The death penalty in the age of mechanical reproducibility Event as iCalendar

(Media and Communication, School of Social Sciences)

23 March 2017


Venue: Room 303, Arts 2 Building (207-303)

David Wills | Brown University

The centre piece of new penal code of the French Revolution was the introduction of the guillotine as the humanising and egalitarian reform of capital punishment, supposed to break with the arbitrary infliction of pain of previous practices, as argued by Foucault. But the guillotine was also characterised by the concept of instantaneity (and mechanical reliability), such as continues to inform death penalty jurisprudence, in the U.S., to the present. My paper will analyse the development of the guillotine in the context of those debates, and interpret it as a type of 'photographic' moment, both in the visual history of capital punishment and in evolving attempts to appropriate the instant of death.

David Wills is known as a translator and interpreter of the work of Jacques Derrida. He has translated The Gift of Death, Right of Inspection, Counterpath and The Animal That Therefore I Am, and is currently translating Derrida’s Seminar on Perjury and Pardon. Wills' major ideas are developed in Prosthesis (1995), Dorsality (2008), and Inanimation (2015), where he argues that the animal, or specifically human body, should be understood as a prosthetic articulation of "natural" and "artificial"; and that our conception of the human as an intact natural entity that subsequently comes into contact with inanimate forms of technology does not account for the prosthetic relations that govern the ways we in fact operate in the world.


Join the Faculty of Arts Public Lecture Mailing List