Secrets and Sacrifices of Scission

Aktivitet: Tale eller præsentation - typerForedrag og mundtlige bidrag

Inge Birgitte Siegumfeldt - Foredragsholder


Severance is part of the deconstructive strategy. With various implications a wide range of prominent features in Derridean thought are cut: cut open, cut off, decoupé, decapitated; doubled, re-doubled, marked, doubly marked, and so on. However, the instances of 'cutting' seem to also converge on a central issue in the Jewish tradition: the Covenant with God that marks every male Jew by a "cut along the crural artery", that "very place" where, Derrida has said that his "books find their inspiration, they are written first in skin".  And so my point of departure will be from this particular -and particularly- Semitic sign: circumcision. The primary inspiration for placing the theme of circumcision center-stage in my work on Derrida derives from a particular statement in the extensive 'footnote' accompanying the 'main' text in the book entitled Jacques Derrida, which he co-authored with Geoffrey Bennington in 1991.

The statement is this: "Circumcision, that's all I've ever talked about...".

Now, what can this remarkable piece of personal testimony conceivably mean? And, if it is taken at face value (circumcision is all Derrida has ever talked about), why then is it, that nearly all commentators on Derrida have simply bypassed it? The answer to the latter question may derive in part from his consistent declarations of non-affiliation to the Jewish tradition. But all such declarations in Derrida's work are irreducibly and incorrigibly ambivalent, in the sense that they are caught up in a whole drama of ‘identity' played out on a stage of displacement and shifting perspectives, denial, turn-about, paradox. Derrida says elsewhere in "Circumfession" that he is "changing skin every minute to make truth". Why ‘changing skin' rather than just ‘changing'? Does not the metaphor of skin bring the strong statement ‘circumcision is all I have ever talked about' fully into focus, in a powerful relation with what it means to make (Derridean) truth - that is to say, the practice of deconstruction? The incision on the body (‘right on the skin', as he puts it in Archive Fever) - i.e the very sign of the ‘Jew' - is posited by Derrida as an opening on to the possibility of truth, a possibility always defined and described as an endles sequence of openings on to a future that can never arrive. Circumcision, sign of the primal ‘wound' of Being, might thus be taken as offering a sort of model for the more familiar concerns and terms of deconstruction (différance, the trace, dissemination, aporia, the cryptogram, etc), and we could begin to see circumcision as a kind of password (a Shibboleth) for (re-)entry in to the territory of Derridean theory.

1 jan. 2002

Begivenhed (Konference)

TitelNew Testaments: Derrida and Religion
EmneDerrida and Religion
ByUniversity of Toronto

ID: 13666086