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HumAnimal: Race, Law, Language

Kalpana Rahita Seshadri
Series: Posthumanities
Volume: 21
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    HumAnimal explores dehumanization as the privation of speech. Taking up the figure of silence as the space between human and animal, it traces the potential for an alternate political and ethical way of life beyond law and suggests that humAnimal, as the site of impropriety opened by racism and manifested by silence, can be political and hazardous to power.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8146-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. PREFACE What This “Book” Is About
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION The Trace of the Political
    (pp. xiii-xviii)

    This project takes the risk to discern the prevalence of what can be termed nonsovereign power, a power without right, as that which empties the legitimized power of disciplines and law (moral and juridical). The risk lies in thinking of the practice and prevalence of such neutralizing power as the temporal spacing that is constitutive of all named identities—what Derrida indicates as “trace” or the play ofdifférance—thereby disclosing it as the site of the biopolitical. Despite the differing historicity of the biopolitical perspective from the deconstructive, and the difficulty of bringing the interrogation of presence (or oneness)...

  5. I. Language and Silence

    • The Mute Prince
      (pp. 3-4)

      Once, a much-longed-for heir was born to the powerful and wealthy king, Sakka of Benares. There was great rejoicing throughout the kingdom. When the baby was one month old, he was dressed in fine clothes, fed sweetened milk, given the name Temiya (for he was born on a rainy day), and placed on the king’s lap to witness his father’s great power as he held court. Four criminals were presented to him. The king ordered the first to be put to death, the second to be imprisoned for life, the third to have his body impaled, and the fourth to...

    • ONE First Words on Silence
      (pp. 5-40)

      In 2003, the Animal Rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) launched an ad campaign using 60-ft. panels that juxtaposed photographs of Jews in concentration camps with those of caged animals in a crowded factory farm. The caption paraphrased the Yiddish writer Issac Bashevis Singer’s famous line from the short story “The Letter Writer,” namely: “To Animals, All People Are Nazis.” Allusions to the “eternal Treblinka” set off an outcry of protest, leading the highest court in Germany to rule the ads as offensive. In the United States, the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP (in reference to...

    • TWO The Secret of Literary Silence
      (pp. 41-62)

      The above epigraphs propose a project—the task of inquiring into what Derrida terms “limitrophy.” “Limitrophy is therefore my subject. Not just because it will concern what sprouts or grows at the limit, around the limit, by maintaining the limit, but also what feeds the limit, generates it, raises it, and complicates it. Everything I’ll say will consist, certainly not in effacing the limit, but in multiplying its figures, in complicating, thickening, delinearizing, folding, and dividing the line precisely by making it increase and multiply” (Derrida,Animal That Therefore, 29). Following Derrida, then, the “limitrophy” of this chapter is the...

    • THREE Law, “Life/Living,” Language
      (pp. 63-108)

      To probe the secret of literary silence is to discover the paradox of a certain iconoclastic fidelity to tradition and prestige. Modernism’s commitment to the avant-garde, insofar as it thrives upon and nurtures literary silence, is revealed as more deeply implicated in the structure and demands of sovereignty than any other genre. Clearly, its relevance to humAnimal silence as the potential to neutralize the force of law and its decision to suspend itself is minimal—perhaps even a distraction. As Susan Sontag says in reference to the great modernists, “to be a victim of the craving for silence is to...

    • FOUR Between Derrida and Agamben
      (pp. 109-136)

      The task of bringing together the project of deconstruction and the perspective of biopolitics not only requires thinking power as the exhibition and deployment of the trace, but also asks to what extent the “science” of writing delineated by Derrida as grammatology intersects with the concept of thedispositif, in Agamben’s sense, as the social apparatus of disciplinary capture. But this is only one side of the coin. The other side is to ask how the deconstruction of presence is being thought from the perspective of the analytics of power. In the following, I attempt to follow Agamben’s relationship to...

  6. II. The Exemplary Plane

    • The Exemplary Plane
      (pp. 139-140)

      That there is something absurd about citing historical examples of life lived in the suspension of law’s relation to language is indubitable. For how can a life that is marked by the singularity of its exceptional situation pretend to exhibit anything typical in the sense of belonging to a class of which it is a part? The problem of the example and its relation to other rhetorical modes of expressing part-whole relations is taken up by Agamben in his essay “What Is a Paradigm?” Referring to his analysis of figures such as thehomo sacerand themusselman,Agamben says,...

    • FIVE The Wild Child: Politics and Ethics of the Name
      (pp. 141-180)

      When looking through the portrait gallery of rogues and outlaws ranging from criminals, the insane, bums, social dropouts, hermits, ascetics, monks, and even gypsies and the legendary thugs of British India, the wild child stands out as the most particular of the particular. For what distinguishes the wild child is its relation to language. Unlike thugs and gypsies who are marked as rogues due to the secret languages they employ, the wild child is in language insofar as it is silent and does not speak. In other words, the wild child alone seems to occupy a zone of indistinction between...

    • SIX The Wild Child and Scientific Names
      (pp. 181-194)

      The wild child is more than a concept. Insofar as he or she is a product of the historical discipline of scientific naturalism, which Foucault suggests is a discipline of naming, this incorrigible figure appears within its annals as a problem. In attempting to name the wild child, the discipline faces a unique problem that troubles its very epistemic and discursive foundations.

      Let us first take up the politics of the name of the wild child as it appears in the works of the naturalists of the classical era on what might be termed the epistemology of life. Deprived entirely...

    • SEVEN HumAnimal Acts: Potentiality or Movement as Rest
      (pp. 195-260)

      Among the better-known books by the Swiss writer Max Picard is a small volume of fragmentary notes and observations first published in 1948 entitledThe World of Silence. For the most part, Picard associates silence with the fullness of the ineffable—a theological experience particular to man; however, in one of his extended pastoral visions he conjures the peasant’s life as one imbued with silence but in the material terms of an original “vocation”:

      The life of the peasant is a life in silence. Words have wandered back into the silent movements of man. The movements of the peasant are...

  7. In-Conclusion
    (pp. 261-264)

    Let me then tell a story—a paradigmatic story of hospitality drawn from theBhaghavata Purana, book 10, cantos 80–81. It is the story of Krishna and Sudama, also known as Kuchela (a surname or epithet). It is a surprisingly simple story, enigmatic in its lack of didacticism and moral allegorization. Sudama or Kuchela is a learned but impoverished Brahmin. His good and long-suffering wife suggests that he visit his old school friend Krishna, who is now the king of Dwaraka and married to Rukmini, known as the incarnation of Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune. Sudama agrees, and takes...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 265-278)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-288)
  10. Index
    (pp. 289-310)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 311-312)