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Rights, Justice, Language: Werner Hamacher and the Political

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Organizer: Jonathan Luftig

Co-Organizer: Sascha Wolters

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Werner Hamacher’s posthumous last book, Sprachgerechtigheit ,was published only very recently, about one year after his untimely death. Its title is programmatic since it collects much of his late work under the somewhat surprising notion of language as justice. Yet If the German word “Gerechtigkeit” brings together justice and rights in a unique and untranslatable manner, what is Sprachgerechtigkeit? What to make of Hamacher’s explicit claim that “language is justice (and rights)”?

Even though a large part of the collected works were already published and –as for instance the essay on Arendt and The Right to Have Rights —widely discussed, the new framing of Hamacher’s later and more explicitly political pieces might surprise many readers, especially given the recent scholarly focus on his work on philology.

For many in his American audience in the late eighties and early nineties, “Afformative Strike” was the text in which Werner Hamacher began to explicitly engage the political. But like Derrida in the late ‘80s, Hamacher only seemed to have turned toward the political, doing so in a manner that implicated his previous thought, especially in his earliest long form text, Pleroma (a “Preface” to his translation of Hegel on Christianity). If the political was at play all along, how did Hamacher’s turn to the political differ from those of his contemporaries? How did his readings of Benjamin, Adorno and other Frankfurt School authors differ from those of other critical readers? What to make of Hamacher’s reading of German Jewish authors like Scholem and Mendelssohn? To what extent does Hamacher’s later work on philology represent a political intervention (into the educational policies of the German DFG, for example)?

This seminar will focus on Werner Hamacher and the Political, with emphasis on Sprachgerechtigkeit. Readings that focus on Hamacher’s more explicitly political work on Hobbes, Schmitt, and Heidegger are welcome, but so are the following topics:
—Ungerechtigheit and its relation to irony, especially in the context of readings of literary texts
—Hamacher, his contemporaries and his predecessors (such as Klaus Heinrich, Jacob Taubes, Peter Szondi, Sam Weber,Derrida, de Man, Agamben, etc.)
—Psychoanalytic readings (especially inspired by Hamacher’s references to Freud, Legendre—and more indirectly—Lacan, as well as Abraham and Torok)
—the University as Sanctuary (as in “Freistätte: Zum Recht auf Forschung und Bildung”)

Finally, any paper devoted to Hamacher’s last published work as a kind of capstone of his entire project(s) would be relevant to this ACLA Seminar. How, for example does the “afformative” (as opposed to the performative) relate to “Sprachgerechtigheit”? How might his continual use of the privative “a-“ and “ana-“ be related to a kind of Sprach-Ungerechtlgkeit?

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