chapter  10
20 Pages

Un-archiving Algeria: Foucault, Derrida, and Spivak


This essay engages the archive of French philosophy to refl ect on how it has un-archived Algeria. Returning to one of the most visible debates in the history of poststructuralism, I refl ect on a deleted passage about the Algerian Revolution from the 1963 lecture by Jacques Derrida that triggered his famous dispute with Michel Foucault. The vast majority of Derrida’s readers are unaware of the passage in question because Derrida removed it from the defi nitive version of his lecture, “Cogito et histoire de la folie,” published in 1967 in L’Ecriture et la différence.1 Locating this fairly routine revision as an instance of “archive trouble”—where something in the archive of French philosophy “unarchives itself,” to use Derrida’s words2-I consider the legacy of the Foucault-Derrida debate for us, today, in what some call, rather inelegantly, our post-postcolonial age. I focus on the removal of the 1963 Algeria fragment not to approve or condemn Derrida’s politics, but to explore a broader un-archiving process that has produced what Homi Bhabi calls the “restless and revisionary energy” of the “post.”3