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Derridean Europe from Pakistan

Ruminations of Jacques Derrida (on Europe) understood by a Pakistani

Hey Feminists! Derrida wasn’t one, (especially about Europe)

The tenets of Derrida’s deconstruction has been considered as a viable ground for feminism by majority writers like Nancy Holland, Gayatri Spivak etc. but there has been not so feminist instances in Derrida and one is the case when he talks about Europe.
The binaries created in Western Metaphysics like male/female, present/absent, self/other also has an underlying politics of the other. Presence is preferred over absence, self over other and maleness is privileged over feminine. The western metaphysics gives precedence to maleness, female is taken as complete other of male.
To indicate Freud’s obsession with phallus Ernest Jones coined the term phallocentrism, Derrida used logocentrism (fixation of Western Metaphysics with word or origin) and phallocentrism and created neologism phallogocentrism: the privileging the phallus over female and logocentrism, the hierarchy of logos as the untouchable. Through this Derrida showed that phallus had always been the key signifier in the western discourse.
Phallogocentrism: An Attitude
Ross Benjamin and Heesok Chang writing their treatise on Derrida, elucidate how Derrida saw the European authority as having masculine strength. He perceived the Imperial epoch of Europe as exemplifying that masculinity. He asserted that the reason Europe has had leverage was because Europe has been gifted by a geographical space that is on the margins of continent, with a jutting headland and phallic promontory. Additionally, Europe has always captained the journey of mankind with an ordered style, which is often done by the man in charge. Derrida talked about Europe in gendered terms, seeing it as male entity dominant over his past colonial subordinates.
In The Other Heading, commenting on the text of “Congress of European Cultures,” Derrida mentioned that there was a quote that France must guard its “avant-garde” stature. Derrida said that alongside being quite attractive this word depicted to have symbolism with the figure of projectile, prow or of phallic, quill which is advanced forward and portray guard or memory. Derrida interpreted that quote as France has to look for itself like a man.
He scribbled that Europe always reach towards other, as it has been its practice, mostly towards America (West), while towards East, Europe makes advances, “and promotes itself as an advance, and it will have never ceased to make advances on the other: to induce, seduce, produce, and conduce, to spread out, to cultivate, to love or to violate, to love to violate, to colonize, and to colonize itself.”
Also, Jacques Derrida in the Other Heading took Paul Valery as the scholar who might be considered as a prophet for European Integration. He mentioned that how Valery saw Europe as submissive to United States of America. Valery warned that it is quite evident that Europe wants US to rule and dictate terms, and as a consequence Europe will be punished. Valery furthered that Europe is so much enthusiastic of getting rid of its past memories that it will gladly let the “happy people” rule over them. Valery sarcastically used the term happy people for the Americans who don’t have any past memory of their own and will gladly let Europe forget its own.
Margaret Heller commenting on the above quoted phrases of Valery in Derrida’s The Other Heading emphasized that Derrida does not dichotomize the relation of US and Europe as such explicitly. But still she mentions that Valery is working on the notion of ‘rape of Europa’. Several Books and pieces have come out in this accord. Slavoj Zizek pointed out how Europe has been abducted now and again. He wrote how culture of Europe was ruined by Romans and Christianity was done the same by barbarians. He evoked that does not again recently Europe has been abducted by US who are setting standard for Europe and acting as if Europe is its province. Zizek also dichotomized the relation of US and Europe on the basis of masculine and feminine respectively. Despite Derrida’s phallogocentric references and his desire that Europe should increase its military might against hegemonic act of US, Europe does not yet seem to able to dictate its terms to US.
Politically speaking Derrida himself has outlined others for Europe, the orient or its past colonies as lesser other and US as the wholly other. And we will also evaluate its relationship with US on gendered terms, although Derrida never himself used such explicit jargon for Europe’s relation with US but he disliked Europe being used by US in its war on terror endeavors and sees US acting as a dominant male over Europe.
The Gendered Relations of Europe
Derrida has mentioned how politics have eradicated the figure of female from its discourse. Politics, Derrida reminded us, is male centric. In Politics of Friendship Derrida emphasized that politics by virtue of it is conjoined with masculine virility and consequently politics seems incapable of justly dealing with the concept of women and their equality and alterity at the same time.
Additionally, Derrida has always emphasized that western metaphysics has always been phallogocentric. Making Derrida’s own arguments as basis, for the phallogocentric politics, there has been a lot of works on gendered descriptions of nations like that of Rada Ivekovic, Yasmeen Abu Laban, and Tamar Mayer etc. on the question of gendered identity of Europe there has been a lecture series conducted by EU, among others. A sex-gender system is universal, while nations and nationalism are politically always masculine. Ernest Gellner asserted that the dominant rhetoric of nations defines their gender. Today, to establish dominance; gender is often used in the political dialogue. Gender-discourse basically affects our habit of evaluation and study of every facet of life. Gender thus becomes an important tool in our study of Europe.
Even Derrida’s works shows orient as subordinate of Europe, Europe the masculine figure who is responsible for orient; while he knew that US is “hegemonic” indicating the authoritativeness of US over Europe like a male figure.
In the colonial rhetoric, Edward Said asserts, the Europeans have always described Orient/East as passive, seminal, feminine and even silent.
Europe’s relation with the Orient
Engin F. Isin, in We, the non-Europeans asked us to evaluate Derrida’s problem of Europe through Edward Said’s works which described Europe through Europe’s wholly other –Derrida’s own term for the orient.
According to Isin for both Derrida and Said the main problem of Europe is its incapability to fully acknowledge the non-Europeans, it’s other. Although the debate on other might have been initiated by Freud but Said saw Freud’s interpretations were only informed by a European critique which was majorly Greco-Roman and Hebrew.
Analyzing Freud’s Moses and Monotheism, which establishes a European identity, Said wrote that this work lack the most important fact that the founder of Jewish (supposedly European) history was actually a non-European Egyptian. Said emphasized that identity cannot be simply taken stock on its own, it needs to be evaluated through its “radical originary break or flaw”.
The identity of orient is created through the western discourse; orient is seen as a feminine figure. Although Derrida is himself adamant of the fact how politics ostracize and belittle women, he himself is guilty of the same error while talking about Europe and its relation to the orient. In the other heading when he asked Europe to be responsible for its past colonies –his tone created a European (male) figure looking over its dependent (female) orient. Derrida is thus culpable of same habit Said showed is present in European writers. That is a feminine portrayal of east. Textually there have been various portrayals of orient one as a female submissive orient, others, E. Said adds as, “linguistic orient, a Freudian orient, a Spenglerian orient, a Darwinian orient and a racist orient” but never as a true Orient.
As Said has shown, orient is an extension of European identity; Derrida also has pictured orient as dependent on Europe. But there is another side of European identity which mostly claims can only be argued in the context of American identity. Likewise Derrida saw US a dominant figure in the politics and shaping of EU and aspired for an independent Europe not taking orders from US
Europe’s relation with US
Iver B. Neumann traced the anthropological field of study on the question of European identity. He said that he only found one work by Stacia Zabusky an American who articulated that only in relation to herself (an American) her employees labeled themselves as Europeans, which she phrased as “making Europe over Lunch.” While Chris Shore and Annabel Black, cite one of their employee during their anthropological field work as claiming that there is no cultural basis for Europeanism. The Europeans feel like Europeans only when they are confronted with an American or go to USA.
Hannah Arendt in 1950’s also saw the figure of America as creating a ‘European’ sense in the Europe’s inhabitants in response to US’s presence. The notion of European identity Iver believe is created by excluding US and not taking it in.
This can be seen from Derrida and Habermas coalition too there works are miles apart from each other. But when US initiated war on terror, they both wanted Europe to get away from influence of US. They wanted to combine all European countries and stand against hegemonic authority of US. Derrida hoped for Europe to be able to be an authoritative power.
The authoritative power and decision-making capability of Europe, Derrida dreamt of, was tested at the initiation of Iraq War in 2003. On March 19, 2003, American president George Bush announced that they are declared the fight against ‘the axis of evil’ and asked the world to support them. Germany and France wanted to give more time to UN inspectors, if war was avoidable and Iraq could be cleaned up with International pressure and under UN auspices it would have been better.
Dominique de Villepin, who was the French foreign minister at that time, addressed UNSC, on 5 February 2003 and dubbed war as acceptance that the world has failed (Guardia). It was the same meeting that Collin Powel US Secretary of Defense informed that Iraq is developing WMD’s.
Former German foreign minister Hans Dietich Genscher, in an interview to Deutschlandfunk radio in August of 2002 aired Europe’s concern in its neighbor, because what happens in Middle East will have more effect on Europe than US (Rippert and Schwarz).
But they were only two countries, vocally against US’ invasion. Other Europeans countries favored US on the very first instance. Soon an open letter was published by the leaders from Czech Republic, Denmark, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain which stated that they were all in to support US in the war, and the reason they stated was that they did not wanted Europe’s and US’ relation to turn bad due to Iraq war. Due to France and Germany’s stance against the war, these countries were not invited by the European countries to endorse the letter and Greece was kept out deliberately. Similarly German president Jacques Chirac flippantly stated those countries as ‘Villainous 10’ and said that those nations have shown that they were badly brought up. France and Germany were trying to be man enough to counter US but other countries quick attempt to please US was evident of the fact that they knew what they have to look up to.
It was the time the European Unity learned a lesson, that co-operation in Europe cannot be achieved by going against US policies. Donald Rumsfeld actually showed who the boss is, by his remarks that Germany and France was a little nuisance but others countries complied with US without delay. Such a remark by Rumsfeld showed superiority of US over Europe.
This entire event showed a lack of that authoritative decision-making that Derrida envisioned for Europe. Writing at that time with Jurgen Habermas, Derrida also hinted that what Europe lacked a collective stance at that moment of decision. Although Derrida complimented the stance of France and Germany of trying to stop or lest slow U.S. down but he said that the cohesiveness of Europe needs to be addressed. Despite any claims made the unity of Europe is not there.
Derrida wanted Europe to take stand and increase its military might so that it will be able to negotiate matters of strategy with the “technological, economic and military bully, the United States of America.” Derrida wanted Europe to take a masculine stand against the US because in political terms nations with military power are taken as masculine.
But the narrative of newspapers and media that was to follow took Europe as a feminine, who the masculine US has to tag alone. Derrida demanded Europe to get away from hegemonic acts of US and don’t jump into the war. The French and German authorities tried to sneak away from vicious cycle of initiating war. But in US media it was portrayed as anti-masculine to go against war, and one pro-war American declared on National Public Radio (NPR) on 21 April 2002 that ‘the EU is a bunch of worthless wimps—they’re not good for anything, you can’t take them seriously; they’re not valuable partners. Likewise the reason why Europeans tend to back away from initiating military ordeal is explained as Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus. Frequently opinions like “Venus–Mars disconnect over Iraq” made their way in New York Times.
The articles and news items were laden with descriptions of gendered supremacy of US over Europe. But Derrida also wished that Europe becomes a military might and stop its dependency on NATO. He flirted with an idea that Europe needs to make a common defense system and foreign policy. In this way Europe would be at position to dictate its own terms, other than being told so by “military bully” US. A need for a security policy by a combined Europe was not only felt by Derrida but also EU. The member countries already have an agreement which states that all signatories must support EU’s security policies in cohesion, and must not act individually that might hamper any possibility of making EU a unified authority in world politics. And in December 2003 EU came together to work on a security strategy.
The purpose of this strategy was to create a space for EU to discuss their collective strategies, to work out differences among the EU nations and between EU and US, and an act to show equal military status of EU with US.
The strategy was accepted by all the members and the readiness of everyone to sign it was probably result of a desire to write a comparable document with 2002 National Security Strategy of the US.
Getting back on the main thesis of this section, Europe always tends to create its own identity when its sees US presence and the military strategy was also a hasty step just to act like US.
The strategy read “a secure Europe in better world”, specifying that Europe is not threatened by its own members and have turned Balkans a peaceful place but has threat from places other than Europe. ESS discussed proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorist threats and Al-Qaeda. But to be up to the criteria of strategy paper, it has to fulfill some standards.
Looking at this piece of paper called ESS, strategically, it can hardly be called a strategy. A strategic paper has to draw its policy about every possible event, like use of military, what circumstances can allow a military intervention in neighboring country. It has to write down the purpose and the ethical means it can use).
For critics, ESS can only be called a hazy sketch. And with the difference present among the member countries, it is evident that EU would not be able to bring out a combined force for battles so these references have been avoided.
Toje asserted that these European countries lack a strategic culture, though France and UK want to use defense force, Germany sides with UN resolutions, and with 27 the probability for a consensus on a military effort drops down. While NATO was created by one hegemonic power US which defines strategy and tag other members along. ESS 2003 was unable to fulfill standards of strategy.
Looking at NSS and ESS at a deeper level, there is a clear difference. NSS says that it will keep in check the “rogue states” and if there is a possibility that they might attack US and its friends, US will use force before these rogue states are able to. While ESS also talks about rogue states and their threat, it asserts that it will look into various factors present there like presence of terrorism leading to high violence, if they have potent threatening weapons, a weakened country with coordinated violence and private militia. An even then the ESS states that “we could be confronted with a very radical threat indeed.” But there is no mention of clear cut strategy in what grounds EU will use force and when, like a strategy paper needs to do.
In 2003, EU could not create a strategy worthy of its name, in 2008 there were voices to work on ESS 2003 and update it, but because of the fear that Georgia-Russia war which was going on might separate the member states in two groups it never occurred. In 2011, a report was published asking member states for a revived strategy –that is need of time –for EU to survive. Again in 2012 a need for a common strategy for Europe was reinforced, but its actual implementation seems a distant idea.

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