An enduring theme in Jacques Derrida’s work has been a critical interrogation of human exceptionalism. However, Derrida’s purpose appears somewhat contradictory: He questions the conventional ways in which the difference between human capacities and those of the animal world are adjudicated and valued, and yet there is a strong sense in his work that anthropocentrism is inescapable. Derrida enjoins us to ‘restructure the whole problematic’ of the animal and of what is proper to man, but how to do it? Kirby asked if anthropocentrism is necessarily a prohibitive enclosure that separates a particular form of life from its more general operations, or if the generalization of something thought to be specific and local (anthropos
) might allow us to recast the more fundamental question of how we divide nature from culture and why.
Vicki Kirby is Professor of Sociology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. She has published widely in the areas of feminism, posthumanism, and deconstruction, especially on the question of the nature/culture distinction. She has an enduring fascination with how we might read deconstruction through the biological and physical sciences. Books include Telling Flesh: The Substance of the Corporeal (1997); Judith Butler: Live Theory (2006), and more recently, Quantum Anthropologies: Life at Large (2011).