ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On Understanding the Incomprehensible - III

On Understanding the Incomprehensible - III

The editorial repeats a tired and biased binary claim: primitive/civilised. The words “primitive”, “barbaric” and “animal” have found much currency in the past few weeks. The humanist tradition, which the editorial follows, has come under philosophical criticism in the last 50 years. To make the “human” a stable category involves two violent acts. Animals become the undesired other over whom we try to establish control and separation. This representation also serves to designate some acts and individuals as animal within the human, a convenient and productive gesture that keeps this violent structure in place, only to be constantly haunted by the swell of animality of the human condition.

Law safeguards the human and prizes punishment. The desire for punishment as such, and particularly in a prison reflects the vanishing point or blind spot of rational discourse. We must call for a new ethics. This, as philosopher Giorgio Agamben has shown, cannot be derived from juridical notions such as guilt, responsibility or accountability. Violent encounters bring us face to face with the human as such. This frightening prospect may induce an ethic of shame at the human, inducing us to revise such a vocation and anticipating different possibilities.

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