Who is Jacques Derrida?June 25, 2021
Jacques Derrida, who lived from July 15, 1930 to November 8, 2004, was the great French philosopher, literary critic and the founder of the critical thinking method known as Deconstructionism.
Jacques Derrida was born on July 15, 1930, in El Biar, Algeria, to a middle-class Jewish family. Since Algeria was a French colony in those years, the Arab Muslim majority, the native Jews of Algeria and other minorities lived together under the French administration.
In 1870, native Jews were granted French citizenship by the Crémieux Act. The French call this group “Pied Noir” (Black Foot). Jacques Derrida’s Father, Georgette Sultana Esther Safar, works as a saleswoman for a merchant. Her mother Aimé Jacques Derrida and father Esther Safar named their third of five children Jackie after a Hollywood starlet. The death of Jackie’s two brothers from illness has made Aimé an overprotective mother.
Jacques Derrida spent his childhood and youth in El Biar. Hitler’s rise to power was greeted enthusiastically by the Anti-Semitic communities in Algeria. Jackie started her primary education at a French colonial school and was one of the top students at the school until 1942. He learns that he was expelled from school with other Jewish children on the day the schools opened that year. The Vichy government implemented discriminatory laws against Jews in Algeria. In fact, Germany has not yet put pressure on France in this direction. This practice was initiated by the Vichy government itself, which wanted to appear nice to Germany. With the implementation of these laws, the aim is to reduce the number of Jewish students in French schools.
Most of the Jewish children will now go to the schools that the Jews go to. Jackie is among the students suspended from school. He goes to his new school, but because of his disappointment, he does not take his lessons as seriously as he used to and spends that year mostly absent. In the same year, the Derrida family, who have been French citizens for five generations, lose their French citizenship and become foreigners in Algeria. The ambiguity of this situation causes Derrida to feel both belonging to and outside the French culture throughout his life.
DERRIDA’S SCHOOL LIFE AND ACADEMIC CAREER
Jacques Derrida came to Paris in 1949, first studied at the Lycée Louis Grand, and then accepted into the École Normale Supérieure in 1952. There he met Marguerite Aucouturier, who was studying psychoanalysis, and they married in 1957. He taught at the Sorbonne University between 1960-64. He worked as a lecturer at École Normale Supérieure between 1964-1984. In 1983 he co-founded the Collège International de Philosophie (CIPH) with François Châtelet, an institution known for opening a space for research in a way that cannot be done at a university. Derrida taught at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales between 1984-1999. Since his 1966 talk at Johns Hopkins University titled “Sign, Structure, and Play in the Discourse of the Humanities”, his philosophy has received more attention in America than in France. He has taught regularly at Yale University since 1970.
He began teaching at the University of California (Irvine) in 1986. He continued to teach at both the University of California and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris for many years. In the English-speaking world, Derrida’s philosophy has sometimes been met with hostility. This came to light in 1992 when Cambridge University wanted to award Derrida an honorary doctorate. Nineteen philosophers from Cambridge and other universities objected to this award by signing a text in The Times accusing Derrida of charlatanism. Derrida died of pancreatic cancer in 2004.
Jacques Derrida’s activity was not limited to philosophy alone. It is known that he took part in anti-racist movements, especially in the political conjuncture that intensified after the 1960s, supported the rights of Algerian refugees in France, and also supported the opposition movements of Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, and for this reason he was arrested in the same country in 1982. It is known that during the Gulf War, in an article he wrote with the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas in Frankfurter Allgemeine, world intellectuals took a stand against the attack of the USA against Iraq and attempted to redefine Europe’s place in the world.
He studied at the Ecole Normale Superieur and the Sorbonne University in Paris. From the 1970s, he continued his academic career at the universities of Johns Hopkins, Yale, Harvard, California in Paris and the USA. The methods and concepts he developed had an impact on all intellectual fields, from literary criticism to sociology, from identity problems to philosophy, and led to shocking results.