Jacques Derrida Interviews Vanessa Place

vpfeetJacques Derrida interviews OON #0 (& OON #1) contributor Vanessa Place:









Jacques Derrida: Like my texts, your work is often considered difficult, on the limits of readability. Why is it always the conceptual writer who is expected to be “easier” and not some scientist or other who is even more inaccessible to the same readers? Is it accurate to say that in order to read your OON contribution, one must be in proximity to philosophy, literature, theology, linguistics, quantum mechanics, etc?

Vanessa Place: Who are you sparing?

JD: Forgive me if I’m mistaken, but I imagine that you were very much like me, reading-wise, as a child. Very early I read Gide, Nietzsche, Valery, in ninth or tenth grade. When did you begin, let’s say, “get into” literature and philosophy? I have always had “school sickness,” as others have seasickness; I even cried when it was time to go back to school long after I was old enough to be ashamed of such behavior. How was school for you? When did you begin to consciously analyze the phrase “je, je suis, je suis ne”?

VP: You are there in the form of a material to be made use of; on the other hand, that material is also completely indifferent. You shouldn’t give yourself too much credit.

JD: To whom is your 2008 novel La Medusa addressed? La Medusa instilled such anxiety in me, and a certain withdrawal. Though I am an obvious admirer of your work, I am distrustful of recent brain “sciences” and biology generally as a discipline and science; I have even gone as far as to claim that biology itself is intrinsically totalitarian. La Medusa appears to embrace recent developments in cognitive science. It is uncharacteristic of me, I know, but I will rephrase it hyperbolically — where do you stand? With pro-biology Hegelians like Catherine Malabou? — or anti- biology Nietzscheans like Agamben, Foucault, and myself?

VP: The phenomenon of life remains in its essence completely impenetrable. It continues to escape us no matter what we do. Is this a movement that is likely in itself to give rise to anxiety? If all of a sudden all norms are lacking, namely what constitutes the lack ―because the norm is correlative to the idea of lack― if all of a sudden it is not lacking– it is at that moment that anxiety begins.

JD:  Five years prior to my death, the feminist political philosopher Susan Moller Okin asked the question, “Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?” My colleague Luce Irigaray answered “no.” Not that I disdain Irizarry’s “no” — I think that, in certain situations, there is certainly an intrinsic link between the politics of feminism and the politics of multiculturalism; nonetheless, I am more and more aware of a cultural ambiguity that renders “multiculturalism” today somewhat tedious and frequently impotent. For example, why should the “tolerant” French public demand “flexibility and respect for diversity” when considering Muslim headscarves, but remain indifferent to polygamy in North Africa or clitoridectomy in France? Do you ever have trouble recognizing yourself in the features of the multiculturalist, a la Ishmael Reed?

VP: A train arrives at a station. A little boy and a little girl, brother and sister, are seated in a compartment face to face next to the window through which the buildings along the station platform can be seen passing as the train pulls to a stop. ‘Look’, says the brother, ‘we’re at Ladies!’; ‘Idiot!’ replies his sister, ‘Can’t you see we’re at Gentlemen’.

JD: Given your criminal appellate work with sex offenders, I am curious to know how you read the Lacanian/Irigarayian notion that sexual difference is the most universal difference running through all cultures? To quote Irigaray’s 1999 work Entre orient et occident, “The most universal and irreducible difference . . . is the one that exists between the genders [genres].”

VP: To be clever, we could say, then, that the point of a perversion is to always miss the point.

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Jacques Derrida is a French philosopher commonly associated with post-structuralism and post-modernism. His early works On Grammatology and Writing and Difference, though which he developed the now-widespread critical framework of “deconstruction,” stand as the most noted of his 40+ published books.

Vanessa Place killed poetry–Anon., via Twitter

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