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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities


Gifts from the dead — Heritage, Historicity, and Receiving the Past

Gifts from the dead — Heritage, Historicity, and Receiving the Past

Hans Ruin • Södertörn University

OCTOBER 16 @ 6 P.M. | Daniel Family Commons, Usdan University Center

The lecture explores the philosophical implications of “heritage” and ”inheritance”, as an exemplary form in and through which the living are connected to the dead. It discusses how the notion of inheritance was both used and problematized within phenomenological and hermeneutic philosophy as a way of thinking the nature and inner dynamic of historicity. In Being and Time, Heidegger describes the “essential structure of historicity” precisely in terms of a “heritage” (Erbe) that we are. In Specters of Marx Derrida takes it up again in the context of an ontology and ethics of spectrality, as in fact a “politics of memory, inheritance and generations”. Over the last two decades “heritage” has become a keyword in the humanities and the center-piece of a rapidly expanding new field, cultural heritage studies, where it is often reified as a social reality with significant political, economic and ethical consequences. In order to think through this disputed concept and the field of human experience that it designates, we need to mobilize the full scope of a necropolitical analysis, that can see human historical existence and experience as a mode of being-with-the-dead. Already in Zarathustra Nietzsche had warned: Gefährlich ist es, Erbe zu sein — It is dangerous to be Heritage.

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