11 Oct 2017 · 7.00 pm

Emily Apter: Theorizing in Untranslatables. The Geschlecht Complex

Venue: ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Trajekte-Tagungsraum 308

Public keynote lecture at the 7th International Summer Academy at the ZfL 2017
Genealogies of Diversity. Contexts and figurations of a controversial concept

Drawing on Barbara Cassin and Etienne Balibar’s critical praxis of »philosophizing in languages,« the talk will experiment with »theorizing in untranslatables,« looking closely at how key terms shift culturally and politically across languages, or resist translation. The »Geschlecht Complex« is defined with a focus on the relation among difference, differences, différance, and sexual difference; definitions of sexual difference in feminism and trans theory, new ontologies of the subject in relation to gender trauma, sexual violence, and wounded subjectivity. Derrida’s three essays on the concept of Geschlecht - an especially dense term in German whose meanings extend across sex, genre, gender, species, race, kind, human/nonhuman - have bearing on debates around the neuter status of Heideggerian Dasein and expansive notions of the human or the species as an »order of animacy« (see Mel Chen). A related, underlying objective will be to put critical pressure on gender/genre distinctions (as in the weird question of »what genre are you?«) in the context of gendered or degendered pronoun grammars. Topics for discussion will include the politics of how to call or name difference in the workplace and the academy, and the affective challenges posed by inventing a gender-inclusive language, 'or a subjective ›safe space,‹ both highly volatile issues in the North American academy.

Since 2002 Emily Apter is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the New York University. After her doctorate at Princeton University, she taught at UCLA and Cornell University. In 2017–2018 she is President of the American Comparative Literature Association. Her research interests include translation theory and practice, sexuality and gender, and philosophy from critical theory to poststructuralism.

Publications (selected):

  • Unexceptional Politics: A Glossary of Obstruction, Interference, the Impolitic (forthcoming, Verso 2017)
  • Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability (Verso 2013)
  • The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature (Princeton UP 2006)
  • Feminizing the Fetish: Psychoanalysis and Narrative Obsession in Turn-of-the-Century France (Cornell UP 1991)
  • Continental Drift: From National Characters to Virtual Subjects (University of Chicago Press 1999)