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The Lives of ObjectsMaterial Culture, Experience, and the Real in the History of Early Christianity$
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Maia Kotrosits

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226707440

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226707617.001.0001

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The Perils of Translation

The Perils of Translation

Martyrs’ Last Words and the Cultural Materiality of Speech

(p.107) 5 The Perils of Translation
The Lives of Objects

Maia Kotrosits

University of Chicago Press

In Derrida’s Monolinguism of the Other, Or the Prosthesis of Origin, a theory about the universal and constitutive alienation of the speaking subject from language finds its exemplary grounding in Derrida’s own experience as an Algerian Jew, one whose relationship to the French language is both totalizing and exiled: “I have only one language, it is not mine.” He equates speaking not only with contingent citizenship and a divestment of what one never really had in the first place, but also with the extreme experiences of torture, threat, and physical violence. He indeed uses the words “passion” and “martyr” to describe his experience. This chapter reads Derrida “backwards,” and against the universalizing move Derrida and those following him make, in order to suggest a way of reading some scenes of so-called martyrdom as scenes about diasporic cultural divestment. The chapter argues that the last words of martyrs can be read as archives of the inescapable expenses of entering dominant cultural “languages.” In a renegotiation of the linguistic turn with regard to describing real experiences that appear off dominant grids, this chapter stakes a claim for the cultural materiality of speech.

Keywords:   diaspora, deconstruction, Jacques Derrida, Gospel of Mark, martyrdom, translation, Rey Chow, 4 Maccabees, Josephus, Letter of Aristeas

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