The Other Heading

Jacques Derrida, the infamous father of Deconstruction, author of many controversial, highly influential works, offers yet another difficult text for our edification—a text that will appeal only to those who love slow reading and the pleasures of complex thought.

THE OTHER HEADING is not a simplistic answer to the question of where Europe is heading after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the break up of the Eastern European states. Instead, Derrida employs his usual method of loving meditation on the connotations of words to tease out multiple possibilities of directions for post-Cold War Europe.

Derrida exhaustively explores a navigation metaphor. A ship has “a heading”; it “heads off” to some destination. Derrida uses this metaphor to describe Europe’s cultural identity. Europe has been on a voyage, “heading” towards a certain ideal of itself as a culture.

But this voyage has been interrupted by storms blowing from the East. Derrida suggests that these events call for a new direction for Europe—“the other heading.” Probing further the connotations of his central metaphor, he asserts that a new course for Europe must include “the heading of the other.” That is, any new European community must respect all the different ethnic and national groups that are now asserting their own identities, claiming their right to have their “headings” acknowledged.

THE OTHER HEADING is a fascinating meditation by a major European thinker on how Europe can stay on the course of realizing its ideals of liberal democratic values and the rule of law, and also be open to the diverse “headings” of all those “Others” who want to be on the new European voyage.