“The Last of the Jews”: Jacques Derrida and the Case of the Figure

in The Figural Jew

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780226315119
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226315133 | DOI:
“The Last of the Jews”: Jacques Derrida and the Case of the Figure

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Referring to Judaism, Jacques Derrida once remarked that he always finds himself confronted with a problem of figure. Derrida called himself by several names that attest to this confrontation, such as “the Marrano” and “the last and the least of the Jews.” In 1990, Maurice Blanchot suggested another name: Moses. This chapter shows that a theory and a practice of troping the Jew can be found in Derrida's own engagement with and ambivalent statements about his Jewish identity. It examines Derrida's analysis of being Jewish from the perspectives of both particularism and universalism, and also argues that being Jewish represents for Derrida an exemplary case of the very structure of exemplarity, and that the claim of being Jewish is the claim to exemplify the condition of uprootedness. Derrida suggests that a just political and moral thinking can begin only with an aporia. The chapter also demonstrates how Derrida deploys the tensions within discourses of or about being Jewish in order to challenge a particularist politics of identity as well as a discourse of political universalism or humanism.

Keywords: Judaism; Jacques Derrida; Maurice Blanchot; Jewish identity; Jew; particularism; universalism; uprootedness; humanism

Chapter.  29580 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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