ACLA 2017: Derrida’s Interviews: As If in Person

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association
contact email: 


The American Comparative Literature Association's 2017 Annual Meeting

Utrecht University in Utrecht, the Netherlands July 6-9, 2017


Jacques Derrida, as Nicholas Royle notes, was “a great talker as well as a great writer” (Jacques Derrida 155), and his work can often appear more accessible when encountered within an interview, dialogue or question-and-answer session. Called upon to respond adequately to unpredictable questions, to simplify, summarise and improvise, to put his own words in other words and to philosophise on the spot, Derrida’s quasi-spontaneous reflections often read like exercises in the impossible, a challenge that he nonetheless consistently welcomes and excels in, as if it were possible. The interviews therefore constitute an invaluable source for Derrida scholars, and examples can be found in Positions (1981), “This Strange Institution Called Literature” (1989), Points…Interviews (1995), Learning to Live Finally (2007), and “As If I Were Dead: An Interview with Jacques Derrida” (1996).

The form of the interview reflects also on the various unsettling forms that Derrida’s writing takes in, for example, The Post Card (1987), “Circumfession” (1993), or what Louis Althusser termed the “double monologue” of Glas (1986) (qtd. in Peeters, Derrida 261), where voices can appear as if addressed to the other, as if male or female, as if literary or philosophical, as if personal. Recalling a conference in 1997, Kas Saghafi notes that “one of the members of the audience commented that the media tend to efface the question of the body, and that in discussions of the media more attention needed to be paid to our ‘physical presence’ and ‘bodies.’ Derrida noted, gesturing toward her, that at the very moment he was speaking, he was much less sure of ‘presence’ and ‘the body itself’” (Apparitions--Of Derrida's Other 179n25). What can take place in an interview or dialogue when the interlocutors are there only “as if” in person?

Elsewhere, Derrida links the “as if” to the thinking of the event that would remain “perhaps—to come” and he suggests “this small word, the ‘as’ of the ‘as if’ as well as the ‘as’ of the ‘as such’ might well be the name of the true problem, not to say the target, of deconstruction” (Without Alibi 213, 234). This seminar is interested in what is at stake in this strange practice called the interview as well as, more broadly, in the place of the interview in theoretical, visual, and literary texts, and how that place is unsettled by a thinking of the “as if.” Topics might include: being as if in person; filmic, literary and philosophical representations and uses of interview forms; the politics of the virtual, performativity, the event; questions of improvisation, performance, scene, delivery, and silence.


Organizer: David Coughlan

Co-Organizer: Christoforos Diakoulakis

Co-Organizer: David Huddart

Co-Organizer: Elizabeth Wijaya


Proposals (250-300 word abstract and short bio) should be submitted through ACLA's online portal by Sept 23rd: