Department of Philosophy



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The Department of Philosophy and the Cultural Studies Program present

Catherine Kellogg (University of Alberta) 

"Superfluous to the World: Dispossession, Cruelty and Carceral Logics"​

TUESDAY, February 28th  2017

Mac Corry Hall, Room B201 @ 4:00 p.m.

Hannah Arendt’s remarkable analysis of the ease with which people can be cut apart from their social and political fabrics — being made ‘superfluous to the world’ as she put it—is one of the many reasons for the recent renewed interest in her Origins of Totalitarianism . I propose to use her analysis of what she calls the production of ‘abstract nakedness’ to foreground three questions. First, can her analysis of the “slow production of living corpses” align with the term ‘cruel’ that recurs in legal descriptions of the limits to legitimate punishment? Second, if her analysis of social death (and its cruelties) was developed to understand the perpetual minorities in Europe in the interwar period, can it also help us understand the ‘logic of elimination’ that characterizes the dispossession of indigenous peoples in settler colonies? And third, how is her insistence on the importance of being seen and heard in public troubled by the incessant gaze that characterizes the experience of queer and gender-variant people both in and outside of prisons? What these examples bring together is that ‘cruel technologies’—and the living, speaking bodies on whom they are inflicted — are literally the point at which law articulates with the biological.


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