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.

Feb 7, 2011

Kojève's posthumanism

The first time I got in contact with Kojève's thinking was in Agamben's The Open, where he quotes what Kojève has to say about the End of History and what that would imply - the end of dialectics and Man. In general, I thought it was a really interesting discussion, if overall a little naïve in its understanding of history (does it really march forward towards a completion?). What I found very uncomfortable was Kojève's diagnoses of Japan and the USA's societies, in which he concluded that they were living in post-history. That made me feel uneasy, because that sounded very clearly to me as if he was saying he believed those societies had returned to a certain animal state.