Lately I have been reading The Post Card and having discussions offblog with Carol (whose book is coming out very soon now) about schisms between Foucault and Derrida, and the tendency to fold both back into a generalised ‘post structuralist’ hermeneutic that erases difference: both the crudely empiricist reading of their methodological difference as one separating signification (language) and discourse (which can be more easily recruited into talk of acts, reality) where Foucault gets marginally more brownie points; or the more complex reading of the argument about whether it was essential to return to a consideration of metaphysics and the violence at the heart of all language, rather than ‘merely’ relying on genealogical or historical question of how.
Rewriting my thesis introduction (which doesn’t quote Derrida once, at yet) I realise that all the way along, I have been pretending to be a total Foucauldian/marxian/anticolonialist/feminist. When in fact, the whole thing begins as a problematic of language, the impossibility of language, the violence of not being able to think transness in many other frames than geographical traversal. Which is a Derridean problem. Even as what I’m doing shoots off straight away into genealogical method and critique of political economy and so on.
Who can say why I’ve been ignoring Derrida until now? Maybe it’s because for a long time I have only read Derrida for pleasure. For quoting in letters. For play. But perhaps this is the point. Eli Clare, who (just like Jacques) refuses to step on one side of the line between play and work, poetry and theory, brought me back to an awareness of this — and even more, an awareness of the specificity of language’s violence as it adheres to gender variant bodies:
In English there are no good words, no easy words. All the language we have created—transgender, transsexual, drag queen, drag king, stone butch, high femme, nellie, fairy, bulldyke, he-she, FTM, MTF—places us in relationship to masculine or feminine, between the two, combining the two, moving from one to the other. I’m hungry for an image to describe my gendered self, something more than the shadowland of neither man nor woman, more than a suspension bridge tethered between negatives. (“Gawking, Gaping, Staring,” GLQ: Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 9: 1-2, 2003: 260.)