[-empyre-] Contretemps

Cinzia Cremona cinziacremona at googlemail.com
Tue Apr 14 09:50:50 EST 2009

*Cinzia, your invocation of the Derridean concept of a Contretemps is
intriguing, and I would love to hear more.  At the outset, it causes my
consciousness to turn to Derrida?s idea about dissemination as the giving of
that which can never come back to me: a squandering of the nom-de-p?re, a
letting loose of the phallic function even more radical than occurs with
respect to Judge Schreber?s psychosis.  How do you connect contretemps with
potlatch, all those Trobriand Islanders smashing plates and burning whale
oil candles in a spectacle of unreciprocatable generosity?  Also, since
Derrida claims that, eccentrically, the gift sets the economic circle in
motion (while it somehow also effractively breaks it apart), I wonder how
you connect this account of an economic engine with contretemps,
dissemination, waste and excess: the obscene underside of the gift, the
squalor and effulgence we seek to manage and mask through economics and
ethics.  PS?Love your vid!  Are you trapped inside the gift?  Perhaps you
are the gift.*
Thanks MA for such piercing questions. Of course I am the gift!

In the 'The Politics of Friendship', Derrida suggests contretemps as a
radical and indispensable dissymetry between the offer and the return I can
expect. And it is always I, as the relationship can only be mentioned from
the point of view of the offerer. I shall call you friend in the hope that
you will become, by my interpellation, my friend. My gift creates an
obligation, but it does not ask for a direct return. Not sure how *a letting
loose of the phallic function* applies here, although desire plays a big

Contretemps is based on difference (differance?) - not at the same time, not
in the same place, not with the same person, etc.

Personally, I feel called to invest in a larger loop of exchange. It makes
more sense to offer gifts to those who cannot return them. Similarly, I hope
that I will be offered gifts that I cannot return by those who
have resources I have no access to.

I am not sure how to think about potlatch in the 21st century ... As a
process, it seems to me to stem from a sense of kinship, of US and THEM,
which does not apply anymore. What are the marks of my friends and of my
enemies? How would I know which 'other' is worth my investment? I'd rather
make the pot fuller with what I have in abundance. At some point, someone
else will do the same with different gifts.

Of course, this is naive, steeped in neo-liberalism and captive of
capitalism! But perhaps it is not that far from an Open Source approach to
production and self organization.
And being kind to those who are not of the same kind seems to me a good


Visions in the Nunnery
22 to 31 May 2009
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