front cover of The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume I
The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume I
Jacques Derrida
University of Chicago Press, 2009

When he died in 2004, Jacques Derrida left behind a vast legacy of unpublished material, much of it in the form of written lectures.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 1, the University of Chicago Press inaugurates an ambitious series, edited by Geoffrey Bennington and Peggy Kamuf, translating these important works into English.

The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume 1 launches the series with Derrida’s exploration of the persistent association of bestiality or animality with sovereignty. In this seminar from 2001–2002, Derrida 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.


front cover of The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume II
The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume II
Jacques Derrida
University of Chicago Press, 2011
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.

front cover of The Biopolitics of Punishment
The Biopolitics of Punishment
Derrida and Foucault
Edited by Rick Elmore and Ege Selin Islekel
Northwestern University Press, 2022
This volume marks a new chapter in the long-standing debate between Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault regarding argumentative methods and their political implications. The essays chart the undertheorized dialogue between the two philosophers on questions of life, death, punishment, and power—an untapped point of departure from which we might continue to read the convergence and divergence of their work. What possibilities for political resistance might this dialogue uncover? And how might they relate to contemporary political crises?
With the resurgence of fascism and authoritarianism across the globe, the rise of white supremacist and xenophobic violence, and the continued brutality of state-sanctioned and extrajudicial killings by police, border patrols, and ordinary citizens, there is a pressing need to critically analyze our political present. These essays bring to bear the critical force of Derrida’s and Foucault’s biopolitical thought to practices of mass incarceration, the death penalty, life without parole, immigration and detention, racism and police violence, transphobia, human and animal relations, and the legacies of colonization. At the heart of their biopolitics, the volume shows, lies the desire to deconstruct and resist in the name of a future that is more just and less policed. It is this impulse that makes reading their work together, at this moment, both crucial and worthwhile.

front cover of Biopower
Foucault and Beyond
Edited by Vernon W. Cisney and Nicolae Morar
University of Chicago Press, 2015
Michel Foucault’s notion of “biopower” has been a highly fertile concept in recent theory, influencing thinkers worldwide across a variety of disciplines and concerns. In The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, Foucault famously employed the term to describe “a power bent on generating forces, making them grow, and ordering them, rather than one dedicated to impeding them, making them submit, or destroying them.” With this volume, Vernon W. Cisney and Nicolae Morar bring together leading contemporary scholars to explore the many theoretical possibilities that the concept of biopower has enabled while at the same time pinpointing their most important shared resonances.
Situating biopower as a radical alternative to traditional conceptions of power—what Foucault called “sovereign power”—the contributors examine a host of matters centered on life, the body, and the subject as a living citizen. Altogether, they pay testament to the lasting relevance of biopower in some of our most important contemporary debates on issues ranging from health care rights to immigration laws, HIV prevention discourse, genomics medicine, and many other topics. 

front cover of A Blessed Rage for Order
A Blessed Rage for Order
Deconstruction, Evolution, and Chaos
Alexander J. Argyros
University of Michigan Press, 1992
Recent developments in a range of disciplines, from high-energy physics to biogenetic anthropology, suggest a stunningly beautiful model of the cosmos. In A Blessed Rage for Order, Alexander Argyros explores the implications these discoveries might hold for literary criticism, for art, and, more broadly, for our understanding of the place of human culture in cosmic evolution. Argyros challenges deconstructionist paradigms, basing his own model largely on developing chaos theory, in combination with J. T. Graser's theory of evolution. He argues that the kind of dualism that postulates an unbreachable gap between human culture and prehuman nature must be replaced by a view of the universe as a communicative, dynamic, and evolving system: a model that allows the natural and cultural worlds to exist in an endlessly innovative continuum. Argyros presents a strong argument that although socio-institutional contexts play a large role in defining and constituting the world of human beings, other contexts must also be taken into account. The study draws on the work of E. O. Wilson, Douglas Hofstadter, Ilya Prigogine, and Karl Popper, among others, in proposing a new, interdisciplinary chaotic paradigm that Argyros believes can reaffirm such concepts as universality, identity, meaning, truth, and beauty.

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