There’s kinship, no doubt. Traces of Derrida ever haunt Agamben, brilliantly, even in the dark. He is expressly ingratiated by ‘Derrida’s critique of the metaphysical tradition‘ (LD 39, original italics). Amid the myriad of his coeval influences, it is certainly worth considering that Derrida is Agamben’s ‘primary contemporary interlocutor’. His ‘critical engagement with deconstruction can indeed be identified as the context out of which emerge almost all of his key concepts’.2 Attell offers compelling discussions of this polemical relationship with regard to voicing language, sovereignty and animality. The former accounts for Agamben’s direct textual engagements with Derrida which, for the most part, address his earlier works, specifically Of Grammatology, Voice and Phenomena and Margins of Philosophy. To address his contemporary intellectual situation, Agamben roots himself in that one he finds most rooted, dedicating an early essay, ‘Pardes‘, to Derrida, which hails him as ‘the philosopher who has perhaps most radically taken account’ of the ‘crisis […] of terminology [that] is the proper situation of thought today …’ (PO 208). Here, Agamben mounts a deferential defence against caricaturisations of deconstruction (oft heard to this day) as a hermeneutical relativism of infinite deferral: ‘[I]t would be the worst misunderstanding of Derrida’s gesture to think that it could be exhausted in a deconstructive use of philosophical terms that would simply consign them to an infinite wandering or interpretation’ (PO 209).
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