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Oct 17
Joy Sorman & Catherine Lacey in Conversation ONLINE EVENT Albertine Bookstore/French Embassy

Barbara Cassin

Barbara Cassin is Doctor of Philosophy and Emeritus Research Director at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris. A program Director at the International College of Philosophy, she is also Director of its Scientific Council and member of its Board of Directors. After Michel Deguy and since January 2011, she has ensured its presidency.

Cassin has led the Leon Robin Research Center on antic thought (CNRS - Paris Sorbonne - ENS Ulm), presided over the 35th Commission of The CNRS, "Philosophy, History of Thought, Science texts, Theory and History of Literature and the Arts” and has also led or co-led international programs.

She’s also worked on a number of editorial committees: succeeding Paul Ricoeur and François Wahl, she has collaborated with Alain Badiou, the editorial director of "The Philosophical Order" collection for the French publisher Le Seuil; and founded its series "Points bilingual" Since 2007, she has directed with Alain Badiou the collection "Ouverture" and "Ouverture-billingues" for the French publisher Fayard.

In 2009, she founded, at the request of the UNESCO, the Network of Women Philosophers for which she coordinates the online magazine. She has also worked on the power of words in relation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa (Vérité, réconciliation, réparation, "Le Genre humain", Seuil, 2004).

Responsible of several groups of international research at the CNRS, Cassin has had the opportunity to work on the Dictionary of Untranslatables (Seuil-Le Robert, 2004 / Princeton University Press, 2014). The goal of this philosophical lexicon was to establish a map of European philosophical differences in languages and the difficulties in translating. The ambitious dictionary is the work of 150 philosophers and took 10 years to complete. Recently published in English, it is, at this time, being adapted in Ukrainian, Spanish, Arabic, Romanian, Portuguese, Persian…

Cassin is the author / editor of more than 20 works of philosophy. More recently in France she has published Jacques le Sophiste, Lacan, logos et psychanalyse, (Epel, 2012) and La Nostalgie, Quand donc est-on chez soi ? Ulysse, Enée, Arendt (Autrement, 2013) and two books with Alain Badiou : Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel (Fayard, 2010) and Deux leçons sur L’Etourdit de Lacan, et Heidegger, le nazisme, les femmes, la philosophie, (Fayard, 2010, which are currently being translated.

For her extensive body of work and research, Cassin received in 2012 the Grand Prize of Philosophy of the Académie Française.


In English

  • Dictionary of Untranslatables: A philosophical lexicon, transl. by Emily Apter, Jacques Lezra, Mickael Wood, Princeton University Press, 2014
  • Sophistical Practice. Toward a consistent relativism, Fordham University Press, 2014

In French

  • La Nostalgie, Quand donc est-on chez soi ? Ulysse, Enée, Arendt, Autrement, 2014
  • Derrière les grilles. Pour en finir avec le tout-évaluation, Mille et une nuits, 2014 (dir.)
  • Plus d’une langue, Petites conférences, Bayard, 2012
  • Jacques le Sophiste, Lacan, logos et psychanalyse, Epel, 2012
  • Portraits de l’exil. Paris-New York, dans le sillage d’Hannah Arendt, photos by Fred Stein, Arcadia, 2011 (dir.)
  • Heidegger, le nazisme, les femmes, la philosophie, avec A. Badiou, Fayard, 2010
  • L’appel des appels. Pour une insurrection des consciences, w/ R. Gori and C. Laval, Mille et une nuits, 2009 (dir.)
  • Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel. Deux leçons sur « L’Etourdit » de Lacan, w/ A. Badiou, Fayard, 2010
  • Avec le plus petit et le plus inapparent des corps, Fayard, 2007
  • Google-moi, la deuxième mission de l'Amérique, Albin Michel, 2007
  • Vocabulaire Européen des Philosophies, Dictionnaire des intraduisibles, dir. Seuil-Le Robert, 2004 (dir.)
  • Vérité, réconciliation, réparation, Seuil, 2004 (dir.)
  • Sous X, avec M. Matieu, Actes Sud, 2003
  • Voir Hélène en toute femme. D'Homère à Lacan, illustrations by M. Matieu, Les Empêcheurs de penser en rond, 2000
  • L’Effet sophistique, Gallimard, 1995



1) Ancient philosophy (Homeric, pre-Socratic, sophistic, Platonician, Aristotelian) and its interpretations, including its political interpretations in Heidegger and Arendt.

2) Language et discursiveness (discursivité)

3) « Performance » & « performatif »

4) Translation

5) Lectures on her recent publications in France on:
-The Commission on Truth and Reconciliation
-Jacques Lacan

Recent publications in English

Dictionary of Untranslatables
(Princeton University Press, 2014)
translated by Emily Apter, Jacques Lezra, Mickael Wood

This is an encyclopedic dictionary of close to 400 important philosophical, literary, and political terms and concepts that defy easy—or, for that matter, any—translation from one language and culture to another. Drawn from more than a dozen languages, terms such as Dasein (German), pravda (Russian), saudade (Portuguese), and stato (Italian) are thoroughly examined in all their cross-linguistic and cross-cultural complexities. Spanning the classical, medieval, early modern, modern, and contemporary periods, these are terms that influence thinking across the humanities. The entries, written by more than 150 distinguished scholars, describe the origins and meanings of each term, the history and context of its usage, its translations into other languages, and its use in notable texts. The dictionary also includes essays on the special characteristics of particular languages: English, French, German, Greek, and Italian.


Sophistical Practice: Toward a Consistent Relativism
(Fordham University Press, 2014)

Sophistics is the paradigm of a discourse that does things with words. It is not pure rhetoric, as Plato wants us to believe, but it provides an alternative to the philosophical mainstream. A sophistic history of philosophy questions the orthodox philosophical history of philosophy: that of ontology and truth in itself.

In this book, we discover unusual Presocratics, wreaking havoc with the fetish of true and false. Their logoi perform politics and perform reality. Their sophistic practice can shed crucial light on contemporary events, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, where, to quote Desmond Tutu, “words, language, and rhetoric do things,” and create things like the new “rainbow people.” Transitional justice requires a consistent and sustainable relativism: not Truth, but truth for, and enough of the truth for there to be a community.

Philosophy itself is about words before it is about concepts. Language manifests itself in reality only as multiplicity; different languages perform different types of worlds; and difficulties of translation are but symptoms of these differences. This desacralized untranslatability undermines and deconstructs the Heideggerian statement that there is a historical language of philosophy that is Greek by essence (being the only language able to say what “is”) and today is German.

Sophistical Practice constitutes a major contribution to the debate among philosophical pluralism, unitarism, and pragmatism. It will change how we discuss such words as city, truth, and politics. Philologically and philosophically rethinking the sophistical gesture, relying on performance and translation, it proposes a new paradigm for the human sciences.


October 20, 2014: New York – Event with the College International de Philosophie
October 21-25, 2014: Johns Hopkins University
October 27:Harvard University (TBC)
October 29: Fordham University (TBC)
October 31: University of Minnesota