Deconstruction as Method for Political Analysis



Organised by:

Queen Mary/Goldsmiths Doctoral Training Centre


Dr Lasse Thomassen


Intermediate (some prior knowledge)


Andrew Loveland


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Queen Mary, University of London


The course consists of a one-day workshop for research students and young researchers. The aim of the workshop is to examine deconstruction as a method for political analysis. We read examples of deconstructive analyses by Jacques Derrida and discuss the methodological implications of deconstruction as well as the philosophical assumptions behind it. Deconstruction is often used in literature, cultural studies and philosophy, but is little used as a method for political analysis. The workshop examines the usefulness of deconstruction for the study of politics not only by reading about deconstruction, but also by seeing how it can be put to use in the analysis of texts.

The workshop consists of three two-hour sessions led by Dr Lasse Thomassen (Queen Mary, University of London). The three sessions are organised around readings from Jacques Derrida, with each session focusing on an example of a deconstructive reading while also examining wider methodological issues arising from deconstruction.

The first session examines the question of method and relates it to a piece by Derrida on the category of ‘the event’. To help think about method and the event, we introduce the notion of iterability. In the second session, we together deconstruct a text written by Habermas, and co-signed by Derrida, on Europe. This session continues the reflection on deconstructive concepts and deconstruction as a method by looking at the logic of the example. The third session examines Derrida’s writings on hospitality as a way of reflecting on the relationship to ‘the other’, a theme already broached in the second session. In this final session we look at the role played by the pair conditional/unconditional in Derrida’s rethinking of concepts like hospitality.

At the end of the course, the participants will have knowledge of the philosophical assumptions behind deconstruction, the implications of deconstruction for questions surrounding the use of methods in the social sciences and humanities, the politics of deconstruction, and the use deconstruction for concrete political analysis.

Session 1: Deconstruction as method: the event and iterability

Set readings:

Jacques Derrida, ‘Letter to a Japanese Friend’, in Psyche: Inventions of the Other, Volume II, eds. Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), pp. 1-6. Also in David Wood and Robert Bernasconi (eds), Derrida and Différance (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988), pp. 1-5.

Jacques Derrida, ‘Autoimmunity: Real and Symbolic Suicides—A Dialogue with Jacques Derrida,’ in Giovanna Borradori, Philosophy In a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 85-136, at pp. 85-92.

Session 2: Deconstruction at work: Europe and exemplarity

Set readings:

Jacques Derrida, ‘The Other Heading,’ in The Other Heading: Reflections on Today’s Europe (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), pp. 1-83, at pp. 4-20 and 75-83.

Jacques Derrida and Jürgen Habermas, ‘February 15, or What Binds Europeans Together: A plea for a Common Foreign Policy, Beginning in the Heart of Europe’. In The Derrida-Habermas Reader. Edited by Lasse Thomassen, 270-7. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006. Also in Constellations vol. 10, no. 3 (September 2003); and in Jürgen Habermas, The Divided West (Cambridge: Polity, 2006), pp. 39-48.

Session 3: Hospitality: conditional and unconditional

Set readings:

Jacques Derrida, ‘Autoimmunity: Real and Symbolic Suicides—A Dialogue with Jacques Derrida’, in Giovanna Borradori, Philosophy In a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 124-30.

Jacques Derrida, ‘Hostipitality’, trans. Barry Stocker and Forbes Morlock, Angelaki vol.5, no. 3 (2000): 3-18. Reprinted in Lasse Thomassen (ed.), The Derrida-Habermas Reader (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006), pp. 208-30.

Lasse Thomassen is Senior Lecturer in the School of Politics & International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London. He works on Habermas, deconstruction, radical democracy and identity politics, and his publications include Deconstructing Habermas (Routledge, 2007) and The Derrida-Habermas Reader (Edinburgh UP, 2006).



Website and registration:


Greater London


Qualitative Data Handling and Data Analysis, Discourse Analysis, political analysis , deconstruction , Derrida

Related publications and presentations:

Qualitative Data Handling and Data Analysis
Discourse Analysis

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