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Derrida’s “aporia of responsibility” in José Rizal’s El Filibusterismo


This article examines themes of revolution, responsibility, and colonial suffering in José Rizal’s El Filibusterismo. The second and more confounding of Rizal’s two novels, El Filibusterismo is vague about the conditions necessary for anti-colonial revolution. The article argues that this vagueness was deliberate and that it constituted an invitation to a collective reflection on revolutionary responsibility. Using Derrida’s concept of the “aporia of responsibility,” it shows that Rizal’s novel negotiates the tension between individual accountability and collective action. In conjuring a collective impasse, Rizal left a space for the democratic nationalism that he envisioned for the Philippines.

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