Deconstructing the Death Penalty

9780823280100: Hardback
Release Date: 3rd July 2018

9780823280117: Paperback
Release Date: 3rd July 2018

Dimensions: 152.4 x 228.6

Number of Pages: 296

Edition: 1st Edition

Fordham University Press

Deconstructing the Death Penalty

Derrida's Seminars and the New Abolitionism

This volume represents the first collection of essays devoted exclusively to Jacques Derrida's Death Penalty Seminars, conducted from 1999-2001. The volume includes essays from a range of scholars working in philosophy, law, Francophone studies, and comparative literature, including established Derridians, activist scholars, and emerging scholars.
Hardback / £103.00
Paperback / £27.99

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
Peggy Kamuf

2. Derrida and the Scene of Execution
Elizabeth Rottenberg

3. Always the Other Who Decides: On Sovereignty, Psychoanalysis, and the Death Penalty
Michael Naas

4. The Death Penalty and Its Exceptions
Christina Howells

Part II: Derrida and His Interlocuters

5. Derrida at Montaigne: A Stay of Execution
Katie Chenoweth

6. “Bidding Up” on the Question of Sovereignty: Derrida Between Kant and Benjamin
Kir Kuiken

7. Calculus
Kas Saghafi

Part III: Extending Derrida’s Analysis

8. A Proper Death: Penalties, Animals, and the Law
Nicole Anderson

9. Figures of Interest: The Widow, the Telephone, and the Time of Death
Elissa Marder

10. Opening the Blinds on Botched Executions: Interrupting the Time of the Death Penalty
Kelly Oliver

Part IV: Derrida and Capital Punishment in the United States

11. Furman and Finitude
Adam Thurschwell

12. The Heart of the Other?
Sarah Tyson

13. An Abolitionism Worthy of the Name: From the Death Penalty to the Prison Industrial Complex
Lisa Guenther

List of Contributors


Kelly Oliver (Edited By)
Kelly Oliver is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, where she also holds appointments in the departments of African-American Diaspora Studies, Film Studies, and Women's and Gender Studies. She is the author of more than one hundred articles, fifteen scholarly books, and three novels.
Stephanie Straub (Edited By)
Stephanie Straub is completing a PhD in English at Vanderbilt University.

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.

David Lloyd
University of California, Riverside