Derrida’s Jewish Question

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Rajesh Sampath


This paper will pose the question of the future minoritization of the white, gentile, Christian European and EuroAmerican identity, which has dominated world history from colonization through the post-Cold War historical present. The question is not how this is coming to an end in the near future as empirical fact and in what manner, but an attempt to imagine another future, another identity than what has been proscribed in the past. In order to move into this alterity, we will engage in a critical reading of Derrida’s essay “Abraham, The Other,” in the volume titled Judeities: Questions for Jacques Derrida. By examining the philosophical complexity of Derrida’s quasi-autobiographical reflection on his Jewish identity, we can prepare the conditions for how the future gentile white European identity could look when not grounded in its self-edifying monotheism of a white, Christiandominated political and cultural state. The relation between the future diversification of European identity is not just a matter of postcolonial immigration and multiculturalism. It has to do with the ontological problem of how to understand the origin and telos of gentile white European identity in its Christian heritage and metaphysics (from the ancient Greeks to Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger) when simple notions of origin and end are erased. This brings in the philosophical problem of historical time, movement, and epochal shifts between today’s Europe and another Europe, today’s future and what is other to that. Derrida’s text provides a guide into what is other to monotheism, unicity, oneness, and—by extension, we will argue—gentile whiteness, Christianness too, which is not simply the opposite of polytheism and today’s racial diversity, i.e., non-white and non-western Christian minorities in Europe, the United States, Canada, and the “west” in general. Having said that, this does have obvious implications regarding justice and equality as European and “western” societies in general diversify. Linking the most archaic, or the farthest in distance beyond the mythic origin of Abraham and therefore of Jewish biblical-historical identity, raises the prospects of “another” Abraham. This Other is not rooted in historical memory. This paper argues that Derrida’s reflections will help us understand an alternative future whose metaphysics is yet to be written, one that is not simply a repetition of the contents of the history of (gentile) religion and philosophy in Europe and its linear, successive, chronological historical time-frame, i.e., the Gregorian calendar.

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How to Cite
Sampath, R. (2022). Derrida’s Jewish Question. Journal of World Philosophies, 7(1), 1–12. Retrieved from
Author Biography

Rajesh Sampath, Brandeis University

Rajesh Sampath, PhD, is Associate Professor of the Philosophy of Justice, Rights, and Social Change at Brandeis University. He has published articles in modern continental European philosophy and comparative philosophical traditions.