The Politics of Mourning

A conversation with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and others about geopolitics, mourning, and the work of philosopher Jacques Derrida


Fields of Knowledge
  • Memory
  • Philosophy / Theory
  • Public culture


Aaron Levy, Eduardo Cadava, Jean-Michel Rabaté

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19148


25% Formal - 75% Informal

Please join us on Monday, December 27, 2004 from 6:30-8:30pm at Slought Foundation for a public conversation on the politics of mourning with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Eduardo Cadava, and Jean-Michel Rabaté. This discussion will begin with an examination of politics and mourning in relation to current geopolitical developments, as well as philosopher Jacques Derrida's recent work on the subject and his own death. The conversation will be followed by the Philadelphia premier of "in which the thinking man finds himself in a gigantic orphanage" [24 min, 2004], a Slought Foundation production in video format directed by Aaron Levy that explores the archive in disarray from the perspective of a man lamenting his orphan status, material accumulation, and senility (shot on location in historic Founder's Hall at Girard College, with a monologue read by Gary Indiana).

The video documents a romantically degraded library and the monumental staircases that surround it, and explores the idea of a collection in demise at a vulnerable and destructive moment in its history. Monumental staircases in a magnificent Greek Revival structure of the 19th century (Founder's Hall) lead to a room that houses unconventional archival material such as nineteenth century laundry and food receipts for the construction of the building, heating repairs, utility invoices, bank ledgers, and visitation logs. This material culture exists in a state of haphazard accumulation and romantic degradation that is startling in juxtaposition with the building's architectural splendor. The video invites its audience to imaginatively recreate and reconfigure the history of this archival site and its everyday documents through contemporary practice. The voiceover by artist and critic Gary Indiana has been adapted from Thomas Bernhard's Gargoyles (English trans. 1970).

read more

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities and presently the director of The Center for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. She is the author of In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (1988), The Post-Colonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues (1990), Outside in the Teaching Machine (1993), A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (1999) and Death of a Discipline (2003). She was the translator of Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology (1976) and of Mahasweta Devi's Imaginary Maps (1994) and Chotti Munda and His Arrow (2003).

Eduardo Cadava teaches in the English Department at Princeton University. His publications include Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History (1997), Emerson and the Climates of History (1997), Who Comes After the Subject? (co-edited with Peter Connor, and Jean-Luc Nancy; 1991), Cities Without Citizens (co-edited with Aaron Levy; 2004), and And Justice for all? The Claims of Human Rights (co-edited with Ian Balfour). He is currently finishing a collection of essays on the ethics and politics of mourning entitled Of Mourning.

Jean-Michel Rabaté, a Senior Curator at Slought Foundation, is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania since 1992, and has authored or edited twenty books on Modernism, Bernard, Joyce, Pound, Beckett, Lacan, Derrida, psychoanalysis and literary theory.

Aaron Levy is the Executive Director of and a Senior Curator at Slought Foundation. In 2004 he edited, with Eduardo Cadava, Cities Without Citizens, with contributions by Gayatri Spivak, Arakawa+Gins, and Giorgio Agamben (co-published with the Rosenbach Museum and Library, on the occasion of his 2003 exhibition engaging the Early American city in the archive). He is currently organizing a Winter 2005 exhibition for the Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Pennsylvania exploring the beehive metaphor in their collection as it informs the future of the American organization.