Session 1: Deconstruction as a method – events, performatives and iterability

The course consists of six sessions across two days. It is aimed at research students, who wish to learn more about deconstruction and how to use it for research in the humanities and social sciences. The aim of the workshop is to examine deconstruction as a method for political analysis broadly conceived. We read examples of deconstructive analyses by Jacques Derrida and others, and we discuss the methodological implications of deconstruction as well as the philosophical assumptions behind it. Deconstruction is often used in literature and cultural studies, but is less used as a method in social and political theory, let alone political science. Having said that, and although deconstruction is usually associated with Derrida’s work, it has been put to use by political theorists such as Judith Butler, Lisa Disch, Bonnie Honig, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. The course examines the usefulness of deconstruction for the study of politics not only by reading about deconstruction, but also by seeing how it can be put to use in the analysis of texts. Each session is organised around set texts and will focus on methodological issues as well as substantial political concepts.

At the end of the course, the participants will have knowledge of the philosophical assumptions behind deconstruction, the implications of deconstruction for questions surrounding the use of methods in the social sciences and humanities, the politics of deconstruction, and the use deconstruction for concrete socila and political analysis.

Session 1: Deconstruction as method: events, performatives and iterability

Is it possible to teach deconstruction? Is it possible to learn deconstruction? What does the deconstruction as/of method mean for the way one researches and writes, for instance, a PhD-thesis? What is a good (or bad) deconstructive reading? We examine these questions, using the example of the (concept of the) event (what happens when commentators, politicians, etc. name something as an event?).

Reading List:

Each session is organised around set readings, which participants are required to read in advance. Included below are a number of additional readings for those who wish to dig further into a particular topic. Good introductions to deconstruction include Rodolphe Gasché, The Tain of the Mirror: Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), Part II; Jonathan Culler, On Deconstruction, 25th Anniversay Ed. (London: Routledge, 2008); and Susanne Lüdemann, Politics of Deconstruction: A New Introduction to Jacques Derrida (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014). Nicholas Royle (ed.), Deconstructions: A User’s Guide (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000) has short useful introductions to a number of topics. For deconstruction and politics, the following introductions are useful: Alex Thomson, Deconstruction and Democracy (London: Bloomsbury, 2005); and Geoffrey Bennington, ‘Derrida and politics’, in Tom Cohen (ed.), Jacques Derrida and the Humanities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 193-212. Good places to start reading Derrida are Jacques Derrida, Positions, 2nd ed., trans. Alan Bass (London: Continuum, 2002); and Jacques Derrida, Negotiations: Interventions and Interviews 1971-2001 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002). The ‘Introduction’ in Jason Glynos and David Howarth, Logics of Critical Explanation Social and Political Theory (London: Routledge, 2007) has a good discussion of the question of method in the context of post-structuralist theory more generally.

Session 1: Deconstruction as method: events, performatives and iterability

Essential preparatory readings

Derrida, Jacques, ‘Letter to a Japanese Friend’, in Psyche: Inventions of the Other, Volume II, eds. Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), pp. 1-6. Also in David Wood and Robert Bernasconi (eds), Derrida and Différance (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988), pp. 1-5.

Derrida, Jacques, ‘Autoimmunity: Real and Symbolic Suicides – A Dialogue with Jacques Derrida,’ in Giovanna Borradori, Philosophy In a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 85-136, at pp. 85-92.

Additional readings

Butler, Judith, ‘For a Careful Reading’, in Seyla Benhabib et al., Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 127-143.

Butler, Judith, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (London: Routledge, 1997), chapter 2.

Derrida, Jacques, Limited Inc, edited by Samuel Weber (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988).

Derrida, Jacques, Of Grammatology, 40th Anniversary Ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), pp. 171-8 (‘The Exorbitant. Question of Method’).

Fritsch, Mathias, ‘The Performative and the Normative’, in Mauro Senatore (ed.), Performatives after Deconstruction (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).

Gasché, Rodolphe, The Tain of the Mirror: Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), especially pp. 212-17.

Thomassen, Lasse. ‘Deconstruction as method in political theory.’ Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft 39:1 (2010), 41-53.

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