Living Together: Jacques Derrida's Communities of Violence and Peace

Living Together: Jacques Derrida's Communities of Violence and Peace

Living Together: Jacques Derrida's Communities of Violence and Peace

Living Together: Jacques Derrida's Communities of Violence and Peace

Excerpt

For Jacques Derrida, the notions and experiences of “community,” “living,” “together,” never ceased to harbor radical, in fact infinite interrogations. The often anguished question of how to “live together” moved Derrida throughout his life and career, animating a host of concepts, most evidently perhaps in the writings on hospitality, “auto-immunity,” in all the essays on law, right(s), and justice. Derrida reflected as well, in instances too many to recount, on the folds, difficulties, and aporias of the concept and the experience of responsibility. The “deconstructive unfolding of the tension between justice and law,” Christoph Menke succinctly comments, occurs “in the name of an experience that no political stance can capture, but that nevertheless affects any politics as its border, and therefore as its interruption.”

During his opening address of the 1989 colloquium “Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice” at Cardozo Law School, Derrida famously asserted: “Deconstruction is justice.” This provocative assertion, sharply giving the lie to decades-old criticism of deconstruction as an aestheticizing, apolitical, or ahistorical exercise, recapitulated the stakes of an infinite task and responsibility that, in spite of and because of its infinity, cannot be relegated to tomorrow. “Justice, however unpresentable it remains, does not wait. It is that which must not wait.” It is in the spirit of such urgency, of a responsibility that cannot be postponed, that Jacques Derrida was an active and outspoken critic and commentator on issues such as South Africa’s apartheid, the Israel/Palestine conflict, the bloody civil war in his native Algeria, human rights abuses, French immigration laws, the death penalty, and on what Richard Falk has termed “the great terror war.”

Derrida’s oeuvre as philosopher is inseparable from these interventions. In 1997, in response to an invitation to “define, briefly, what an intellectual is for you today,” Derrida noted that “never has the task of . . .

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