ToPHSS Lecture: Celebrating Biodeconstruction
Derrida’s work is often seen as overly removed from the world of things, life, and matter. However, arguments on deconstruction’s capacity to capture some foundational logic of life also abound. First I will join the latter group by focusing on the Derridean terms “autoimmunity” (“Faith and Knowledge”), and allergy (“Plato’s Pharmacy”) in order to show that the recent theory of Thomas Pradeu and Clemens von Pirquet’s 1906 coinage of allergy rely on a deconstruction of the immunis performed by Derrida: Pradeu’s understands immunity as a dual activity of destructive inflammation and its regulatory suppression. Pirquet introduced the term allergy in order to suggest a similar duality in immune activity and conceived of allergy as the general organizing principle of immune activity instead of its pathology. However, instead of concluding along the lines of “Derrida is proved right by science””, I want to suggest that the situation is more complicated. Placing Derrida on the side of biology as ontology as a rejoinder to accusations of irrelevance works by stopping short of critiquing the gesture of anointing what we can call live matter with special authenticating value. In order to demonstrate a resistance in Derrida’s work to be simply proven right, I would like to consider what Derrida calls “life in general,” where “natural life is not the whole of life” (Biodegradables)—and thus, the “domain of biology” can be read as part of a more general political thought.
ToPHSS Lectures are part of the project “Topics in the Philosophy of the Human and Social Sciences”, funded by the Humanities Initiative. The project aims to cross boundaries between disciplines of the humanities and social sciences concerned with ‘the human’, that is with human beings, humanity, society, culture, history, and more. It focuses on methodological and ontological issues, in particular on those concerned with contested categories of the humanities and social sciences, and of those primarily on the categories of human, individual and person. This term the first focus is on the contested divide between nature and culture.