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Against Survival: Queerness in a Time That’s Out of Joint


The ghost of Hamlet’s father haunts more than Shakespeare’s play. It has become a pervasive figure for the uncanniness of survivals that pressure the distinction between life and death and thereby compel disavowals of the portion death holds in the logic of “survival.” The work of Jacques Derrida is especially instructive in this regard. His returns to the figure of the specter’s return trace his own investment in what Archive Fever simultaneously affirms as the future to come and as survival’s conservation of life, the two being bound to each other by the concept of the archive. Reading Derrida’s text beside Shakespeare’s, “Against Survival” identifies Hamlet as a crystallizing moment in the ideology of the archive that both animates and constitutes reproductive futurism: a moment that proclaims the injunction that the Child and the future must repeat—and so realize and redeem—the past while assuring, through that very injunction, the constant renewal of a surplus enjoyment, a queerness or perversion, that keeps time out of joint. This queerness, intrinsic to the archive and, as a consequence, to the Child, obtrudes as the death drive that Derrida acknowledges while trying to evade but that Hamlet depicts as essential to futurism’s production of the Child in a counterproductive effort to repudiate the fatality of the drive. Like incest—or the ghost—the Child itself queers the order it is meant to secure and Hamlet, by reading that queerness as inseparable from the investment in overcoming it, repudiates the promised triumph of life that Derrida’s work would affirm.

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