Staging Encounters
Brenna Bhandar and Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller
Catherine Malabou’s philosophical thought stages a new and restless
encounter with form and so transforms the possibilities of philosophy
for thinking contemporary politics, law, and justice. In a series of books,
most of which have been recently translated into En glish, she has pio-
neered a distinctive mode of reading the Continental philosophical tra-
dition, revealing a new materialism that survives and brings to restored
relevance Hegel, Heidegger, Derrida, Irigaray, Deleuze, Foucault, and
Freud, among others. Traversing the philosophical groundwork of these
thinkers, Malabou uncovers and exposes elements of their work that
metabolize and metamorphosize concepts and logics that otherwise ap-
pear to be unmoving, if not static. Th e restless form that survives philo-
sophical critique, which she explores with her signature concept of plas-
ticity, has its material counterparts in socioeconomic structures such as
neoliberal capitalism, the science of neurobiology, the theory and prac-
tice of psychoanalysis, the experience and expression of subjectivity and
identity, and the po liti cal or ga ni za tion of sovereignty. Oriented fi rmly
against the naturalization of these enterprises, Malabou asks us instead
to see each institution engaged with a kind of immanent thought that
materially grounds its potential metamorphoses. Th e form of thought
today, she argues, is ontologically plastic; self- transformation is built
into our bodies, it suff uses our possible readings of philosophy, and it
promises us new perspectives on po liti cal and social change.
De cades after a Continental turn away from structuralism, Malabou’s
scholarship invites us to imagine what we might gain by reconceptualiz-
ing form and bringing it back into philosophical and po liti cal grammar.
In this new metamorphic structuralism,1 might we fi nd an emergent
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