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Before the law of spectrality: Derrida on the Prague imprisonment

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This article charts Derrida’s performances in front of the camera and argues that several different film retellings of his 1982 imprisonment in Prague articulate the connections between spectrality and Law. If spectrality disrupts the binary of presence and absence, then we must not only show how there is a ghostly presence within the context of film viewing, but also how being photographed is a matter of embracing blindness and a postal logic. The Prague imprisonment was an intriguing event in Derrida’s life because it seemed to go hand-in-hand with revoking his self-imposed ban on his public image, beginning with his first television interview on Antenne 2. Why does Derrida replay this scene, re-enact it, indefinitely? How does the recurring trope of blindness in his writings relate to both the imprisonment and the experience of being photographed? The television and film retellings in Ghost Dance (McMullen, 1983), D’ailleurs, Derrida (Fathy, 1999), and, finally, Derrida (Dick and Ziering Kofman, 2002) could be a way of changing the ghosts that haunt that scene: from fear and anguish in the first television version to openness towards the other in D’ailleurs, Derrida, where the place and time of the event are not named.
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Keywords: Derrida; blindness; film; law; photography; spectrality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Nipissing University

Publication date: May 1, 2018

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  • Empedocles aims to provide a publication and discussion platform for those working at the interface of philosophy and the study of communication, in all its aspects. This Journal is published in cooperation with the Section for the Philosophy of Communication of ECREA, the European Communication Reserach and Education Association.
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