Culture as (de)construction: Lotman’s ‘translation’ and Derrida’s différance Cover Image

Kultuur kui (de)konstruktsioon. Eelmärkused Juri Lotmani ja Jacques Derrida teooriate võrdlemiseks
Culture as (de)construction: Lotman’s ‘translation’ and Derrida’s différance

Author(s): Daniele Monticelli
Subject(s): Semiotics / Semiology
Published by: Eesti Semiootika Selts
Keywords: Juri Lotman; Jacques Derrida; différance; translation; dialogue; cultural identity; tõlge; dialoog; kultuuriline identiteet

Summary/Abstract: If, in the political and sociological jargon and public rhetoric of the last decades, the concept of ‘culture’ has gradually replaced such discredited and unusable concepts as ‘race’, ‘ethnos’, even ‘nation’, it nevertheless seems to have inherited their position in conservative agenda. In the politics of identity culture is imagined and described as a closed system with clear-cut boundaries whose internality must be defended from possible contamination. Drawing on the Saussurean conceptual universe, Derrida and Lotman both construct their theory of language and culture on the basis of a thorough (antistructuralistic) critique of that kind of internalizing selfenclosure which allowed Saussure to delimit and describe langue as the object of linguistics. The article tries to pinpoint and compare the fundamental instruments of this critique in Derrida’s and Lotman’s thought, touching upon the notions of ‘mirror structure’, ‘binarism’, ‘numerousness’. There emerges an understanding of mediation which is not reducible to any kind of Aufhebung and frustrates the pretences of identity by constantly dislocating and deferring any attempt at semiotic self-enclosure. In the article I compare Lotman’s ‘translation of the untranslatable’ (or ‘dialogue’) and Derrida’s différance as similar ways of describing this kind of mediation. Derrida and Lotman offer us important instruments to deconstruct from a theoretical point of view the conservative understanding of culture used today as a new (old) kind of ideological justification for sociopolitical conflicts. The (de)constructive nature of culture, as described by Lotman and Derrida, challenges any attempt at theorizing structural cultural constraints as sources of definitive and irreducible identities/differences.

  • Issue Year: 2011
  • Issue No: 8
  • Page Range: 010-025
  • Page Count: 16
  • Language: Estonian