U.S. Racism and Derrida’s Theologico-Political Sovereignty

In Lisa Guenther, Geoffrey Adelsberg & Scott Zeman (eds.), Death and Other Penalties: Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration. Fordham UP. pp. 83-94 (2015)
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This essay draws on the work of Jacques Derrida and Angela Y. Davis towards a philosophical resistance to the death penalty in the U.S. I find promise in Derrida’s claim that resistance to the death penalty ought to contest a political structure that founds itself on having the power to decide life and death, but I move beyond Derrida’s desire to consider the abolition of the death penalty without engaging with the particular histories and geographies of European colonialism. I offer a critique of Derrida’s recently published work on the death penalty by engaging with the work of Davis and argue that discussions of state violence in nations that inherit European forms of sovereignty must take seriously the racist violence on which those sovereign powers rely.

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Geoffrey Adelsberg
Edgewood College


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