Derrida: Negotiating the Legacy

Derrida: Negotiating the Legacy

Derrida: Negotiating the Legacy

Derrida: Negotiating the Legacy

Excerpt

The death of Jacques Derrida on 8 October 2004 generated a wave of reactions and unleashed a unique attention to the event. The passing away of one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century cannot go unnoticed. While life, and therefore death, was central to his thinking on responsibility, friendship, hospitality and politics, his actual death affects his 'work' in ways that deserve a certain assessment, a careful attention. This necessity to assess the event and its impact on what might be left behind, what we might garner from him, is instigated by the loss of Derrida and the infinite distance that now separates, more than ever before, the body from the name.

Beside the necessity to respond to Derrida's death directly, to begin thinking what his death might involve for the consideration of what he wrote and thought, the need to produce this volume was accentuated by the public obituaries following his death. It was a question of not allowing these to become definitive; to respond in order to defeat those biting epitaphs. Tinted by misunderstanding and ill-advised criticism, displaying a malignant wit and vicious satire, some journalists found the silence of the philosopher a weak point to exploit. Condemning his thought as 'obscurantism', of being 'murky', 'enigmatic' or self-contradictory, The New York Times and The Economist made remarkable efforts to denigrate his work, coming to the conclusion that '[h]e was a sincere and learned man, if a confused one' who 'vehemently resisted any attempt to clarify his ideas'. Defining deconstruction as an esoteric approach, they were able to make all arguments, including anti-semitic claims, acceptable and justifiable; basically, that it is nothing but a catch-all term, undefined and thus suitable for Derrida's academic devotees. Dissatisfied with such simplistic assertions and idle approaches, we believe that some reflection on the topic of Derrida's thought, affected in many ways by his death, is necessary. In . . .

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