Life and Prison

∞ “Life and Prison” (pdf) – Catherine Malabou (2018)

This text was first read as an evening lecture at European Graduate School in Saas Fee on August, 13, 2018.

Catherine Malabou is Professor of Philosophy at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) at Kingston University, London. She studied at the University of Paris-Sorbonne and the Ecole Normale Supérieure at Fontenay Saint-Cloud, passed the “aggregation” of Philosophy and wrote her PhD at the Ecoles des Hautes Etudes under the supervision of Jacques Derrida. She then became a Maître de Conférences at the University of Paris-Nanterre. She was appointed as a Professor of philosophy at Kingston University in 2011, and in 2016 was appointed as a Professor in Comparative Literature and European Languages and Studies at the University of California at Irvine, a position previously held by Jacques Derrida.

For many years now, Dr Malabou has explored the concept of plasticity. Starting with the philosophy of Hegel (who is the first philosopher to confer plasticity the dignity of a concept), she extended her research to contemporary neurobiology, in which plasticity is a central concept. Neural plasticity designates the ability of the brain to shape itself under the influence of experience, education and culture, but also of accidents and trauma. In her book The New Wounded (2007), she proposed a rereading of Freud in the light of the most recent neuro-psychoanalytic studies and a redefinition of traumatic events.

More recently, she has been interested in speculative realism and wrote a Before Tomorrow: Epigenesis and Rationality (2016) to answer some of Quentin Meillassoux’s provocative arguments about the necessity to “relinquish the transcendental.” This gave her the opportunity to propose a new reading of Kant, around the motif of epigenesis.

Many thanks to Iseult Gillespie who copy edited Catherine Malabou’s text.