Unpacking Derrida's Library

A film screening and publication commemorating the multiple legacies of French-Algerian philosopher Jacques Derrida


Fields of Knowledge
  • Pedagogy
  • Philosophy / Theory

Organizing Institutions

Slought and Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies


Eduardo Cadava, Aaron Levy


Andrea Ngan


Gee Wesley, Bettina Escauriza, Sophia Renda

Process initiated


Opens to public



5:15-6:15 pm


101 McCormick Hall
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544

On the web


75% Formal - 25% Informal

Slought and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies are pleased to announce a screening of Unpacking Derrida's Library on October 10th, 2014 from 5:15-6:15 pm at Princeton University, 101 McCormick Hall.

This publication accompanies the symposium "Unpacking Derrida's Library: Secrets of the Archive" at Princeton University in 2014. It marks the 10th anniversary of Derrida's passing and originated in discussions with philosophers and critics who were unable to be at the symposium: Judith Butler, Hélène Cixous, Hent de Vries, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Samuel Weber. We recorded them speaking about their relation to Derrida's life and work. Excerpts were presented at the symposium, while this publication includes the longer versions. It also includes a recording of part of Derrida's March 27, 1985 seminar at Yale University, "Heidegger's Hand (Geschlecht II)," and the published version of the essay that resulted from this seminar. Touching on issues of transmission, inheritance, and legacy, on what it means to hand something down or hand something over, the seminar and essay focus on questions at the heart of the symposium.

Beyond its evocation of Walter Benjamin's famous essay, "Unpacking My Library," the title of this publication renders possible (and impossible) a range of topoi, motifs, or themes, since "Derrida's Library" can include everything his writings set down, laid down, deposited, stored, received, collected, gathered together, and read, everything, that is, we have inherited from him and his work. Including materials from different mediums— texts, audio recordings, and film—this publication also wishes to signal a broader understanding of everything that a library might include, and to recall Derrida's own exploration of the relation between technologies and subjectivity, reproduction and signatures, and language and translations of all kinds.

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One of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century and beyond, French-Algerian philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) profoundly influenced virtually every domain of the humanities and the social sciences. He was the director of the École des Hautes Études en Science Sociales in Paris and is most closely associated with "deconstruction," a way of reading and questioning not only literary and philosophical texts but also political institutions. Derrida maintained a strong political presence throughout his life. He published more than fifty books, including Of Grammatology, Archive Fever, The Politics of Friendship, Specters of Marx, and Rogues.

This publication is meant to help mark the 10th anniversary of the passing of Jacques Derrida. We dedicate this publication to the memory of Jacques Derrida, for everything that he gave us, and continues to give us.

Contents include:

-- A video featuring comments by Judith Butler, Hélène Cixous, Hent de Vries, Avital Ronell, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Samuel Weber (122 minutes)

-- An audio excerpt of Jacques Derrida's seminar "Heidegger's Hand (Geschlecht II)" at Yale University in 1985 (80 minutes)

-- The text of Jacques Derrida's "Heidegger's Hand (Geschlecht II)"

We express our warmest thanks to everyone who kindly agreed to be filmed. We thank Avital Ronell for all of her kind help in making this publication possible, Thomas Y. Levin for his recording of Derrida's 1985 seminar, the University of Chicago Press for permission to reproduce the full, published version of Derrida's text, and especially Marguerite Derrida and Pierre Alferi for their support throughout this project and for permission to publish the recorded excerpt. We thank Andrea Ngan for her dedication and generosity throughout the filming and editing process, Stéphan Oriach for his documentation of Derrida's library in Ris-Orangis, and Andrew Bush for his cover image of a part of Derrida's library.

For more information about the accompanying conference:

Related publications

Philosophers Judith Butler, Hélène Cixous and others remember Jacques Derrida on the anniversary of his death.

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