Levinas and the Postcolonial

Levinas and the Postcolonial: Race, Nation, Other

John E. Drabinski
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Levinas and the Postcolonial
    Book Description:

    This monograph initiates the conversation between Levinas and postcolonial theory through a zig-zag reading, asking both how postcolonial theory challenges so many Levinasian concepts and how a Levinasian ethics is crucial for the normative dimension of postcolonial thinking.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4706-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-ix)
  4. Preface
    (pp. x-xviii)
  5. Introduction: Decolonizing Levinasian Ethics
    (pp. 1-16)

    There are many reasons to raise critical questions about the relationship between the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas and the wider intellectual reaches of colonialism. In fact, to begin, it might be worth musing over some interesting dates and their coincidences. The year Levinas published Existence and Existents (1947) and the year before Time and the Other comes into print (1948), the wide-circulation edition of Aimé Césaire’s Notebook of a Return to the Native Land appears on the intellectual scene and Léopold Senghor publishes the famous anthology of ‘new black poetry,’ Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache. Just after...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Incarnate Historiography and the Problem of Method
    (pp. 17-49)

    What does it mean to put the Other first – to enact the simple ‘after you!’ of politeness in which I remove myself from the center in order to clear space for the Other’s movement and life – as a fully developed theory of knowledge, ethics, and politics? What does it mean to claim, as Levinas does, to have overturned the force and power of two and a half millennia of Western philosophy with what is weakest and most vulnerable? What can be done with a philosophy whose most generous reading puts everything on the most precarious foundations imaginable? That...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Epistemological Fracture
    (pp. 50-88)

    As we have seen, incarnate historiography names at one and the same time the intimacy of the ethical and what extends the ethical beyond the initial borders of encounter. Incarnation bears the history of the encounter with the singular Other, but also bears the traces of a long history of violence, pain, and grievance. This insight, generated from the horizon of Levinas’s own thinking, requires a cluster of important modifications to the letter of his thought. The intimacy or closed infinity of for-the-Other subjectivity becomes, in a moment of historical stretch, obligated beyond Levinas’s own articulation of the ethical. This...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Ontology of Fracture
    (pp. 89-128)

    Reading Levinas and Spivak face to face reveals a cultural and historical complexity at the center of the language of absolute difference. Absolute difference, which locates absoluteness in a sense of difference without measure or contrast, commits parricide against the paternal line of the West, singling out, on our reading, the twin prerogatives of Parmenides and of the economy of light.

    With Parmenides and light as the lead figures, the problem of difference could be easily read as another language for or dramatic staging of the now familiar critique of the metaphysics of presence. But both Levinas and Spivak understand...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Ethics of Entanglement
    (pp. 129-164)

    With the subaltern and the theory of hybridity, we begin to bring the problem of incarnate historiography into clearer view. In particular, we see how the historical experience of colonialism challenges the meaning of difference by moving both the sense of loss and the reconfiguration of relation away from the margins and toward the center of what it means to speak (or resist speech) and to conceive place. In that movement, knowing and being are shifted away from languages of totality and sameness, and thereby begin to engage with the complex enigmas of radical difference. In that sense, the problems...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Decolonizing Levinasian Politics
    (pp. 165-196)

    To whom am I obligated? And in what sense am I obligated – to what end, with what severity, and with how much scope? Levinas’s ethics induces plenty of vertigo in the face-to-face. The character of my relation to the Other forecloses the possibility of fully adequate response; the infinity of obligation overwhelms the finitude of my person and place in the world. And yet that is my responsibility, which incarnates obligation in the same manner in which the Cartesian sense of the Infinite is thought: what comes to mind overflows consciousness as a matter of principle, not will or...

  11. Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 197-202)

    Let me begin this ending in the first person.

    In the final quarter of my Great Books program in college, I took my first course in contemporary philosophy. Though the course dealt a bit with Heidegger, it primarily concerned French philosophy, and in particular the work of Gabriel Marcel and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The course changed everything for me about my interests. I became, in many ways, a little philosopher for the first time. The professor, Robert Cousineau, pushed us to think with the ideas, rather than imitate the texts and language. That was difficult. And yet it continues to be...

  12. Index
    (pp. 203-206)