INTERVIEWS WITH JACQUES DERRIDA -------------------------------------------------------------------------------How Derrida Reads Derrida Birth and Intellectual Development Derridean Method The

'Derrida Affair' at Cambridge University Politics and Derrida "To Experience the Future and Welcome the Monster" "Passages - from Traumatism to Promise", in Elizabeth Weber, ed.: Points...:Interviews 1974-1994, Stanford University Press 1995, 385-387 (links to an outside Web site) Applied Derrida (links to an outside Web site)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------The following interviews were extracted from Points...: Interviews, 1974-1994. S tanford University Press, 1995. How Derrida Reads Derrida from "Unsealing ('the old new language')" pp. 115-117 Q.: "An interview with Derrida? At last maybe we're going to understand somethin g about him!" That's what some people said when I announced I was preparing this work with you. It is said your texts are difficult, on the limit of readability . Some potential readers are discouraged in advance by this reputation. How do y ou live with that? Is it an effect you are seeking to produce or, on the contrar y, do you suffer from it? J.D.: I suffer from it, yes, don't laugh, and I do everything I think possible o r acceptable to escape from this trap. But someone in me must get some benefit f rom it: a certain relation. In order to explain this, it would be necessary to d raw out some very ancient things from my history, and make them speak with other s, very present, from a social or historical scene that I try to take into accou nt. It is out of the question to analyze this "relation" while improvising in fr ont of this tape recorder, at this speed. But don't you think that those who acc

newspa pers. of letting time. The accused is thus someone who re-establishes contact between the corpora and t he ceremonies of several dialects. . In philosophy. books. that it is a matter first of all of putting into question a certain scene of reading and evaluation. its inte rests. if you prefer. I accelerated or aggravated a certain contamination of the genres . "Mixing the genres.: We are all mediators. or at someone who speaks a fore ign language. with the shared responsibility of these relays. whether one wishes it or not. with thi s "relation" precisely." as you put it. contradiction. J. and fortunately so. or the history of painting. while not ever being sure of it. who can invent. That would be too ridiculous." their institution. with its familiar comforts. the implicit level of an ac cumulated reserve.. For philosophical or political reasons.: In short." people thought. So certain readers resented me perhaps when they could no longer recognize their territory . little by little? But it i s also interesting to undo. J. one has to have read Derrida. W hy is it apparently the philosopher who is expected to be "easier" and not some scientist or other who is even more inaccessible to the same readers? And why no t the writer. namely. J.. : There is especially the potential that opens up necessarily. in order to read you. nor in that "language of everyone" w hich we all know does not exist. this problem of communica tion and receivability. you demand for the philosopher what is accorded at the outset to t he scientist: the necessity of a translation. history. one can live it only with malaise. media). then it's beca use he or she speaks neither in a purely academic milieu.. linguistics. the codes and the channels of what is the most receivable. of an explanation that will be per formed by others. a kind of chemistry." by taking th e risks of a reception that is slow to come. I also try to begin over again in proximi ty to the simplest thing. but that's not the right word. which is sometimes difficult and dangerous.. you h ave to reckon with. one must have an idea not only of philosophy but also of psychoanalysis. Things became virulent (since it's the case.: To read you.D. break new paths only in "difficulty. their "being-at-home" or "among-themselves. and customs that are in force there. mistaken. or impossible? In truth--here is another complication--I believe that it is always a "writer" w ho is accused of being "unreadable. with the language. that people do not always complain about those they cannot read) when.D. of a writing that has in part sealed itself. to unseal... which is yours. Q. I assure you that I never give in to the temptation to be difficult just for the sake of being difficult. or--still wors e--when these were being perceived from this angle or this distance. literature.D. discreet. isn't it. rhe toric. Q..: In short.. translators. journals. from one text to another. in its new techno-economic givens. its programs of every kind? No one gets angry at a mathematician or a phy sicist whom he or she doesn't understand at all. If he or she is a philosopher.use me in the way you described understand the essential of what they claim not to understand. it's just that I believe in the necessity of taking time or.: But that's true for everyone! Is it so wrong to take account of a past tra jectory. Q. that is.. as in all domains. but rather at someone who tampers with Your own language. someone who is enga ged in an explanation with language. is more serious than ever for everyone. and comprom ise. and thus with a very great number of relays (teaching. of not eras ing the folds. after some boo ks on Husserl. the economy of language.

each time a belonging circumscribes me. Q. this is w hat is called culture. It is up to you perhaps to oppose this biological birth w ith your true birth. near Algiers. the "thinking" that has it out with [s'explique avec] philosophy. I would prefer. in a l azy repetition of the public record: Jacques Derrida was born July I5. if there is anything that cannot be "up to me. You go so far as to say: "it is up to you [il vous revient] " to say when you are born. But however iterable and divisible it remains.: What relation should one see between the first birth and this other birth th at would be your arrival in France.D. This is a little what I am always doing." "I was born": this is one of the most singular expressions I know.: Do you mean to say that you do not want to have any identity? J.You know. that's a bit too much. je suis nè" in which the tense is not given. If the interview form lent itself to it . No. the unique time.: On the contrary. Take off. a sign of life. Thus with. One ought to be able to formalize the law of this insurmoun table gap. Your enga gement is elsewhere. for the event that is thereby des ignated can herald itself in me only in the future: "I am (not yet) born. get free. Not very original.: Is the work you do aimed at refinding this identity? J. Thus. without. An xiety will never be dispelled on this subject. someone or something cries: Look ou t for the trap. the "I" constitutes the very for m of resistance.D. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------Birth and Intellectual Development from "A 'Madness' Must Watch Over Thinking" pp. Identification is a differen ce to itself. je suis. it dis tances itself again." then this is it. One may suppose he will write. and except itself . through so many different relays. in El Biar. if I may put it this way. but the gesture that tries to refind of itself distances. to begin an interminable an alysis of the phrase "je. like everyone else. and a wound. or literature as such does not totally belong to them.: For starters. J. which had to take place more than once. instead of answering you directly. "I am not yet born" because the moment that decided my nameable identity was taken away from me. It calls for a writi ng that sometimes can be read with an apparent facility. one can only try to recapture this theft or this institution which was able to. that insists an d that is repeated forever? This is a little what is being recounted in Circumfe ssion. but this is at once a chance. on a plenitude of the utterance or the knowledge that says "I am born." that would be death. a difference with/of itself. Q. I930. scie nce.D. But by turning around this impo ssible thing. If it closed in on birth. 339-343 Q. Everything is arranged so that it be this way. the "only once" resists.: Let us imagine your future biographer.: No doubt. your studies at the lycée Louis-le-Grand. Who ever said that one was born just once? But how can one deny that through all the different promised births. the one that would proceed from that private or public even t in which you really became yourself. and which no doubt I also resist. is it'? Q.. or "tr ue birth. disengage yourself. the . es pecially in its French grammatical form. it is a single and same time. you're caught." but t he future has the form of a past which I will never have witnessed and which for this reason remains always promised--and moreover also multiple. Each time this identity announces itself. I do. The circle of the return to birth can only remain open. whether we're talking about what you cal l "biological birth" transferred to the objectivity of the public record.

to "get into" literature and philosoph y. at nineteen years of age. He sang the praises of the state of love and Les nourritures terrestres. Those were the most difficult. No doubt. he came from the Mètropole. Nietzsche. rnany who found themselves in my situation had the impre ssion of risking everything in this horrible machine or of awaiting a life or de ath sentence. It's like circumcision. whose name was Lefèvre. For me it was a manifesto or a Bible: at once religious and neo-Nietzs chean. .D. in a dissociated. in part with the monstrous torture of the national competitions in the French system. I had never left El Biar. like every a dolescent. who were very important to me for what could be called a philosophical "training. in ni nth or tenth grade. I no longer know what remains of all this. an inscription in a completely other world. families. I had begun. Q. These years of khâgne and the Ecole Normale were thus an ordeal (discouragement. I read all of Gide. which. what Gide says about Proteus. immoralist.D. most threatening years. The boarding-school experience in Paris was very hard. the liberat ed Algiers became a sort of literary capital. were suppressed a t the end of the Second World War).: My parents didn't know what it was. or in any case frail. I wrote some bad poetry that I published i n North African journals. it begins before you do.? J. and thus first portents of the Algerian war. sensualist. in the suburbs of Algiers. I didn't put up with it very well. because the first uprisings. In part. All of this fascinated me. let's say." But even as I withdrew into this reading or other solitary activities.khâgne. in a "gang" that was interes ted more in soccer or track than in studying. and to the fruits of the Jardin d'Essai. and Nietzsche. I admired its fervor. I loved. Paris being occupied in 1943-44. which I doub tless understood very badly. cult. led me in the directio n of Rousseau. The next year. on the. when I began khâgne at Louis-le-Grand. in the eyes o f us young pieds-noirs who were a little tough. Neither did I. It was the end of the war ("my" Algeria was basically almost constantly at war. Very early I read Gide. I also led the life of a kind of young hooligan. well. I remember I became the stage for the great argument between Nietzsche and Rousseau and I was the extra ready to take on all the roles. oddly enough. and certain figures and names. a certai n language governed it. I began to read Bergson and Sartre.: Until you got to the Ecole Normale? J. I identifie d naively with him who identified. I was sick all the time. Gide was often in North Africa.: Yes. Failure meant a return to Algiers in a state of absolute precariou sness--and I didn't want to go back to Algeria once and for all (both because I felt that I could never "write" while living "at home" and already for political reasons. Ca mus was talked about a lot. and especially very Algerian. In my last two years at the lycée. new literary journals and new publishers sprang up e verywhere. if that's possible. fascination." in any case at its beginnings.: In Algeria. I dreamed of writing--and already models were instructing the dream. with Proteus. Gide even earlier no doubt: admiration. it was quite simp ly the first trip I made in my life. edge of a nervous breakdown. Q. eve ry place where man thinks he can find rest" into a simple "I am not part of the family"). I remember a young teacher. y ou know. made him somewhat ridiculous and naive. precisely. despair-failures on the exams themselves: nothin g was handed to me on the first try). as you know. it ha d to do with a kind of exile.D. I would have learned this book by heart if I could have. from the early '50s colonial politics and first of all colonial societ y had become unbearable for me). to Blida. I kept a "private diary. the lyricism of its declarations of war on reli gion and families (I probably always translated "I hated the home. juxtaposed wa y. the Rousseau of the Rêveries. I reme mber the hymn to the Sahel. f etishism. Valéry. and probably L'immoraliste sent me to Nietzsche.: Was it you or your parents who wanted you to go to the Ecole Normale? J. With competitions like those of the Ecole No rmale and the agrégation. a redhead. even when I enrolled in hypokhâgne.

finally. as soon as there is language. general norms. I am no t assured of the destination. finally. no more than anyone who publishes or speaks. irreplaceable mann er. Or rather yes I do! I have a certain knowledge on this subject. then. concepts. the idiom of t he method. Even if one tried to regulate what one says by one or more possible addressees. to technical proce dures that could be repeated from one context to another. So.: [ . that is. which is not the signature one h as calculated. which is not the set of st ratagems elaborated in order to propose something original or inimitable. Now. w hether one likes it or not. I cannot cross the threshold of a teaching ins titution (for example the Ecole Normale. I stayed at the Ecole Norma le for almost thirty years altogether. generality.: And yet you remained for a long time at the Ecole Normale? J. I have always had "school sickness. Every discourse. There is finally a signature. the possibility of a repetition. And yet. And consequently. who reads you? J. It exists moreover independently of the deliberate will o f whoever writes. that is. applications--but these rules are taken up in a text which is each time a unique element and which does not let itself be turned totally into a method. or the Ecole des Hautes Etudes. I have never left school in general. I cri ed when it was time to go back to school long after I was old enough to be asham ed of such behavior. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------Derridean Method from "There is No One Narcissism" pp. But. there comes a moment when the photograph surprises you and it is the other's gaze that. using typical profiles. where I taught for twenty years. some images. carries with it a syste m of rules for producing analogous things and thus an outline of methodology. d econstructive questions cannot give rise to methods.. well. that is. where I have been teaching for six years) without phys ical symptoms (I mean in my chest and my stomach) of discomfort or anxiety. even a poetic or oracular sentence. Th at said. But as soon as there is a mark. I think there is naturally a desire. b ut I also do not believe in pure idioms." How. That is moreover why one writes. generality has entered the scene and the idiom compr omises with something that is not idiomatic: with a common language. even if one attempts to preserve the idiom of the method--since you spoke of method--of a system of rules which others are going to be able to use. a knowledge. then. And I hold that one ought not to try to master thi s destination.. It is like photography: whatever pose you adopt. which is naturally not the patronymic. In what I write.. for example. l aws. but it exists. some anticipations. some procedures that can be transposed by analogy--this is what is called a teaching. ] you have often repeated that deconstruction is not a method. Still today.Q. so even if one wants to preserve.: By definition. there is already meth od. I thi nk there are also some general rules. 199-201 Q. D. it's true. In fact. I do not know to whom it is addressed.: This paradox has not escaped you. there would no doubt be a lot to say ab out that. even if one wanted to do t hat it would not be possible. by the fact that the idiom is not pure. there is an effect of the idiom for the other.D. you mentioned idiom. wins out and decides. to sign in an idiomatic. but there is a point at which." as others have seasickness. is one to take account of your work? Ho w do you evaluate its effects? To whom is your work addressed and. that th ere is no "Derridean method. whatever precautions you take so tha t the photograph will look like this or like that. fo r whoever speaks or writes. .. Yes. I must suffer also from "school sickness" in the sense this time of homesickness. I think that in what I write in particular--but this is valid for others--the same thing happens: there is idiom and there is method. this singularity is no t pure. at the same time I have tried to mark the ways in which.

you have been attacked in exceptionally violent ways. an d denounced as undermining the very nature of intellectual inquiry itself. this wouldn't happen." I would say that these cr itics organize and practice in my case a sort of obsessive personality cult whic h philosophers should know how to question and above all to moderate. or po litical). the principles underlying many of their evaluations. on the one hand." the compulsiv e "ferocity. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------The 'Derrida Affair' at Cambridge University from "Honoris Causa: 'This is also very funny'" pp. but as I mysel f hope. How d o you account for the ferocity and exaggeration of these attacks on your work? J.D. for example the distinction between the pretended neutral ity of philosophical discourse. it tries to politicize and democratize the university scene. technical. competent. and carrying conviction in its re-examination of the fundamental norms and premi ses of a number of dominant discourses. If this work seems so threat ening to them. 409-413 Q. and so on. I would normally be accused of doing the oppo site). What is unfolding here. Nor in particular to a generation: it's often the active invo lvement of students and younger teachers which makes certain of our colleagues n ervous to the point that they lose their sense of moderation and of the academic rules they invoke when they attack me and my work. but I do try in each case to put these questions in their primary terms. always stimulated a great deal of controver sy. What this kind of questioning does is modify the rules of the d ominant discourse. scientific." nor to a discipline. All of this probably explains why my most resolute opponents believe t hat I am too visible.: If it were only a question of "my" work." and the "exaggeration" of the "attacks. and existential passions and dr ives on the other. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- . between what is public and what is private. I n short. selfpresentation. "autobiographical" engagement (which can also be ethical or politi cal) to the most rigorous--and necessary--philosophical questioning. of the particular or isolated res earch of one individual. and the research that goes on within them. Both at the same time. rigorously argued. incomprehen sible or exotic (which would allow them to dispose of it easily). the violence of these den unciations derives from the fact that the work accused is part of a whole ongoin g process. that I am a little too "personally" "alive. c an't be limited to a personal "oeuvre. like the resistance it necessarily arouses." that my name echoes too much in the texts which they nevertheless claim to be inaccessible.: Your work has. but more than this. signature. to put it mildly.reading is a mixed experience of the other in his or her singularity as well as philosophical content. the structures of academic institutions. to relate them with themes which no doubt must irritate or disturb certain colle agues who would prefer to repress them (for example questions of sexual differen ce and femininity. If these blindly passionate and personal attacks are often concentrated on me al one (while sometimes maintaining that it isn't me but those who "follow" or "imi tate" me who are being accused--an all too familiar pattern of argument). information that can be torn out of this singular context . to answer your question about the "exceptional violence. that's no doubt because "deconstructions" query or put into question a good many divis ions and distinctions. this is because it isn't simply eccentric or strange. Not that I intend putting the subject (in the biographical sense) at the center or origin o f philosophical discourse (indeed." literature and psychoanalysis--but it woul d be necessary here to review so many other themes. the "proper name. Indeed. More a nd more I have tried to submit the singularity that is writing. nor even to the aca demic institution. and as they believe more than they admit.

Provided that one has an interest i n this. first of all through the extension of the teachin g of philosophy to all grades where the other so-called basic disciplines are ta ught. that's certain. you have even practiced what you call a sort of withdrawal. always in dispersion and in the minority. this responsibility before the c urrent forms of the mass media and especially before their monopolization. or the undertakings that interest me (along with a few others) m ay appear politically silent. having no common measure with the structure of the political. of course. J. with or without hope. their framing. on the left as much as on the right.Politics and Derrida from "The Almost Nothing of the Unpresentable" pp. however things might appear.: This brings us back to your political activity with the group GREPH. which has in fact reduce d to silence everything that does not conform to very determinate and very power ful frames or codes. it is very easy to know where my choices and my allegiances are. precisely. the Res earch Group on the Teaching of Philosophy.D. with the new respo nsibilities required by the development of the media (when. without claiming some authority. or privilege reserved to what is so vaguely called an "intellectual" or a "philosopher. of a culture." I have always had trouble recognizing myself in the features of the intellectual (philosopher. high school and university students who. you have never taken up noisy positions ther e. I think that. there are silences. Q. want to analyze and change the educational system. It is for this reason that what is most specific and most acute in the research. Perhaps it is a matter there of a political thinki ng. We were delighted by that and will do everything possible to see that they do not g . against t he various takeovers to which the thing has given rise. No doubt I don't manifest it enough. but let's not exaggerate things.: As regards the political field. J. I am resolu tely for their development (there are never enough of them) and especially for t heir diversification. there is a classical function and responsibility there that must not be avoi ded. Perhaps. a hypothesis not easily recon cilable with the classical typology of the intellectual). or even p ublished in the dominant political languages. François Mitterrand has made very precise commitments in this direction. : GREPH brings together teachers. This is one of the most serious problems today.D. 86-88 Q. but also resolutely against their normalization. and at times the crossroad s of the worst procedures of intimidation (even when it is for the good cause). or a counter-culture that are almost inaudible in the codes th at I have just mentioned. Yes. in certain situatio ns. writer. precisely. and in particular the philosophical institution. sterile. Not that I disdain or critique it in itself. credit. but w here is the measure here and is there one? It often seems to me that I have only typical and common things to say. without the least ambiguity. the "Political field"! But I could reply that I think of nothing else. even if it is just to appeal to good sense and to what I consider to be the elementary political duty. for one can only speak here of the chances or the risks to be run." But the first problem of the "media" is posed by what does not get translated. But I am more and more aware of a transformation tha t renders this scene today somewhat tedious. or still yet to phantasms of what is "receivable. one is not trying to exploit the media for some small profit. who knows. that is. and a certain withdrawal. on the contrary.: Ah. their axiomatics. in which case I join my voice or my vote to t hat of others. the questions. For the withdrawal you spoke of does not at all mean in my view a protest against the media in general. the ones that dictate the laws of receivability. professor) playing his political role according to the sc reenplay that you are familiar with and whose heritage deserves to be questioned .

et shelved. think with them and against them. research or teaching institutions. sc ience. technics. All of this calls for a profound transformation of the relations between the Sta te. as we have begun in the last few months to fear they might. these problems will not go away and neither will those who are fully aware of their seriousness and who have to deal with them. at the dawn of industrial society. and responsibilities. at the university level and elsewhere. technics. In any c ase. powers. if one wants to draw up new contractual forms among them or even to dis sociate radically their duties. passing by way of Hegel. and t hinking. and culture. Why not reread them. but while takin g philosophy into account? This is indispensable if one wishes to invent other r elations between the rationalization of the State and knowledge. The models that are now collapsing are roughly tho se that. Humbol dt. Perhaps it would b e necessary now to try to invent places for teaching and research outside the un iversity institutions? ©1995. Stanford University Press DISCUSSION || CALENDAR || LECTURERS || SYMPOSIA || HUMANITIES AT STANFORD Top of Page || Home Page || Stanford University Libraries || Stanford University <PIXTEL_MMI_EBOOK_2005>63</PIXTEL_MMI_EBOOK_2005> . were discussed by Germany's "great p hilosophers. Schleiermacher. Nietzsche. Schelling. before and after the founding of the University o f Berlin." from Kant to Heidegger.

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