Deconstruction of the Veil

  • Christopher Wise


In “A Silkworm of One’s Own,” Jacques Derrida raises a number of provocative questions with respect to Judeo-Christian beliefs about the veil or prayer shawl, questions that are timely in the post-9/11 world. In previously published texts, Derrida traces the history of deconstruction to the German reformer Martin Luther, who influenced philosophers such as Fredrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. While Derrida’s deconstruction of the Pauline epistles denies the authority extended to them in the Lutheran tradition, it also contributes to a rethinking of the Christian religion, reinforcing the importance of Paul for critical debate. Although this chapter focuses mainly on Derrida’s deconstruction of the veil in the Judeo-Christian religion, the Islamic hijab also provides an important point of reference. In this chapter, Fatima Mernissi’s insightful discussion of the Islamic hijab in her book Harem politique (1987), translated in English as The Veil and the Male Elite (1991), will be compared with Derrida’s deconstruction of the Pauline veil. Although analyzing the formation of irreducibly different religious traditions, Derrida and Mernissi similarly argue that powerful and influential men misappropriated the veil in order to exclude women from positions of power.


Middle East Christian Religion Male Elite Jewish Religion Islamic Religion 
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© Christopher Wise 2009

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  • Christopher Wise

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