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996027 Violence and legitimacy in 'speaking for others' (BS) (WiSe 2017/2018)


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Violence and legitimacy in “speaking for others”

In this course, participants investigate the problem of representational violence broadly understood. Initial inspiration is drawn from Jacques Derrida’s description of the violence of naming and the exclusion that all descriptive acts perform. The selected readings focus on the ways that even the best-intentioned acts of social and political engagement can lead to oppression and marginalization. At the same time, they probe the ways in which we might, then, “speak for others” at all. If the negative impact of representation both in descriptive as well as practical attempts at recognition and “understanding” is indeed unavoidable, how do we – even within our academic task of representing others – deal with unwanted rhetorical appropriations and more concrete colonizing moves? What might be suitable approaches for “speaking truth to power” when unitary identities are problematized in favour of more complex descriptions and the detailed accounting of differences? And to what extent will such problematics always defy any putatively non-violent solutions?

This course will be carried out as a block seminar on Tuesday, January 30th and Wednesday, January 31st, 2018. Emphasis will be on discussion and short, informal introductions to the key texts, with responsibility for presenting each text assigned to one of the participants. Participants are expected to read all of the texts closely in advance of the seminar and to also familiarize themselves with any supplementary reading agreed upon.

Those wishing to take part are asked to contact Kalle Pihlainen (BGHS room X-B2-240, by Tuesday, January 23rd; presentation assignments can be discussed and set on enrolment. Supplementary reading will be suggested when discussing the assignments.



Jacques Derrida: Pt II, Ch1: The Violence of the Letter: From Lévi-Strauss to Rousseau. Of Grammatology (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 101-140.

Richard Rorty: Ch 4: Private Irony and Liberal Hope. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1989), 73-95.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: Ch 1: Criticism, Feminism and the Institution (with Elizabeth Grosz). The Post-Colonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues (Routledge: New York and London, 1990), 1-16.

Iris Marion Young: Ch 4: The Ideal of Impartiality and the Civic Public. Justice and the Politics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 96-121.

Todd May: Ch 2: Moral Antirepresentationalism. The Moral Theory of Poststructuralism (University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 1995), 47-79.

Ernersto Laclau: Ch 6: Power and Representation. Emancipation(s) (London and New York: Verso, 1996), 84-104.

Judith Butler: Introduction. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (Routledge: New York and London, 1997), 1-41.

Richard Rorty: Ch 17: Globalization, the Politics of Identity and Social Hope. Philosophy and Social Hope (London and New York: Penguin Books, 1999), 229-239.

Iris Marion Young: Ch 3: Social Difference as a Political Resource. Inclusion and Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 81-120.

Ian Hacking: Kinds of People: Moving Targets. Proceedings of the British Academy 151 (2007), 285-318.

Keith Jenkins: ‘Nobody does it better’: Radical History and Hayden White. Rethinking History 12:1 (2008), 59-74.

Kalle Pihlainen: Ch 3: An End to Oppositional History? The Work of History: Constructivism and a Politics of the Past (London and New York: Routledge, 2017), 38-61.


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Studiengang/-angebot Gültigkeit Variante Untergliederung Status Sem. LP  
Bielefeld Graduate School In History And Sociology / Promotion Theory and Methods Classes   0.5 Theory Class  
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