Book Section
Deborah Achtenberg

But You Don’t Get Used to Anything

Derrida on the Preciousness of the Singular
This chapter argues against the view that Derrida’s emphasis on change makes him complicit in the neoliberal requirement of flexibility that results both in precarity and in the dominance of English. To the contrary, the essay argues that Derrida’s idea of différance includes the view that openness both involves loss and is always partial (since incision involves excision), that the singular is precious, and that deconstruction is justice since it is alert to what is excluded even by efforts at inclusiveness. Examples of the preciousness and loss of the singular are circumcision (where incision is excision), hospitality (in which unconditional hospitality has material limitations and conditions), subjectivity (which is never based on full presence), language (which both is my own and comes from an other), and neighbourhoods (since they continue only by incorporating new people). Deconstruction, the essay concludes, need not be complicit in neoliberal dominance but, properly understood, makes us aware of the power dynamics by which the openness of plurilingualism can lead to the dominance of English.
Keywords: Derrida; singularity; neoliberalism; deconstruction; circumcision; hospitality; mother tongue; plurilingualism; loss; justice
Title
But You Don’t Get Used to Anything
Subtitle
Derrida on the Preciousness of the Singular
Author(s)
Deborah Achtenberg
Identifier
Description
This chapter argues against the view that Derrida’s emphasis on change makes him complicit in the neoliberal requirement of flexibility that results both in precarity and in the dominance of English. To the contrary, the essay argues that Derrida’s idea of différance includes the view that openness both involves loss and is always partial (since incision involves excision), that the singular is precious, and that deconstruction is justice since it is alert to what is excluded even by efforts at inclusiveness. Examples of the preciousness and loss of the singular are circumcision (where incision is excision), hospitality (in which unconditional hospitality has material limitations and conditions), subjectivity (which is never based on full presence), language (which both is my own and comes from an other), and neighbourhoods (since they continue only by incorporating new people). Deconstruction, the essay concludes, need not be complicit in neoliberal dominance but, properly understood, makes us aware of the power dynamics by which the openness of plurilingualism can lead to the dominance of English.
Is Part Of
Place
Berlin
Publisher
ICI Berlin Press
Date
4 September 2023
Subject
Derrida
singularity
neoliberalism
deconstruction
circumcision
hospitality
mother tongue
plurilingualism
loss
justice
Rights
© by the author(s)
Except for images or otherwise noted, this publication is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Language
en-GB
page start
11
page end
24
Source
Untying the Mother Tongue, ed. by Antonio Castore and Federico Dal Bo, Cultural Inquiry, 26 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2023), pp. 11–24

References

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  • Sartre, Jean–Paul, Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate, trans. by George J. Becker (New York: Schocken, 1995 [1948])

Cite as: Deborah Achtenberg, ‘But You Don’t Get Used to Anything: Derrida on the Preciousness of the Singular’, in Untying the Mother Tongue, ed. by Antonio Castore and Federico Dal Bo, Cultural Inquiry, 26 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2023), pp. 11-24 <https://doi.org/10.37050/ci-26_1>