“Theorizing in Untranslatables. The Geschlecht Complex”
Lecture by Emily Apter

Lecture by Emily Apter in the context of the 7th International Summer Academy 2017 of the ZfL: Genealogien der Diversität. Kontexte und Figurationen eines umstrittenen Konzepts, 11 Oct 2017

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.

Emily Apter has been Professor of French and Comparative Literature at New York University since 2002. After receiving her PhD from Princeton University, she taught at UCLA and Cornell University, among other institutions; she is also the 2017–2018 President of the American Comparative Literature Association. Her many research interests include translation theory and practice, sexuality and gender, and philosophy from critical theory to poststructuralism.

Audio: © ZfL

Emily Apter: Theorizing in Untranslatables. The Geschlecht Complex

The Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung has made every attempt to take into account copyrights of the individuals and materials used. In case of doubt, please contact webredaktion@zfl-berlin.org.