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The Immunity and Auto- Immunity of Childhood Jacques Derrida and Roberto Esposito.

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1 The Immunity and Auto- Immunity of Childhood Jacques Derrida and Roberto Esposito

2 ‘1751’ by Miroslav Holub (poet and immunologist) The year Diderot began to publish his Encyclopedia, And the first insane asylum was founded in London. So the counting out began, to separate the sane, who Veil themselves in words, from the insane, who rip off Feathers from their bodies. Poets had to learn tightrope-walking. And to make sure, officious types began to publish instructions on how to be normal.

3 Immunity Derrida introduces the concept of immunity and what he calls ‘a sort of general logic of auto-immunization’ in ‘Faith and Knowledge’, writing that: The immunitary reaction protects the “indemnity” of the body proper in producing anti-bodies against foreign antigens. As for the process of auto-immunization, which interests us particularly here, it consists for a living organism, as is well known and in short, of protecting itself against its self-protection by destroying its own immune system.’ (Derrida, 2002: 80)

4 The antibody produced to protect the body against ‘foreign antigens’ in the case of childhood might well be that of experience, reason or adulthood. Interestingly the body protected – childhood - is itself a body of reason directed by adult determinations and imaginations. What the ‘body’ of childhood lacks is the auto-immunity necessary to protect ‘itself against its self-protection.’ It is self-enclosed in reason and immunised against anything that cannot be subjugated to that reason. So adult definitions of childhood are precisely what protect the child from being an adult. In Rogues Derrida makes clear that ‘autoimmunity is not an absolute ill or evil’, rather: It enables an exposure to the other, to what and who comes – which means that it must remain incalculable. Without autoimmunity, with absolute immunity, nothing would ever happen or arrive; we would no longer wait, await, or expect, no longer expect one another, or expect any event. (Derrida, 52: 2005)

5 Questions  What is childhood immune to?  And who constructs its immunity?  Is growing up a form of auto-immunisation – a destruction of the self?  Is education there to educate the child in being a child or to educate them to be an adult?  Could education be seen as the construction, preservation and then destruction of childhood?

6 Questions  Childhood is ‘immune’ from the adult community - so are children citizens or subjects of that community?  Or are they entirely excluded?  Is the loss of childhood a loss of immunity from the adult community?  Or is the loss of childhood a development of an immunity to childhood?  Or both?  To understand or be responsive to children might we need a bit of auto-immunity within our adulthood?  Does the logic of childhood infect our adulthood – is childhood lost in us?  Is there a part of us (our ‘souls’ maybe) which is immune to both childhood and adulthood?

7  ‘Faith and Knowledge’ in Derrida, J. (2002) Acts of Religion London: Routledge  Derrida, J. (2005) Rogues: Two Essays on Reason Stanford:Stanford University Press

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