Volume 20, Issue 2, Fall 2016

Robert Trumbull
Pages 160-179

The All-Seeing Sovereign
Blindness and Vision in Derrida’s Death Penalty Seminars

This article explores an intriguing, yet underdeveloped line of inquiry in Derrida’s late Death Penalty Seminars concerning the inherent visibility or spectacle of the death penalty. Showing how this inquiry surfaces in Derrida’s engagement with Foucault, the article argues that Derrida’s Seminars offer crucial resources for critically analyzing, and thus rethinking, sovereignty and the principle of capital punishment. In particular, it demonstrates how visibility forms a key component of the structural scaffolding around the death penalty put under pressure by deconstruction. It then develops this claim by drawing salient connections between the Seminars and Derrida’s work on other visual forms.