chapter  4
Derrida
Pages 31

The place of Algeria in Derrida’s work is the place of origins, and consequently it is the place of the scandalous, the erased, the deferred. There can be no more contentious issue in the philosopher’s oeuvre, no more deconstructed concept, than origins: the origin of writing, of meaning, of the text. The rejection of origin itself as an ultimate locus, a beginning, a final arbiter of meaning, lies at the ‘centre’ of the philosophy and practice of deconstruction. It is no surprise, therefore, that the historical facts of Derrida’s upbringing in colonial Algeria have not been widely known; indeed, that the events of his own origin have been systematically elided, excluded and glossed over. Christopher Norris has argued that Derrida’s biographical details and his formative experiences are not relevant to an understanding of his work. They only become relevant ‘to his writing insofar as they take the form of a relentless interrogation of philosophy by one who – for whatever reason – shares rather few of philosophy’s traditional beliefs’. This explains ‘Derrida’s reluctance to supply that familiar kind of background information which relates “life” to “work” through a presupposed logic of one-way causal influence’ (cited in Norris 1987: 12).