Judeities: Questions for Jacques Derrida

Judeities: Questions for Jacques Derrida

Judeities: Questions for Jacques Derrida

Judeities: Questions for Jacques Derrida

Synopsis

Invited to answer questions about his relationship to Judaism, Jacques Derrida spoke through Franz Kafka: "As for myself, I could imagine another Abraham."From the experience of a summons that surprises us and prompts the query "Who, me?" Derrida explores the movement between growing up Jewish, "becoming Jewish," and "Jewish being" or existence. His essay "The Other Abraham" appears here in English for the first time. We no longer confront "Judaism" but "judeity," multiple Judaisms and Jewishnesses, manifold ways of being and writing as a Jew--in Derrida's case, as a French-speaking Algerian deprived of, then restored to French nationality in the 1940s. What is it to be a Jew and a philosopher? How has the notion of "Jewish identity" been written into and across Jewish literature, Jewish thought, and Jewish languages? Here distinguished scholars address these questions, contrasting Derrida's thought with philosophical predecessors such as Rosenzweig, Levinas, Celan, and Scholem, and tracing confluences between deconstruction and Kabbalah. Derrida's relationship to the universalist aspirations in contemporary theology is also discussed, and his late autobiographical writings are evaluated. This multifaceted volume aims to open the question of Jewishness, above all, to hold it open as a question, though not one of practical or theoretical identity. As much a contestation of identity as a profound reflection on what it means today to seek, elude, and finally to wrestle with the significance of "being-jew," Judeities invites us to revisit the human condition in the twenty-first century.

Excerpt

JOSEPH COHEN AND RAPHAEL ZAGURY-ORLY

The international colloquium Judéités: Questions pour Jacques Derrida was held at the Jewish Community Center in Paris on December 3–5, 2000. This volume collects talks presented at that venue.

We have chosen the term judeity to express a certain equivocation, an undefinable and undeterminable diversity, that may well constitute the interiority of Judaism today. In other words, judeity, as we evoke it, should in no way be understood as a more “authentic” reformulation of Jewish identity. Here judeity is grasped in all the variety of its interpretations and commentaries, its languages, its nationalities, its politics, philosophies, literatures, and religious currents. The term judeities—upon whose plurality we insist—has opened the very possibility of this colloquium. That is the dual possibility of simultaneously questioning what is understood under the term Judaism and interrogating the relationship (if there is one) between Jacques Derrida’s writing—itself invariably inscribed in the tension of the undefinable—and those multiple judeities.

There thus opened up for us vast and free spaces for questioning, where we could welcome inquiries concerning the political as much as those involving philosophy and religion, aesthetics as much as psychoanalysis and literature. Attentive not to circumscribe an entrenched identity nor to restrain discussion within definite contours, seeking rather to preserve all its aporetic quality and indecision, here academics, philosophers, and writers lend careful ear to the infinite . . .

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