Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Towards a Geometry of Economy and Differance: Derrida, Capitalism, and Queer Nation

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Towards a Geometry of Economy and Differance: Derrida, Capitalism, and Queer Nation

Article excerpt

This work evolved out of a short paper written for the direct action group Queer Nation, in 1992, when its author was one of many activists busy lying down in the middle of streets in San Francisco for "die-in's" with other members of ACT-UP to protest the grotesque and hideous lack of funding for AIDS research and for the memory of many friends and associates who had succumbed to the ravages of this disease. The memory of such events and the passing of so many people constitutes a "haunting" that possesses the text, ghosts who hover on the periphery of its silence, whose negative presence seethes in the tapestry of its argument. It is a work of grief and remembrance. In this spirit one can agree with Adorno's statement that "the only philosophy which can be responsibly practiced in face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption." It is for those who are gone that the following argument unfolds.

This essay charts in its outline a particular type of grief. It relies upon the assumption that society is a formation designed and constructed to achieve power by the elimination of difference (from the very inception of its laws and codes founded in the non-social realm of the individual's sense stimuli, translated and twisted into concepts of legality, contracts, and morality1 all the way forward to the application of these socially accepted lies into the exclusion of those who fall-and "fall" is the appropriate verb-outside the category of normality).

The "queer" in this work is that which is posited as the opposite of normality. Post-modern philosophy, following the groundwork of the structuralist analysis of linguistics, genealogies of power, and the ruptures and hidden privileges of logocentrism unearthed by deconstruction, has examined this act of assertion of alterity as the socially necessary other who is sacrificed for the benefit of the same. This expulsion and erasure, which has always been with us, has charted a history of mutilations, ranging from the psychic to the physical, the spiritual to the private. It is in large part an unwritten history, a great blank space emptied of content, actors and events made invisible by deliberate omissions by the powers that be. Postcolonialism has attempted to reinscribe the lost history and subjectivity of the subaltern native informant, the Other of the colonialist enterprise. But there is no adequate parallel of reclamation for the sexual other and there are reasons for this.

In a sense geographic distance in the post colonialist project has served as something of a wedge for those archivists revisiting the terrain of conquest-a negative space of distance and deferral of time which has allowed the colonized to speak back despite the overriding voice and description of the colonizer. In the nineteenth century it would take months for letters to reach England from its colonies-the invention of the telegraph accelerated the hold of information by the colonizer over the colonized, but the cultural hegemony of imperialism-given such vast geographic distances between the "home" country and its satellites, the conquered peoples had time and space to formulate the consciousness of a response that would ultimately eject the colonizers from their countries and begin the process of reformation and national identity. This process still continues in the post-colonial period, only with a new emphasis on the question of how national governments repeat and mimic their colonial predecessors, continuing the legacy of oppression but under the name of independence.

But no such distance exists for the sexual other-this subaltern is everywhere, and yet nowhere-it has no decolonized colony to rearticulate against a Western canon that has colluded since the beginnings of imperialism to demonize it. Its site of occupation is within the family, the school, the church, the army, the government-but the further it becomes other, the further from these sites it is removed, the closer it reaches a point where its history disappears and no archives can retrieve its existence or memory. …

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