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Wednesday, February 09, 2022

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Classics and Ancient History Work in Progress Seminar
MS teams - Please email either or for the link to attend.

Speaker: Dr Renaud Gagné, University of Cambridge

Chair: Prof Zahra Newby

“Weaving the World: Altars and Cosmography in Greek Sanctuaries”

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Research seminar: Thomas Clément Mercier (ANID FONDECYT, Universidad Adolfo Ibañez), Deconstruction and Dialectical Materialism: Divisions of Labour (Jacques Derrida's Seminars on Marx and Marxist Thought in the 1960s and 1970s)

t is usually considered that Derrida’s first real incursion into Marx’s thought was Specters of Marx, published in French in 1993. However, archival research has revealed that Derrida had already offered very lengthy and detailed readings of Marx and Marxist texts much earlier in his career as a philosopher. During the 1960s and 1970s – a very important and prolific period for French and international Marxist thought – Derrida wrote and taught extensively about Marx and Marxist authors (including Engels, Lenin, Gramsci, Benjamin, Althusser, Balibar, Buci-Glucksmann, and so on), but none of this work was ever published in Derrida’s lifetime. The discovery of these unpublished materials (approximately 1000 pages altogether) sheds new light on Derrida’s engagement with Marxism and materialism, but also on the ethical and political implications of deconstruction – much earlier than Derrida’s so-called ‘ethical-political turn’ (usually dated, with much bad faith, in the late 1980s or early 1990s). In this talk, we will discuss the political and philosophical aspects of the question – notably the relationship between deconstruction and dialectical materialism, in theoretical and political terms, with special focus on the notions of ‘labour’ and the ‘division of labour’ – but also its historical dimension, that is, the intellectual and political context of the French Marxist scene during the Cold War, before and after May 68: What was Derrida’s relationship with the fields of theoretical and political Marxism? Why did he decline to publish his deconstructive analyses of Marx and Marxist thought at the time? What was Derrida’s position with respect to his Marxist colleagues and contemporaries – in particular his close friend Althusser? How can we interpret the change of scenery justifying the publication of Specters of Marx in 1993, after the end of the Cold War and Althusser’s death?

Thomas Clément Mercier is a postdoctoral researcher at the Universidad Adolfo Ibañez (Santiago, Chile). His work has been published in journals such as Poetics Today, Global Discourse, Oxford Literary Review, Parallax, Derrida Today, CR: The New Centennial Review, Aisthesis, Ostium and Philosophiques. He specialises in 20th-century French philosophy, political thought and international studies, with a particular interest in the multilayered problematics of democracy, violence, and political resistance from the perspectives of deconstruction, Marxism, queer and decolonial thinking. His current projects include a book on deconstruction and Marxist thought, as well as the edition and publication of the Derrida-Althusser correspondence.

To join the seminar on Teams click here.