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Crisis, End, Lastness

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Organizer: Patrick Dove

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In his 1968 essay “The Ends of Man,” Jacques Derrida takes issue with those who would reduce the work of Martin Heidegger to just another form of humanism while also calling into question Heidegger’s own attempts to distance his thought fully and definitively from the metaphysical and humanistic traditions. Humanism deploys the name of “Man” as if it were a concept devoid of any history, as if it were a concept without origin, vicissitudes, and limit. As Derrida asserts in Of Grammatology, however, humanism also treats the name of “Man” as a limit in order to exclude or suppress any signs of the supplementary status of the other (non-human animals, technics, etc.). This “limit,” presumed to demarcate the essence or proper nature of the human from all that is not human, is at once feared as the threat of death and coveted as a promise of life without others, without difference.

Taking Derrida’s grappling with Heidegger and humanism as one possible cue, this seminar explores contemporary debates about crisis, end, and limits in the humanities. Of particular interest are papers that inquire into the ontology of the object (to what extent and in what ways is crisis, end, or limit part of—or even constitutive of—the system, structure, or discourse whose end it presumably announces?) and/or that ask about the place from which the object (crisis, end, or limit) is said to be ascertainable and knowable as such. To what extent is the alleged crisis or end truly new, truly an end? Or does the positing of the crisis/end/last in fact still belong, albeit covertly, to the tradition whose demise it claims to diagnose? 

Topics and contexts for considering crisis, end, and lastness could include, among many others:

The Anthropocene and crises of mass extinction and/or irreversible climate change
Technics, the crisis of humanism and the end of “Man”
The end of literature in the time of post-autonomy
Global capital and the crisis of modern institutions
Global war and the end of political modernity
Anti-Crisis and the critique of crisis

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