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Assault on the Borders: Hélène Cixous on Animals and the Human
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology, Studies in Faith and Ideologies, Ethics.
2016 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Despite the continual displacement of nearly every established conception of the human, the figure of the human remains a powerful idea for political and ethical theorizing. In the era of human rights, the language of dehumanization has become a dominant frame for accounting for and criticizing a wide range of abuses and social harms. Likewise, the human has come to mark a status that promises protection from the dehumanizing effects of violence, discrimination and other modes of injustice. Cixous’ recent work on the concept have contributed to this discussion by providing an analysis of the borders between what we call human and inhuman and by pointing to the precarious conditions of hospitality towards other beings (human and nonhuman). This paper examines the place of the human and animals in Cixous’ work. It takes the figure of Fips, the dog of the Cixous family in Algiers, as a starting point. By thinking through this figure, Cixous analyses the dehumanizing logic of colonialism and anti-Semitism in Algeria and develops her own response to it, arguing for human relationality and animal corporeality. The paper shows that Cixous’ primal encounter with Fips produces a stigma that, belatedly, ruptures the barrier between herself and this specific dog; its dehiscence reveals a profound ‘animal humanity’ generated by suffering, finitude, and compassion. The lesson Cixous learns from revivifying the memory of the Dog is how to become ‘more human’. This becoming is also an assault on the false humanism of the colonial project, on the closed Gates as markers of colonial dehumanization and racialized social exclusion. The lesson of hospitality Cixous learns by another primal event: the resurrection of Fips in the form of another animal – the unexpected arrival of a cat (Thea) that puts conditional hospitality into question simply by demanding (and giving) an unconditional hospitality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Humanities Philosophy, Ethics and Religion Ethics
Research subject
Aesthetics; Ethics
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-284362OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-284362DiVA: diva2:920216
The 18th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture: 'Lines in the sand, broders, conflicts and transitions' 9th-11th September 2016, University of Glasgow
Swedish Research Council, 2014-968
Available from: 2016-04-17 Created: 2016-04-17 Last updated: 2016-04-17

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