Derrida, Reontologizing Race, and a Call for Deontology


Racial discourse, as the manner in which we use language to “house”  what race is in the general sense, concretizes “the materiality of race” in the narrow sense, ultimately ignoring the “creativity,” or Derridean “freeplay” between race’s “is-ness” and “there-ness.” Like Derrida’s “freeplay,” there is a similar “play” in the structure of the materiality of race. In order words, there is a difference between what race is (is-ness) and how race appears in the world (there-ness). It is a difference grounded in how we conceptualize the materiality of race: a materiality that is never static, but always mattering in a Baradian way, due to the “freeplay” that always-already exists in the materiality of race. This “freeplay” can be considered as flexibility, plasticity, or elasticity to race’s “materiality”—all these terms point to addressing the materiality of race is more than just a series of signifier-signified binaries, but as, in terms of “creativity,” a constantly decentering network of “freeplay” between a series of signifiers and various signified elements all encased in the openness-closeness of race’s materiality towards “what race is” deontologically. By assuming this deconstructive stance towards “what race is,” in a fashion similar to Derrida’s conceptualization of “what structure is,” the materiality of race is not just dependent on how race “stands out” as “being-in-the-world” in racial discourse, but the ethical degree to which what “stands out” can enact a “creativity” of obligation that can be traced to something hidden, something fundamentally ineffable about “what race is.” To understand “what race is” we must reontologize race itself, by deontologically engaging with its ontology, or how it “stands out” materially in its worldhood.

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