First, I’d like to thank Jodi and Matt for their kind invitation to join Long Sunday as a contributor. For those readers who do not know me, my name is Matt Calarco and I teach philosophy at Sweet Briar College and contribute on occasion over at I cite. I have been meaning to post something here at Long Sunday for a couple of months, but have (much to my shame) failed to follow through. I could offer the usual excuse of being too busy (which would not be false), but a more honest reason could be given.
The more honest reason is that I am never quite certain of how to insinuate myself in the debates that go on at Long Sunday, I cite, The Weblog, and other similar blogs I frequent. The uncertainty stems from my predisposition to approach contemporary radical politics, activism, and theory from a deeply non-anthropocentric perspective—a perspective that is, I take it, not widely shared by most readers of and contributors to these blogs. While some contributors (primarily Deleuzeans, with whom I am very close for obvious reasons) offer occasional nods to developments in transhumanist thought and radical environmentalism and their promise for contemporary political struggles (and I loudly applaud such posts, if only to myself in my living room), I almost never see any parallel discussion of the role that radical animal politics/theory/studies might or should play in these same struggles. Similarly, the theorists who are most admired at these sites are rarely, if ever, taken to task for their brazen and dogmatically metaphysical anthropocentrism.
But, the comments on Jodi’s recent post on “A Fox” (which was in turn inspired by a post over at Infinite Thought), combined with a recent increase in attention given to animal studies by leading theorists (for example, Donna Haraway, Jacques Derrida, and Giorgio Agamben) and various Marxists, made me wonder whether this state of affairs might slowly be changing. Along these lines, I found the following comment by Anthony Paul Smith on Jodi’s “A Fox” post at I cite to be particularly interesting:
As other "Theory"-literate and serious denizens of the blogosphere duly note, Specters of Marx is a book that continues to look better with each passing year. Generous, intricate and faithful expositions of Derrida's later political thought, meanwhile, are so few and far between that a recent article by Ross Benjamin and Heesok Chang (ProjectMuse) is most welcome, and also conveniently works as a rather natural continuation of our Spivak (and Europe, and technology, and democracy) discussions.
Suffice to say that many familiar themes make an appearance. I provide some brief excerpts and comment below the fold, as the authors are friends and were kind enough to share a copy. (Those interested and without Muse access may I suppose ask very nicely via email.) The excerpts are by no means generous enough, as indeed the article covers quite a lot of ground, including responsible forays into anonymous internationalism (composed of "no one" who is , nevertheless, "not just anyone" – cf. Thomas Keenan; recalling also Blanchot's communism), Spivak's (partly just) criticisms in Ghostwriting, Derrida's distinctly atheist transformation of Benjamin's 'weak messianism' and Roland Barthes' reflections on the photograph among other things. The bold and truly excellent SUBSTANCE Magazine was once kind enough to grant us a generous "fair use" permission to quote from its "Counter-Obituaries" issue on Derrida from some time ago...so consider this too a first step, if you will, toward a more precise engagement there.
From the key orienting and introductory 'graph (or rather, a bit of graft on my part, as the framing, justifying work performed by introductions certainly is important to get right):
As admirable as [their] aims may be, Habermas and Derrida’s proclamation inevitably raises the question of their global bias. Although their article closes by “renounc[ing] Eurocentrism,” it seems nonetheless to reassert a particular European obligation to act on behalf of the world. American political philosopher Iris Marion Young objects to the publication’s premise in an essay for the web-based journal openDemocracy. She asserts, “Europe needs not globalism but a provincialism that will enable a dialogue of equals with the rest of the world.” Young points out that the anti-war rallies of February 15, 2003 were planned at a World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre in January 2003 and, moreover, took place in hundreds of cities throughout the world. Such a “coordination may signal the emergence of a global public sphere, of which European publics are wings, but whose heart may lie in the southern hemisphere.” Though [Iris Marion] Young correctly calls into question their geopolitical assumptions, a closer evaluation of Derrida’s key statements makes clear that his position on Europe is distinct from the one Habermas sketches in their jointly signed text* [...]
Contrary to his press, Derrida never made a secret of his allegiance to the European Enlightenment. Our title, “the last European,” is meant as a tribute and a provocation, a corrective to the idée fixe that “deconstructionism” seeks to corrode Enlightenment ideals. The allusion to Blanchot’s Le dernier homme notwithstanding, it is unlikely Derrida himself would have recognized the descriptive pertinence of the phrase or accepted its eschatological pathos. We certainly do not wish to suggest that he clung to the Continent. On the contrary, the globe-trotting itineraries of his teaching and lecturing – in particular his numerous visiting professorships in the US – imparted a decisively non-European competence and tonality to his numerous public stances. The topic of European identity, he admitted, is predictably tired: “Old Europe seems to have exhausted all the possibilities of discourse and counter-discourse about its own identification” (Other Heading 26). And yet, paradoxically, European identity has never really been taken up in the promise that it holds for the future. For Derrida, this at one and the same time old and young identity is a fine example of Hamlet’s famous declaration that “the time is out of joint.” In the following, we argue that this temporal rift is precisely what compelled him to speak in the name of Europe.
The authors proceed to engage first with Derrida-Valéry in a manner that deserves to be quoted at some length, though again I will limit myself:
Valéry’s texts figure in The Other Heading, then, as telling, modernist examples of the Eurocentric idealism that continues (in a somewhat threadbare mode) to animate the West’s cultural politics. To Jameson’s account of Derrida’s strategic use of Valéry we would only add that Valéry does not simply function as the object of an ideology critique. His outmoded Eurocentrism also serves, paradoxically, to advance Derrida’s deliberation on the future of Europe. Valéry forcefully elucidates the expansive limits of a high cultural European self-understanding, and thereby, points a way out from within....
* [Sadly and rather inexcusably, the actual Habermas statement co-signed by Derrida appears to be unavailable online...or at least eluding my night's efforts.]
Everyone is familiar, even if they haven't come across this particular quotation from Rorty, with the comment that Western metaphysics is grounded in 'dualisms.'
'Platonism'...refers to a set of philosophical distinctions (appearance-reality, matter-mind, made-found, sensible-intellectual, etc.): what Dewey called a 'brood and nest of dualisms.'These dualisms dominate the history of Western philosophy, and can be traced back to one or another passage in Plato's writings. Dewey thought, as I do, that the vocabulary which centers around these traditional distinctions has become an obstacle to our social hopes. (Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope, xii)
Derrida on biography, the fragment and the whole story, innovation and the academy.
(Requires flash plugin on browsers - I think it's the one available for download here)
(The following is a guest by John Barner, author of the weblog Slow Learner.)
On February fifteenth of this year, the partisan lost a friend.
Anna Marly (formerly Anna Betoulinsky) died at the age of 88, leaving behind a legacy that included two variations on the theme of the partisan. The Chant des Partisans (1943), was initially written by Marly in her native Russian and was translated, with Joseph Kessel and Maurice Druon, into French. At the same time, Resistance fighter Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie penned the lyrics to another song, to a tune of Marly’s, entitled La complainte du partisan (1943). Armed only with her voice and a guitar, Marly would travel around London to perform the songs either for BBC radio broadcasts (heard by comrades via pirate radio in France) or small audiences. The former has risen to anthem status in France, while the latter is perhaps best known for its inclusion (in a modified form) on Leonard Cohen’s Songs from a Room (1969). In his theorizing of the partisan, Carl Schmitt notes that a historian “finds examples and parallels in history for all historical situations”1. Given that I have spent a significant portion of my life as a musician and songwriter, I have written the following while searching, in a way, for a lyrical parallel in the example of Marly’s songs—a voice, perhaps, that embodies (or is embodied by) Schmitt’s Theory of the Partisan.
The following is a guest post by Brett Neilson, blogger at the irregular Life During Wartime.
1. ‘Triumphant global finance capital/world trade can only be resisted with irony.’ I am simultaneously drawn and worried by this claim from Spivak’s 2000 essay ‘From Haverstock Hill Flat to U.S. Classroom, What’s Left of Theory.’ Perhaps this is because the work of irony is never done. Reaching on the one hand toward insubordinate refusal and on the other toward an unbearable ontological lightness, irony holds forth a promise it cannot keep. As such, it provides no chart of programmatic action--no twelve steps for overcoming global capitalism. Its tactics are inevitably polluted with ideological longings that, as Spivak’s teacher Paul de Man points out, it can know but never quite overcome.
Irony divides the flow of temporal experience into a past that is pure mystification and a future that remains harassed forever by a relapse within the inauthentic. It can know this inauthenticity but can never overcome it. It can only restate and repeat it on an increasingly conscious level, but it remains endlessly caught in the impossibility of making this knowledge applicable to the empirical world
Is this precisely the impossibility that drives Spivak to rewrite her observations on reading Marx after Derrida so many times?
You'd think that issues of Canon-formation and feminism would be of great interest to those concerned with the future of literature.
1. "Scattered Speculations on the Question of Value" is, perhaps, for those who arrive at it from literature, cultural studies, philosophy or similar, Spivak's most 'difficult' or elusive of essays. It seems to be the one that, more than any other, makes readers blink, their eyes glaze over.
Sometimes, at best, this is expressed as a bewilderment as to what might be at stake in the argument or, as a slightly different question, as a consideration of what is at put at stake in reading at a particular conjuncture. At other times, with a more or less implicit embarrassment that Spivak herself notes, the readers' gaze is averted from the discussion of 'economics', or better: labour-power and value - which is to say, that which is least familiar and proper to the aforementioned disciplines but which, as it turns out, the essay is about. Other times, still, the confusion that results from Spivak's indisciplined writing cuts the other way. But, indeed, "before there is language, there are languages", as someone would say (though, it remains to ask whether this statement exists in its temporal, integrative sense, as the hope or promise of a lingua franca).
Nobody is invested here, it is said. Nobody wants to risk taking a firm stand for Spivak. As Terry Eagleton once announced, in post-colonial studies this dilemma is itself practically a cliché. One must renounce just in order to belong (meanwhile "individualization belies a collective lifestyle," Ulrich Beck has muttered). Very well though, let me play the role, or play at the role, at least (we are all role players here, to some degree, as everyone surely knows; bloggers are not serious). There is a sort of enviable gravity to the sacrificial victim, after all. Still, I've very little genuine desire to play at being, as Eagleton also gibes, "that ultimate source of embarrassment, [the] devoted acolyte."