Manual Derrida: Negotiating the Legacy

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  1. Negotiating Skills
  2. Derrida Negotiating the Legacy
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This essay is written as a response to the death of Jacques Derrida, who died on October 8 th , and is moved by a responsibility to mourn and to respond to the obituaries which appeared in the days and weeks following his death. It is, in many ways, an essay about the becoming-Derridean of Queer Studies, about the potential rapprochements between Derridean scholarship and Queer Theory as we negotiate his legacy. It is also an essay which touches chiasmatically the forthcoming special double-issue of Rhizomes on the becoming-Deleuzoguattarian of Queer Studies number 11 which will appear in the fall of This article and that issue should be read together as opening queer theory up to futurity and extending a welcome to the impossible.

They are postcards to each other. However, a book which assesses Derrida's Queer Theory or Queer Theory's Derrida and these are two separate projects with the ideal outcome being a dialogue between Derrideans and Queer Theorists has yet to be written or even contemplated. Despite nods in most introductions to Queer Theory especially Nikki Sullivan's, the most recent [5] to the importance of Derridean deconstruction it is hardly surprising that Derrida tends to be supplanted by Foucault in most genealogies of queer studies [6].

The general indifference to Derrida's work among the queer theoretical 'community', if there is such a thing, is puzzling. It is all the more curious when you consider that, as McQuillan hints, queer theorizing and its destabilizing efforts, has its origins if one can say such a thing about queer discourse in lesbian and gay studies, French feminism, and what has come to be called at least in the American academy French Theory.

The general mistrust of capital F 'French', and capital T 'Theory' may well account for some of the more mean-spirited, anti-intellectual, and xenophobic obituaries, articles, and weblogs or blogs in the wake of Derrida's death, but I will return to this shortly. The impact of the work of Foucault who has been canonized by David Halperin in his Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography [7] and of Deleuze and Guattari's collaborative efforts have been acknowledged and given due consideration in genealogies of queer theory so much so in fact that the next century of queer studies is likely to be 'Deleuzian' [8].

But, the influence of Derrida has only been tacitly acknowledged and never patiently worked through.

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This is why, I would argue, we as queer theorists need to acknowledge our debts to Derrida and have a responsibility to mourn queer theory's loss as we consider the future of queer theory to-come after Derrida [9]. This article will argue, in the first place that Derrida, the voyous [16] , the sexy beast who is both outlawed and marginalized in queer and feminist criticism [17] , is also undeniably attractive to those queer theorists endlessly seduced by his oeuvre. I will be focusing particularly on Judith Butler's Derrida rather than Derrida's Butler [18] and her work on mourning, radical democracy, and universality, before reading Derrida's encomia and Politics of Friendship as particularly queer theories of mourning and melancholia.

I will move to a discussion of Butler's and Derrida's messianism and finally, I will suggest that Derrida should become a central focus as we begin to think about the state of queer studies "now". Throughout, this article attempts rather idiosyncratically to sketch the lineaments of a sustained and critical rumination on the rapprochement between the enemy-friends, Derrida's writing s and Queer Theory, and to think about some of the potential as yet unthought horizons for a queer studies futurally imagined, but which we cannot pretend to know in advance.

That is to say, queer theory is always already Derridean and that Derrida is always already queer. He haunts the lines of queer theory and the above provisional and partial [49] list of indices is very much in communion with his ghosts [50]. So why is Derrida, for feminists and queer theorists, seen as just another straight male not-quite-white philosopher with nothing to offer?

Seen as a playful male philosopher content to sit back with his male "friends" and pose questions without translating them into practical politics? Seen as someone for whom there is always another other? This is matched, in France, by a dis- or mis-trust of American Queer Theory. For them the word queer is captured in all its strangeness; it is an odd locution: "cou-iiiir" couir felicitously means leather in French making it particularly adaptable to concepts of sexual dissidence and subcultural style.

Yet they, like Eve Sedgwick, turn to the etymology of queer as signifying traversal.

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And, if we, as Derrida would, go back to the etymological roots of the word queer, we can find some possibilities for thinking about crossings, reborderizations, and tra ns versal s and ways to think about productive lines of flight between America and France and points of connectivity between these two locations [53]. Catherine Malabou's new book Counterpath: Traveling with Jacques Derrida [54] has demonstrated how travel, errancy, wandering, drifting, arrival, and crossing borders traverse Derrida's writings, his permanent dis-placement "implicating him in a constant timelag, between one continent and another She is committed to and wants the gravitas by which she means also the centre of gravity of the term queer to "deepen and shift".

She says:.

Derrida Negotiating the Legacy

For them queer is a bizarre, insolent, strange, ex-centric, singular, and funny word. It is troubling, or in Sedgwick's delicious coinage troublant. Harvey and Le Brun Cordier, however, complicate the mapping of queer studies, as being as Lawrence Schehr puts it, something Made in America , a prepackaged export to France [56]. Queer offers, as Derrida and Caputo suggest, a novel way to rethink processes of subjectivation, an attention to all the dissidences and distortions of identity and the possible invention of new erotic configurations, sexualities, relationships, knowledges, modes of thinking.

Understanding Derrida, Deconstruction & Of Grammatology

In the same issue of Rue Descartes Lee Edelman questions the self-evidence of the Anglo-American origins of queer theory since its points of reference are largely French: he cites the writings of Barthes, Derrida, Lacan and, of course, Foucault as having influenced the contexts for queer thinking [58].

If, as I have argued, queer is underpinned by certain poststructuralist philosophical French texts, the writings of Derrida and Foucault in particular, then surely this offers the conditions of possibility for queer traffic. Yet, up until fairly recently France has been resistant to importing queer theory you will not find any references to the word queer in Derrida's work in the s or any explicit engagement with Judith Butler, for example [59] and has blocked its translation into a French intellectual context.

French thinkers see queer as an example of American mondialisation , a grafting of an American model of sexual identity and ways of thinking about sexuality [60]. The celebrated American pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty in his recent book Achieving our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth Century America reproaches French poststructuralist philosophy, particularly Foucault, as being responsible for the corruption of American leftist thought.

French thinking on the left is characterized as a source of contamination for true American thinking and Rorty employs the rhetoric of importation to stigmatize foreign thought as a form of contamination of the nation the Frenchification of America [63]. The same rhetoric functions in a mirror-like fashion in France where the emergence of Queer Theory is stigmatized as the Americanization, the McDonaldization of France, as a contamination of pure French thought.

To put it bluntly, queer theory is seen as a new international terrorism. Jonathan Kandell's xenophobic, anti-semitic and anti-intellectual New York Times obituary [64] seems tame alongside blogs and internet news articles with titles like "Derrida Deconstructs", "Decomposing Derrida" [65] , and an academic article by conservative Roger Kimball titled "The Meaninglessness of Meaning: Jacques Derrida is Dead, But his Baneful Ideas Live on" [66] It is the same Kimball famed for his dyspeptic response to Eve Sedgwick's "Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl" essay and frequent horrified reports about the latest queer ideas poisoning the Modern Language Association.

The anti-intellectual responses far outweigh the considered ones but there are positive signs: Mark C. Taylor in an op-ed response to Kandell in the New York Times and Jonathan Sterne's recent editorial in Bad Subjects both refer to Derrida's influence on lesbian and gay, and subsequently queer studies [68].

In opposition to Wolin, Michael Hardt says that all of Derrida's work contains a "primary political insight" and that in "even the most seemingly progressive identity, there is always some remainder, some people excluded, left out, abject" [69] which creates an ethical and moral imperative to "attend to that remainder". This Derridean impulse has been enormously influential for a whole generation of political scholars, but for no one more so than Judith Butler. Like Derrida, Butler in her work puts theory into service as she works through difficult socio-political and ethical questions.

Like Derrida she also works patiently, never sacrificing the complexities and difficulties which surround the project of interrogating the stabilization of exclusionary normative practices although given that she is so esoteric and difficult she never expected to be read quite so much as she has been. Both Butler and Derrida have a performative style meaning that the way they say things is inseparable from what they say and from the claims they make. Their texts have a spiralling structure and these performative in ter ventions allow for an infinite openness and welcome to the radically other, the tout autre , the radically foreign [70].

Both are theorists of the avenir , the future to-come. Butler's Queer Theory, like Derrida's deconstruction, events , invents, intervenes , is always to-come [71]. While Butler is cautious about abandoning identity she argues throughout her oeuvre for the theoretical and political necessity for a creative aporetics, that is, for the necessity to " learn a double movement: to invoke the category, and hence provisionally to institute an identity and at the same time to open the category as a site of permanent political contest" [72].

In keeping with Derrida's recent 'ethico-political turn' Butler's writing has a relentlessly dual focus: calling for concrete, responsive action to specific political situations in the present while preserving the possibility, indeed necessity, of a reinscribed future. Her work matters crucially to a queer Derrida [73] but in this article I want to pass quickly through her idea of performativity as it is borrowed from Derrida [74] and on to her theory of mourning before circling back to her messianicity [75].

Three years later she wrote Bodies that Matter : On the Discursive Limits of 'Sex' as a corrective to some of the mis applications of her ideas of drag and parodic resignification. To reduce performativity to performance was for her "a mistake" and in Bodies That Matter she draws on Foucault's work on discursive formation, Derrida on speech act theory and iterability, and Sedgwick on queer performativity to fashion her idea of performativity "not as a singular or deliberate 'act', but, rather, as the reiterative and citational practice by which discourse produces the effects that it names" [77].

This is most clearly dependent on Derrida's claim in "Signature, Event, Context" that "every sign can be cited , put between quotation marks; thereby, it can break with every given context, and engender infinitely new contexts in an absolutely nonsaturable fashion" [78]. Because a subject is the product of compulsory normative frames which need to be constituted over and over again, agency is made possible and efficacious precisely because interpellation sometimes fails.

It is from inside these normative frames that spaces for resistance, for recitation are opened up [79]. In an interview with William Connolly Butler says: "Under conditions in which gender has been constrained, in which certain sexual and gender minorities have felt their lives to be 'impossible', unviable, unlivable, then 'becoming possible' is a most certain political achievement" [80].

Ten years after Gender Trouble and anticipating her more recent work on the human, livability, and bare life, Butler stresses that those who barely count as human, the abject, operate within the compulsory norms of heterosexuality, defying the "tacit and violent presumption that human life only appears as livable under the description of heterosexuality". In language reminiscent of both Agamben and Derrida she concludes "that lives foreclosed now take themselves to be 'possible' strikes me as a political good under conditions in which a certain heightened norm of compulsory heterosexuality works to make non-compliant lives into those which are impossible" [81].

She says about this ethico-political project:. As Morland and O'Brien put it: "In Butler's neo-Freudian account of mourning and melancholia, the burial ground of homosexuality is the plot of land on which heterosexuality is constructed" [85]. In her psychoanalytic reading of gender in Gender Trouble and the Psychic Life of Power Butler suggests that "melancholic identification permits the loss of the object in the external world precisely because it provides a way to preserve the object as part of the ego, and, hence, to avert the loss as a complete loss".

The "status of the object" she continues "is transferred from external to internal" [86]. Introjection is "closely akin to identification", according to Laplanche and Pontalis [87].

Identification is defined psychoanalytically as the "psychological process whereby the subject assimilates an aspect, property, or attribute of the other and is transformed, wholly or partially, after the model the other provides" [88]. In mourning identification is the mechanism that allows one to work through one's loss. Butler comments on this that "this identification is not simply momentary or occasional, but becomes a new structure of identity; in effect, the other becomes a part of the ego through the permanent internalization of the other's attributes" [89].

In the 'normal' work of mourning the loss of the other is overcome through the act of identification which seeks to, as Butler says, "harbor that other within the very structure of the self" [90]. Introjection is part of the process of identification. In the work of Abraham and Torok introjection is qualified as a more elaborate process of identification but incorporation is, however, a melancholic response and constitutes an inability to introject 'normally'.

Introjection serves the work of mourning whereas incorporation belongs more properly to melancholia: it is the refusal to introject loss. His argument about mourning mobilizes an aporetic logic in that he suggests that the so-called 'successful' or 'normal' mourning of the other must necessarily fail because the deceased is internalized, as Butler says, within us, and in this interiorization their absolute alterity can no longer be respected.

But failure to mourn the other actually succeeds, Derrida suggests, when he claims that there is a sense in which "an aborted interiorisation is at the same time a respect for the other as other" [92]. Hence, there is the possibility of an impossible mourning a possible-impossible aporia which we also see around forgiveness, hospitality, and the gift elsewhere , "where the only possible way to mourn, is to be unable to do so" [93].

However, even though this is how he initially presents the problem Derrida goes on to problematize this success fails-failure succeeds formulation. Successful mourning on the Freudian account means introjection whereas incorporation is considered to be where mourning ceases to be a 'normal' response and instead becomes pathological. Reynolds goes on:. Finally, then, the work of mourning for Derrida appears to be double. The other's very alterity means that he cannot be either fully incorporated or introjected and this responsibility to the absolute other is what Butler called humility or generosity above.

Butler suggests that Derrida's own writing "constitutes an act of mourning" and that they, his writings, " avant la lettre " recommend to us "a way to begin to mourn this thinker". However, if read more closely alongside his sustained meditations on death and mourning in the Politics of Friendship Derrida's homoerotic encomia indicate his own concern about masculinist complicities in the devaluation of women within covertly homoerotic, overtly heterosexist literary sentiment.

His elegiac discourse as does his entire philosophical project actually tries to deconstruct the phallogocentric homosociality that obtains between men's writerly encomia to other men and male friendship generally [98].

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Derrida's 'romance' with Paul de Man is not a romance in the erotic sense but it does open up the possibility for a spectrally homoerotic love between the two men. Derrida's mourning is a mourning for what Butler calls "unlived possibilities". His mourning takes on the challenge of internalizing the work rather than the being of the lost other, mourning without introjecting what is mourned but leaving it intact in its alterity.

It can enact such an intervention in the context of the totalising processes of opinion construction advocated by Leo Strauss. One particularly pertinent instance of the implications of a deconstructive gesture in contrast to a constructive one can be seen in the context of the question of the rise of fascism. The latter point speaks directly to the Straussian interventions which amount to a wilful eclipsing, as chapter five will explore further.

This was not due to a mere error of judgement on the part of a man who lived on great heights high above the low land of politics. Nietzsche, naturally, would not have sided with Hitler. Nazism is an active nihilism whose power has become augmented by modern technology. Strauss thus advocated the generation and dissemination of opinions in society to offset this possibility. Indeed, this is a conversation with the shared resignation to — even embrace of — the fact that there will be no redemption for the aesthetics of life and response. Rather this is a conversation about how to live with the impossible.

By mobilising deconstruction, such totalisation can be resisted; any and all totalising logics, which is to say all established logics, can be unsettled through this gesture. Because we cannot objectively choose between alternative premises and values, any and all should be subject to this destabilisation in order to resist their imposition as totalising ontological principles. The call here is to resist the impulse to secure against the abyssal encounter; if responsibility is to be gestured towards the violence and contingence that inheres within any and all politico-philosophical projects must be contended with by exposing their aporetic foundations.

One always already has taken a position, even and especially if it is silence, and this position is always already indefensible and inherently violent. A restless and endless excavation and exposure of this violence precludes the possibility of it becoming totalising, thereby resting the violence of ontology.

A deconstructive approach can thus allow a resistance to the foreclosure of commitments and positions into ontology by insisting that they remain contingent and continuously unsettled. It is, then, an attempt to take the violence of positions and decisions as seriously as possible, an attempt to take responsibility for the violence that inheres therein.

Such a struggle is endless and no arrival or victory can be possible as this would lead back to the totalising logic of the logos. Rather, this entails perpetual restlessness and momentum, a ceaseless series of interventions aimed towards resisting the imposition of totalisation in all its forms.

Bloom, A. Booth, K. Borradori, G. Bulley, D. Burke, A. Burns, T. Campbell, D. Caputo, J. Cornell, D. Critchley, S. Cropsey, J. Derrida, J. Dillon, M. Drabinski, J. Drolet, J-F. Drury, S. George, L. Hagglund, M. Jantzen, G.

Derrida: Negotiating the Legacy: Negotiating the Legacy - Google Libri

Keohane, R. Laclau, E. Lampert, L. Levinas, E. Mouffe, C. Patton, P. Rorty, R. Shapiro, G. The aim of this book is to grapple with this specific theme and to explore the implications of Derrida's death for the future of critical thought itself. The authors demonstrate that there is no single way to adopt or inherit Derrida's thought. Rather, through their engagement with contemporary themes within Politics and International Studies, Philosophy, Literary Studies and Postcolonial Studies, each chapter illuminates the degree to which on-going reflection, radical critique, and above all radical self-critique are demanded by deconstruction.

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This book provides the key starting point for any serious assessment of what the implications of the work of one of the twentieth century's most influential thinkers might be. Features original work from some of the world's most eminent Derridean scholars including Richard Beardsworth, Christina Howells and Christopher Norris. Includes chapters which explore the relationship between Derrida and key contemporaries such as Sartre, Nancy, Heidegger, Blanchot, Deleuze, Levinas and Habermas.

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