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  1. Dasein in Silence

    November 25, 2012 by Fan


    Dasein in Silence


    Fan Zhang

          In Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979), the Stalker, a village idiot, leads the Writer and the Professor to the forbidden center of an industrial ruin said to be the key to the individual happiness and human future. The two intellectuals are disappointed, agitated and argumentative, but the idiot falls into sound sleep by a creek. In the creek, submerged under the polluted water, there is an abandoned icon of John the Baptist. A black dog suddenly appears from nowhere, standing by the village fool in silence.

    The cinematic imagery sheds light on Heidegger’s Letter on Humanism. Let’s begin with Heidegger’s frustration at the limits of textual language:


    “… the questions raised in your letter have been better answered in conversation. In written form thinking easily loses its flexibility … it is difficult … to retain the multidimensionality … [by contrast] speaking remains purely in the element of Being.” (Heidegger 1972:219, my emphasis).


    Ostensibly concerning a mere technical detail of writing, the meaning of the passage might be deeply rooted in Letter on Humanism’s core idea, which I believe is the importance of a true essentialism, or, an authentic humanism (Heidegger 1972:227). For Heidegger, humanism as understood in Western philosophical tradition is a distortion of the original meaning of essence, because it is built on an artificial dichotomy of essence and actuality and a false opposition between soul and body (Heidegger 1972:229). When one pits essence against actuality, one diminishes essence and loses grip on it. But where to get hold of the original essence? It’s in language, “the house of the truth of Being” (Heidegger 1972:223). Two observations follow this proposition.

    The first is Heidegger’s colloquialism. Some of his unique terms such as Dasein (Heidegger 1972:229) are from spoken German. It is a technique used to bring philosophical language to its original meaning, but it also directs readers to the source of authenticity, the Volk. It’s noteworthy that Heidegger switched from Catholicism to Lutheran Protestantism in his late 20s. His philosophical stance on language, thus, might be seen in the light of Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible to German directly from Greek, bypassing Latin. Unsurprisingly, Heidegger bemoans that “… Greek civilization is always seen in its later form and this itself is seen from a Roman point of view” (Heidegger 1972:225). He rejects humanism of a Roman origin.

    The second observation is that Heidegger’s emphasis on language excludes animals from the realm of essence, because animals are (arguably) without language. Heidegger was aware of this exclusion and its inherent dichotomy I suspect he wasn’t comfortable with. The solution he came up with, crudely speaking, is to treat animals as a lesser version of human, as opposed to treating human as an evolved version of animals. His evidence is philological: anima in animals refers to “soul” (Heidegger 1972:227) – what about animals, after all, are their souls. This is also seen in his understanding of Uexküll’s bee experiment – as dissected by Agamben (Agamben 2004:52) – that animals in their captivity is not without essence but just in a state of poverty (Agamben 2004:60-61) –their souls are “closed” by environment while human souls are elevated, with the help of language, to the totality of world. Agamben considers it “undue projection  of the human world onto animals” (Agamben 2004:60) and goes on deconstructing Heidegger’s thesis in terms of the open/captivity dialectics (Agamben 2004:65).

    It’s curious that Agamben doesn’t’ treat the open/captivity dialectics in terms of language. If we treat “open” as a consequence of language, and language one of the forms of communication, we are reminded of Alfred Gell’s African chimpanzee trap: its mechanism lies in its ability to arouse chimpanzees’ curiosity and induce their thoughts; when they decide to play with the net’s trigger, they are shot by the poison arrows (Gell 1996:26) and in turn caught. Here, the hunting ground (the ground of actuality) is also the symbolic ground (the ground of essence) for both hunters and chimpanzees. Essence and actuality are unified. Humans and animals are connected. Freedom of thoughts leads to both the caputure and the captivity of the body.

    Heidegger, thus, can be faulted for stopping at language – stopping at the doorstep of Art which has the ability to communicate in silence. Art, which depends on emotions and sensuality to communicate, is also inherently animalistic.

    This brings us back to Tarkovsky’s Stalker. It’s interesting that the three human beings appear in the film do talk a lot, but they talk gibberishes. They fail to communicate linguistically in their search for inner truth. The failure is partially explained by the intellectual division of logic (or science) as represented by the Professor, poetics as represented by the Writer, and faith/ethics as represented by the village idiot – we see the same frustration at the division in Heidegger’s Letter. However, for Tarkovsky, even the colloquialism of the village idiot, the language of the Volk, fails to move the two intellectual snobs who dwell much of their thoughts on their individual triumphs and vengeances. Language is a weak agent for the purpose of grasping essence, because it can be easily manipulated by the individual. At the two ends of spiritual connection, there is art, and there is silent affinity shared by the Stalker and the dog.





    Agamben, Giorgio

    2004 [2002]. The Open: Man and Animal. Kevin Attell, trans. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


    Gell, Alfred.

    1996. Vogel’s Net: Traps as Artwork and Artwork as Traps. In Journal of Material Culture 1(1): 15-38


    Heidegger, Martin

    1972 [1947]. Letter on Humanism. In Martin Heidegger Basic Writings. David Farrell Krell, ed. Pp. 210-265. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.


    Addendum: two reading questions


    1. Is there any religiosity in Heidegger’s critique of humanism?
    2. Imaging a city-country-forest ternary system where metaphorical transitions between the three levels are going on, where would you locate the Hedeggerian transition?






  2. Escaping Essentialism

    October 20, 2012 by Fan

    Escaping Essentialism

    Fan Zhang


    What do Talal Asad and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak have in common? Both are Western anthropologists born outside the West – or to be precise, born in the liminal areas between the West and the Orient: Asad was born in Saudi Arabia to a Jewish Pole-turned-Muslim. Spivak was born in Calcutta, the West Bengal’s capital used to be the capital of East India Company. Both of them were educated and have careers in the West.

    To this extremely short list I would like to add at least three names: the literary critic Edward Said, the Chinese anthropologist Fei Xiaotong, and Melford Elliot Spiro. The inclusion of a non-anthropologist, a Chinese and a Western-born part-time psychoanalyst on the list needs justification. The justification, hopefully, would shed light on the elusive nature of the Subject, its collective representation in the name of ideology when the focus is an ideal totality, and discourse when the discussion is more empirical and object-centered. Hopefully, it would also demonstrate the importance of world history in shaping the  subject, ideology and discourse.

    Asad’s 1979 article is an attack on essentialism in anthropology. It also intends to restore an authentic Marxism. A particularly refreshing punch is thrown in the very beginning of the article when Asad denounces both the universalist camp and the relativist camp: both fail to “produce a viable theory of social change” (Asad 2006:244). Using a Foucauldian analysis of discourse and its objects, Asad points out that the reason for the failure is that social structure, “the object of change”,  is conceptualized in a wrong way (Asad 2006:244). What goes wrong? It is “constructed out of essential human meaning” (Asad 2006:245).

    The appearance of the words “essential” and “meaning” in the above sentence can be confusing, because Asad spends rest of the article criticizing anthropology’s essentialism and its over-emphasis on “meaning” as given by assumed ideology. The universalists or “rationalists”, who probably can be represented by the French top-down school (descendents of Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss and often arm-chair thinkers), pay attention primarily to cultural classification. The relativists or “empiricists”, who probably can be represented by the English functionalist school, pay attention to physicality and bodily existence and their extension in social totality. The meanings induced or deduced by both, however, are subject to a priori ideology. None of them gives  “events” or “parole” or “utterances” due consideration. None of them sees history. None of them allows human agency.

    Recent attempts at overcoming the impasse also meet with failures. Maurice Bloch in his critique of anthropology misunderstands Marxism and turns to a crude naturalism (Asad 2006:246). Bourdillon understands that “events” are not solely decided by social structure, but he still considers social structure a fundamental and indispensible way to look at social phenomenon (Asad 2007:247). Edmund Leach in his reconciliation of French structuralism and British functionalism wrongfully equates Kachin “ideology” with Plato’s metaphysics (Asad 2007:248-249), overlooking down-to-earth human realities abundant in his own ethnography. In Mary Douglas’ Africa and in her world view, individuals who don’t like dominant ideology have only two choices: adjust or leave – social structure is unchangeable (Asad 2007:251).

    What can Asad offer? Nothing new, he admits. He only wants to restore a true Marxism in which the mode of production is the true force producing history, and history is producing the change of social structure which is the basic object of anthropological discourse (Asad 2007:251-253). Marx’s concept of ideology, the crest of superstructure, is not unresponsive to and unchangeable by infrastructure, as wrongly assumed by half-baked Marxists in anthropology.

    Nothing in Asad’s critique is outside the terrain of Western scholarly tradition. But in disputing a priori approaches Asad evokes the concept of authenticity (Asad 2007:245), or in oppositional terms, the dualism of self and others, or the native and the non-Native.

    This brings us to the Spivak article and the aforementioned inclusion of the three names.

    In my extremely crude fashion, the gist Spivak’s article can be summarized as “white male chauvinists egos need brown women’s stroke”. The article itself, of course, is rather a lot more nuanced. Western intellectuals, even when they are attacking essentailism, they often stay in an essentialist glasshouse themselves – and the talks of “the Others” are often mere tropes to strengthen the glasshouse they stay in, because self or the Subject always need “the Others” and the object to be untouchable.

    Foucault and Deleuze in their deconstruction operate strictly within the Western subjectivity – they take down the old discourses but build new ones. The problem of both Frenchmen, Spivak points out, is their inability to criticize “the historical role of the intellectual” (Spivak 2010:275). They keep their intellectual toolbox closed, refusing others’ examination. As Western elite intellectuals, they only pay lip service to the oppressed mass and the Third World or other civilizations.

    The only person deconstructing from within, according to Spivak, is the “esoteric”

    Derrida who often writes in an obscure style. For Spivak, to escape essentialism is to combine authentic Marxism and Derrida’s decentering practices.

    Spivak demonstrates her position with the Indian case of  widow’s self-immolation. Her angry tone is not seen in the Asad piece but more ostentatious in Edward Said’s 1989 speech Representing the Colonized: Anthropology’s Interlocutors in which he accuses Clifford Geertz and other interpretative anthropologists’ leniency given to native perspectives is only a smoke screen: in pretending “none of us is wrong”, they are hold on to their own subjectivity and refuse native authorities (Said  1989:205-225).

    This reminds me of Melford Spiro’s criticism of Geertz, who in the 1974 speech From the Native Point of View (Geertz 1984:123-136) declares non-Western individuals have no sense of “self”. Notably, in the entire essay of Is the Western Conception of the Self “Peculiar” within the Context of World Cultures?(1993), Spiro refrains from using psychoanalytic terms: his criticizes Geertz entirely on Geertz’s terms. But the psychoanalysis’s univesalist world view is there: an essay is a verbal session of therapy, and the self (Spiro the psychoanalytical anthropologist, or Geertz the ethnographers of Bali and Morocco) and others (Geertz the anthropologist, or non-Westerners who may or may not have a sense of self) are interchangeably the same (Spiro 1993:107-153) Is this the basic assumption Freud had when he combined ethnographical materials with his clinical observations? Spiro, despite being a Western-born Westerner, deservers a place on the opening list.

    Everything new in anthropology is probably old: Malinowski was keenly aware of the issues of essentialism and native views as early as 1939 when he wrote the preface for his student, a then 21-year-old Fei Xiaotong, to the latter’s Peasant Life in China. He declares that the book marks “a new departure” in anthropology when anthropological works are done by a native among natives (Malinowwski 1939:xiii) and when anthropology is not the hobbyhorse of elite outsiders but out of practical concerns of native people in their struggles in the course of history. He ends the preface eloquently with this sentence:

    “The present account [in this ethnography] is not a record of vanished history but a prelude to a new chapter of world history that will be written not in ink but in the blood of millions.”


    Malinowski was referring to the Japanese invasion and WWII. This reminds of us the finale of his Argonaut writtern years ago in which he turns his gaze back from New Guinea to a Europe facing the looming WWI: “The science of Man, in its most refined and deepest version should lead us to … knowledge and … tolerance …, base on the understanding of other man’s point of view?” (Malinowski 1922:518). How far have we gone?





    Asad, Talal

    2006 [1979]. Anthropology and the Analysis of Ideology. In Anthropology in Theory: Issues in Epistemology. Henrietta L. Moore, and Todd Sanders, eds. Pp.244-257. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.


    Geertz, Clifford

    1984[1974]. From the Native Point of View: On the Nature of Anthropological Understanding. In Culture Theory. Richard A. Shweder and Robert A. LeVine, eds. Pp.123-136. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


    Malinowski, Bronislaw

    1922. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Long Groves: Waveland Press Inc.


    Malinowski, Bronislaw

    1939. Preface to Peasant Life in China. In Peasant Life in China: A Field Study of Country Life in the Yangtze Village, Fei Xiaotong. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.


    Said, Edward

    1989. Representing the Colonized: Anthrpology’s Interlocators. Critical Iinquiry: 15 (2), pp.205-225.


    Spiro, Melford E.

    1993. Is the Western Conceptionof the Self “Peculair” within the Contexgt of the World Cultures?. Ethos: 21(2), pp.107-153.


    Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty

    2010. Can the Subaltern Speak?. In Can the Subaltern Speak? Reflections on the History of an Idea, R. C. Morris, ed.. New York: Columbia University Press, pp.21-78.





  3. Decentring in Philosophy and Anthropology: Reading Derrida and Levi-Strauss

    October 1, 2012 by Fan


    Decentring in Philosophy and Anthropology: Reading Derrida and Levi-Strauss

    Fan Zhang


    “We need to interpret interpretations more than to interpret things” Derrida begins his Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences from his Writing and Difference (1967) with this quotation from Montaigne (Derrida 1978:278). But this is only half of the sentence. The other half is “we need more books about books than any other subject” followed by a disheartened observation: “The world is swarming with commentaries; of [original] authors there is a great scarcity” (Montaigne 2003:996). The title of the 16th-century author’s essay is Of Experience. Another quotable sentence from the piece is “I judge myself only by actual sensation, not by reasoning” (Montaigne 2003:1024).

    Overview of the book and the essay exposes a dilemma: Derrida’s book in many ways is no other than a book about other books, and this particular essay can be viewed as interpretations of Claude Levi-Strauss’ interpretations. A close reading of the essay, however, reveals that the playfulness of this dilemma (among other parallel dilemmas) is exactly the intended effects Derrida wants to create. He begins with this loaded sentence: “…something has occurred in the history of the concept of structure that could be called an ‘event’ …” (Derrida 1978:278) The conjunction of “history” and “structure” is intentional. It responds to Levi-Strauss’ sly declaration in the opening chapter of Structural Anthropology:


    “ … anthropology cannot remain indifferent to historical process and to the most highly conscious expressions of social phenomenon. But if the anthropologist brings to them the same scrupulous attentions as the historian, it is in order to eliminate … all that they owe to the historical process and to conscious thought.” (Levi-Strauss 1963:23)


    Derrida is suggesting here that even when structuralism is eliminating history, it is still in a history of its own. This gives us a chance to clarify the concept of history: Is it socio-political history? Is it cultural history? Is it history of philosophy? An observation is that even when cultural history is becoming more and more part of “history” per se, history of philosophy is often standing on its own feet on a velvet carpet outside “history”. Recalling Montaigne, we realize that the reason for this separation is that “history” is a realm of “actual sensation” while “history of philosophy” is a realm of “reasoning”.

    Deconstructing the realm of reasoning, thus, would have to be Derrida’s next step. But where is it? What does it got to do with structure? Here is the answer:


    “… the concept of structure and even the word ‘structure” are … as old as Western science and Western philosophy – and that their roots thrust deep into the soil of ordinary language, into whose deepest recesses the episteme plunges in order to gather them up and to make them part of itself in a metaphorical displacement” (Derrida 1978:278)


    Yes, “structure” is philosophy, or to be precise, metaphysics’ metaphorical displacement. Since a metaphor is inherently visual – or there will be no point to even use a metaphor – from this point on, Derrida is able to officially begin his journey of discussing visuality, language, structuralism, anthropology and Claude Levi-Strauss with metaphysics or its deconstruction very much at his heart. This is also a journey full of dilemmas.

    The first dilemma is a visual one: that between the center of structure and its periphery. Since the focus of this essay is Levi-Strauss, we might as well look at the visual representation of structure in Levi-Strauss’ terms. The first question is: Does structure necessarily contain the opposition between a center and periphery in ethnographical terms? The answer is no. In Do Dual Organization Exist?, chapter VIII of Structural Anthropology, Levi-Strauss distinguishes two types of dual structure: diametric dualism and concentric dualism. Only in concentric structure in which a core is enclosed by a circle does Derrida’s concept of center exist. Since ethnographically concentric structure is more general a form than the diametric, according to Levi-Strauss (Levi-Strauss 1963:132-166), we can follow Derrida’s argument and discuss it exclusively from now on.

    A comparison of different orders in which the philosopher Derrida and the anthropologist Levi-Strauss in discussing the same topic (“structure”/ “metaphysics”) is interesting: Derrida gives the answer right away, while Levi-Strauss works his way up, one ethnographical case after another, in the most painful way – and not being explicit in the end. But their conclusions are supplementary to each other. Here I attempt to synthesize and develop their ideas:

    The origin of center, the core of a concentric structure, is its shadow point on any point of the peripheral circle which used to be a continuous straight line until one of its component points breaks away, elevates itself high above to the sky and becomes sacred. This discontinuity, or rupture, creates a central reference point that “limit … the play of the structure” (Derrida 1978:278). Throughout Western history, the center is in various incarnations, the most central and consistent one is probably that of metaphysics while religiosity (Christianity) and para-religious or post-religious essentialism and fundamentalism of all kinds (may I include “human rights” here?) are also crucial. Another incarnation is that of ethnocentrisms, but ethnocentrism only occurs when the decentring process of globalization with its ideological product anthropology appears on the stage of history (Derrida 1978:282). The parallel efforts of decentring outside anthropology are made by Nietzsche, Freud and Heidegger. These efforts, if measured by the abandoning of metaphysics, have limited success because all three of them still operate within metaphysics (Derrida 1978:280).

    Finally comes Claude Levi-Strauss with his two conceptual breakthroughs. The first is that distinction between nature and culture, the origin of which is incest taboo that is truly universally and older than philosophy – in fact, it is at the roots of philosophy (Derrida 1978:284). This is the first successful attempt, by an anthropologist no less, to step outside philosophy. The second is his introduction of language to anthropology.

    Levi-Strauss’ brilliance can also been his admission of his theory’s mythological nature, hence a complete decentring to a non-essentialist position (Derrida 1978:286-287). But the catch here is Levi-Strauss has to rely on endless ethnographical data, or empirical evidences, or bricolage (Derrida 1978:288).

    Derrida offers his solution to the catch by introducing history we see in the beginning of his essay: What Levi-Strauss as anthropologist does is looking back for the pre-metaphysical (and prehuman/prehumanistic) origin. What can be done is to participate in the vibrant, abundant and colourful “full presence” (Derrida 1978:292). This participation can be done by “play”, which is a linguistic replacement – a hollowing process – of the once fundamental and essentialist center of the structure (Derrida 1978:289).

    Derrida’s project resembles that of Foucault’s. In fact, the opening Montaigne quotation also appears in Foucault’s The Order of Things (Foucault 1994:40), and the ending of the essay resembles Foucault’s erasing of man from the sand (Foucault 1994:387). A thorough discussion of language, particularly the tension between “phonologism” – and excess emphasis on spoken form of language” and its temporal nature – and graphical/spatial presentation of language (e.g. Chinese writing system) as discussed in his 2002 interview with Kristeva connects the two authors more tightly. My big idea is that visual representation, a key anthropological idea since E. B. Tylor’s conception of animism, is far from satisfactory. For the moment, what we can learn from Derrida, is to treat history of ideas as history, and to experience language – words, phrases, sentences – with playful “sensation”. Or as an anthropologist, to embark on an anthropology of texts. After all, Derrida kno890ws what Montaigne means, and follows the older master closely.





    Derrida, Jacques.

    1978 [1967]. Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences. In Writing and Difference, Alan Bass trans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp.278-293.


    Derrida, Jacques.

    2002. Semiology and Grammatology: An Interview with Julia Kristeva. In Positions: Jacques Derrida, Alan Bass trans. London: Continuum, pp.15-36.


    Foucault, Michel,

    1994 [1966]. The Order of Things. New York: Vintage Books.


    Levi-Strauss, Claude

    1963 [1958]. Structural Anthropology. Claire Jacobson and Brooke Grundfest Schoepft, trans. New York: Basic Books.


    Montaigne, Michel de

    2003 [1592]. The Complete Works of Montaigne. Donald M. Frame trans. New York: Alfred A. Knopf  “Everyman’s Library”.



  4. Look, Listen, Dream and Become: Chuang-Tzu and Derrida

    January 30, 2012 by Fan


    Look, Listen, Dream and Become

    Fan Zhang


    “Once upon a time, I, … dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly, I awaked, and there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man, dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man a butterfly there is necessarily a barrier. The transition is called Metempsychosis.” (Chuang Tzu 1926:32)


    Chuang Tzu concludes The Identity of Contraries with a dream. Derrida begins his deliberation on – in my humble opinion – similar subject with a gaze. In dream, one becomes the other. In looking, one is opposing the other. Dream is the conclusion. Looking is the beginning.

    Looking is the beginning of a humanism that produces “the knowledge of identities, differences, characters, equivalences, words” (Foucault 1994:386). This is a humanism Derrida intends to transcend – with a proliferation of words, equivalences, characters, differences and identities – after the gaze, and after the shame.

    But why shame? Is it really about “[the] impropriety of a certain animal nude before the other animal” (Derrida 2008:4)? I believe the word “animal” is only a trope. After all, “animals”, in common sense use, are not ashamed of being nude in front of each other. Only humans do. What he actually means, is cat the human person. The initial shame comes from his realization that a cat is a human who looks back. This moment of shame is a moment of transcendence over the human-animal distinction. It is to be celebrated. The second wave of shame, “ashamed for being ashamed” (Derrida 2008:4), however, comes from the realization that by treating the cat as human he only transcends humanism on humanism’s terms – it is not a real transcendence. Foucault’s quotes from Montaingne is never more salient: “There is more work in interpreting interpretations than in interpreting things; and more books about books than on any other subject; we do nothing but write glosses on one another (Facault 1994:40). The gaze prompts the shame, and the shames prompts the proliferation of interpretations and words, many of them in an incestuous relationship.

    Hence Haraway’s criticism of Derrida, that he “missed a possible invitation, a possible introduction to other-worlding” (Haraway 2008:20), a participation in animals’ socio-cultural world(s) as Barbara Smuts did in her interaction with baboons (Haraway 2008:23-25). By allowing himself dwelling in canonic thoughts and language, Derrida stays comfortably in “this world”. And by ignoring “philosophical thinking that goes in popular idioms” and people “who are not shaped by the institutionalized Western … canon” (2008:21), Derrida missed other humanistic ways to approach the “other world”.

    What is happening here and now might have happened there and then. The gist of the present is probably in the past. Chuang Tzu’s dream concludes a text – it also concludes, tentatively, a period of humanism (or in Chinese, ren 仁 with an individual on the left and a “two” on the right) the farthest extension of which to animals came when Mencious praised a king for his kindness to spare animals because he heard their whining on their way to the slaughter house: “If you have the sympathy for cows and sheep, you will have sympathy for your people”. Sympathy – and empathy – is one of the foundational concepts proposed by contemporary human rights writers (Ignatieff 2001:95). The domination of a Confucian humanism in the next two thousands years indicates that it might not work.

    It’s not enough to listen, to look, to read and to write. What may be needed, is to dream, and to become.





    Chuang Tzu

    1926 [286 BC] Chuang Tzu. Herbert A. Giles, transl. Shanghai:Kelly & Walsh Limited.


    Derrida, Jaques

    2008 [2006] The Animal That Therefore I Am. David Wills, trans. New York: Fordham University Press.


    Foucault, Michel

    1994 [1966]. The Order of Things. New York: Vintage Books.


    Haraway, Donna Jeanne

    2008. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnisota Press.


    Ignatieff, Michael

    2001. Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry. Princeton: Princeton University Press.





    1. Derrida’s cat emerges as a real cat, not part of “Kafka’s vast zoopoetics” (Derrida 2008:6). But in “Eating Well”, when asked “why do you … limit yourself simply to the animal?”, he answers “nothing shall be excluded. I said ‘animal’ for the sake of convenience and to use a [classical reference]” (Derrida 1995:269). Is there any contradiction here?
    2. Upon Derrida’s death, both the New York Times and the Economist published negative obituaries. The criticism is focused on his obscure style. What’s your opinion?