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Jacques Derrida’s Monolingualism of the Other or the Prosthesis of Origin

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Shani A

on 29 December 2014

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Transcript of Jacques Derrida’s Monolingualism of the Other or the Prosthesis of Origin

of the Other
Monolingualism- ‘Monolingualism’ or ‘Unilingualism’, is the condition of being able to speak only a single language.

Bilingualism-the ability to speak two languages (or more), the frequent use (as by a community) of two languages

Sources: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/

Monolingualism of the Other
Monolingualism of the Other
has many times been viewed as one of Derrida’s autobiographical texts.

He uses his own experience to discuss language through identity, culture, and colonialism etc.

Jacques Derrida
Born: July 15, 1930, El Biar, Algeria
Died: October 9, 2004, Paris, France

Notable for more than 90 books. Among which are: Speech and Phenomena; Of Grammatology; Writing and Difference etc.

Derrida is best known for developing a form of semiotic analysis known as deconstruction. He is one of the major figures associated with post-structuralism and postmodern philosophy

Jacques Derrida’s Monolingualism of the Other or The Prosthesis of Origin
Monoliongualism of the
No self without the other, and vice versa

Self - the subject of one's own experience: perception, emotions, thoughts.

Other-The terms the ‘Other’ and ‘Otherness’ refer to who is and what is alien and divergent from the norm, from identity, and from the self.
(not self + outside the norm)

Source: Wikipedia
‘Monolingualism’, ‘Bilingualism’




From the video: The very condition of deconstruction may be at work in the work, within the system to be deconstructed. It may already be located there, already at work. Not at the center, but in an eccentric center, in a corner whose eccentricity assures the solid concentration of the system, participating in the construction of what it, at the same time, threatens to deconstruct.

One might then be inclined to reach this conclusion: deconstruction is not an operation that supervenes afterwards, from the outside, one fine day. It is always already at work in the work.

Since the destructive force of deconstruction is always already contained within the very architecture of the work, all one would finally have to do to be able to deconstruct, given this always already, is to do memory work.
Reductive criticism
“Come on! you are a skeptic, a relativist, a nihilist; you are not a serious philosopher! If you continue, you will be placed in a department of rhetoric or literature. If you push the matter further, the condemnation or exile could be more serious. You will be confined to the department of sophistry because what you are doing actually falls within the province of sophism; it is never far from lying, "perjury," and false evidence.” [p 4]

Post structuralism &
“Certainly, everything that has, say, interested me for a long time - on account of writing...[is] the deconstruction of phallogocentrism and 'the' Western metaphysics” [p 70]

Critique of western metaphysics and phallogocentrism

Problematizing hierarchies/ binaries

Multiplicity of ‘Identity’

To speak from the ‘margins’ or the ‘periphery’

Identity and citizenship
Derrida’s identity as a Franco-Maghrebian.

Citizenship is an illusion: he was born a French citizen as France naturalized Algerian Jews, but then he became stateless when France withdrew the citizenship decree of his community.

“In order to present myself as a Franco-Maghrebian, I made an allusion to citizenship. As we know, citizenship does not define a cultural, linguistic, or, in general, historical participation. It does not cover all these modes of belonging” [p 14/15]

All texts are produced in such a way that they contain their own contradictions/elisions/exclusions (meaning is predicated on excluding things)

The point of deconstruction is not the exposure of such contradictions/elisions/exclusions. It is not a logical exposure of mistakes and errors. It’s not about exposing good/bad texts, but about understanding that everything is text/textual.

When you unravel a text, deconstruction needs to dramatize its form or work (if you believe that meaning is predicated on excluding things, then deconstruction needs to dramatize that!)

Thus, Derrida is doomed by his own philosophy to dramatize what he says in his text.

“Our question is...identity. What is identity, this concept of which the transparent identity to itself is always dogmatically presupposed by so many debates on monoculturalism or multiculturalism, nationality, citizenship, and, in general, belonging?” [p 14]

“In October 1940, by abolishing the Crémieux decree of October 24, 1870, France herself, the French state in Algeria, the “French State” …was refusing French identity …those whose collective memory continued to recollect or had barely just forgotten that it had been lent to them …” [pg, 17]

How is this similar to the Citizenship Act of 1947 which denied the Indian Tamils their Sri Lankan Citizenship?

dispossession of identity
“Being French citizens from 1870 until the laws of exclusion of 1940, they could not properly identify themselves, in the double sense of ‘identifying oneself’ and ‘identifying oneself with’ the other. They could not identify themselves in the terms of models, norms, or values whose development was to them alien” [p 52]

dispossession cntd.
Identity and citizenship
language and identity
“Did we not agree to speak here of the language called maternal, about birth as it relates to soil, birth as it relates to blood, and birth as it relates to language, which means something entirely other? And about the relationships between birth, language, culture, nationality, and citizenship?” [p 13]

Arbitrariness of these constructs

Colonial aspect of language
“All culture is originarily colonial. In order to recall that, let us not simply rely on etymology. Every culture institutes itself through the unilateral imposition of some "politics" of language. Mastery begins, as we know, through the power of naming, of imposing and legitimating appellations.” [p 39]

Culture is always an imposition, it is about subordination

“This monolingualism of the other certainly has the threatening face and features of colonial hegemony [p 69]

Monolingualsm of the other is the primacy, superiority, of one language over the other.

Politics of language
My culture was right away a political culture. My mother tongue" is what they say, what they speak; as for me, I cite and question them” [p 34]

“For never was I able to call French, this language I am speaking to you, 'my mother tongue'. These words do not come to my mouth; they do not come out of my mouth. I leave to others the words 'my mother tongue.'” [p 41]

French was a language supposed to be maternal, but one whose source, norms, rules, and law were situated elsewhere. [p 41]

Assertion of colonial domination though politics of language

Can language be possessed?
The master does not possess exclusively, and naturally, what he calls his language, because, whatever he wants or does, he cannot maintain any relations of property or identity that are natural, national…

Because language is not his natural possession,
he can, thanks to that very fact, pretend historically,
through the rape of a cultural usurpation,
which means always essentially colonial,
to appropriate it in order to impose it as 'his own.'

That is his belief; he wishes to make others share it
through the use of force or cunning; he wants to make others believe it, as they do a miracle, through rhetoric, the school, or the army. [p 23]

Ideological/repressive state apparatuses- Althusser

“the study of Arabic was restricted to the school, but as an alien language, a strange kind of alien language as the language of the other, but then of course, and this is the strange and troubling part, the other as the nearest neighbor.” [p 37]

As a model of good speech and good writing, it represented the language of the master…The master took the form, primarily and particularly, of the schoolteacher. The teacher could thus represent, with dignity, the master in general, under the universal features of the good Republic. [p42]

Education as ISA
"Today, on this earth of humans, certain people must yield to the homo-hegemony of dominant languages. They must learn the language of the masters, of capital and machines; they must lose their idiom in order to survive or live better. A tragic economy, an impossible counsel. I do not know whether salvation for the other presupposes the salvation of the idiom" [p30]

- Assimilation, Acculturation
- Monolingualism vs Pluralingualism

=Sinhala: Sri Lankan situation

Hegemony of language
The paradox explained

“I only have one language; it is not mine” [p 1]

"The monolingualism of the other means…that in any case we speak only one language- and that we do not own it. We only ever speak one language - and, since it returns to the other, it exists asymmetrically, always for the other, from the other, kept by the other. Coming from the other, remaining with the other, and returning to the other" [p 40]

It is the primacy, superiority of one language over the other!

“Let us sum up. The monolingual of whom I speak speaks a language o f which he is deprived. The French language is not his. Because he is therefore deprived of all language, and no longer has any other recourse – neither Arabic, nor Berber, nor Hebrew,
nor any languages his ancestors would have spoken...

For him, there are only target languages [langues d'arrivee] , if you will, the remarkable experience being, however, that these languages just cannot manage to reach themselves because they no longer know where they are coming from, what they are speaking from and what the sense of their journey is" [p 60/61]

Let us sum up!
The conventional model of monolingualism explains the interaction between languages in terms of borrowing. In this model L1 and L2 borrow from each other
(Machan, api canteen yamu!)
But language interaction cannot be reduced to mere borrowing

The proposed model captures the reality better.

It captures the meanings that have changed
(Pass me the kole)
It captures additional meanings/tones/status associated with words
(Big girl party/Malwara mangalya
It captures the fact that L1 and L2 are no
longer distinguishable
(How about you? Mata nam melo deyak therenna)

Full transcript