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The Figural JewPolitics and Identity in Postwar French Thought$
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Sarah Hammerschlag

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226315119

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226315133.001.0001

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

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

Chapter:
(p.201) Five “The Last of the Jews”: Jacques Derrida and the Case of the Figure
Source:
The Figural Jew
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226315133.003.0006

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

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