such as Levinas. By articulating the distinctions that Derrida elides, I suggest a way of reading Genesis which avoids this difficulty, but also continues Derrida's project. (shrink)
This essay pursues a double strategy to transform our human collective relation to animal life. On the one hand, and this strategy is due to Derrida’s thought, it attempts to criticize the belief that humans have a kind of subjectivity that is substantially different from that of animals, the belief that humans have in their self-relation (called auto-affection) a relation of pure self-presence. On the other hand, the essay attempts to enlarge the idea of auto-affection to include the voices and (...) looks of animals in us. Being in us, the image of animal suffering changes who we are. Hence the subtitle. This second strategy is due to Deleuze’s (or more precisely Deleuze and Guattari’s) thought. In fact, a large portion of this essay is devoted to a conceptual reconstruction of Deleuze and Guattari’s important concept of becoming. I argue that there are two central features of this concept. First, the concept of becoming involves a process of desubjectification which allows for the image of animal suffering to inhabit our consciousness as a “feverish thought.” Second, the outcome of becoming is not only that, due to the feverish thought, we change, but also that we write about this experience in order to lead others to it. The essay ends therefore by invoking a kind of writing—folktales—as a way of calling for a “people to come” (Deleuze) or a “democracy to come” (Derrida). (shrink)
Introduction: The role of animals in philosophies of man -- Part I: What's wrong with animal rights? -- The right to remain silent -- Part II: Animal pedagogy -- You are what you eat : Rousseau's cat -- Say the human responded : Herder's sheep -- Part III: Difference worthy of its name -- Hair of the dog : Derrida's and Rousseau's good taste -- Sexual difference, animal difference : Derrida's sexy silkworm -- Part IV: It's our fault -- The (...) beaver's struggle with species-being : De Beauvoir and the praying mantis -- Answering the call of nature : Lacan walking the dog -- Part V: Estranged kinship -- The abyss between humans and animals : Heidegger puts the bee in being -- Strange kinship : Merleau-Ponty's sensuous stickleback -- Stopping the anthropological machine : Agamben's tick-tocking tick -- Psychoanalysis and the science of kinship -- Psychoanalysis as animal by-product : Freud's zoophilia -- Animal abjects, maternal abjects : Kristeva's strays -- Conclusion: Sustainable ethics. (shrink)
I challenge the age-old binary opposition between human and animal, not as philosophers sometimes do by claiming that humans are also animals, or that animals are capable of suffering or intelligence, but rather by questioning the very category of “the animal” itself. This category groups a nearly infinite variety of living beings into one concept measured in terms of humans—animals are those creatures that are not human. In addition, I argue that the binary opposition between human and animal is intimately (...) linked to the binary opposition between man and woman. Furthermore, I suggest that thinking through animal differences or differences among various living creatures opens up the possibility of thinking beyond the dualist notion of sexual difference and enables thinking toward a multiplicity of sexual differences. (shrink)
This paper is an attempt to take up the prompt in Derrida's work concerning the necessity for a deconstruction of anthropocentrism. Working through an example from Hegel's Philosophy of Right concerning animality, the paper takes up Derrida's project and connects it to the larger concern of what happens to the philosophical once it is no longer premised on the animal's exclusion but has to acknowledge the inclusion of an already present thus recalcitrant animality.
What is it to be seen (naked) by one's cat? In “L'animal que donc je suis” (2006), the first of several lectures that he presented at a conference on the “autobiographical animal,” Jacques Derrida tells of his discomfort when, emerging from his shower one day, he found himself being looked at by his cat. Th experience leads him, by way of reflections on the question of the animal, to what is arguably the question of his philosophy: Who am I? It (...) is not so much that Derrida wants to answer this question as to be free of it. His task here is to determine the sense of it— where it leads, for example, when it comes to the nature of the diff erence between himself and his cat. Unlike animal rights activists (and unlike philosophers Martha Nussbaum and Cora Diamond, who have recently addressed this issue), Derrida does not want to erase this difference but wants to multiply it in order (among other things) to affirm the absolute alterity or singularity of his cat, which cannot be subsumed by any category (such as the animal). His cat is an Other in a way that no human being (supposing there to be such a thing, which Derrida is not prepared to grant) could ever be. And here is where “the question who?” leads as well, namely, to a path of escape from absorption into any identity-machine. As Derrida puts it in A Taste for the Secret: Who am I when I am not one of you? In a hospitable world one would be free not to answer. (shrink)
Recent efforts among environmental theorists to think past human alienation from nature have made the question of the animal central, as Agamben and Derrida have shown. Expanding this question beyond the concern with suffering, Donna Haraway’s investigations of companion species take seriously the interspecies relations of work, play, and joy. The engagement of plant-human coevolution in the work of ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan complicates these questions, revealing the porous boundaries between human cultures and the plant companions that sustain them. This (...) essay proposes Nabhan’s work as a response to Haraway’s questions, exploring four mutually constitutive relations between humans and plants: lures, tricks, grief, and sacrament. (shrink)
« Neque enim numquam inter se leones aut inter se dracones, qualia homines, bella gesserunt. » « Ni les lions, ni les dragons n’ont jamais déchaîné entre eux des guerres semblables à celles des hommes. »Sans doute est-ce la publication en 1992 du cours maintenant classique donné par Heidegger en 1929-1930, Les concepts fondamentaux de la métaphysique :..
The so-called War on Terror has given rise to a virulent discourse that demonizes all those who allegedly seek to do harm and kill Americans. A veritable bestiary of demonic and bestial creatures has been thus ensembled, constituting what one cannot but call an “imperial bestiary.” Here we do not so much consider the contents of this imperial bestiary, as much as seek to analyze its grammar, that is, the way it operates on certain moral assumptions that have very pernicious (...) moral consequences. Reconstructing the work of some recent critical philosophers, a possible way to dismantle all bestiaries, whether imperial or colonial, is elaborated. The work of Mary Midgley, Jacques Derrida and Donna Haraway are brought together to develop what has been here called a politics beyond monsters, beasts, roguish animals, and infesting vermin that must be at best domesticated, and at worst exterminated. (shrink)
In recent years Derrida has devoted a considerable number of writings to addressing “the question of the animal,” and, more often than not, this question arises in a reading of one of Heidegger's texts. In order to appreciate more fully the stakes of Derrida's posing of this question in relation to Heidegger, in this essay I offer some prefatory remarks to the question of the animal in Derrida's reading of Heidegger. The essay opens with a careful analysis of Derrida's early (...) essay “The Ends of Man,” in which Heidegger's “Letter on ‘Humanism”’ is read in terms of the motif of man's “proper.” Taking my point of departure from this Derridean reading of Heidegger's humanism, I return to Heidegger's “Letter” in order to uncover the manner in which Heidegger distinguishes man's “proper” from what is “improper,” namely, animality. This reading reveals that, while Heidegger offers a convincing account of the limits of metaphysical humanism, this critical account nevertheless ends up uncritically reinforcing the anthropocentrism of this same tradition. My closing suggestion is that Derrida's rethinking of animality should be understood as an extended meditation on the various consequences and effects of this dogmatic anthropocentrism in Heideggerian and post-Heideggerian thought. (shrink)
Thoughtprints Anne E. Berger andMarta Segarra I admit to it in the name of autobiography and in order to confide in you the following: [...] I have a particularly animalist perception and interpretation of what I do, think, write, live, ...
The question of the place of what are called “animals” does not seem, at first, obviously to capture the deepest or most important imperative of a deconstructive politics devoted to challenging the constitutive structures of war, mastery, violence and sovereignty in the ‘contemporary scene’ of ‘globalization,’ or what Derrida often described as the ever more problematic and contested “mondialisation” or ‘becoming world’ of the world. And yet, as Derrida said in 1967 with respect to the “question of language” (which is, (...) as I shall argue, at bottom the same question) the question of the life of the simply living (what a longstanding tradition, still operative at the very foundation of contemporary politics, understands as that of the animal) has certainly never been simply one question among others. Indeed, as we shall see, the vanishing trace of an undeterminable “animal” life runs across Derrida’s own text from beginning to end, as it does, in a way that is at once silent, massive, and decisive, across the onto-theologically structured reality of contemporary “global” politics that this text attempts ceaselessly to decipher. This trace or track of a non-human life that crosses this global scene and unsettles its most profoundly orienting axioms cannot in fact be determined as that of “animals,” “an animal” or of “the animal” in general – for as Derrida has ceaselessly reminded us, there is not and has never been any such thing; the first and most essential imperative of a deconstructive reading committed to discerning difference and non-identity is to protest the universalizing gesture of the term or syntagm that, ignoring all of the vast differences of type, function, and characteristic, simply groups and indifferently unites all that is living and not human or plant under a single common term. Yet the deconstructive reading that tracks the trace of a non-human life across the discourses and practices of contemporary politics is nevertheless, as I shall argue, such as to call into question the political, social, theological and metaphysical privilege of the human, everywhere this privilege underlies and supports the axiomatics of what it is to speak or answer, what it is to ask or question, what it can mean to take up the life, community, or identity, of what can perhaps no longer, traversing it, be determined as that of the being that speaks.. (shrink)
This thesis demonstrates the ways that nonhuman characters in the literature of Elizabeth Bishop and Gerald Vizenor subvert anthropocentrism, thereby contributing to an ongoing reconsideration of political and ethical approaches to species discourse. Jacques Derrida's work on the philosophical questions regarding nonhuman animals is combined with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's postcolonial perspective on "subaltern speaking" and representation, while Gerald Vizenor's theory of "survivance" provides the theoretical grounding for approaching literary representations of animals within this project. The authors in this study challenge (...) false hierarchical species divisions by constructing fictional spaces that imagine the perspectives of nonhuman beings, consider the importance interspecies relationships, and recontextualize the voices and communication of nonhumans. In providing these counter-narratives, these authors establish a relationship with readers that invites them to reconsider the ramifications of their own ideology of species, reminding them that theory and practice must coexist. (shrink)
This thesis examines the question of living nature and its bearing on ecological thought in the light or the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. The difficulty of adequately thinking about living nature in the terms developed in Being and Time (1927) is taken as the starting point for the investigation. The thesis concentrates on Heidegger's thought in the period beginning with the 1929/30 lectures The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude and ending with the courses on Heraclitus in 1943 and (...) 1944. In this 'middle period' Heidegger' attempts to fonnulate a phenomenology of animal life and then a thinking of the place of living nature in the 'history of being' which does not return to the vitalist principles with which he had previously broken. The thesis considers the extent to which these attempts to find another way to think about living nature are successful. To this end a variety of lecture and seminar courses together with manuscripts from this period are discussed, some of which have only recently become available, including the seminars on Nietzsche's second Untimely Meditation and Herder's Treatise on the Origin ofLanguage and the manuscripts Besinnung and Die Geschichte des Seyns. Contemporary responses to Heidegger's thinking of living nature and its relevance for philosophical ecology, including those of Jacques Derrida, Michel Haar, Giorgio Agamben and Michael Zimmennan are re-evaluated on this basis. -. :'. j,-- The guiding concept of the investigation is the notion of poverty, which plays a variety of roles in the context under discussion. In particular, the thesis presented in The Fundamental Concept of Metaphysics that the animal is 'poor in world', has been seriously misunderstood by many commentators. If the poverty in question is properly understood as a thesiS concerning the fundamental attunement of the encounter between Dasein and living nature, then we can see how this concept of poverty develops in various directions in the following years, informing Heidegger's understanding of the capabilities of living beings, of the 'earth', the silence of language and finally allows for the development of a thinking of freedom that is proper to the earth itself, rather than a development beyond the earthly. It is argued that the notion of poverty is an essential counter to a prevalent Spinozist and Nietzschean strain in ecological thought that thinks living nature on the basis of plenum or overflow and concedes no space for a true freedom of the earth. (shrink)