David Cunningham – Intersciences, Philosophy and Writing

Event Date 17 – 18 May 2012
Day 1: Bolivar Hall,
54 Grafton Way, London WC1.

Day 2: Large Common Room,
Goodenough College,
Mecklenburgh Square, London WC1N

Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy

Presents:

Transdisciplinarity and the Humanities: Problems, Methods, Histories, Concepts

2011–2013 (AHRC 914469)

Workshop 3

Case Studies 2. Transdisciplinary Problematics: Anti-humanism and Gender Study

This two-day workshop will examine the notion of a transdisciplinarity problematic, via the cases of anti-humanism and gender studies. The first day will approach theoretical anti-humanism from the standpoint of its destructive effect upon disciplinary fields in the humanities and as a radical problematisation of the discipline of philosophy in particular. The second day will focus on gender studies as a transdisciplinary problematic and on the transdisciplinary nature of the concept of gender itself. Topics will include the historical reconstruction of ‘gender’ as a boundary-crossing concept; the relation of its conceptual content to its functioning as a general concept across disciplines; the transformation of the disciplines in the humanities by ‘gender’ and gender studies; and the current productivity of ‘gender’.

Day 1: Anti-humanism

David CunninghamIntersciences, Philosophy and Writing

In a 1982 report written in preparation for the founding of the Collège International de Philosophie, Derrida ‘links’ the word ‘philosophy’ in the Collège’s title to a concept of what he terms ‘intersciences’. This term (borrowed from Einstein) designates, Derrida writes, ‘any thematic, any field, any research activity … that the map of institutions, at a given moment, does not yet grant stable, accredited, habitable departments’. Such ‘zones of instability’ are ‘sites of great traffic, privileged sites for the formation of new objects or rather of new thematic networks’. In this paper I want to consider the concept of transdisciplinarity that this ‘motif of intersection or crossing’ implies, and to seek to trace some of the dilemmas that may be located in the very ‘link’ it establishes to philosophy itself. To the extent that deconstruction is associated by Derrida and others with a form of ‘thinking that, while undertaken by philosophy, does not belong to it’, such a ‘philosophizing beyond philosophy’ emerges necessarily from the critique (or deconstruction) of philosophy’s own self-sufficiency. In doing so, however, it also confronts the difficulty of disentangling the ‘interscientific’ space(s) of transdisciplinarity that might be opened up by such going ‘beyond philosophy’ either from the meta-disciplinary claims of philosophy itself, on the one hand, or from some hegemonic position assumed by another ‘alternate’ discipline, on the other. Taking this dilemma to be defined in Derrida’s early work on ‘writing’ by his engagement, above all, with the repercussions, for philosophy, of both a so-called ‘linguistic turn’ within the ‘human sciences’, in general, and of structuralism’s cross-disciplinary claims, in particular, this will, in turn, be explored through a re-reading of Derrida’s account of grammatology as that which ‘must not be one of the sciences of man’, nor ‘just one regional science among others’.

David Cunningham is Principal Lecturer in English Literature and Deputy Director of the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culure at the University of Westminster. He is the co-editor of Photography and Literature in the Twentieth Century (2005) and Adorno and Literature (2006). He is a member of the Editoiral Collective of the journal Radical Philosophy.

Simon Morgan Wortham is Professor of English Literature and Associate Dean for Research in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Kingston University London. His research has focused on the philosophy of Jacques Derrida. His most recent books are The Derrida Dictionary (2010) and Derrida: Writing Events (2008). He is currently writing a book on sleep.

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talk:

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Response to Cunningham by Simon Morgan Wortham  (Kingston University London)

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questions:

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