This paper aims to unravel a tension between the act of naming and ‘differential relationality’. Derrida has taught us that ‘naming’ is an essentialising, and thus metaphysical gesture that works to define and circumscribe a field of work (for instance, ‘Eco-Deconstruction’), the human, and ecology. ‘Naming’ entails the beginning of the institutionalisation and sedimentation of a field, despite a ‘field’s’ claim to the opposite. The danger of such sedimentation is that it perpetuates what Derrida calls ipseity that in the history (...) of western philosophy and metaphysics has worked in contradistinction to the nonhuman (animals, environment, ecology). (shrink)
This review article offers an introductory overview of a distinctive broadly ‘deconstructive’ body of work which deserves to be more widely known. Two books in particular, by Claire Colebrook, Tom Cohen and J. Hillis Miller, are an especial focus, with their uncompromising readings of many of the assumptions and evasions in the environmental humanities. These are Theory and the Disappearing Future: On de Man, On Benjamin (London, Routledge, 2012), and Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols (Open Humanities Press, 2016).
With rapidly spreading extractive practices on a global scale, the amount of residue generated raises the question of waste management and economic externalities. Are humans, and most crucially the Earth, equipped to welcome such an exponentially increasing quantity of restants? Artworks, as inexhaustible in their readings, are congenial to this idea of irreducible remains. In this paper, I argue Derrida’s treatment of remains might provide a waste-based approach to ecocriticism which, in turns, can be leveraged to articulate an insightful reading (...) of some artworks in times of extractive overconsumption and environmental destabilisation. Lee Bae’s Issu du feu (2000) and House of Moon (2014), Emerson Pontes’s Mil Quase Mortos: Boiúna, and Rochelle Goldberg’s Cannibal Actif (2018) are three contemporary artworks that directly challenge those externalities by explicitly engaging with remains ranging from charcoal, human-made waste and oil. Through a formal analysis of these artworks and a close reading of Derrida’s Feu la cendre, ‘Biodegradables Seven Diary Fragments,’ and the seminars Manger l’autre and Rhétorique du cannibalisme, it appears that eco-deconstruction is perhaps above all a matter of engaging with the structure of remains. (shrink)
Whether deconstruction is relevant to environmental philosophy, and if so, in what ways and with what transformations, has been subject to considerable debate in recent years. I will begin by discussing some reservations regarding deconstruction’s relevance to environmental thought, and argue that they stem from an older misreading of Derrida’s work in particular as hostile to the natural sciences, and as a cultural textualism of relevance only to the interiority of a traditional canon, but unable to reach the materiality of (...) the outside environment. This attempt at refutation will permit a better understanding of the deconstructive argument for what has been called an ‘originary environmentality’ of life. On this basis, I seek to argue that deconstruction tends to be most promising to environmental questions when it shows responses to the call, not primarily for a new ethics, but for far-ranging analyses of our conception of politics. The reason for this lies in the overall deconstructive goal of exposing political and legal sovereignty, including its modern democratic understanding, to what I will elaborate as contextual or environmental finitude. (shrink)
This article explores the relationship between textuality and materiality through a reading of the work of Derrida alongside that of the experimental poet Christian Bök. Bök’s poetry exemplifies how a playful manipulation of the materiality of a text can differentially enact what might be thought of as a textuality of matter, and, in doing so, it enacts an eco-deconstructive reading of itself that draws attention to the wider eco-deconstructive nature of language. In its self-reflexive absorption with the materiality of its (...) own form, this poetry fixes its gaze inwards, revelling in the difficulty of its linguistic structures and the proliferation and frustration of meaning that they make possible. But it is precisely at the points of these inward turns that this poetry also reveals itself to be most intimately connected with other material realities. It is at the moments in which language appears most singularly itself—where the differentiality of its structures appears most particular and peculiar to it—this poetry suggests, that its differentiality replicates, touches, transforms and differs from itself in the equally differential movements of other material forms of existence. (shrink)
Although much headway has been made since the Derridean notion of the ‘general text’ was recuperated by eco-critics to imbue the philosophy of life with deconstructive rigor, the recent publication of Jacques Derrida’s Life Death seminar provides an opportunity for a renewed engagement. Parallel to his sustained elaboration of a non-dialectical reckoning with life (death) were a series of developments in the study of thermodynamic complex systems that similarly sought to demystify the pervasive vitalism within the life sciences. Derrida’s grammatological (...) interrogation of the life/death dialectic takes the ‘textualization’ of genetic life as a starting point for articulating a logic of supplementarity that reorients our position in relation to our lived environments. ‘Writing’, however, cannot help but invoke the archive along with all its destructive impulses (Destruktionstrieb). If the archive invokes the law of the house (oikos), then the archive perhaps names the archive of the archive, which Derrida was all too aware of as the site for the annihilation of memory and the release of pure loss. A grammatological reading of this entropic textuality would thus consider how the irreducibility of absolute destruction might nevertheless offer a path ‘toward the incalculability of another thought of life.’. (shrink)
These are the first published extracts of a Covid-19 diary, co-written over two years (2020–22). The authors are concerned to both record and analyse the ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic altered the sense and experience of inside and outside, home and world, self and other. Grief—both personal and ecological—is uncircumventable. At the same time, the virus provokes critical thinking on how ‘another life is possible’. Literature and music are key forces in the authors' shared and interweaving reflections.
In Biodeconstruction (2018) I argued that Derrida, in the Life Death seminar (1975–76), would have anticipated the most recent developments in epigenetics, a field in which the dogma of genetic determinism is radically challenged by noting the influence of the environment in the production of mutations in the genetic program, particularly when a genetic population is faced with a radical change in its environmental conditions, which I propose to call an ‘ecological event’. I explore a comparison between the Derridean deconstruction (...) of genetic determinism and the theoretical elaborations of epigenesis, referring to the work of Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb, Evolution in Four Dimensions (2005). Jablonka and Lamb propose a theory of genetic variation in which mutations would be the result of the interpretation of unpredictable environmental events by the individual whose survival would be in danger. Through this comparison, I show that the study of ‘interpretive Mutations’ as reactions to unpredictable environmental events can be helpful in understanding the Derridean theme of the ‘event’, rearticulating it in relation to the radical environmental changes that humanity will sooner or later face. (shrink)