This article explores the unstable distinction between “who” and “what” in Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who! The story’s moral that “a person’s a person no matter how small” has often been read as atoning for the racist cartoons that Geisel drew of the Japanese during World War II. Seussian pedagogy teaches us to hear all persons as whos rather than whats or things. Yet this essay argues that all persons are also things. While this thingliness remains unequally distributed thanks to persistent sociopolitical hierarchies, it also calls on us to think about ethics and politics differently. Diverging from the person/who equation, Jacques Derrida conceives the who as an absolute singularity that resists its subjection to the what, and by extension, its reduction to particularity and identity. Expanding beyond Horton’s racial context, the final section of the essay considers how the contemporary “Black Lives Matter” movement reckons with the problem of particularity and identity while also gesturing toward an incalculable singularity—infinitely deferred yet always “present.”

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