chapter  3
17 Pages

Derrida and Said: Ships That Pass in the Night


Jacques Derrida’s counterinstitution of deconstruction may be said to constitute a self-refl exive practice of reading that emerges out of the context of French colonialism and Algerian decolonisation. Edward Said’s Orientalism may be understood to be a work of deconstruction. Nonetheless, the relation between Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) and Edward Said (19352003), two of the most signifi cant intellectuals of their shared epoch, may primarily be regarded in terms of a missed encounter. A missed encounter is not simply a question of a lack of connection. It is rather an encounter that could have, even should have taken place, had conditions been otherwise. While Derrida and Said did in fact meet in person, the missed encounter that is being proposed here is rather a question of how intellectual trajectories are caught up in their respective ethico-political currents, pulls and sways, a mobilisation that will necessitate a choppy and uneven tacking between a double wake.