The Madness of the Mother Tongue

Sheikh, Shela. 2020. The Madness of the Mother Tongue. The Contemporary Journal(1), [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Through a reading of Jacques Derrida’s Monolingualism of the Other: Or, the Prosthesis of Origin, this text explores the maddening paradoxes of identity, translation, the mother tongue, and the coloniality of language and culture. How to speak of oneself and one’s experience when one has no ‘proper’ language in which to do so – when one’s testimony must always be an act of translation? When translation – both literally and in an expanded sense – is simultaneously both possible and impossible? When one’s relationship to one’s ‘own’ language (the so-called mother tongue) is both cause and symptom of a ‘disorder of identity’? And when the desire for the mastery of language and self-representation involves the risk of precisely the (colonial) expropriation or usurpation that is being testified to?

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Additional Information:

This essay was commissioned and first published by The Contemporary Journal.


Jacques Derrida, colonialism, Algeria, translation

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


1 August 2019Accepted
28 February 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

29 Aug 2019 10:11

Last Modified:

21 Jun 2021 20:19


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