Derrida, Jacques

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1930-07-15
Death 2004-10-08
French
French

Biographical notes:

Jacques Derrida is an internationally recognized philosopher and critical theorist associated with the development of deconstruction.

He was born in El-Biar, Algeria on July 15, 1930. Following his early education in Algeria, Derrida moved to France to prepare for admission to the Ecole normale supérieure, where he completed his studies in 1956 with the dissertation "Le problème de la genèse dans le philosophie de Husserl." Following a period of research on Husserl at Harvard University, Derrida returned to Algeria and, in 1959, to France to teach. In 1964 he accepted a teaching position at the Ecole normale supérieure and rapidly became a major presence in the academic and intellectual world. Derrida has actively published on philosophical topics and literary texts and has taught at several universities in the United States, most significantly at Yale in the mid-1970s and at the University of California, Irvine since the mid-1980s. Throughout this period Derrida became increasingly active in social and political projects both in France and internationally.

From the description of Jacques Derrida papers, 1946-2000 (bulk 1960-1999) (University of California, Irvine). WorldCat record id: 44390604

Historical Background

Biography

Jacques Derrida was born in El-Biar, Algeria on July 15, 1930. He spent his childhood attending primary schools in El-Biar and Algiers until the beginning of Pétainisation within the Algerian school system in 1940, at which point Derrida and other Jewish students began to experience forms of anti-Semitism in the classroom; by 1942 he was barred completely from attending class at the Lycée Ben Aknoum. Although the Germans never occupied Algeria, Derrida was not allowed to return to school until the spring of 1943. During the interim, he attended the Lycée Emile-Maupas, which was run by Jewish teachers expelled from the public school system, but Derrida frequently avoided the classroom.

Upon returning to the Lycée Ben Aknoum in 1943, Derrida completed his primary education and received his baccalauréat in 1948. Although he had already begun to consider a career as a teacher, Derrida had not yet resolved to pursue his studies in France until he heard a radio show dedicated to career orientation in which a professor of literature, who had had Albert Camus as a student, explained that the wide array of subjects studied in the system of higher education allowed one to defer specialization. Until that moment, Derrida had never even heard of the Ecole normale supérieure, but he decided that his future awaited him there and immediately enrolled in hypokhâgne (the first year of a course of study designed to prepare students for one of the Grandes Ecoles) at the Lycée Bugeaud in Algiers.

A year later, Derrida left for France to attend the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. He spent a total of three years in khâgne (the latter years of the Grandes Ecoles preparatory course of study). During this period Derrida met many individuals who have played an important role in his life, including Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Deguy, Louis Marin, and his future wife, Marguerite Aucouturier. By the end of 1952 he had gained admittance to the Ecole normale supérieure. For the next four years, Derrida worked assiduously and acculturated himself to a career as an academic philosopher while studying under such major figures as Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault. He became interested in the work of the German phenomenologist Edmund Husserl and wrote "Le problème de la genèse dans la philosophie de Husserl" for his higher studies dissertation. He completed his studies in 1956 and passed the agrégation, thus becoming qualified to hold a position as a teacher in the higher education system.

Upon passing the agrégation, Derrida received a grant to pursue further research on Husserl at Harvard University. While in the United States, he began to translate and to write an introduction for Husserl's Origin of Geometry . The following year, at the beginning of the Algerian War, Derrida became a teacher of French and English in a school for soldiers' children. During this period, Derrida avoided any active duty and never wore a military uniform.

After spending two years teaching in Algeria, Derrida returned to France in 1959 and took his first teaching position in hypokhâgne at Lycée Le Mans. In the same year, he made his first public speaking appearance, delivering "'Gènese et structure' et la phénoménologie" at a conference at Cerisy. Between 1960 and 1964 Derrida taught "general philosophy and logic" at the Sorbonne, working as an assistant to Suzanne Bachelard, Georges Canguilhem, Paul Ricoeur, and Jean Wahl. His teaching during this period addressed a wide variety of philosophical problems and issues. In 1964 he declined a position at the Centre national de Recherches supérieures and began teaching at the Ecole normale supérieure at the invitation of Althusser and Jean Hyppolite.

From this point onward, Derrida rapidly became a major presence in the academic and intellectual world. In 1966 he made his first significant appearance in the United States at the Johns Hopkins University International Colloquium on Critical Languages and the Science of Man, a conference which marked America's growing interest in the work of French theorists and philosophers. It was a significant moment in American intellectual history insofar as the conference was intended to introduce structuralist thought to the United States. Derrida's paper, "Le structure, le signe et le jeu dans le discours des sciences humaines," effectively dismantled structuralist thought at the very moment when it was being introduced to the American academy.

Throughout the remainder of the decade, he published widely and attracted increasing recognition. In addition to numerous substantial articles published in the journals Critique, Tel Quel, and Revue de métaphysique et de morale, he also published his first three books in 1967: La voix et le phénomène, L'écriture et la différence, and De la grammatologie . Each of these books constitutes a significant contribution to philosophical thought, and by the end of the decade Derrida had already assured himself a prominent position in the history of Western philosophy.

The 1970s began with a series of publications in which Derrida addressed the thought of such philosophical luminaries as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, and Austin. He also engaged more literary texts with his work on writers such as Mallarmé, Artaud, Bataille, Genet, and Ponge. These works, including Marges de la philosophie, La dissémination, Glas, and La vérité en peinture altered the study of literature, linguistics and philosophy in the Western tradition. In 1975 Derrida began teaching at Yale University. His work, along with that of his colleagues and friends Paul de Man and J. Hillis Miller, rapidly became renowned throughout America under the banner of "deconstruction." Subsequently both Derrida and his work received an increasingly enthusiastic reception in the United States, especially as the end of the decade and the early 1980s witnessed the rapid appearance of his works in English translation. Around the same time, he established the collection La philosophie en effet at Editions Galilée, a French publishing house which issues some of the most important works in contemporary philosophy, theory and psychoanalysis.

Throughout the 1970s Derrida also became increasingly active in social and political projects. Most importantly, he founded the Groupe de Recherche sur l'Enseignement philosophique (GREPH) in 1975. Intended to secure the place of philosophy in secondary and university education at a time when the government was attempting to reduce or eliminate philosophy altogether, GREPH articulated the persistent relevance of the study of philosophy for contemporary society and culture.

In June of 1980 Derrida finally gave his official thesis defense at the Sorbonne. For numerous reasons related to the path that his work had taken up until that point, Derrida remained a maître-assistant, an academic rank far below his qualifications. In 1983, however, he was elected to the Ecole des hautes Etudes en Sciences sociales (EHESS), where he continues to teach today. In the same year he helped found the Collège international de Philosophie for the French Ministère de la Recherche et de la Technologie.

Derrida continued his active intervention in various social and political spheres during this period. He participated in events organized against Apartheid and in support of Nelson Mandela. He also co-founded (with Jean-Pierre Vernant) the Jan Hus Association to assist dissident Czech intellectuals and conducted a clandestine seminar in Prague. During his visit to Prague in 1981, he was observed closely by the police and eventually arrested on a fabricated charge of "production and trafficking of drugs." He remained imprisoned for a few days until President François Mitterand intervened on his behalf and demanded his release.

During the mid-1980s Derrida became associated with the University of California, Irvine. Following the death of his friend Paul de Man, he gave a series of commemorative lectures entitled "Memoires for Paul de Man" as the 1984 Wellek Library Lectures. In 1986 he became a tenured professor at UCI, as did J. Hillis Miller. For the remainder of the decade, his academic and political activites, as well as his publishing, continued at a steady pace. In 1989 he and Jacques Bouveresse served as co-presidents of the Commission de réflexion pour l'épistémologie et la philosophie established by the French Ministère de l'Education nationale.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s Jacques Derrida has continued to publish and teach widely. As his fame and notoriety has increased, the number of conferences and colloquia in which he has participated has multiplied. Furthermore, he has held teaching appointments at numerous universities across the globe and has received honorary doctorates from ten institutions throughout the United States and Europe. His publications appear with great frequency and are quickly translated into numerous languages. Prior to his death in 2004, Derrida lived in Ris Orangis, France (a suburb of Paris) and continues to teach at EHESS and UCI.

NOTE: Much of the biographical information used in the biography and the chronology was taken from the "Curriculum Vitae" found in Jacques Derrida, written by Geoffrey Bennington and Jacques Derrida (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

Chronology

  • 1930: Born on July 15th in El-Biar, Algeria.
  • 1940 - 1941 : Experienced various forms of anti-Semitism as his school underwent a process of pétainization.
  • 1942: Expelled from the Lycée Ben Aknoum and intermittently attended classes at the Lycée Emile-Maupas.
  • 1943: Returned to Lycée Ben Aknoum.
  • 1948: Received his baccalauréat in June.
  • 1948: Entered the Lycée Bugeaud in Algiers in preparation for hypokhâgne.
  • 1949: Traveled to Marseilles and entered as a boarding student at Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris.
  • 1952: Admitted to the Ecole normale supérieur (ENS). Met Louis Althusser.
  • 1953 - 1954 : Traveled to Louvain to visit the Husserl archives.
  • 1953 - 1954 : Wrote "Le problème de la genèse dans la philosophie de Husserl," which served as his higher studies dissertation.
  • 1953 - 1954 : Became friends with Michel Foucault.
  • 1956 - 1957 : Passed the agrégation.
  • 1956 - 1957 : Studied at Harvard under the pretext of consulting microfilms of Husserl's unpublished work.
  • 1956 - 1957 : Began to translate and write an introduction for Husserl's Origin of Geometry.
  • 1957: Married Marguerite Aucouturier in June.
  • 1957 - 1959 : Taught French and English in a military school for soldiers' children.
  • 1959 - 1960 : Returned to France and took his first teaching position at the lycée in Le Mans in the hypokhâgne.
  • 1959 - 1960 : Delivered "'Genèse et structure' et la phénoménologie" at a conference at Cerisy.
  • 1960 - 1961 : Took a position teaching at the Sorbonne.
  • 1962: Published introduction to and translation of Husserl's Origin of Geometry, which won the Prix Jean-Cavaillès (an award given for the best work in modern epistemology).
  • 1963: Began publishing in Critique with "Force et signification."
  • 1963: Birth of son Pierre.
  • 1964: Offered a research position at the Centre national de Recherches supérieures (CNRS), which he declined in order to accept a teaching position at Ecole normale supérieur.
  • 1965: Began his association with Tel Quel with the publication of "La parole soufflée."
  • 1966: Delivered "La structure, le signe et le jeu dans le discours des sciences humaines" at the International Colloquium on "The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man," Johns Hopkins University.
  • 1967: Joined editorial board of Critique.
  • 1967: Delivered "La différance" at the Société française de Philosophie.
  • 1967: Published his first three books: De la grammatologie, La voix et le phénomène, and L'ecriture et la différance.
  • 1967: Birth of son Jean.
  • 1968: Joined in marches and organized the first general assembly at the Ecole normale supérieur during the May 1968 movement.
  • 1968: Gave a series of seminars at the University of Berlin at the invitation of Peter Szondi.
  • 1972: Published La dissémination, Marges de la philosophie, and Positions.
  • 1972: Participated in a conference at Cerisy on Nietzsche along with a vast number of other intellectual luminaries, including Deleuze, Klossowski, Kofman, Lacoue-Labarthe, Lyotard, and Nancy.
  • 1982: Definitive break with Philippe Sollers and Tel Quel.
  • 1973: Presented "Glas" as a seminar at the University of Berlin.
  • 1974: Began the collection "La philosophie en effet" at Editions Galilée.
  • 1974: Published Glas.
  • 1975: Founded the Groupe de Recherche sur l'Enseignement philosophique (GREPH).
  • 1975: Began teaching at Yale.
  • 1978: Published La Vérité en peinture and Eperons: Les styles de Nietzsche.
  • 1979: Organized the Etats généraux de la Philosophie at the Sorbonne.
  • 1979: Traveled throughout Africa.
  • 1980: Defended his thesis at the Sorbonne.
  • 1980: Jean-Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe organized a Cerisy conference on the work of Derrida.
  • 1980: Published La Carte postale de Socrate à Freud et au-delà.
  • 1981: Founded the Jan Hus Association with Jean-Pierre Vernant to help dissident and persecuted Czech intellectuals.
  • 1981: Traveled to Prague to conduct a clandestine seminar. Was arrested and charged with drug trafficking. Released from Czechoslovakia following the urgent protests of the French president, François Mitterrand.
  • 1982: Became A.D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University.
  • 1982: Traveled to Mexico and Japan.
  • 1982: Published L'Oreille de l'autre.
  • 1982: Appeared in the Ken McMullen film Ghost Dance.
  • 1983: Helped found the Collège international de Philosophie and served as its first president.
  • 1983: Various activities directed against Apartheid in South Africa and in support of Nelson Mandela.
  • 1983: Became a member of the Ecole des hautes Etudes en Sciences sociales (EHESS).
  • 1983: Published Signéponge and D'un ton apocalyptique adopté naguère en philosophie.
  • 1984: Visited Frankfurt to lecture at Habermas's seminar.
  • 1984: Delivered "Ulysse Gramophone" as the opening lecture at the international Joyce conference.
  • 1984: Gave "Mémoires: For Paul de Man" as the Wellek Library Lectures in critical theory at the University of California, Irvine (UCI).
  • 1984: Published Otobiographies: L'enseignement de Nietzsche et la politique du nom propre and Feu la cendre.
  • 1985: Traveled to Latin America, where he visited Jorges Luis Borges.
  • 1986: Became a tenured professor at UCI.
  • 1986: Worked with Peter Eisenman on the Parc de la Villette in Paris. Beginning of his engagement with architecture.
  • 1986: Published Mémoires: for Paul de Man; Parages; and Schibboleth: pour Paul Celan.
  • 1987: Published De l'esprit: Heidegger et la question; Feu la cendre; Psyché: Inventions de l'autre; and Ulysse gramophone: Deux mots pour Joyce.
  • 1988: Traveled to Jerusalem and met with Palestinian intellectuals.
  • 1988: Published Limited, Inc.
  • 1989: Gave the opening address at the Colloquium at the Cardozo School of Law in New York on "Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice."
  • 1989: Served as co-president (with Jacques Bouveresse) of the Commission de réflexion pour l'épistémologie et la philosophie established by the French Ministère de l'Education.
  • 1990: Taught various seminars in the Soviet Union.
  • 1990: Returned to Prague for the first time since his imprisonment in 1981.
  • 1990: Gave the opening lecture at a conference at UCLA on "The Final Solution and the Limits of Representation."
  • 1990: Organized exhibition "Mémoires d'aveugle" at the Louvre.
  • 1990: Published Du droit à la philosophie and Mémoires d'aveugle: L'autoportrait et autres ruines.
  • 1990: Began donating his papers to the Critical Theory Archive at UCI.
  • 1991: Published Donner le temps: 1, La fausse monnaie.
  • 1992: Published Points de suspension and Donner la mort.
  • 1993: Published Passions; Sauf le nom; Khôra; and Spectres de Marx.
  • 1994: Participated in an international colloquium in London on "Memory: The Question of Archives."
  • 1994: Published Force de loi and Politiques de l'amitié.
  • 1995: Published Mal d'archive and Moscou Aller Retour.
  • 1996: Participated in a symposium to celebrate the opening of the Critical Theory Archive at the UCI.
  • 1996: Published Apories: Mourir--s'attendre aux "limites de la verité;"Echographies; Resistances de la Pyschanalyse; Le monolinguisme de l'autre; and Le toucher.
  • 1997: Published Cosmopolites de tous les pays, encore un effort!; Adieu à Emmanuel Levinas; De l'hospitalité; Marx en jeu; and Le droit a la philosophie du point du vue cosmopolitique.
  • 1998: Published Demeure.
  • 2004: Died on October 8 in Paris.

From the guide to the Jacques Derrida papers, 1946-2002, (bulk 1960-2002), (University of California, Irvine. Library. Dept. of Special Collections.)

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