Departing from where Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction of Martin Heidegger’s gender-neutral Dasein left off, this article argues for “ontological captivity” as a critical analytic for questioning Being under conditions of racial capitalism. Based on a broad understanding of the Black Radical tradition, the author argues for the importance of connecting the analysis of ontological difference with the political critique of concrete historical and material conditions that structurally link what it means to be human to overlapping and mutually reinforcing technologies of capture. From the slave ship, the plantation, the reservation, the prison, the detention center, the penal colony, and the concentration camp to the ways in which injurious signifiers fix the body and arrest its mobility, ontological difference should be unthinkable outside a confrontation with its material conditions of possibility and impossibility. These are the material conditions that, from W. E. B. Du Bois’s analysis of the “color-line” to Calvin Warren’s analytic of “onticide,” from Lewis Gordon’s “antiblackness” to Nelson Maldonado-Torres’s “coloniality of being,” and from Hortense Spillers’s “being for the captor” to Zakiyyah Iman Jackson’s “ontological plasticization,” call for a political rather than an ethical interrogation of Being.
Ontological Captivity: Toward a Black Radical Deconstruction of Being
andrés fabián henao castro is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His research rethinks the relationship between politics and aesthetics in relation to gender-differentiated colonial logics of capitalist accumulation. He is the author of Antigone in the Americas: Democracy, Sexuality, and Death in the Settler Colonial Present (SUNY Press, 2021) and of various articles published in Settler Colonial Studies, Theoria, Theory and Event, Representation, Theatre Survey, Contemporary Political Theory, and Hypatia, among others. He is currently working on a second book, titled The Militant Intellect: Critical Theory’s Conceptual Personae (forthcoming with Rowman and Littlefield).
Andrés Fabián Henao Castro; Ontological Captivity: Toward a Black Radical Deconstruction of Being. differences 1 December 2021; 32 (3): 85–113. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-9479702
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