"Plasticity, Jurisdiction, and the Interruption of Sovereignty: A Response to Catherine Malabou via Jose Saramago's Seeing"Daniel Matthews
Law & Literature
Aug 2016, pp. 1-22
Abstract: In a series of recent interventions Catherine Malabou, the contemporary French philosophy of “plasticity,” argues that celebrated “deconstructions” of sovereignty have failed to transcend the concept's constitutive division between “symbolic” and “biological” life. Malabou's argument conspicuously fails to address the role of the juridical in giving form to sovereignty, an omission that is addressed here through an assessment of “jurisdiction.” This turn to the juridical opens a space for further critical reflection on Malabou's thinking. Through a reading of José Saramago's novel Seeing we can displace Malabou's insistence on the centrality of cerebral “life” in her effort to deconstruct the symbolic/biological binary and instead gesture towards a collectiveand affective “life” that remains refractory in relation to the juridical forms that sovereignty seeks to impose. Pointing to important tensions inherent in Saramago's text, the article brings critical pressure to bear on the position, articulated by Michel Foucault and endorsed by Malabou, that we need to transcend sovereignty tout court.