CFP: [International] Derrida and America

full name / name of organization: 
Adam Kelly
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Derrida and America

University College Dublin, Ireland
June 12-13th, 2009

Keynote Speakers – Prof. Christina Howells (Oxford University)
                        Prof. Julian Wolfreys (Loughborough University)

In a collection of essays in memory of Jacques Derrida published by
Routledge in 2008, Michael Naas and Peggy Kamuf both addressed the topic
of “Derrida’s America,” examining the reciprocal influence of Derrida on
America and of America on Derrida. Our interdisciplinary conference aims
to build upon the work begun in these two pieces, and will address the
importance of Derrida’s work for American literature, American
philosophy, American Studies, and for understanding the meaning of
America in historical, political and conceptual terms. We will also
explore the role of “America” as a signifier in Derrida’s own work, and
the ways in which he associates it with other concepts, such as
sovereignty, religion, and the democracy-to-come.

As this will be an interdisciplinary conference, we particularly welcome
contributions that consider issues pertaining to the constitution of the
various university disciplines related to Derrida’s work. Derrida’s
thought was influential in the permeation of disciplinary boundaries that
took place from the 1970s onwards, particularly in the United States, and
one of the aims of this conference will be to re-examine Derrida’s
claim “Deconstruction is America” in light of events inside and outside
the university both before and since. The increasingly central role of
borders and boundaries in disciplines such as American Studies intersects
with Derrida’s thinking of marginality and limits; therefore, the notion
of interdisciplinarity itself, and its recent history in the US and
elsewhere, will be a subtheme of the conference.

We suggest below a series of panel topics, and some questions that might
be examined within those panels. These are indicative only; we will
gladly receive submissions on all aspects of the conference theme, and
would warmly welcome suggestions of alternative panels.

1. Derrida and American Literature
- How can Derrida’s emphasis on the structural haunting of the centre by
marginality help us to understand the massive expansion of the American
canon in the last 40 years?
- What role do Derrida’s readings of classic American authors such as
Melville and Poe have in his work? Can his readings aid our understanding
of these authors’ continued influence?
- Can the literature of young American writers of today, many of whom
studied theory at the height of its popularity within the US university
system, be usefully read through ideas drawn from deconstruction?

2. Derrida and American Philosophy
- In light of Richard Rorty’s sustained engagement with the work of
Derrida, what does deconstruction have to say to American pragmatism?
- Various efforts have been made to bridge the analytic-continental
divide in philosophy through reading Derrida’s work alongside that of
American philosophers such as Quine and Davidson. How successful have
these efforts been, and how might they be built upon?

3. Derrida and American Studies
- How does Derrida’s reading of “9/11” and the work of Carl Schmitt
challenge or abet the “state of exception” thesis that has been so
influential in American Studies?
- How does Derrida’s “age of writing” and particular understanding
of “mondialisation” intersect historically with the concept of “the
American century”?
- From a methodological perspective, can American Studies’ constitution
of itself through historical-political critique be usefully challenged by
perspectives associated with deconstruction?

4. America in the Work of Derrida
- What status does Derrida’s (in)famous claim “l’Amerique, mais c’est la
deconstruction” have in his thought?
- What is the relationship between “a certain American hegemony” and
a “that strange Europe” in Derrida’s work?
- What affects did his prolonged exposure to America and its institutions
have on Derrida’s thought over time?

5. The Reception of Derrida in the United States
- What role has the deconstruction “primer” played in the reception of
Derrida’s work in the US? How did the emphasis on critical and reading
methodologies limit aspects of his thought?
- What role did Derrida’s work have in the changes in the US university
system that took place from the 1970s onwards?
- What is the influence of Derrida’s thought in US academic life today?
What is likely to be its legacy in the US?

6. Derrida and 21st Century America
- Michael Naas has suggested that Derrida would not have put forward the
hypothesis “deconstruction is America” under the Bush administration.
Does the “event” of Barack Obama’s election change this?
- What light can Derrida’s late work, particularly Specters of Marx, shed
on the global financial crisis and the US bailout of Wall Street?
- Can the continued influence of religious discourse in US culture be
approached through Derrida’s late work on messianism without Messiah?

Abstracts of 200-300 words should be submitted by e-mail as an MS Word
attachment to by 30th March 2009. Submissions
should also include name, affiliation, email address, title of paper,
and, if possible, the panel the applicant feels their paper will best
contribute to. We also welcome joint proposals for panels of three papers
on themes other than those stated above.

Applicants will be informed by mid-April as to their inclusion in the
conference program. Please also note that we intend to pursue publication
avenues stemming from the conference theme.

Seferin James (UCD School of Philosophy)
Adam Kelly (UCD School of English, Drama and Film)

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Received on Wed Jan 28 2009 - 09:47:03 EST

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