The Battle Over Derrida’s Papers

In the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

Along with his intellectual legacy, a voluminous paper trail of Derrida’s thought remains. Most of those papers — 116 boxes and 10 oversized folders taking up 47.8 linear feet — are housed at the University of California at Irvine. Derrida, who held a professorship at Irvine, had, more than a decade before his death in 2004, chosen the university’s library as the final resting place for his manuscripts. But there are more papers that remain in the office and attic of his house outside Paris, including his later writings, letters to colleagues, books from his personal library, and so on.

Last fall the university sued Derrida’s widow and his children after they refused to turn over the remainder of his papers. It was a startling move, considering the almost casual way in which the deal was struck: Neither Derrida’s initial gift of his papers to Irvine, nor an amended version of it, was witnessed by a lawyer or notary public. The dispute between Derrida’s heirs and the university had gone on in secret for more than two years. The lawsuit brought it into the open and, at the same time, infuriated scholars who were close to him.