This volume brings together scholars of philosophy, law, and literature, including prominent Derrideans alongside activist scholars, to elucidate and expand upon an important project of Derrida’s final years, the seminars he conducted on the death penalty from 1999 to 2001.
Deconstructing the Death Penalty provides remarkable insight into Derrida’s ethical and political work. Beyond exploring the implications of Derrida’s thought on capital punishment and mass incarceration, the contributors also elucidate the philosophical groundwork for his subsequent deconstructions of sovereign power and the human/animal divide. Because Derrida was concerned with the logic of the death penalty, rather than the death penalty itself, his seminars have proven useful to scholars and activists opposing all forms of state sanctioned killing.
The volume establishes Derrida's importance for continuing debates on capital punishment, mass incarceration, and police brutality. At the same time, by deconstructing the theologico-political logic of the death penalty, it works to construct a new, versatile abolitionism, one capable of confronting all forms the death penalty might take.
Introduction: From Capital Punishment to Abolitionism: Deconstructing the Death Penalty
Stephanie M. Straub
Part I: Reading Derrida’s Death Penalty Seminars
1. Beginning with Literature
2. Derrida and the Scene of Execution
3. Always the Other Who Decides: On Sovereignty, Psychoanalysis, and the Death Penalty
4. The Death Penalty and Its Exceptions
Part II: Derrida and His Interlocuters
5. Derrida at Montaigne: A Stay of Execution
6. “Bidding Up” on the Question of Sovereignty: Derrida Between Kant and Benjamin
Part III: Extending Derrida’s Analysis
8. A Proper Death: Penalties, Animals, and the Law
9. Figures of Interest: The Widow, the Telephone, and the Time of Death
10. Opening the Blinds on Botched Executions: Interrupting the Time of the Death Penalty
Part IV: Derrida and Capital Punishment in the United States
11. Furman and Finitude
12. The Heart of the Other?
13. An Abolitionism Worthy of the Name: From the Death Penalty to the Prison Industrial Complex
List of Contributors
Deconstructing the Death Penalty is an important collection of essays on a single work by Jacques Derrida. Among its authors' impressive credentials is their rich knowledge of the philosopher’s corpus of work, manifest on every page. Given that these seminars are at the core of Derrida’s life-long and, in his latter years, explicit and over-riding concern with sovereignty, with the human and the animal, and with state violence, the attention this volume devotes to them is of crucial importance. It offers an indispensable reckoning with deconstruction’s legacy and relevance to current debates around the question of sovereignty and the state’s monopoly on violence.
University of California, Riverside