Derrida's Archive Fever: From Debt to Inheritance

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1 Citation (Scopus)


This article reads Derrida's Archive Fever (1995) as a sustained reflection on the influence of psychoanalysis on deconstruction. It examines the text's deployment of two financial figures — debt and inheritance — as contrasting ways of coming to terms with the intellectual legacy of psychoanalysis. Derrida's reading of Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi's Freud's Moses exposes the historian's reliance on a ‘classical’ concept of the archive as the depository of a self-identical past, a concept which underpins Yerushalmi's thesis of Freud's unpaid debt to Jewish culture. This conception gives rise to several aporias identified in Derrida's analysis of Yerushalmi's methodological procedure. A more positive and productive notion of inheritance characterizes Derrida's exploration of his own relationship to Freud, allowing him to move beyond the burden of a calculable indebtedness to the past towards an incalculable inheritance for the future. Deconstruction inherits from Freud's theoretical legacy (the ‘impression’ left by Freud on deconstruction), reaffirming and transforming psychoanalytic insights in its own account of our collective mal d'archive, our feverish desire both to preserve and destroy the archive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-328
Number of pages16
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • Derrida
  • Freud
  • psychoanalysis
  • deconstruction
  • Archiv Fever


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