October 9, 2014

Derrida’s ghost


Me too, buddy. Me too.

Me too, buddy. Me too.

Today, October 9th, is the tenth anniversary of the death of the French philosopher, and inventor of deconstructionism, Jacques Derrida. Princeton University has decided to celebrate, or memorialize the theorist (or perhaps dance on his grave, depending on your perspective) by hosting a symposium, Unpacking Derrida’s Library,” which features a distinguished list of guests. But what is left to unpack, or repack, or ship back?

What is the status of the deconstructive philosopher a decade after his death? There’s still a lot we don’t know about Derrida. Melville House’s Jacques Derrida: The Last Interview provides some insight. But we do know one thing: Derrida was a haunted soul. In The Specters of Marx, Derrida expounds upon the ghost of Marx, and how the red giant haunts philosophy.

Ghosts apparently fascinated Derrida. In the spooky British film Ghost Dance, when asked if ghosts exist, Derrida replies that he himself is a ghost: “Therefore, if I’m a ghost, but believe I’m speaking with my own voice, it’s precisely because I believe it’s my own voice that I allow it to be taken over by another’s voice. Not just any other voice but that of my own ghost. So ghost do exist.”

While Derrida’s answer is perhaps only clear to his bedroom-eyed interlocutor, the cryptic nature of his message comes across loud and clear. Watch out: there are specters about and some of them have pipes.

So, does the late philosopher still haunt our streets (or at least our grad school classrooms and dusty library stacks)? Can you still hear the call of deconstruction on the lips of every hipster with a cinema studies degree? Or, is it just Derrida’s magnificent, snow-white mop that lives on in our memories?

I don’t know about you, but I know what I’m going to be for Halloween.