Animal Studies Makes the Chronicle

Matthew Calarco among others is quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the rise of animal studies. I’ll admit, though, that even I’m not all that sure about the place of Derrida in all of this. I think there is somewhat of a debt, but this was something well underway in the academy, I think, before Derrida’s essay appeared. But that said, I do think that Derrida’s ultimate claim that the place for a deconstruction can always be found where an author puts the human/animal distinction is important (and a powerful hermeneutic tool):

Such boundary crossing is characteristic of animal studies. Many of its scholars, especially in philosophy and literary and cultural studies, feel a debt to Jacques Derrida. The French philosopher’s essay “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)” is “arguably the single most important event in the brief history of animal studies,” Wolfe wrote in a 2009 article for the journal PMLA. In the essay, Derrida writes: “There is no animal in the general singular, separated from man by a single indivisible limit. We have to envisage the existence of ‘living creatures’ whose plurality cannot be assembled within the single figure of an animality that is simply opposed to humanity.” (Based on lectures given by Derrida in France in 1997, the article appeared in Critical Inquiry in 2002, translated by David Wills, who has also contributed a book, Dorsality, to Wolfe’s Posthumanities series.)

Derrida’s work “has almost single-handedly made the question interesting for people in lots of disciplines,” says Matthew Calarco, an assistant professor of philosophy at California State University at Fullerton and the author of Zoographies: The Question of the Animal From Heidegger to Derrida (Columbia University Press, 2008).