Book Discussion – Of Grammatology (Jacques Derrida)

Host: Ivan Kurniawan Nasution

Grammatology is a scientific study on how to write and writing. The study tests the typology, analyzes an essat, and understands the relation between verbal and written expressions. In 1967, Jacques Derrida used the term for different uses in ‘Of Grammatology’. A writing is not only a reproduction of verbal expressions into symbols, but also inner interpretation and thinking that need to always be comprehended. ‘Of Grammatology’ is a response for structuralism linguistic, and some of Derrida’s critiques on previous thinkers, for instance:

1. Derrida on Saussure
According to Derrida, western culture is heavily affected by Plato’s philosophy on “logos”. Logos literally means ‘word’, which heavily relates to existence. A linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure stated that, words will always be preceded by speech. Words are signs, sounds of the words are signifier, and the concept of the words are signified. Words are bound to signifier and signified. For example, the word ‘’avocado’’ is a sign, when the sound ‘’avocado’ is a signifier, and the concept of an ‘’avocado’’ is a signified. The system ensures that the sign and signifier “avocado”is understood as “avocado”not “carrot”or other things. The view of the binding absoluteness will finally set boundaries to the diversity of the universe. Is it truly impossible to see avocado as carrot?

2. Derrida on Rosseau
Rosseau suggested that human and universe are a unity in harmony. Humans live for a perfection. The state of equity with universe. However according to Derrida, this should limit a human’s potentials. People have the probability to develop self-potentials, and hence will come explosions running the universe.

3. Derrida on Levi-strauss
An anthropologist, Levi-strauss on his experiences in Nambikwara found that primitive settlements possessed wonderful everyday experiences and cultures. He chose to document them all through writings. He then gave attempt to teach them how to write. In the process of teaching them, he became aware of the violence he brought. He forced his ideology on them. According to Derrida, this kind of thinking was exaggerated and a form of hallucination. 1) thinking of how a human oppressed another human through the culture of writing; 2) the primitives were free of this convictions. For Derrida, humans possessed the right to develop themselves apart from any culture or dogma. He suggested that things, sign, signifier, and signified must be separated from their bindings. They may not be comprehended under the same perspective. Text needs to be understood by the perspective of context and usafe, and hence text needs to be explored thoroughly.

In 1980s, what Derrida stated touched the architecture field. In 1982, Bernard Tschumi, Peter Eisenmann, and Derrida’s work, Parc de la Villette began to be publicly known. In 1988, Museum of Modern Art held ‘Deconstructivist Architecture’ exhibition which was curated by Philip Johnson and mark Wigley. After the exhibition, some architects were associated as deconstructivist architects. Some of them were Peter Eisenmann and Bernard Tschumi. Peter Eisenmann had the view that elements stood separated and was a parallel variables. However, Tschumi had a view that architecture is an occurence. Architecture was not only about space and form, but also events and movements. Derrida opened a new chance to evaluate how we perceive a new view on those things by peeling them one by one, including architecture.

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