September 2, 2016
Jacques Derrida’s idea of abusiveness: calling people Americans
by Melville House
What I meant by American here — maybe my use of the word was a bit abusive…. The abusive use was about the utilitarian, manipulative attitude: “Okay, I need this—do it! Here’s a term, go ahead. Action!” Everybody who makes a film does this. But cinema is American. It’s more American than other things. Today, the world’s experience of cinema is largely, as you well know, whether one likes it or not, shaped by American culture. So that would be the abusive aspect of my vague usage of the term “American.”
Friday morning is a positively terrific time to listen to legendary deconstructive philosopher (and Last Interview series participant) Jacques Derrida explain what he meant by calling his former student, filmmaker Amy Ziering, “very American.” (Spoiler alert: he didn’t really mean it in a good way.)
We won’t take up any more of your time by elaborating further on the professor’s remarks, but it’s a brief clip and certainly worth watching:
(Not quite sure, but it seems Derrida is referring to this earlier footage, in which the same interviewer asks him to speak about love, and, without failing to oblige, he begins his response by demanding, “At least pose a question. I can’t examine ‘love’ just like that.” There is also a pretty enjoyable moment of Peak Derrida in which the philosopher cannot understand whether he is being prompted to speak of l’amour or la mort.)
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) was Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and Professor of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. Among his best-known books are Of Grammatology, Writing and Difference, and Speech and Phenomena.