This is the third and final Mosaic special issue to feature papers presented at the October 1-4, 2014 A matter of lifedeath conference. Mosaic is pleased by the diversity of presentations the conference attracted and grateful to presenters, who have given so much care and patience to converting their conference presentations into publishable essays, eleven of which are gathered here.
Cinematic Past Lives: Memory, Modernity, and Cinematic Reincarnation in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Considering the way that cinema functions as memory, this essay suggests a comparison between the spiritual functions of memory and cinema’s role in modernity. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives illuminates cinema’s link to the preservation of human memory through its exploration of reincarnation.
Temporal Exile in the Time of Fiction: Reading Derrida Reading Blanchot’s The Instant of My Death
This essay asks whether or not Martin Hägglund’s reassessment of the Derridean project of deconstruction as a project defending diachronic temporality is amenable to thinking the peculiar temporalities of literature and fiction that Derrida, in “Demeure: Fiction and Testimony,” detects in Maurice Blanchot’s The Instant of My Death.
‘Courriers de la mort’: Denis Thériault, Sigmund Freud, and Jacques Derrida
Tracing a tacit correspondence between Denis Thériault’s Le facteur émotif and, through the work of Jacques Derrida, Sigmund Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle, this essay considers how a speculative treatise published in 1920 and a Québécois novel released in 2005 echo and elucidate one another in their lifedeath, prostheses, and epistolarity.
Against ‘vital materialism’: The Passive Creation of Life in Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze’s concept of life is valorized in the humanities today for its ability to grant agency or activity to non-human entities. This essay argues that, in fact, Deleuze sees the concept of life as a kind of passive creation which escapes the traces of subjectivity remaining in agency.
‘Killing the Indian in the Child’: Death, Cruelty, and Subject-formation in the Canadian Indian Residential School System
Provoked by the religious and state ethos for the Canadian Indian Residential Schools, to kill the Indian in the child, this essay engages Lacanian psychoanalysis and theories of biopolitics to conceptualize processes and practices of subject-formation and self-making within the circuitry of the Canadian Indian Residential School System.
More than Life: Human Dignity and the Problem of Rights
This essay interrogates the concept of “dignity” underlying rights discourse in order to show that the extension of human rights to animals is both oxymoronic and counter-productive. Because dignity signifies the sovereign power to transcend life, human rights theory would be better served by what Derrida calls a “power” of “not-being-able.”
The Mortality Project
Salomé M. Krell
These musings on mortality, gathered during my year of training and working as a hospice volunteer in New York City, trace the questions I had at the outset, the answers I was seeking, and the answers I received.
Ghost Dance: Derrida, Stiegler, and Film as Phantomachia
Against Bernard Stiegler’s ontological claim, following Roland Barthes, that in photography the photographic referent “was there,” present at one time in the past, Jacques Derrida proposes in Ken McMullen’s film Ghost Dance that the photographic referent is self-divided and “never had the form of presence,” making film “a phantomachia.”
The Lived Exemplarity of HeLa: A Matter of Lifedeath
With reference to the “immortal life” of Henrietta Lacks, this essay invokes the notion of lifedeath to name what puts into question engendering techniques and other logics of transmission, starting with forms of historiography predicated upon a caesura between past and present, corporality and personhood, death and aliveness.
The Psychic Machine: An Economic Phenomenon of Lifedeath
Rosaura Martínez Ruiz
The Freudian psyche is fundamentally a machine that defers death. I will argue that this economization is life in the form of memory and that the psychic apparatus is a bio-artefact in the sense of a machinery organization that, moving toward death, paradoxically produces and protects the life an organism.
Missing Mom: Translation as Testimony in Shin Kyung-Sook’s Please Look After Mom
Please Look After Mom is about a woman, Park So-nyo, who cannot be proclaimed legally dead or alive for she is “missing.” In the face of an absent figure and an absent testimony, the novel suggests a new mode of reading, address, and transmission.