This is for the very wonderful Camille and Nick:

Derrida, in his last interview, added a parenthesis as the text was going to press:

“I just mentioned ‘secularism’. Please allow me a long parenthesis here. It is not about the veil at school but the veil of ‘marriage’. I unhesitatingly supported and endorsed with my signature the welcome and courageous initiative taken by Noel Mamere, even though same-sex marriage is an example of that great tradition inaugurated by Americans in the nineteenth century under the name of civil disobedience: not defiance of the Law but disobedience with regard to some legislative provision in the name of a better or higher law – whether to come or already written in the spirit of the constitution [Mamere presided over the first same sex marriages in France – relieved of his duties, unions annulled by the courts, vive la republique!]. And so I signed in this current legislative context because it seems to me unjust for the rights of homosexuals, as well as hypocritical and ambiguous in both letter and spirit. If I were a legislator [JD!], I would propose simply getting rid of the word and concept of ‘marriage’ in our civil and secular code. ‘Marriage’ as a religious, sacred, heterosexual value – with a vow to procreate, to be eternally faithful, and so on – is a concession made by the secular state to the Christian church, and particularly with regard to monogamy, which is neither Jewish (it was imposed upon Jews by Europeans only in the nineteenth century and was not an obligation just a few generations ago in Jewish Maghreb), nor, as is well known, Muslim. By getting rid of the word and concept of ‘marriage’, and thus this ambiguity or this hypocrisy with regard to the religious and the sacred – things that have no place in a secular constitution – one could put in their place a contractual ‘civil union’, a sort of generalized pacs, one that has been improved, refined, and would remain flexible and adaptable to partners whose sex and number would not be prescribed. As for those who want to be joined in ‘marriage’ in the strict sense of the term – something, by the way, for which my respect remains totally intact – they would be able to do so before the religious authority of their choosing. This is already the case in certain countries where religiously consecrated same-sex marriages are allowed. Some people might thus unite according to one mode or the other, some according to both, others according to neither secular law nor religious law. So much for my little conjugal paragraph. It’s utopic, but I’m already setting a date!”

There are some problems still – why anyone should be forced, by reasons of administrative necessity, to get the state involved in their relationship is beyond me, but nevertheless, with Derrida on his last legs, he’s still tripping up the legislators in a elegant and amusing way. This excerpt is from a La Monde interview of August 19 2004, translated as “Learning to Live Finally: the Last Interview” pages 43-44 (2007 Melville House Publishing). [See also c for all my Derridizations – though Bad Marxism has three chapters of critique too].


About john hutnyk

Writer on culture, cities, diaspora, history, film, prisons, colonialism, education, Marxism. Studied and taught in Australia at Deakin and Melbourne Universities; and in the UK in Manchester University’s Institute for Creative and Cultural Research; before moving to Goldsmiths in 1998, and becoming Academic Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies in 2004-2014. Has held visiting researcher posts in Germany at the South Asia Institute and Institute fur Ethnologie at Heidelberg University, and Visiting Professor posts in InterCultural Studies at Nagoya City University Japan, Zeppelin University and Hamburg University, Germany, Sociology at Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul, Turkey and at the Graduate institute for Social Research and Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan. Immediate past adjunct Professor of RMIT University, Melbourne and GIAN Visiting Professor Jadavpur Uni Kolkata.
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