The Figure of Jerusalem

  • Christopher Wise


In this chapter, I explore Jacques Derrida’s evocation of the Jerusalem figure by contrasting Jewish and Christian approaches to allegorical interpretation, and by closely examining Fredric Jameson’s suggestion that Specters of Marx advocates a figurative exegesis or an inherently didactic hermeneutics. In describing the “war for the appropriation of Jerusalem,” Derrida effectively subordinates deconstruction to serve the interests of a specific politics that are far from neutral. He does this by authorizing a hypostasis of the Jerusalem figure in the pages of Specters of Marx (but also at the Whither Marxism? conference in Riverside, California) at the expense of actual Palestinian peoples and the historical city of Al-Quds, the Arabic name for Jerusalem. The Jerusalem figure is universalized rather than identified as a strictly Zionist obsession. The inherently didactic nature of this allegorical maneuver is further strengthened by Derrida’s assumption of a homiletic and pedagogical posture at the Whither Marxism? conference, where he offers to lead disoriented Marxists into the future, provided that they accept his “unalterable” condition of repoliticization: namely, that the Marxist theory of ideology be rewritten as a variety of messianic eschatology, or Abrahamic religion.


Middle East Biblical Text Christian Teaching Christian Concept Holy City 
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© Christopher Wise 2009

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  • Christopher Wise

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