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Unpacking Derrida's Library

Secrets of the Archive

This event will be streamed live and can be viewed from this link.

This Symposium will be simulcast on Thursday and Saturday in McCosh 10 and on Friday in McCormick 106.

October 9-11, 2014

October 9 marks the tenth anniversary of the death of the French-Algerian philosopher, Jacques Derrida, and—in order to register this anniversary, and to recognize his wide influence in the humanities and beyond—Avital Ronell (NYU) and Eduardo Cadava (Princeton University) are hosting a symposium entitled “Unpacking Derrida’s Library: Secrets of the Archive” that will take place October 9-11, 2014 at Princeton University. The symposium will explore the ways in which Derrida’s writings helped transform our understanding of a range of disciplines and areas in the humanities, including philosophy, literature, art and art history, music, architecture, anthropology, cultural studies, gender studies, law, psychoanalysis, and human rights. The symposium will bring together philosophers, literary critics and theorists from Algeria, Canada, England, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Scotland, New Zealand and the United States to think about the multiple legacies that his work has left for us.




3 p.m.
Welcome Remarks: Eduardo Cadava (Princeton University) and Avital Ronell (New York University)

3:15 - 4:30 p.m.
Jean-Luc Nancy (Université de Strasbourg):
“Jouis Anniversaire!”
Moderator: Avital Ronell (New York University)

4:45 – 6 p.m.
Avital Ronell (New York University):
“The Trouble with Deconstruction”
Moderator: Michael Wood (Princeton University)


10 – 11:15 a.m.
Christopher Fynsk (University of Aberdeen):
“At Home, in the Library”
Moderator: Thomas Y. Levin (Princeton University)

11:30 – 12:45 p.m.
Rosalind Morris (Columbia University):
“Derrida’s Gift: Surviving Anthropology”
Moderator: Zahid Chaudhary (Princeton University)


2:15 – 3:30 p.m.
Aristides Baltas (National Technical University of Athens):
“Writing and Justice: The Pip”
Moderator: Andrew Cole (Princeton University)

3:45 – 5 p.m.
Étienne Balibar (Université de Paris X – Nanterre):
“The Other of Derrida’s Other”
Moderator: Rachel Price (Princeton University)

5:15 – 6:15 p.m.
Recorded remarks by Judith Butler, Hélène Cixous, Hent de Vries, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Samuel Weber


10 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
David Wills (Brown University):
“Absent the Library, Whence the Archive”
Moderator: Katie Chenoweth (Princeton University)

11:30 – 12:45 a.m.
Rebecca Comay (University of Toronto):
“Resistance, desistance”
Moderator: Daniel Heller-Roazen (Princeton University)


2:15 – 3:30 p.m.
Geoffrey Bennington (Emory University):
“The End of the Books”
Moderator: Christy Wampole (Princeton University)

3:45 – 5 p.m.
Werner Hamacher (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main):
“Le sans le l’être: Some Items from Derrida’s Temporal Ontology”
Moderator: Yve-Alain Bois (Institute for Advanced Study)

5:15 – 6:15 p.m.
Closing Roundtable: Ben Baer, Eduardo Cadava, Thomas Keenan, Avital Ronell, D. Vance Smith


Etienne Balibar is professor emeritus of moral and political philosophy at the Université de Paris X – Nanterre and distinguished professor of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. He has published widely in the area of Marxist philosophy and moral and political philosophy in general. His many works include Lire le Capital (with Louis Althusser, Pierre Macherey, Jacques Rancière, Roger Establet, and F. Maspero) (1965); Spinoza et la politique (1985); Nous, citoyens d’Europe? Les frontières, l’État, le peuple (2001); Politics and the Other Scene (2002); L’Europe, l’Amérique, la Guerre. Réflexions sur la mediationeuropéenne (2003); and Europe, Constitution, Frontière (2005). He is presently Visiting Professor at Columbia University and his recent seminars there are entitled "Foucault Inventeur du Structor" and “Humanism, Anti-Humanism, and the Question of Philosophical Anthropology.”

Ben Baer is associate professor of comparative literature at Princeton University and an executive member of Princeton’s Program in South Asian Studies. His research and writing focus on questions of modernity, Enlightenment, and representation in the non-West, especially South Asia but in a comparative framework with other colonial zones and situations. He is presently completing a book entitled Modernity's Mouths: Indigenous Vanguards and Transnational Modernism in the Interwar World and a collection of essays on the trajectory of Marxism outside Europe. He also has translated and introduced Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay’s The Tale of Hansuli Turn (2011).

Aristides Baltas is Professor of Philosophy and Philosophy of Science at the National Technical University of Athens. His work has sought to bridge analytic and continental approaches to philosophy and traverses the areas of physics, mathematics, psychoanalysis, and historical materialism. He has written widely on Spinoza, Marx, Freud, Benjamin, Althusser, Balibar, and Derrida and has published several books on the relation between philosophy and politics.  He received the prestigious State Award for Nonfiction in 2002 for his book, Aspects and Objects of Self, and, recently, the Prize for Excellence in Academic Teaching, awarded by the President of the Hellenic Republic. His books include On the Epistemology of Louis Althusser (1994), Hosting Jacques Derrida: In the Margins of Science and Politics (1996), and Newton’s Unconscious and Freud’s Apple (2004). His most recent book is Peeling Potatoes or Grinding Lenses: Spinoza and Young Wittgenstein Converse on Immanence and Its Logic (2012).

Geoffrey Bennington is the Asa G. Candler Professor of Modern French Thought at Emory University. He specializes in modern French literature and thought, the eighteenth-century novel, literary theory, and deconstruction.  He is the author of several books, including with, Derrida, Jacques Derrida (1991), Legislations: The Politics of Deconstruction (1995), Interrupting Derrida (2000), Deconstruction is Not What You Think (2005), and, most recently, Not Half No End (2010). He is a member of the French editorial team preparing Derrida’s seminars, about 40 volumes, for publication with Editions Galilée, and General Editor (with Peggy Kamuf) of the English translation of these seminars.

Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley, and Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Visiting Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University. She is the author of several books on feminist theory, continental philosophy, and contemporary politics, including Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth Century France (1987, 1999), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990, 2007), Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993, 2011), The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection (1997), Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (2000), Undoing Gender (2004), Precarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning (2004), Giving an Account of Oneself (2005), Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? (2009, and, most recently, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (2012).

Eduardo Cadava teaches in the Department of English at Princeton University. He is the author of Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History (1997), Emerson and the Climates of History (1997), and, with Fazal Sheikh, Fazal Sheikh: Portraits (2011). He also has co-edited Who Comes After the Subject? (1991), Cities Without Citizens (2004), and The Itinerant Languages of Photography (2013) and is presently co-translating Nadar’s memoirs, Quand j’etais photographe, for MIT Press. His collection of essays on art and photography, Paper Graveyards: Essays on Art and Photography, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press.

Helene Cixous is Emeritus Professor at the University of Paris VII and Professor of Feminist Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. A writer, poet, playwright, and philosopher, she is the author of several books, including Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing (1994), Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint (2005), Insister of Jacques Derrida (2008), Love Itself: In the Letter Box (2008), and, with Derrida, Veils (2002).

Rebecca Comay is Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature and Director of the Program in Literary Studies at the  University of Toronto. Her research interests include nineteenth-century German philosophy, psychoanalysis, contemporary French philosophy, contemporary art and art criticism, and she is the author of Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution (2011). She also is the editor of Lost in the Archives (2002) and, with John McCumber, of Endings: Questions of Memory in Hegel and Heidegger (1999).

Hent de Vries is the Russ Family Chair in the Humanites at Johns Hopkins University. He also is the Director of The Humanities Center and a Professor of Philosophy. He specializes in Modern European thought, history and critique of metaphysica, philosophies of religion, and religion and media. His principal publications include: Philosophy and the Turn to Religion (1999), Religion and Violence: Philosophical Perspectives from Kant to Derrida (2002), and Minimal Theologies: Critiques of Secular Reason in Theodor W. Adorno and Emmanuel Levinas (2005). He is the co-editor, with Samuel Weber, of Violence, Identity, and Self-Determination (1997) and of Religion and Media (2002). He is also the co-editor, with Lawrence E. Sullivan, of Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World (2006), and, with Nils F. Schott, of Human Alert: Concepts and Practices of Love and Forgiveness (2014).

Christopher Fynsk is Head of the School of Language and Literature at the University of Aberdeen, Director of the Centre for Modern Thought, and Professor at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee. His work focuses on the political and literary aspects of continental philosophy and his books include Heidegger: Thought and Historicity (1986), Language and Relation: …that there is language (1996), Infant Figures: The Death of the Infans and Other Scenes of Origin (2000), The Claim of Language: A Case for the Humanities (2004), and Last Steps: Maurice Blanchots’s Exilic Writing (2013).

Werner Hamacher is Emmanuel Levinas Chair at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee and Emeritus Professor of General and Comparative Literature at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. A leading critical thinker and theorist, his work bridges literature, philosophy and politics, and is situated in the domains of both aesthetics and hermeneutics. He is the author of Pleroma: Reading in Hegel (1978). Werner Hamacher is also the author of Premises: Essays on Philosophy and Literature from Kant to Celan (1996), Entferntes Verstehen (1997), Nietzsche aus Frankreich, ed. (1986), Responses - on Paul de Man's Wartime Journalism, ed. (1989), Für—Die Philologie (2009), and the editor of the series Meridian—Crossing Aesthetics (published by Stanford University Press).

Thomas Keenan is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Human Rights Project at Bard College. He is the author of Fables of Responsibility (1997) and of several articles in PMLA, New York Times, Wired, Aperture, Bidoun, Political Theory, and other journals. He has edited The End(s) of the Museum (1996) and has co-edited New Media, Old Media (2005), Responses (1989); and Paul de Man, Wartime Journalism, 1939–1943 (1988). He recently co-curated, along with Carles Guerra, the award-winning exhibition Antiperiodismo (Antiphotojournalism) at La Vireinna in Barcelona.

Rosalind Morris is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. She has served as a Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, an Associate Director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, and is the former co-editor of CONNECT: art, politics, theory, culture. Her earlier scholarship focused on the history of modernity in Southeast Asia and the place of the mass media in its development, particularly in the encounter between old and new forms of mediation. More recently, she has been writing an ethnography of South Africa’s mining communities. She is the author of In the Place of Origins: Modernity and its Mediums in Northern Thailand (2000) and the editor of Photographies East: The Camera and its Histories in East and Southeast Asia (2009) and Can the Subaltern Speak? Reflections on the History of an Idea (2010). She presently is completing a book entitled Wars I have (not) Seen, to be published by Seagull Books.

Jean-Luc Nancy is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Strasbourg. One of the leading philosophers in the world, he has written more than thirty books and hundreds of essays. His philosophical scope is very broad and has ranged across literature, religion, the arts, film, music, psychoanalysis, politics, and philosophy. He has published books on Plato, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Bataille, and Marx and his titles include, in English, The Inoperative Community (1991), The Birth to Presence (1993, The Experience of Freedom (1993), The Sense of the World (1998), Being Singular Plural (2000), Corpus (2008), Dis-Enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity (2008), and The Truth of Democracy (2010).

Avital Ronell is University Professor in the Humanities and in the Departments of Germanic Languages and Literature and Comparative Literature at New York University and the Jacques Derrida Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee. An American philosopher specializing in the fields of continental philosophy, literary studies, psychoanalysis, feminist philosophy, political philosophy, and ethics, she is the author of Dictations: On Haunted Writing (1986), The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech (2001), Crack Wars: Literature, Addiction, Mania (1992), Finitude's Score: Essays for the End of the Millennium (1994), The Test Drive (2005); Stupidity (2001), Fighting Theory (2010), and Loser Sons (2012).

D. Vance Smith is Professor of English at Princeton University. The author of two ethnographies on the South Sudan, he works primarily at the nexus of anthropology and philosophy in medieval literature. He is the author of The Book of the Incipit: Beginnings in the Fourteenth Century (2001), The Arts of Possession: The Middle English Household Imaginary (2003), and the forthcoming Arts of Dying, a study of the medieval literature of dying. He also has co-edited, with Andrew Cole, The Legitimacy of the Middle Ages: On the Unwritten History of Theory. His current projects include a study of negation in mysticism from Gregory of Nyssa to Julian Norwich, Love Without Object, an edition of an important Piers Plowman manuscript, and a study of heraldic manuscripts.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is University Professor at Columbia University, and a founding member of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. She is the author of over 200 articles and several books, including In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (1987), The Post-Colonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues (1990), Thinking Academic Freedom in Gendered Post-Coloniality (1993), Outside in the Teaching Machine (1993), A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Towards a History of the Vanishing Present (1999), Death of a Discipline (2003), Other Asias (2005), and An Aesthetic Education in the Age of Globalization (2012). She also translated and introduced Derrida’s Of Grammatology (1976).

Samuel Weber is Avalon Professor of Humanities at Northwestern University and the Paul de Man Chair at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. One of the leading American thinkers across the disciplines of literary theory, philosophy, and psychoanalysis, he is the author of, among other books, Mass Mediauras: Form, Technics, Media (1996), The Legend of Freud (2000), Institution and Interpretation (2002), Theatricality as Medium (2004), Targets of Opportunity: On the Militarization of Thinking (2005), and, most recently, Benjamin’s -abilities (2010).

David Wills is Professor of French at Brown University. He is the author of Prosthesis (1995) and Dorsality (2008) and the co-editor of Deconstruction and the Visual Arts (1994). He has translated Derrida’s The Gift of Death, Right of Inspection, Counterpath, and The Animal That Therefore I Am, and he is presently completing a book entitled Inanimation. He is a member of the Derrida Seminars Translation Project and an International Fellow of the London Graduate School.



Judith Butler
Helene Cixous
Hent de Vries
Gayatri CHakravorty Spivak
Samuel Weber


Yve-Alain Bois, Institute for Advanced Study
Zahid Chaudhary, English
Katie Chenoweth, French
Andrew Cole, English
Daniel Heller-Roazen, Comparative Literature
Thomas Levin, German
Rachel Price, Spanish and Portuguese
Christy Wampole, French
Michael Wood, English and Comparative Literature

Symposium - Unpacking Derrida's Library: Secrets of the Archive
Oct. 9, 3 to 6 p.m. | Oct. 10, 10 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. | Oct. 11, 10 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.
101 McCormick Hall

This event will be streamed live and can be viewed from this link.

This Symposium will be simulcast on Thursday and Saturday in McCosh 10 and on Friday in McCormick 106.