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Ultimately, doesn’t everything respond to a stigmatization of what’s different?

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Susan Buck-Morss

Professor of Political Philosophy and Social Theory at Cornell University

Professor of Political Philosophy and Social Theory at Cornell University (USA) where she is also associated with the departments of Germanic Studies and History of Art, she has particularly focused, in her extensive academic career, on the German tradition of critical philosophy, especially the Frankfurt School. In this sphere she has written works of reference, for example her studies on Theodor W. Adorno and Walter Benjamin. She is presently researching in the field of religion, with special interest in Islam, theories of sovereignty, legitimacy and faith. Notable among her recent books are Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (The MIT Press, 2002), which was published in Spanish as Mundo soñado y catàstrofe: la desaparición de la utopía de masas en el Este y el Oeste (Antonio Machado, 2004); Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009), published in Spanish as Hegel y Haití. La dialéctica amo-esclavo: una interpretación revolucionaria (Norma, 2005); and Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left (Verso, 2006), published in Spanish as Pensar tras el terror: el islamismo y la teoría crítica entre la izquierda (Antonio Machado, 2010).

Source: Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB)
Ultimately, doesn’t everything respond to a stigmatization of what is different?

Yes. I think we intellectuals were very much seduced by the concept of difference. I would say Derrida had a much more fluid notion of difference, it was always to differ it was never an identity, a different identity. So I would say that the problem is not so much with the word difference as the word identity, and the basing of a political collective on an identification that was somehow essentialist. I was suspicious at the time; I never followed that line; I kept talking about a global public sphere, and the possibility of combining thought from east and west, etc. I think that, ultimately, it played into the hands of the commercial markets which now target different groups and played into the insecurities that people have in a time of rapid change because they feel ‘at least I’m Christian’ or, ‘at least I’m Jewish’ or at least ‘I’m…’, you know, one identity or another, then this will give me a strength to endure this transformation, and I think it was always the wrong emphasis, politically, intellectually, only good for commercial game.

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