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Deconstructing the Death PenaltyDerrida's Seminars and the New Abolitionism$
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Kelly Oliver and Stephanie Straub

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780823280100

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823280100.001.0001

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An Abolitionism Worthy of the Name

An Abolitionism Worthy of the Name

From the Death Penalty to the Prison Industrial Complex

(p.239) Chapter 13 An Abolitionism Worthy of the Name
Deconstructing the Death Penalty

Lisa Guenther

Fordham University Press

In Derrida’s lectures on the death penalty, the United States figures as “both exemplary and exceptional." Derrida acknowledges the racist structure of state violence in the United States, but he does not develop a critical analysis of race or racism. Drawing on the work of incarcerated intellectual Mumia Abu-Jamal, critical race theorists Cheryl Harris and Angela Davis, and contemporary prison abolitionists, this chapter argues that racism is an issue, not only in the particular context of the United States, but also for the logic of the death penalty that Derrida proposes to deconstruct. Derrida’s own account of indemnity, interest, and condemnation is incomplete without a supplementary analysis of black civil death and the construction of whiteness as property. In conclusion, this chapter argues that an abolitionism worthy of the name would have to move beyond the death penalty, towards the (im)possible project of prison abolition and the abolition of white supremacy.

Keywords:   Abolitionism, Capital Punishment, Critical Race Theory, Death Penalty, Deconstruction, Jacques Derrida, Mass Incarceration, Prison Abolition

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