Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

A Letter from Derrida: Of Pedagogy and Difference

Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

A Letter from Derrida: Of Pedagogy and Difference

Article excerpt

   If there were no fold, or if the fold had a limit
   somewhere--a limit other than itself as a mark,
   margin, or march (threshold, limit, or border)--there
   would be no text. But if the text does not, to the letter,
   exist, then there is perhaps a text. A text one must
   make tracks with.

   --Jacques Derrida (1981, p. 270)

Our double fold of writing is in response to Marla's invitation 'to do what we do.' To write into the work. In the doing-ness of the doing, we leave traces of a messy text ... a text one must make tracks with ... in the everyday life of living pedagogy. A text that labours in language to do its work across Pacific rim topographies, in difference and deferral. At the ... threshold, limit, or border ... across the pages of a script. In a double fold that refuses a stability of easy limits, a (death) sentencing of curricular life. What is the reader to do? ... make tracks with ... Ex-tract the reads from fragile contexts and purloin the letters, spill the ink, stain the letters and move them on. We write in language always already haunted by the reader-to-come. Hopelessly enticed into difficult readings with Derrida, we confess to knowingly not knowing whether the letters will arrive. And so we leave a paper trail that is littered with letters ... French letters ... mark, margin, or march ... there is ... perhaps a text ...


I don't know how to deal with such a letter; I'm afraid to be confused. (1)

A letter from Derrida, (mis)placed in a word, disrupts my comfort of a common orthographic routine, troubling a notion of 'difference' so familiar in schools--of alterity, of being other, of being discernible--opening to the temporal traces of detours, delays, and discordant intervals irreducibly constituted in daily life. Drawn into the double fold of this letter, I read and write into ambiguous and complex textures of differance--messy morsels and fragmented texts of living pedagogy (Aoki, 2000; Low & Palulis, 2000)--of classroom uncertainties in language and relations invoked by differance. And, in foregrounding praxis in a "post-age of curriculum" (Trifonas, 1999), I run repeatedly into a letter delivered by Derrida that incites a radical altering of my work in schools.

Phonologically well-behaved and alphabetically principled, the a is intentionally inscribed in differance. Resisting definition, differance works to actively disrupt ordinary language and everyday communication, exposing instabilities and ambiguities always already there. Rife with paradox, the a troubles my association with difference--a presumed clean and clear concept of spacing and opposing relations that I can see. Co-joining temporalization and spacing, differance puts into question the authority of presence and opens to a movement of undecidability and its effects in the classroom I had not yet considered.

A French neologism delivered in the slight variance of a letter, differance is [not] a word. Strategically inserted, the letter a opens to a semantic gap--to the spatiality of naming things that differ and the temporality of doing, of putting off. A break constituted between a noun (difference) and a verb (to differ, to defer), differance--neither one nor the other and yet one and the other--works the semantic gap. Running in excess of traditions--of seeing that things differ--it encompasses the gaps and delays of what cannot be seen and fully comprehended--of seeing difference.

Re-reading a letter I do not know destabilizes me; my work in international education begins to falter. Speaking nearby," (2) brief conversations with Pacific island teachers invite me to risk being confused, opening to moments of transition through sites of difficulty invoked by an a.

Obscurity imposed on the reader by an a. Lines of clarity (well-behaved language), conformity (the law and order of clarity), and correctness (the twin of clarity--if it is clear it must be correct) abandoned but not rejected. …

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