Malabou’s The New Wounded Out


The book I discussed on this blog in 2008 is now available in English. Only took four years! Glory to the academic publishing world.

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If any marketing person sends me a review copy, I’d be happy to read it (again) and praise it in this public medium.

And the book is endorsed by Clayton Crockett:

“Malabou draws upon the most current neurological research and contemporary psychoanalytic works, and applies them to a careful, penetrating and convincing reading of Freud’s primary texts, in order to fashion her original interpretation.”—Clayton Crockett, University of Central Arkansas

Talk about awkward imbalance of philosophical weight. I suppose Zizek (or, as Crockett likes to refer to him, “Slavoj”) was not available.

Read the book though.

Catherine Malabou Interview


From The Mantle:

Professor Catherine Malabou graduated from the Ecole Normale Superieure Lettres et Sciences Humaines (Fontenay-Saint-Cloud). Her agregation and doctorate were obtained, under the supervision of Jacques Derridaand Jean-Luc Marion, from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. Her dissertation became the book, L’Avenir de Hegel: Plasticité, Temporalité, Dialectique (1996).

Central to Malabou’s philosophy is the concept of “plasticity,” which she derives in part from the work ofHegel, as well as from medical science, for example, from work on stem cells and from the concept of neuroplasticity. In 1999, Malabou published Voyager avec Jacques Derrida – La Contre-allée, co-authored with Derrida. Her book, Les nouveaux blessés (2007), concerns the intersection between neurosciencepsychoanalysis, and philosophy, thought through the phenomenon of trauma. In the last few years, Malabou has tackled an increasing range of themes and topics in her writing. Coinciding with her exploration of neuroscience has been a greater and greater commitment to political philosophy. This is first evident in her book What Should We Do With Our Brain? and continues in Les nouveaux blessés, as well as in her book on feminism (Changer de différence, le féminin et la question philosophique, Galilée, 2009), and in her forthcoming book about the homeless and social emergency (La grande exclusion, Bayard). Malabou is currently co-authoring a book with Adrian Johnston on affects in DescartesSpinoza and neuroscience, and is preparing a new book on the political meaning of life in the light of the most recent biological discoveries (mainly epigenetics). The latter work will discussGiorgio Agamben’s concept of “bare life” and Michel Foucault’s notion of biopower, underscoring the lack of scientific biological definitions of these terms, and the political meaning of such a lack.

Listen to the interview here

Catherine Malabou in Le Monde


A piece on Catherine Malabou in Le monde (12/17/2009):

Catherine Malabou n’a manifestement pas le goût des territoires et des routines. En retrouvant la philosophe dans un café bondé et quelque peu bruyant du 1er arrondissement de Paris, on comprend aussitôt qu’elle préfère les espaces ouverts à la quiétude du logis, et la foule au confort de l’intimité.

C’est d’ailleurs très bien ainsi, et le dialogue n’en pâtira pas. Car on découvre aussi que cette intellectuelle protéiforme est une interlocutrice attentive et passionnée. Elle semble d’ailleurs plus intéressée par l’autre que par elle-même, curieuse d’épier ses réactions et de savoir ce qu’il pense de son travail. Surprise, presque, qu’on s’intéresse à elle.

Elle dira être née en Algérie, avouera être normalienne, évoquera la thèse sur Hegel qu’elle a rédigée sous la direction de Jacques Derrida (dont elle fut un “compagnon de route”). Elle enseigne également à l’université de Nanterre et aux Etats-Unis. Pour le reste ? “Vous savez, élude-t-elle, ma vie n’est pas très intéressante.” On se tourne alors vers ses concepts, et à l’évidence, cela lui convient mieux. Celui de “plasticité”, notamment, qu’elle a justement découvert chez Hegel et n’a cessé d’élaborer depuis, pour en explorer toutes les implications.

Neutralization of Cerebrality: What Is Psychic Event?


Second part of Malabou’s Les Nouveaux blessés is called La neutralisation de la cérébralité (Neutralization of Cerebrality) and consists of four chapters:

chapter 5: Qu’est-ce qu’un événement psychique?

chapter 6: La “théorie de la libido” et l’altérité du sexuel à lui-même: névrose traumatique et névrose de guerre en question.

chapter 7: La séparation, la mort, la chose: Freud, Lacan et la rencontre manquée.

chapter 8: Objection de la neurologie: “réhabiliter l’événement”.

This part of the book opens with a discussion of the theme that has already been mentioned in the first part, namely, the problem of articulating a position concerning the nature of the “psychic event” using both the resources of psychoanalysis and neuroscience. Continue reading

Images de la pensée w/ Catherine Malabou (video)


Images de la pensée, avec Mark Alizart, Catherine Malabou et Dork Zabunyan.
“A cause de ses derniers livres sur le cinéma, Gilles Deleuze donne parfois l’impression de s’être détourné sur la fin des luttes sociales, tout comme Jean-François Lyotard, auteur d’une exposition au Centre Pompidou et d’un ultime cours sur le sublime à la même époque. On essayera de montrer au cours de cette séance que la théorie française des années 1970 n’a pourtant opéré aucun tournant esthétique, en s’intéressant notamment à cette notion d’ « image de la pensée », dont Deleuze fait, dès son Nietzsche de 1969, la pierre angulaire de sa philosophie politique.”

Ruins of Identity: Irretrievable Damage.


So finishing up Part One of Malabou’s Les Nouveaux blessés – the remaining chapters of this part (3 and 4) deal primarily with an issue that was already set up through the discussion of what constitutes cerebral (and, by extention, psychic) identity – in these chapters we will see the first elements of what constitutes the primary goal of the study that could be roughly presented as following: what does cerebral trauma tell us about the human identity? how does psychoanalysis (and philosophy in general) deal with the new information given to us by neurosciences regarding the physical processes that define who we are? These issues of identity, of course, are not approached naively and without preparation. Carl Dyke posted a link to his essay on the issues that, I think, gives a great summary of the main problems (with philosophy and neuroscience constituting only a part of the big picture) – you can read it here (PDF).

Chapter 3: L’identité sans précédent (Identity without precedent) Continue reading

Post-Traumatic Plasticity: Digression I


UPDATE: Short video of Malabou can be found here.

The second chapter of Part One of Les nouveaux blessésLes célébro-lésés: du roman neurologique au théâtre de l’absence – deals with some examples of cerebral damages and their general effects (the prevailing one being that of “indifference” and “cold detachment”) and how neurological scientific style itself is a strange co-conspirator in this perpetuation of coldness and detachment in a way it deals with these cases stylistically.  However, Malabou brings up her favorite notion of “plasticity” in order to engage a topic she has already addressed in Que faire de notre cerveau? which leads me to my first digression – what is this plasticity as applied to the discussion of the brain? Continue reading

Cerebral Autoaffection Interrupted.


[I collected all the previous posts on Malabou here in order to avoid constant linking the new post to the old ones, since these are simply reading notes, use them as you see fit, but preferred uses are: to impress someone with knowledge of Malabou without actually opening the book, to cite in defense of claim “I was into Malabou before it was cool” and the like pretentious yet awesome ways…]

What is this “cerebral unconscious” then? One must be careful, argues Malabou, not to fall into the trap of identifying that which is not conscious with that which is unconscious. “Cerebral unconscious” is all that information that brain provides for itself about the internal state of the organism, that it informs itself of, that it auto-represents, i.e. “cerebral unconscious” refers to the whole ensemble of processes of brain’s autoaffection. [83] If we go back to the introduction of this discussion of the relationship between sexuality and cerebrality, we will see that Malabou already emphasized the fact that “neuronal architecture is composed of different systems in constant interaction.” [59] This point should remind the reader, I think, that the discussion of “cerebral auto-affection” or “cerebral unconscious” is not directed as some sort of system-building that would reconcile the struggle between sexuality and cerebrality via some sort of larger synthesis of both into a final system.   Continue reading

No Regulation Without Representation: Continuing with Malabou.


Before I continue with my reading of Malabou’s Les Nouveaux blessés, here’s a quick recap of the previous episodes. First post was concerned mainly with the introductory matters. Second, with cerebrality and sexuality. Third, with cerebral autoaffection which is where I got distracted and went reading all kinds of interesting books on related topics on which I may post later. This notion of cerebral autoaffection, it seems to me, reminds one of Derrida’s discussion of iterability.  However, Malabou’s account does not really mention or engage Derrida’s notion, and justifiably so, one might argue. To help organize my thought here, I’d like to see the whole of the first chapter:

Chapter 1: L’autoaffection cérébrale:

  1. De l’énergie nerveuse à l’énergie psychique: Freud ou le cerveau détourné.
  2. La redéfinition du cerveau comme psyché.
  3. Le cerveau temporel et l’inconscient destructible. Continue reading