The Role of “the Other” in Jacques Derrida’s Perception of the European Identity

  • Abstract:

    The deconstruction of Jacques Derrida and his concept of “différance” seems to me particularly appropriated for a thorough examination of Europe and Europeaness exposed to plural observers. Derrida considered himself a real European because of his double internal and external appurtenance to Europe. He considered himself to be a European insider because he came from outside. He wrote in this context: “I feel, European in every part, that is, European through and through. By which I mean, by which I wish to say, or must say: I do not want to be and must not to be European through and through, European in every part. Being a part, belonging as ‘fully a part,’ should be incompatible with belonging in ‘every part.’ ” Derrida deals with the question of Europeaness in his two writings “The other heading” (L’autre cap) and “Call it a day for democracy” (La démocratie ajournée) written in 1990 in time of entire political uncertainty in Europe shortly after the fall of the wall in Berlin. I feel important to re-consider those Derrida texts again, more than twenty years after, when Europe seems to fall again into “uncertainty”, at this stage more economical than political. Derrida’s suggestions about Europe’s “headings” in the world, about its universalisms and particularisms and about the importance of what he calls “ideal capital” for the wellbeing of Europe are of surprising actuality. In my lecture I will pay special attention to Derrida’s definitions of “European duty not only to integrate (foreigners), but also to recognize and accept their alterity” and to the task of “outsiders” for ceaseless adjustments of European cultural challenges. I will in this context refer to my book “Notre culture européenne, cette inconnue” and mention the “internal” and “external” components of the European cultural identity.