Apr 4, 2014

Animal silhouettes


Many have talked about the fact that, in Derrida's deconstructive readings, the signifier he obsesses over doesn't need to be really there. To be sure, in many of his analyses he finds a specific word whose flickering of meanings will reveal the symptoms of différance at play in the given text (think of Rousseau's supplement, or Plato's pharmakon). But that is not always the case, and some have stressed that such a privileged signifier does not need to actually feature in the text. Its importance, however, is situated by the other signifiers, so that it's silhouetted against them. It may not emerge once, but its 'presence' is secured precisely by the strategic placement of all the other words. Like this:

Feb 21, 2014

Scriptural, electric animality


When writing about zoogrammatology, I often make the point that animality threatens to short-circuit language and literature (to use an expression sometimes employed by Cary Wolfe). I was happy, but not really surprised, to find further theorization of such short circuit in Of Grammatology: it is basically the complex, presuppositional relationship that obtains between writing and science:

Dec 22, 2012

New issue of ICAS journal

The latest issue of the Journal of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies is out. I'm proud to say that I have a small participation on it - a review of Tom Tyler's book CIFERAE: A Bestiary in Five Fingers which is just great, by the way.

I'm particularly curious about Iveson's article on Butler, and Taylor's about Foucault and "alimentary monsters". I plan to read and re-read a lot of Butler for my PhD, and I've been thinking whether the people who are writing about animals in Butler (like James at Critical Animal) have given any thought to the question of animal embodiment via Bodies That Matter. I don't know if they have, that's why I ask, but it should be interesting.

You can check out the issue (for free, as usual), right here.

May 26, 2012

Human exceptionalism in "Gattaca"


I say "more" thoughts because I have been thinking about and discussing Gattaca for years now, and it's certainly one of my favorite films. The persecuted underdog story, coupled with Michael Nyman's beautiful score, always gets to me. I have, of course, also detected in it the Romantic notion that being sick in a sick society is actually being healthy. As such, Gattaca is also a powerful defense of the Romantic idea of the visionary individual who, swimming against the tide - as it were -, is somehow above the law. That, together with the "no gene for the human spirit" BS seems to make for a deeply humanist film (and I use that adjective as an insult). But right now I'm interested in the cues the film presents to warrant a post-humanist reading.

Oct 24, 2011

Bare life and animal life

I'm currently reading Agamben's Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life carefully for the first time and I'm having a hard time separating the many thematic strands that comprise such issues as the homo sacer itself, bare life and sovereignty. Let me just also add that I'm also currently reading (i.e. haven't finished) the 1st volume of Derrida's The Beast and the Sovereign and Ludueña-Romandini La comunidad de los espectros: Antropotecnia ("The community of specters: Anthropothecnics"), and both can be said to be responses to Agamben, so they may still hold answers to me.

First, I'm having trouble pinpointing exactly what the homo sacer is. I know it is a life which can be killed with impunity but not sacrificed in a religious rite, what kind of life is that exactly? I guess I'm trying to establish the frame-of-mind/rationalization behind the granting of the homo sacer status, but it's hard. Let's see what I could gather so far:

Sep 18, 2011

What is language, after all? (+ a short review of "The Sensible Life")

Recently I've been attempting to think of language as having no inherent relationship to communication. I believe it could be argued that communication and transmission of information are purely accidental and contingent to certain kinds of language (such as so-called natural human languages). Language is, in this tentative opinion of mine, ultimately an issue of relating to alterity, environment, specularity, spacement, death, etc. In this sense, every living being - down to single-cell organisms - would have a linguistic relationship to their (or "the") world. Chemical reactions would eventually be identified as the model linguistic phenomenon. To a molecule or a bacteria, a chemical connection would effect linguistic meaning (I refuse to employ the expression "carry linguistic meaning"), rendering this interaction as a instance of language.

From the little I know about second order systems theory via Cary Wolfe, this formulation does indeed resemble language viewed from such perspective - systems in general would "communicate" to their environments (or constituent parts) via effects of meaning. I like how it seems that Cary Wolfe has finally convinced me that systems theory does resemble Derridean philosophy of language. Derrida's defense of writing as the ultimate model of grammaticality and diacriticity (the conditions of possibility for language, since all language must be built upon schematic differences) reflects precisely this idea that language is, after all, nothing but a relationship to a differential and "grammatical" alterity. Only specific instances of "messages" (we could call them "grammatical") trigger the effects of meaning in chemical compounds, paramecia, systems in general, or in human language. This leads me to the exciting book I'm currently reading - Emanuele Coccia's La Vita Sensibile ("The Sensible Life," or "The Sentient Life").

Jun 16, 2011

A zoogrammatology of literature

Having recently been to a major international conference here in Brazil on the interfaces between animality and literature (the name translates to "Animals, Animality and the Limits of the Human"), I'm beginning to feel even more the urgent need for the very thing my talk was about - a zoogrammatology of literary texts, literary theory and literature in general.