01:30 PM to 02:45 PM MW
Enterprise Hall 178
Section Information for Spring 2021
As thinkers such as Derrida and Agamben have argued, the genocidal violence perpetrated against the Jews and other groups by Nazi Germany in the 20th century --- iconically represented by ‘Auschwitz’ --- is a defining event for European political and philosophical modernity. In short, how one responds to Auschwitz becomes the decisive question for 20th-century European thought.
On this course, we will approach this question via Derrida’s insistence on ‘Auschwitz’ or the Shoah as the name for a singular and unrepresentable event, and Giorgio Agamben’s claim that the Nazi concentration camps exemplify what he calls a logic of ‘inclusive exclusion’ that is central to the politics of western modernity. We will examine how this logic manifests in processes of de-humanization that legitimate genocidal violence, putting this into dialogue with Adriana Cavarero’s account of the concentration camps as the site of a specific form of political violence, one that destroys the singular uniqueness of human beings together with the plurality that makes such uniqueness possible.
In the second part of the course, we will use Derrida, Agamben and Lyotard to examine the problem of testimony and responsibility in relation to Auschwitz. We will also examine selected works of art and literature to ask what it might mean to bear witness to ‘Auschwitz’ as an unrepresentable event and inexpressible horror.
As a point of access and guiding thread running through the course, we will read first person survivor accounts, such as Primo Levi’s, If This Is a Man, Tadeusz Borowski’s, This way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Charlotte Delbo’s None of Us Will Return.