The Keep. Uncanny Propriation. Derrida's Marrano Objection

Alberto Moreiras

I. Uncanny Propriation

Jacques Derrida's ongoing confrontation with the thought of Martin Heidegger finds a crucial point of engagement in the notion of propriation. This essay is an attempt to offer some reflections on what it is that Derrida found uncomfortable in Heidegger's thought—it does not mean to be exhaustive, only to point to a possible region of disagreement that I will cipher in Derrida's self-identification with a marrano register at an autographic level. Derrida's marranismo marks a point of phantasmatic dis-identification that I think pervades the history of his engagement with Heidegger.

In the ‘Summary of a Seminar on the Lecture “Time and Being”,’ which was written as the seminar protocol by Alfred Guzzoni, one of the guests Martin Heidegger had invited to his Todtnauberg cabin in 1962, we find the following introductory words:

The experimental quality of the seminar was thus twofold: on the one hand, it wanted to point directly at a matter which in accordance with its very nature is inaccessible to communicative statements. On the other hand, it had to attempt to prepare the participants for their own experience of what was said in terms of an experience of something which cannot be openly brought to light. It is thus the attempt to speak of something that cannot be mediated cognitively, not even in terms of questions, but must be experienced. The attempt to speak of it with the intention of preparing for this experience essentially constituted the daring quality of the seminar. (Heidegger, On Time and Being 26)

It is interesting that these claims—according to which the seminar only points to a matter of thinking that will remain inaccessible to communicative statements, in other words, a matter that cannot be said, only experienced—are made in the context of a clarification concerning the decline of philosophy. This decline is defined in three ways: on the one hand, ‘although metaphysics itself presumably remains’, ‘the matter of thinking is no longer the matter of metaphysics’ (26). There are only substitutes, which are ‘on the one hand, mere interpretation of the traditional philosophical texts’ and, on the other, ‘the replacement of philosophy by logic . . ., psychology, and sociology, in short, by anthropology’ (26). And the interpretation of philosophical texts assumes two forms, namely, ‘the polishing and dismantling of metaphysics’ (26), unless, that is, Heidegger means that the polishing and the dismantling are in fact one and the same form, which is likely. In either case, I think these sentences could be brought together with a particular passage in What is Called Thinking? that says: ‘Thinking—more precisely, the attempt and the duty to think—is now approaching an era when the high demands which traditional thinking believed it was meeting, and pretended it had to meet, become untenable’ (What is Called Thinking, 159). Thinking, in the way we are and have been used to, has become untenable.

The untenability of philosophical reflection, and the insufficiency of its substitutes, mean that philosophy, or thinking through communicative statements, can no longer fulfill its duty. What must come instead is in the nature of what Heidegger had called a little earlier in the same text ‘the keep’ (150). ‘The “keep” originally means the custody, the guard’ (150). The custody of what? Of the gift. Heidegger says: ‘The highest and really most lasting gift given to us is always our essential nature, with which we are gifted in such a way that we are what we are only through it’ (142). ‘But the thing given to us, in the sense of this dowry, is thinking’ (142). And: ‘Man only inhabits the keeping of what gives him food for thought—he does not create the keeping’ (151). And: ‘Keeping is the fundamental nature and essence of memory’ (151). Man does not create the keeping but must think about the keep; in fact, thinking is the keep, in and through memory. On that basis, I think it is not inaccurate to say that the preparation for the experience of thinking that the seminar on ‘Time and Being’ proposes, according to the protocol, is a preparation for the experience of what I will call an anthropogenetic memory which, in order to arise as such, must undergo a considerable amount of erasure, of forgetting. It is a matter of reaching—perhaps wordlessly, even if through words, destructive words, since words prepare the experience only on the condition of giving themselves up—the site of the keep. It is a site that can only be experienced, and indeed experienced as a gift, since man does not create the keep, and can only inhabit it as one inhabits one's own essential nature. The experience of the keep is an experience of encounter with one's own essential nature—that statement is warranted by the quotes I just provided, and of course by many other sites in the Heideggerian work. The experience of the keep is an experience of uncanny propriation.

Uncanny propriation is a notion that Jacques Derrida develops in the Seventh Session of Donner le temps II, on the basis of a reading of some segments of Being and Time. As ‘propriation of expropriation’(Donner 45) it is the response to a call that ‘addresses an irreplaceable singularity of Dasein.' 'The call is always destined to that unfamiliar, strange thing that is the individuation or the singularity of a Dasein . . . And this Unheimlichkeit has to do with the fact that provenance is also destination’ (44). Provenance is also destination—hence the exercise of thinking that prepares the experience of the encounter is an exercise of memory stretching into the immemorial, and the immemorial is the keep. The keep is the destination, but the destination is the essential nature of Dasein, hence the uncanny provenance of the human. It can only be, let us remember it, experienced, not described. At the same time, the experience is not warranted, not promised, not given, and it can only be prepared. The encounter of provenance and destination, which essential thinking can only prepare at the time of the untenability of conventional thinking, might well be an unreachable site, a non-place, an uncanny gift that ‘cannot be openly brought to light.’ In preparation for the experience of the encounter, which I have called anthropogenetic because it points to the site of the becoming human of the human, we do not receive the gift. We can only establish an uncanny relation to the gift. And of what follows, if it were to follow, we cannot speak. It is, and will remain, a secret.

2. Derrida's Marranismo

It might have been somewhat naïve, prior to the publication of the seminar, to assume that in Donner le temps II, which is after all Derrida's most direct confrontation with the late Heidegger, the Heidegger of ‘Time and Being’, Derrida would give us his final word on his agreement or disagreement with Heidegger's position on Ereignis/Enteignis. That is, his final word on the terms that are generally translated as ‘propriation’ and ‘dispropriation.’ Derrida insisted often on his discomfort with the constellation of Heideggerian themes connected with the issue of propriation: not just Ereignis/Enteignis, but also authenticity, enownment, Versammlung, and related terms. But Donner le temps II is ultimately inconclusive. This essay seeks both to understand Heidegger's late position and to offer the suggestion that Derrida's discomfort with it, which is given to us only as hints in Donner le temps II, ultimately stems from an existential position that he saw very much at odds with the Heideggerian one. Let me call it a marrano position. From a marrano perspective the Heideggerian ‘keep’, experienced personally, is indeed a secret that ‘cannot be openly brought to light.’ But it is a marrano secret, hence different in its specificity from the Heideggerian one, which is ostensibly unmarked and presented as simply ‘human’, or pertaining to Dasein as such. As we shall see, Derrida also ultimately calls the marrano experience a ‘universal’ experience, but this time it is marked, and indeed it is marked differentially, by an experience of exclusion that Derrida sought to avow.

The word marrano, in a historical sense, designates those who were accused by Christians of having falsely converted from Judaism to Christianity—it was a word, or a use of the word, that developed in Spain in the 14th and 15th centuries and was current until well into the 18th century at least. The marrano designation was always imposed on others, it was an accusation and an insult, and a dangerous one, to the precise extent that it made you fall into the hands of the Inquisition, with predictable consequences, none of them good. It particularly affected either those who had recently converted from Judaism to Christianity, or their descendants. The families who converted, usually under force, were called converso families. When someone decided that any converso or descendant of a converso was not a proper Christian and had held on to remnants of Judaism, they were called marranos, apostates. It was a mark of social exclusion but it was also, more properly, a sort of protoconsignation to death, a mortification of sorts: a marrano would not have the right to live, and his or her exclusion from the social bond was required. They were deemed to be false Christians even when they could not possibly appeal to any true Judaism—a Judaism that was for the most part a memory, and a distant one, and which registered, if at all, as the observance of some minor rituals. A marrano was never a proper Jew, but to the same extent, he or she was never a proper Christian. A marrano was always the holder, and the carrier, of a double stigma of exclusion: of a double exclusion. There was never a marrano community. There might have been some secret, relapsed communities of Judaizers, the historical record tells us—in Spain or Portugal, in the Americas, anywhere in the Spanish and Portuguese empires. But the marrano and the Judaizer were never the same, and there is an excess to marranismo. We need to understand the historical marrano as the holder of a form of life with no belonging, with no community. They were persecuted beings with no possible shelter other than their own secret. If two of them met, say, in some obscure town of the Bolivian altiplano or in some village of the Alto Minho in Portugal, on some road on the way to Talavera from Toledo, they would only form a particular kind of community: the community of those without community, always fugitive beings. Let us retain this extreme of the marrano position—at the outer edge, the marrano lived, secretly, in the void of a double exclusion that inscribed civil death in his or her horizon. It was a difficult freedom.

After the end of the Spanish Inquisition in the early 19th century, of course the word became relatively obsolete. We could say that the historical marranos, or historical marranismo, became extinct. After that point the use of the word became necessarily metaphorical, perhaps even dangerously so. Who could claim to call someone a marrano, or to be a marrano, at a time of ostensible religious freedom in the political sphere? ‘Marrano’ became a concept, even when hardly used, or hardly thought, to designate the mark, the psychic trace, of a double exclusion from community—of a solitude without compensation, of a double rejection that left no recourse but exit, exodus, and errancy as a way of life. So, we need to wonder why, roughly in the early 1990s, Derrida became so insistent on his own self-identification with the marrano position. This marrano constellation within Derrida's own texts, which constitutes, to my mind, an autographic mark in deconstruction and could be confused with the very name of deconstruction, might start with ‘Circumfession’ (1989-90) and end up with the short comments Derrida added at a meeting held in 1996 to celebrate the publication of the book La religion (1994), coedited by Derrida and Gianni Vattimo, and which includes Derrida's ‘Faith and Knowledge.’ Derrida's contribution to that conversation goes under the heading of ‘Christianity and Secularization’ (1996). But the issue overflows those two dates in the two directions—the past of 1989 and the future of 1996. It includes, among perhaps other texts, notably the seminars of those years, Memoirs of the Blind (1990), Aporias (1993), On the Name (1993), Specters of Marx (1993), Force of Law (1994), The Politics of Friendship (1994), ‘A Silkworm of One's Own’ (1995), Monolingualism of the Other (1996), and then surely Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas (1997), together with Judéités. Questions pour Jacques Derrida (2003), and the posthumously edited volumes Le dernier des Juifs (2014), and Derrida. Ebraismo, questione aperta (2014). It is impossible to do justice to such a wealth and accumulation of texts in this essay, so my concern will rather be to try to suggest what is specific to Derrida's self-designation as a marrano, and why it matters, both in general and also in terms of his continued discomfort with the Heideggerian position on propriation. To my knowledge, Derrida is the first philosopher in the public history of philosophy who claimed that name for himself—I do not think Baruch Spinoza, perhaps the literal prototype of marrano thinkers, ever claimed that name, although I could be wrong. But, if the adjective marrano fits the name deconstruction, if we can talk about a marrano deconstruction, or even of deconstruction as marrano thinking, then the issue becomes significant well beyond Derrida's autobiography and well beyond Derrida's interest in his self-inscription or, rather, exscription as marrano.1 What is then specific to Derrida's marranismo?

3. Conventional and Essential Thinking

In his 1944 seminar on Heraclitus, Heidegger advances the notions of essential thinking and conventional thinking.2 I think both notions, and their polarity, which is itself an uncanny polarity, refer back not just to Heidegger's first encounter with Parmenides and his three ways, one of which was impassable, a no-way, but more precisely to the notions of Eigentlichkeit and Uneigentlichkeit in Being and Time, sometimes translated as ‘authenticity’ and ‘inauthenticity’; and forward to the notions of Ereignis and Enteignis in ‘On Time and Being.’ I am not claiming that those three pairs of notions are equivalent or identical, only that they have a certain sameness. If essential thinking can be connected to propriation in a more or less straightforward way, and if essential thinking leads to the experience of Ereignis, it is not so clear that inauthenticity and conventional thinking, the thinking of das Man, have a straightforward connection to Enteignis, although it would be difficult to justify the claim that there is no relation between them. But Ereignis and Enteignis are both notions that relate to the uncanny, almost impossible task, of thinking at once the mutual belonging and forthbringing, the mutual bearing of Es gibt Zeit and Es gibt Sein, of the taking-place of beyng and the taking-place of time, which is simultaneously the taking-place of place itself. Enteignis is what properly dis-appropriates, that is, always already withdraws into expropriation, the withdrawal and the concealing that makes the very possibility of the experience of Ereignis uncanniness itself. The very possibility of essential thinking finds a limit, which is its necessary or inescapable concealment—essential thinking cannot think beyond the taking-place of thought, even if thinking beyond the taking-place of thought, that is, thinking the expropriation of thought, is precisely a condition of thinking the keep, of achieving custody of it. But this means that the fulfillment of the ‘duty of thought’, in the Heideggerian expression, is also its interruption. The limit of thought is the accomplishment of thought. This is perhaps something Derrida, the Derrida for whom the secret was not just the place of the keep, but also to be guarded as such, the site of the guard, would have agreed with.

Guzzoni writes that at the end of the fifth seminar session, the letter that Heidegger wrote to William Richardson and which was later published as a preface to Richardson's Heidegger: From Phenomenology to Thought, was read out loud in order ‘to clear out the relations’ in the path leading from Being and Time to ‘Time and Being’ (On Time and Being 51). In that letter we find an indication of the uncanniness we have been discussing. Heidegger is making an effort to clarify for Richardson, who had himself attended Heidegger's first presentation of his lecture, the Kehre or ‘reversal’ of his thought, and he says, in Richardson's translation:

The reversal between Being and Time, between Time and Being, is determined by the way Being is granted, Time is granted [wie Es Sein, wie Es Zeit gibt]. . . If instead of "Time" we substitute: the lighting-up of the self-concealing (that is proper to) the process of coming-to-presence, then Being is determined by the scope of Time. This comes about, however, only insofar as the lighting-process of self-concealment assumes unto its want [in seinem Braucht nimmt] a thought that corresponds to it. (The process of) presenc-ing (Being) is inherent in the lighting-up of self-concealment (Time). (The) lighting-up of self-concealment (Time) brings forth the process of presenc-ing (Being). (Richardson, Heidegger xx)

Self-concealment is a clearing, Lichtung, that belongs to time and being, but only when self-concealment assumes unto its want, in seinem Braucht nimmt, ‘a thought that corresponds to it.’ This thought that corresponds to self-concealment is a thought of expropriation, which means, an expropriated thought. In the last pages of ‘Time and Being’ the notion of expropriation, Enteignis, shows up briefly, in only one paragraph—which has its own significance. Heidegger says:

Insofar as the destiny of Being lies in the extending of time, and time, together with Being, lies in Appropriation, Appropriating makes manifest its peculiar property, that Appropriation withdraws what is most fully its own from boundless unconcealment. Thought in terms of Appropriating, this means: in that sense it expropriates itself of itself. Expropriation (Enteignis) belongs to Appropriation as such. By this expropriation, Appropriation does not abandon itself—rather, it preserves what is its own. (On Time and Being 22-23)

The thought that corresponds to the self-concealment of Time and Being undergoes expropriation. It is only as expropriated thought, which is, as corresponding thought, both the fulfillment and the interruption of appropriation, that is, uncanny propriation, that the custody of the gift, the guard of the keep, may take place in the abyss of place. Provenance and destination encounter each other in the non-place of an expropriated essence, an interrupted anthropogenesis: the place of the non-place of the Derridean marrano secret, as we shall see.

4. Radical Evil as Religion

First proposition regarding Derrida's marranismo: from a radical marrano perspective, religion is radical evil. Derrida hints as much, without daring quite to say it, in some pages of ‘Faith and Knowledge’, when talking about the false so-called ‘return of religion’ today. He says: ‘What of reason and radical evil today? What if the “return of the religious” were not without a relation to the return—modern or postmodern, to use those expressions for once—of at least some phenomena of radical evil? Is it the case that radical evil destroys or institutes religion?’ (‘Foi’ 55). Derrida is of course referring to the Kantian definition of radical evil as provided in Kant´s Religion Within the Limits of Pure Reason, where radical evil is defined as ‘vices hidden under the appearance of virtues’ (Kant 29). Do vices hidden under the appearance of virtues destroy or institute religion? Well, the marrano knows, and takes one position among other possible positions: they institute and at the same time destroy religion, as ‘Faith and Knowledge’ will conclude. Religion is therefore always inspired by its own destruction. Another way of saying the same thing, as we shall see, is that religion is always at the same time secularization. Let us keep that in the background for what follows. I will return to it.

What, then, is specific to Derrida's marranismo? Here is my second strong proposition. In Aporias, towards the end of the text—which means, at the end of a vertiginous analysis of Heidegger's existential analytics of death—Derrida says:

Death is always the name of a secret, since it signs the irreplaceable singularity. It puts forth the public name, the common name of a secret, the common name of the proper name without name. It is therefore always a shibboleth, for the manifest name of a secret is from the beginning a private name, so that language about death is nothing but the long history of a secret society, neither public nor private, semi-private, semi-public, on the border between the two; thus, also a sort of hidden religion of the awaiting (oneself as well as each other), with its ceremonies, cults, liturgy, or its Marranolike rituals. A universal Marrano, if one may say, beyond what may nowadays be the finished form of Marrano culture. (Aporias 74)

For Derrida the analytics of death in Being and Time do not exceed the Christian experience, ‘indeed, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic experience of death to which the analysis testifies’ (80); ‘This fundamental questioning cannot protect itself from a hidden bio-anthropo-thanato-theological contamination’ (79). Derrida has exposed in his analysis that Heidegger must impossibly hold to his distinction between the authentic and the inauthentic, which is also the difference between existence and insistence, ‘as well as that among the different forms of ending: dying properly speaking, perishing, and demising’ (77): ‘These distinctions are threatened in their very principle, and, in truth, they remain impracticable as soon as one admits that an ultimate possibility is nothing other than the possibility of an impossibility and that the Enteignis always inhabited Eigentlichkeit’ (77). There is no existence without insistence, which means that the distinction does not hold. My proposition is then that Derrida, in what ultimately must be recognized as the very cipher of his difference with Heidegger, names marrano the vortex of disappropriation for any possibility of authenticity, for any possibility of authentic existence, which figures in Being and Time, according to Derrida, as a residue of the Judeo-Christian appropriation of death. This is why, at the very end of the Cérisy lecture, he says:

Let us figuratively call Marrano anyone who remains faithful to a secret that he has not chosen, in the very place where he lives, in the home of the inhabitant or of the occupant, in the home of the first or of the second arrivant, in the very place where he stays without saying no but without identifying himself as belonging to. In the unchallenged night where the radical absence of any historical witness keeps him or her, in the dominant culture that by definition has calendars, this secret keeps the Marrano even before the Marrano keeps it. (81)

We are all marked. We are all marranos, Derrida says, ‘whether we want to be or not, whether we know it or not’ (81). What we could call an inchoate possibility of the marranization of existence, which was already implicit in Heidegger's displacement from our insistence with entities to the outside of an ex-istence against the ‘they’, is radicalized by Derrida towards the awareness of a life without witnesses ‘in the unchallenged night.’ Death, which singularizes me, can never be mine: such is the secret. The marrano exscription intensifies the voiding out of any enownment, of any appropriation of existence, in a wait for an arrivant itself unentangled by any falsely hospitable contamination:

I am talking about the absolute arrivant, who is not even a guest. He surprises the host—who is not yet a host or an inviting power—enough to call into question, to the point of annihilating or rendering indeterminate all the distinctive signs of a prior identity, beginning with the very border that delineated a legitimate home and assured lineage, names and languages, nations, families and genealogies. (34)

It is death that makes marranos of us all. Death is the marrano ‘religion’, a religion without religion.

No wonder that, in ‘Circumfession’, he had told us:

I confided it to myself the other day in Toledo . . . if I am a sort of marrane of French Catholic culture, and I also have my Christian body, inherited by SA in a more or less twisted line . . . , I am one of those marranes who no longer say they are Jews even in the secret of their hearts, not so as to be authenticated marranes on both sides of the public frontier, but because they doubt everything, never go to confession or give up enlightenment, whatever the cost, ready to have themselves burned, almost, at the only moment they write under the monstrous law of an impossible face-to-face, . . . it's to death that already I owe everything I earn, I have succeeded in making of it, as I have with god, it's the same thing, my most difficult ally, impossible but unfailingly faithful once you've got him in your game, it costs a great deal, believe me, a great deal of love, you have to forgive yourself the hurt you do yourself. (‘Circumfession’ 171-73)

I may already indicate a way in which I bring my up to now only two propositions regarding Derrida together: that religion is radical evil and that death is the marrano religion without religion, which thus bypasses radical evil (while preserving it as an ineliminable or undeconstructible possibility). At the end of ‘Circumfession’ Derrida writes about why he writes: ‘that for which one writes when one does not believe in one's own survival nor in the survival of anything at all, when one writes for the present but a present that is made . . . only out of the return upon itself of that refused, denied survival’ (284). Marrano writing may have vices but they do not hide under virtuous pretenses. Derrida thinks of Heidegger's notion of appropriation—Ereignis but also authenticity, Eigentlichkeit—a virtuous pretense residually connected to the Judeo-Christian, or Abrahamic, faith.

5. The Refusal of World

For Heidegger, the untenability or irrelevance of the philosophical word find its counterpart in the thinking that prepares for an experience of uncanny propriation. If thinking is then precursory, it is precursory regarding an experience that can be sought but never promised. The experience is thought of as countermovement to a certain ‘refusal of world’ that I would like to discuss.

The constellation of beyng, in Heidegger's time, presumably still our time, is marked, according to Heidegger, by Gestell, a sending of beyng, perhaps the last sending of beyng, variously rendered in English as Framing, Enframing or Positionality. Positionality is the most extreme sending of beyng. As most extreme it guards a concealed possibility, which is described as an awakening. If Gestell is the site of the most extreme forgetting of beyng, the awakening is described as a ‘return’ or a ‘step back.’ It is a step back of a curious nature: not into remembrance, but into oblivion itself: ‘not an extinguishing of the oblivion of Being, but placing oneself in it and standing within it’; the awakening is ‘from the oblivion of Being to the oblivion of Being’ (On Time and Being 30). This awakening is called Ereignis. With respect to Ereignis, the summary tells us, Gestell is a ‘preliminary appearance’ (32). With more clarity the summary will later say:

Between the epochal formations of Being and the transformation of Being into Appropriation stands Framing. Framing is an in-between stage, so to speak. It offers a double aspect, one might say, a Janus head. It can be understood as a kind of continuation of the will to will, thus as an extreme formation of Being. At the same time, however, it is a first form of Appropriation itself. (53)

Gestell is the preliminary appearance of Ereignis because it holds the concealed possibility of the awakening into the oblivion of beyng. The awakening is in that sense also an awakening into the end of the history of beyng: ‘the history of Being is at an end for thinking in Appropriation, that is, for the thinking which enters into Appropriation, in that Being, which lies in sending, is no longer what is to be thought explicitly’ (41); ‘That means that the withdrawal which characterized metaphysics in the form of the oblivion of Being now shows itself as the dimension of concealment itself. But now this concealment does not conceal itself’ (41). That the concealment does not conceal itself and must be thought as concealment is expropriation. What corresponds in thought to the awakening into concealment is uncanny propriation, expropriated thought, fulfillment as interruption. This is the moment of the gift: no more sending, only giving, but what gives gives itself as concealment, an uncanny gift, a secret. The gift calls for precursory thinking, but it leads to the suspension of thinking in experience. At perhaps the wildest moment in the seminar it is said: ‘thinking . . . is not yet the experience. But what is this experience? Is it the abdication of thinking?’ (53). And in a sense, it certainly is.

In the last page of the summary Guzzoni tells us that the lecture entitled ‘The Turn’ was read in the last session of the seminar as a conclusion. And it is here that the refusal of world shows up. In ‘The Turn’ Heidegger says: ‘this turn from the forgetting of being to the guardianship of the essence of beyng only takes place when the danger, pivotal in its concealed essence, first properly presences as the danger that it is’ (Bremen and Freiburg Lectures 67). ‘The danger is the epoch of beyng, essencing as positionality’ (68). The con-version of Gestell, that is, positionality, into Appropriation is the awakening from the most extreme oblivion to oblivion itself:

When this pursuit with forgetting properly takes place, then forgetting as such makes an entrance. Torn out of its lapsing by this entrance, it is no longer forgetfulness. Through such an entrance, the forgetfulness of the guardianship of beying is no longer the forgetting of beyng, but by entering it turns into the guardianship of beyng. (69)

The con-version from oblivion to oblivion is described as a ‘lightning flash’ that occurs in experience, ‘suddenly’ and ‘without mediation’ (69). Through it, however, ‘the world takes place’ (69). ‘That the world would take place as world, that the thing would thing, this is the distant arrival of the essence of beyng itself’ (69). That the world worlds, that the thing things, that Ereignis er-eignet—in the lighting flash (Einblitz) of an experience without mediation—only this vanquishes the refusal of world that obtains in ‘unguarded being’ (70). ‘The constellation of beyng is the refusal of world as the unguarding of the thing. Refusal is not nothing, it is the highest secret of beyng within the dominance of positionality’ (72). Guarding the thing, keeping the gift, is having come into the keep in uncanny propriation. It is the turning around of the refusal of world. I think this is the simplicity always promised by Heidegger's thinking endeavor. I also think Derrida's notion of the marrano secret is only its particular Derridean instantiation.

6. Marrano Infrapolitics

My third proposition regarding Derrida's marranismo, and there will only be a fourth one, is the following, which I take from Monolingualism of the Other: the marrano is infrapolitical. Derrida has claimed that all culture is colonial, which means we are always subjected to an ‘inalienable alienation.’ At the origin,

because the master does not possess exclusively, and naturally, what he calls his language, because, whatever he wants or does, he cannot maintain any relations of property or identity that are natural, national, congenital, or ontological with it, because he can give substance to and articulate this appropriation only in the course of an unnatural process of politico-phantasmatic constructions, because language is not his natural possession, he can, thanks to that very fact, pretend historically, through the rape of a cultural usurpation, which means always essentially colonial, to appropriate it in order to impose it as 'his own.' (Monolingualism 23)

This is the first trick of cultural or colonial violence: the trick of hegemony and subsequent subservience. There is also, through history, a second trick, the idea that we can obtain ‘freedom from the first while confirming a heritage by internalizing it, by reappropriating it’ (24). This is the trick of purported counterhegemony: ‘liberation, emancipation, and revolution’ (24). Through it all, ‘my language, the only one I hear myself speak and agree to speak, is the language of the other’ (25). It is disappropriated language, through submission to the first trick or through the purported liberation of the second trick. If the first trick is essential violence, the second trick is the continuation of essential violence. Which means marrano ipseity is always constituted at the price of a double exclusion: exclusion from the first trick and exclusion from the second trick. The marrano is singular in every case but also universal: he or she knows his double condition as fugitive, subtracted from the tricks of domination, having made them explicit, but his or her double condition is universally assignable. Derrida says of it that it opens the possibility of a politics that I will call infrapolitics: ‘let us even go so far as to say that [the marrano position] is the only one with the power to do it, whatever the risks are’ (24). Shelter in submission is inalienable alienation. Hence the marrano dream, and Derrida's marrano dream: ‘I need to think back to that preschool past in order to account for the generality of the “hyperbolism” which will have invaded my life and work. Everything that proceeds under the name of “deconstruction” arises from it, of course; a telegram will suffice for that here, beginning with the “hyperbole” (it is Plato's word) that will have ordered everything, including the reinterpretation of khora, namely, the passage to the very beyond of the passage of the Good or the One beyond being . . . , excess beyond excess: impregnable’ (49). Does this not remind us of the Heideggerian position glossed earlier, according to which provenance is also destination, hence the exercise of thinking that prepares the experience of the encounter is an exercise of memory stretching into the immemorial, which is the keep? It is in this sense that the limit of thought is the accomplishment of thought. Derrida and Heidegger would converge in the same position from different sites of enunciation.

The hyperbolic dream, or the dream of hyperbole, the dream of going beyond the violence of culture and beyond being, is also a dream of return to those ‘preschool’ years. I call this an infrapolitical dream, which is based on the negotiation of what Derrida calls three ‘threatening possibilities’, all of them available to the marrano, but two of them forms of marrano miswandering (one abject, the second one ‘heroic’):

1. an amnesia without recourse, under the guise of pathological destructuring, growing disintegration: a madness;
2. stereotypes that homogenize and conform to the model of the 'average' or dominant French person, another amnesia under the integrative guise, another type of madness;
3. the madness of a hypermnesia, a supplement of loyalty, a surfeit, or even excrescence of memory, to commit oneself, at the limit of the two other possibilities, to traces—traces of writing, language, experience—which carry anamnesis beyond the mere reconstruction of a given heritage, beyond an available past. Beyond any cartography, and beyond any knowledge that can be taught. At stake there is an entirely other anamnesis, and, if one may say so, even an anamnesis of the entirely other. (Monolingualism 60)

The infrapolitical, posthegemonic, hyperbolic dream of the marrano condition finds two precise determinations in Derrida that will open the path to my fourth and final proposition regarding Derrida. Derrida says, in his first determination: ‘it springs forth, and even sets itself up as a desire to reconstruct, to restore, but it is really a desire to invent a first language that would be, rather, a prior-to-the-first language destined to translate that memory. But to translate the memory of what, precisely, did not take place, of what, having been (the) forbidden, ought, nevertheless, to have left a trace’ (61). And the second determination consists in the positing of ‘an absolute outside, a zone outside the law, the cleaved enclave of a barely audible or legible reference to that entirely other prior-to-the-first language, to that degree zero-minus-one of writing that leaves its phantomatical map “inside” the said monolanguage’ (65).

A language that antecedes coloniality and essential violence, essential violence as coloniality, might lead to a region outside the law capable of affecting the language of the other, the colonial language, beyond the second trick which is only the continuation of essential violence. If this is the dream, is it still a religious dream, even if it is the dream of a religion without religion? Is the marrano religion, to the extent that it abandons religion, still a religious position? Derrida engaged most directly with the question of religion in his 1994 presentation ‘Faith and Knowledge’, given at a conference organized by himself and Gianni Vattimo, on the Island of Capri. The papers read at that conference were published as La religion, and there was another meeting to celebrate the book publication where Derrida offered remarks under the title ‘Christianity and Secularization.’ Both texts are important. My fourth proposition depends on them. Let me sum it up with the statement that the marrano position sees itself as a desecularizing. This desecularizing ought not lead to a regression into religion, or to a mere inversion, but to a displacement of all religion into what I would want to call, for lack of a better term, a messianic engagement with the khora. This would be, or would have been, the final outcome of Derrida's marranismo.

In the introductory pages to ‘Faith and Knowledge’, Derrida establishes the equivalence of religion and radical evil through the mediation of what is known as secularization, in what was, at the time, its last or most recent stage, and which Derrida insists on calling mondialatinisation: ‘this strange alliance of Christianity, as the experience of the death of God, and of tele-techno-scientific capitalism’ (21). To confront the questions opened by the current state of affairs, Derrida says, there are two ‘temptations.’ The first one has to do with the Hegelian Speculative Good Friday, that is, with the fact that of the absolute kenosis of the death of God a new religion, a religion of the modern times, emerges, ontotheological, and based on the truth of religion as determined by the Hegelian phenomenology of spirit. No doubt that is the temptation that still rules our world. The other temptation is the Heideggerian one, which aims beyond ontotheology and towards a revealability beyond revelation, that is, beyond any concrete event of revelation (24), toward the sacred. But is the Heideggerian temptation able to take us into desecularization, which is also beyond religion, or is revealability ‘the place of origin’ of religious faith itself? Heidegger's sacred, his ‘last God’, is not a marrano sacred. Derrida seeks ‘a third place’ (26), not the desert of revelation, but a desert in the desert (26). And it is here that Derrida sends us to the ‘two words’ or the ‘two sources’ that he had tried to explore in previous texts: the messianic and the khora. I do not have the space to provide in much detail the definitions and attendant considerations Derrida rehearses, but I think it is important to point out that Derrida insists, already in these introductory pages, that from an appropriate and prudent enough understanding of the messianic and the khora, it would be possible to ‘liberate’, he says, ‘a universal rationality and the political democracy that is indissociable from it’ (29). This is beyond doubt something Heidegger would not have sanctioned.

The khora is the place, the taking place of place, of an ‘infinite resistance’ to the religion of the master, to priestly religions always already abstracting from the khora. Resistant to any theological, ontological, or anthropological appropriation, ‘absolutely impassible and heterogeneous to all the processes of historical revelation or of anthropotheological experience’ (31), it becomes the place of the ‘absolutely other without a face’ (31): il dit cet immémorial d'un désert dans le désert pour lequel il n'est ni seuil ni deuil (31): neither secularization nor mourning for the death of God. Something else. And Derrida adds: ‘In the Contributions to Philosophy, when Heidegger speaks of the God who comes, I do not know whether he is holding a discourse that has an affinity with what I was trying to say about khôra—I’m not sure. The Heideggerian interpretation of the khôra has never satisfied me. It would be necessary to look closely at Heidegger’s text, and to see if what he says about the God who comes would agree with what I have attempted to suggest here about messianicity’ (‘Christianity’ 147).

As to messianicity, Derrida mentions two ways of interpreting it: according to one of them, the messianic without messianism, that is, messianicity without any Messiah, ‘falls under secularization’ (‘Christianity’ 142). Derrida rather proposes ‘a messianic structure of experience that is universal, a structure of experience that consists in awaiting the time to come, . . . without a horizon of expectation, which is already a rupture’ (‘Christianity’ 142). ‘What I call messianicity is this paradox of an awaiting that does not know what it awaits and which does not even include anticipation’ (142). It is then the conjunction of the thinking of a messianicity without horizon and of an infinitely resistant-to-appropriation khora that may open the space for a de-secularizing capable of subtracting our world from the ‘radically-evil’ secularization brought about by the consequences of revealed religion: a de-secularizing that must remain, let us remember, universally rational and politically democratic. The end of ‘Faith and Knowledge’ brings back the figure of the marrano in a bad light—it is the abject or the heroic marrano of the first two threatening madnesses, to which we must respond with a third one:

The possibility of radical evil destroys and institutes at the same time the religious. Ontotheology does the same thing when it suspends sacrifice and prayer, the truth of this prayer that has itself, let us remember Aristotle once again, beyond the true and the false, beyond their opposition, in any case, according to a certain concept of truth and of judgment. Like a blessing, prayer belongs to this originary regimen of the testimonial faith or the faith of the martyr that we tried to think here in its most critical form. Ontotheology encrypts faith and destines it to the condition of a kind of Spanish marrano that would have lost, in truth dispersed, multiplied, even the memory of his unique secret. (86)

‘Passionate anxious freedom toward death’ (Heidegger, Being and Time 245; 266): this is the Heideggerian outcome of the existential analytics in the wake of an authentic existence. For Derrida this could only happen in the effort towards a future informed by a waiting without horizon in the desert within the desert of the khora as infinitely resistant to ontotheological appropriation. If marranismo points to the vortex of disappropriation in existence, if that is the secret, well then: passionate anxious freedom toward death still remains as an infrapolitical practice of existence that could spare the Spanish marrano—now a stand-in for the universal marrano—his unfortunate fate in perdition, leading him away from using hidden vices to stand in for sanctimoniousness, piety, holy indignation, and all the other kinds of bogus academic virtue.

7. A New Analytic of Existence

Perhaps Heidegger never meant to move forward from Being and Time. In that sense, he only moved backwards, in a movement of return, a step back towards the immemorial keep that, he finally said, would only come to us in an Einblitz, a flashing of truth. Disquieting and decisive as it might seem, the open clearing where the thing things and the world worlds cannot be the end of the line. It is only a beginning. The Einblitz into uncanny propriation is only a beginning. Guardianship of the keep is thinking, in the Heideggerian sense, of which he said in ‘The Turn’: ‘thinking is the authentic action (Handeln), where action means to give a hand (an die Hand gehen) to the essence of beyng’ (Bremen 67). This action is to be carefully delimited from production, presented by Heidegger as the fundamental characteristic of action in metaphysical thought. In the ‘Summary to “Time and Being”’, once again, we read:

The presencing of what is present—that is, letting-presence: what is present—is interpreted by Aristotle as poiesis. Later interpreted as creatio, this leads in a straight line of admirable simplicity up to positing, as the transcendental consciousness of objects. Thus it becomes evident that the fundamental characteristic of the letting-presence of metaphysics is production in its various forms. (On Time and Being 45-46)

It is on us to investigate the possibility of an action that is not delimited by production—an action that gives otherwise a hand to the worlding of world and the thinging of thing. Heidegger was less than explicit on this and left us few indications. We can find two of them in the ‘Summary.’ According to the first one, ‘after the meaning of Being had been clarified’, which means in this context, after the thought of Ereignis had been properly worked out, ‘the whole analytic of Dasein was to be more originally repeated in a completely different way’ (32). It is safe to say that this new whole analytic of Dasein, no longer understood as fundamental ontology, was not developed and was left to be developed. I take it this is the legacy of Heideggerian thought, and it is a legacy that involves leaving Heidegger behind and thinking things he never thought or at least never said. What I have been calling infrapolitics is meant to take on that legacy, which immediately means, to establish an understanding of action, both existential and political, that cannot be delimited by production and that does not exhaust itself in a productivist paradigm. This, as you may imagine, is easier said than done—production always lurks around the corner, since we are forced to think in the common language, and the common language is the language of metaphysics.

But the ‘Summary’ gives us a second indication that might be useful. I am referring to the pages where the notion of ‘ontic models’ comes up in rather tentative and even conflicting ways:

A thinking which thinks in models must not immediately be characterized as technological thinking . . . Rather, a model is that from which thinking must necessarily take off in such a way that that from which it takes off is what gives it an impetus. The necessity for thinking to use models is related to language. The language of thinking can only start from common speech. And speech is fundamentally historico-metaphysical . . . Viewed from this perspective, thinking has only the possibility of searching for models in order to dispense with them eventually. (50)

It is interesting that, in ‘Christianity and Secularization’, Derrida also manifests his disposition to drop his own appeal to the notions of messianicity and the khora:

I would say that khôra is not even secular, it is not even secularizable. It is not secularizable first of all because it is not religious in this sense. So this is why I insist, this is why I regularly insist on this word khôra that, moreover (like the word messianic), I am ready to abandon immediately. Earlier I explained why the word messianic, in which I make a rhetorical or pedagogical investment—fundamentally, I am ready to forget it. The word khôra as well . . . Once this word has done its work, once anamnesis and interpretation will have done their work, I see no reason to keep it. (145)

Khora and messianicity are ontic models in the Heideggerian sense. Infrapolitics is also to be thought of as an ontic model whose obviously critical intent—a destruction of the language and the action of politics determined by metaphysical positionality—does not exhaust its possibilities. The latter are to be understood as on the way towards an analytic of existence not conditioned by fundamental ontology. I think that, of all contemporary thinkers, and in full understanding that what follows might have caused Derrida some chagrin, Giorgio Agamben might be the one closest to this project, through his investigation of the notion and the historical experience of forms-of-life. Forms of life are ontic models for existence. In his booklet entitled L'avventura, from 2015, and translated as The Adventure, Agamben proposes ‘adventure’ as the best possible translation for Ereignis. It is a translation into an ontic model, a form of life. Departing from a notion explored in another book, What Is Philosophy?, Agamben follows Heidegger by claiming that thinking is the repetition in memory of the anthropogenetic event, the becoming human of the human. If the latter is the ‘event of events’, that is, the ‘adventure of adventures’, then the adventure should not be understood metaphysically and ontotheologically as a form of ‘stolen time’, something purely external to the everydayness of life, something that we may choose to pursue out of a fallen desire for an aestheticization of existence, but rather as the form itself of thought, which ceaselessly repeats the becoming human of the human in a universe of sameness that does not exclude but rather appropriates difference. The adventure is for Agamben the Stoic lektón, that is, that which is sayable and expressible, as it otherwise would not come into being, but as sayable and expressible also what is livable and the ecstatic condition of existence.

Agamben chooses two formulations to refer to the form of life that exercises itself in the repetition of the anthropogenetic adventure: demonic life and poetic life. The emphasis on the demonic insists on the conversion of destiny into character and character into destiny—it is a praxis of adventure, an existential praxis in adventure. The emphasis on the poetic insists on the transfiguration of existence into a praxis of creation against the fallen temporality of those who relegate the adventure to stolen time, to expropriated time, to exceptional time. An adventure may end in misadventure, hence death, and eventually all of them do, but insofar as it holds as adventure it is poetic and demonic life: not an interpretation of the world but action and transformation of the world. This is why Agamben concludes: ‘a poetic life is the one which, in every adventure, maintains itself obstinately in relation not with an act, but a potency, not with a god but with a demigod’ (88). It is an ontogenetic potency that repeats the anthopogenetic gift.

We are used to thinking that the intention or the pretension of politics is to recover stolen time, to expropriate the expropriators, to undo Enteignis through the power of Ereignis. But it is an empty pretension insofar as it fails to make explicit the form of life—the existential adventure—that such political action fosters or prepares. Production and consumption have been the default for political forms of life within metaphysics. So the political pretension requires an infrapolitical adjustment to find an appropriate sense. In demonic-poetic life, hence uncanny life, Agamben ciphers the open possibility of a form of life delivered or released into the ontogenetic repetition of the adventure of adventures. Derrida opts to mark it as a marrano adventure. This is the path where, as I understand it, Derrida's insistence on the messianic secret dwells. His messianic secret was a marrano one, intent on keeping the immemorial memory of a cut that expropriates and in expropriating liberates—different from the Heideggerian keep, where Enteignis is to be understood as the very cut that Ereignis constantly heals; which makes it, against all odds, always already too political.

Alberto Moreiras

Wellborn, Texas, November 2020

Works Cited

Giorgio Agamben, The Adventure. Translated by Lorenzo Chiesa. Boston: MIT Press, 2018.

—. What Is Philosophy. Translated by Lorenzo Chiesa. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2017.

Bennington, Geoffrey and Jacques Derrida. Jacques Derrida. Translated by Geoffrey Bennington. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993.

Cohen, Joseph and Raphael Zagury-Orly. Judeités. Questions pour Jacques Derrida. Paris: Galilée, 2003.

Derrida, Jacques. Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas. Translated by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1999.

—. Aporias. Translated by Thomas Dutoit. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1993.

—. "Christianity and Secularization." Translated by David Newheiser. Critical Inquiry 47 (2020): 138-48.

—. "Circumfession. Fifty-nine Periods and Periphrase Written in a Sort of Internal Margin, Between Geoffrey Bennington's Book and Work in Preparation (January 1989-1990)." In Bennington-Derrida, Jacques Derrida. 3-315.

—. Le dernier des Juifs. Paris: Galilée, 2014.

—. Donner le temps II. Edited by Laura Odello, Peter Szendy, and Rodrigo Therezo. Paris: Seuil, 2021.

—. "Faith and Knowledge," in Derrida and Vattimo, eds. La religion. 9-86.

—. Force de Loi. Le 'Fondement Mystique de la Autorité.' Paris: Galilée, 1994.

—. Memoirs of the Blind. The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins. Translated by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993.

—. Monolingualism of the Other, or the Prosthesis of Origin. Translated by Patrick Mensah. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998.

—. On the Name. Edited by Thomas Dutoit. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1995.

—. The Politics of Friendship. Translated by George Collins. New York: Verso, 1997.

—. Specters of Marx. The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning & the New International. Translated by Peggy Kamuf. New York: Routledge, 1994.

—. "A Silkwom of One's Own. (Points of View Stitched on the Other Veil)". Oxford Literary Review 18.1-2 (1996): 3-65.

— and Gianni Vattimo, La religion. Paris: Seuil, 1996.

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. Albany: SUNY P, 1993.

—. Bremen and Freiburg Lectures. Insight Into That Which Is and Basic Principles of Thinking. Translated by Andrew J. Mitchell. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2012.

—. Heraclitus. The Inception of Occidental Thinking and Logic: Heraclitus' Doctrine of the Logos. Translated by Julia Goesser Assaiante and S. Montgomery Ewegen. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.

—. On Time and Being. Edited by Joan Stambaugh. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1972.

—. What Is Called Thinking. Translated by J. Glenn Gray. New York: Harper, 1976.

Kant, Immanuel. Religion Within the Limits of Pure Reason. Translated by Theodor Greene and Hoyt H. Hudson. New York: Harper One, 2008.

Nancy, Jean-Luc. "Exscription." Yale French Studies 78 (1990): 47-65.

Richardson, William J, S. J. Heidegger: From Phenomenology to Thought. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967.

Several Authors. Derrida. Ebraismo, questione aperta. Conversazioni con Jacques Derrida. Milano: Medusa, 2014.

Vitiello, Vincenzo, and others. "Cristianesimo e secularizzazione." Il Pensiero 37 (1998): 21-42.

1 With that word I refer to Jean-Luc Nancy's "Exscription," an essay on Georges Bataille that, to my mind, should also be applied to Derridean writing, particularly at the autographic extreme, of which several examples follow in this essay. Nancy sets up a differend—the so-called transparent communication of the sort that is commended by general hegemonic discourse, which "serves only to obscure violence, betrayal, and lies," and a different communication, the communication of exscription, where something like a spillage of meaning would take place. This notion of a "spillage of meaning" becomes then what the essay must try to grapple with. Nancy does it through an extensive and rather cryptic commentary on the destiny of "the book," which, he says, has been ruined by texts "bearing the names Mallarmé, Proust, Joyce, Kafka, Bataille, Borges, Blanchot, Laporte, Derrida." They set up a task: a "repetition" and a "rewriting" "of what does not have its identity imprinted once and for all . . . in the untranscribable Book:" "for the sake of deliverance." If the first kind of communication sets itself up as the answer to a question the second kind of communication has more to do with the response to a call. It is always therefore an autographic move, or pas—pas naturel, pas ordinaire. "The autograph walks into the abyss." For Nancy this abyss marks the very possibility of community, which the book betrays: "the book never aspires to anything less than the retracing of what exceeds it." "At the end of books, there is the Apocalypse:" we write necessarily "according to the logic of discourse and therefore under the nostalgia of the theological logos, also speaking to make possible a communication of speech that can be decided only on the basis of a communism of relations of exchange and therefore of production." But, decisively, we write "yet also not speaking, but writing in rupture with all language of speech and writing:" for the Apocalypse, "an impossible, unsustainable nakedness."
"The reasons for writing a book can be reduced to the desire to modify the relations that exist between a man and his fellows. These relations are judged unacceptable and are perceived as a dreadful misery." The definition of exscription comes then, and I think it must be seen as a difference with or a signal exception to the Derridean notion of "there is nothing outside the text," in spite of everything: "writing exscribes meaning every bit as much as it inscribes signification. It exscribes meaning or, in other words, it shows that what matters—the thing itself, Bataille's 'life' or 'cry,' and, finally, the existence of everything that is in question in the text (including, most remarkably, writing's own existence)—is outside the text, takes place outside writing." "This outside—wholly exscribed within the text—is the infinite withdrawal of meaning by which each existence exists." Nancy now makes his own proposal, as I see it, linking Bataille to the thought of the ontological difference. The "empty freedom" through which existence comes into presence and absence is "certainly not directed toward a project, a meaning, or a work." It only passes through them "to expose . . . the ungroundable being of being-in-the-world. The 'fact' that there is being . . . this is the very place of meaning, but it has no meaning." Writing and reading are therefore an exposure to the exscription of the ontological difference: "the being of existence is not unpresentable: it presents itself exscribed." "The heart of things: that is what we exscribe." É(x)criture, then. And through it "the implacable, joyous counterblow that must be struck against all hermeneutics, so that writing (and) existence once more can expose themselves: in the singularity, in the reality, in the freedom of the 'common destiny of men.'" So writing existence is a praxis of existence, and existence is exposure to the ex-. The exposure to the ex- is what this essay will endeavor to show as Derrida's marrano secret.

2 "For precisely there, where the possibility exists within essential thinking to think what is decisive and singular and at the very limit of thought, there is also the constant danger of a superficial leveling-down into mere mechanical chatter" (Heraclitus 27). The references to essential vs. conventional thinking cross the rest of the seminar. It is important to retain the qualification that "essential thinking" is the thinking that happens "at the very limit of thought."

Alberto Moreiras - The Keep. Uncanny Propriation. Derrida's Marrano Objection