Derrida, Africa, and the Middle East

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They write as Jews-already-not-Arabs, already almost French. They try to recapture the becoming of this writing position without, however, naturalizing any pre-given identity positions i. But it was a love by force. We wanted to love Algeria. The focus on the Jew, which is obviously an autobiographic detail, is not just that. It is also an opportunity to speak a different language: to speak from within the colonial cut and within the Orientalist operation as both an outcome and a resistant trace.

To speak not the language of historicity, not the language of the law, not even the language of literature, but a language of a cut as prefigured through the figure of the always already impossible Arab Jew. The term Orientalism is not a term either Derrida or Cixous use. And this is perhaps not surprising. Orientalism is a borrowed framework, a borrowed language, a borrowed way of speaking and thinking but not an escapable one per se. Certainly not when speaking from the place of the cut. Not when speaking of the becoming of the separation and the making of the Jew and of the Arab.

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The colonial stage produces caricature figures. Names, words, identities have limited freedom on the colonial stage, and very little room for innovation.

Against this discursive, linguistic, and political fixation—the outcome of colonial administration and Orientalist imagination—but also from within it, Cixous and Derrida attempt to generate a discourse that highlights instability, fragmentation, ambiguity, and loss in the figure of the always already displaced and the always already lost: lost home, lost Jew, lost Arab, and lost Algeria. As a result, we are left with a discourse that is both more intimate and less overtly political than the carefully measured discourse commonly modeled on the analysis of Orientalism.

But I would like to suggest that writing from the place of the cut is an unwritten chapter in Orientalism.

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A melancholic underlining precondition that runs through the Orientalist discourse and remains both key to the Orientalist dualistic imagination and invisible in its centrality. It is a figure that demonstrates the triangulated operation within the Orientalist binary imagination.

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It is also to develop a different language, one whose power resides in its ambivalence and non-identitarianism. A language which certainly can sound and read as self-centered, beautified, and sublimated perhaps too French? The Arab Jew here is a figure of political failure and a failed figure. Her most recent book, Visual Occupations: Vision and Visibility in a Conflict Zone , is a study of the visual politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She is currently writing a book on art, archives and the production of the future.

Ahluwalia, Pal. Behdad, Ali. Duke: Duke University Press.


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Bouteldja, Houria. Translated by Rachel Valinsky. South Pasadena : Semiotext e. Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Chow, Rey. In Stigmata Escaping Texts , New York: Routledge. Translated by Marjolijn de Jager. Paul, MN: Ruminator Books.

Derrida, Jacques. Monolingualism of the Other, or, The Prosthesis of Origin. Translated by Patrick Mensah.

Derrida, Deconstruction and Education: Ethics of Pedagogy and Research

Stanford: Stanford University Press. Di Cesare, Donatella Ester. Utopia of Understanding: Between Babel and Auschwitz. Translated by Niall Keane. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Herzog, Annabel. Hiddleston, Jane. Poststructuralism and Postcoloniality: The Anxiety of Theory.

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Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Hochberg, Gil Z. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Memmi, Albert. La Statue de sel. This is an example of deconstruction provided by Niall Lucy in A Derrida Dictionary and it makes a good starting point for us to discuss deconstruction. According to Lucy, the painted bottle has a different appearance than the original.

This simple change in appearance does not deconstruct the milk bottle as a milk bottle. However, painting a milk bottle red can become deconstructive when taking into consideration its context. Painting a milk bottle red can be both deconstructive and not at the same time, which is quite complex by itself.


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The complexity of deconstruction, however, is still far beyond this. First of all, it is difficult to define deconstruction. As the originator of deconstruction, Derrida published more than forty books and hundreds of articles through his life, but he failed to give deconstruction an authoritative definition. One obstacle for this is that deconstruction actively criticizes the very language needed to explain it.

Language structure has already been the target for deconstruction to argue against, which shuts down the possibility of defining deconstruction with language. Another interesting feature of deconstruction is that it refuses an essence. Derrida writes, there is nothing that could be said to be essential to deconstruction in its differential relations with other words.

In other words, deconstruction has to be understood in context. This kind of fluidity also prevents the possibility of defining deconstruction.

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Since deconstruction lacks a fixed definition, grasping its characteristics is an essential way to help understand the concept. This helps explain the deconstructive meaning for the milk bottle. It is an event that does not await the deliberation, consciousness, or organization of a subject, or even of modernity.


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This means the deconstruction has already been there even before Derrida created the theory of deconstruction. Another potential route to understanding deconstruction is to figure out what it is not, which has been summarized at length by Derrida himself. First, deconstruction is not reducible to an attitude of nonconformity, oppositionality, or principled resistance. All of these actions imply the risk of unconsciously reproducing the original structure.