The history of philology provides an exceptionally rich vein for locating what Derrida came to call deconstructions: nodes or pseudo-events in the development of discourse where it appears that foundations collapse, only to be rebuilt in forms that may or may not have changed. The history of philology engages language, the sciences (especially evolutionary biology), and race, all of which are evidenced in the work of the German philologist Wilhelm von Humboldt. The relationships among these discourses have been repeatedly subject to deconstruction, sometimes so as to enhance appreciation of human diversity, and at other times against it. Understanding the history of philology is critical to understanding our present, but there remains significant work to do to reconstruct its liberatory aspects in the service of a more egalitarian future.

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