Kelly Oliver is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of over a hundred articles and ten books. Her most recent books include: Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Film (Columbia University Press, forthcoming in 2012); Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us To Be Human (Columbia University Press, 2009); Weapon as Weapons of War: Iraq, Sex and the Media (Columbia University Press, 2007); The Colonization of Psychic Space: A Psychoanalytic Social Theory of Oppression (Minnesota University Press, 2004); Noir Anxiety: Race, Sex, and Maternity in Film Noir (University of Minnesota Press, 2002); and Witnessing: Beyond Recognition (University of Minnesota Press, 2001). She has also edited several books, including The Portable Kristeva (Columbia University Press, 1997, 2002).
SEE TOPSY “RIDE THE LIGHTNING”: THE SCOPIC MACHINERY OF DEATH
Article first published online: 9 AUG 2012
© 2012 The University of Memphis
The Southern Journal of Philosophy
Special Issue: Spindel Supplement: Derrida and the Theologico-Political: From Sovereignty to the Death Penalty
Volume 50, Issue Supplement s1, pages 74–94, September 2012
How to Cite
OLIVER, K. (2012), SEE TOPSY “RIDE THE LIGHTNING”: THE SCOPIC MACHINERY OF DEATH. The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 50: 74–94. doi: 10.1111/j.2041-6962.2012.00122.x
- Issue published online: 9 AUG 2012
- Article first published online: 9 AUG 2012
abstract: This essay explores the connections between speculation, spectacle, and the death penalty, particularly insofar as they bear on what is “proper to man” and on the man–animal distinction. Returning to a scene of death from Derrida's seminar The Beast and the Sovereign, specifically the scene of an elephant's autopsy, we see how what he calls “the globalization of the autopsic model” of sovereignty requires the death of the animal (Derrida 2009, 296). Following Derrida, we see how man's dominion over other animals is built on a model of sovereignty as necropsy that erects itself through the autopsic model of power, which ultimately is built on the scaffolding of death and the death penalty. Following the history of the death penalty, however, we see that it becomes the property of man through its exercise on animals, particularly through the capital punishment of animals, which inaugurated the codification of law in Europe, and Thomas Edison's electrocution of animals, which inaugurated the electric chair as a form of execution in the United States. Moreover, the case of Edison (who invented both the electric chair and the first moving pictures, many of which were images of execution) makes manifest the connection between spectacle, animals, and the death penalty.