Khôra (Khora or Chora; Ancient Greek: χώρα) was the territory of the polis outside the city proper. The term has been used in philosophy by Plato to designate a receptacle, a space, or an interval in the Timaeus. Jacques Derrida has written a short text with the title Khora, using his deconstructionist approach to investigate Plato's word usage. It is the origin for the recent interest in this rather obscure Greek term.
Key authors addressing "khôra" include Martin Heidegger who refers to a "clearing" in which being happens or takes place. Julia Kristeva deploys the term as part of her analysis of the difference between the semiotic and symbolic realms, in that Plato's concept of "khora" is said to anticipate the emancipatory employment of semiotic activity as a way of evading the allegedly phallocentric character of symbolic activity (signification through language), which, following Jacques Lacan, is regarded as an inherently limiting and oppressive form of praxis. Julia Kristeva articulates the 'chora' in terms of a presignifying state: 'Although the chora can be designated and regulated, it can never be definively posited: as a result, one can situate the chora and, if necessary, lend it a topology, but one can never give it axiomatic form.' Jacques Derrida uses "khôra" to name a radical otherness that "gives place" for being. El-Bizri builds on this by more narrowly taking "khôra" to name the radical happening of an ontological difference between being and beings (Nader El-Bizri, 2004, 2011). Derrida argues that the subjectile is like Plato’s chora, Greek for space, receptacle or site. Plato proposes that the chora rests between the sensible and the intelligible, through which everything passes but in which nothing is retained. For example an image needs to be held by something, just as a mirror will hold a reflection. For Derrida, "khôra" defies attempts at naming or either/or logic which he attempts to "deconstruct" (see deconstruction). See also Derrida's collaborative project with Architect Peter Eisenmann, in Chora L Works: Jacques Derrida and Peter Eisenman. The project proposed the construction of a garden in the Parc de la Villette in Paris, which included a seive, or harp-like structure that Derrida invisaged as a physical metaphor for the receptacle-like properties of the chora. The concept of the chora, distinguished by its elusive properties, would have become a physical reality had the project been realised.
Following Derrida, John Caputo describes khôra as:
neither present nor absent, active or passive, the good nor evil, living nor nonliving - but rather atheological and nonhuman - khôra is not even a receptacle. Khôra has no meaning or essence, no identity to fall back upon. She/it receives all without becoming anything, which is why she/it can become the subject of neither a philosopheme nor mytheme. In short, the khôra is tout autre [fully other], very
Khôra "gives space" and has maternal overtones (a womb, matrix). It is neither being nor nonbeing but an interval between in which the "forms" were originally held.
- Derrida J., Khora, Paris:Galilee 1993
- Kristeva, J. 1984 Revolution in Poetic Language. New York, Columbia University Press. p.26.
- Caputo 1997, pp. 35–36
- Translation of Derrida, Jacques 1993: Khôra. Paris: Galilée.
- Nader El-Bizri, "‘Qui-êtes vous Khôra?’: Receiving Plato’s Timaeus," Existentia Meletai-Sophias, Vol. XI, Issue 3-4 (2001), pp. 473–490
- Nader El-Bizri, "ON KAI KHORA: Situating Heidegger between the Sophist and the Timaeus," Studia Phaenomenologica, Vol. IV, Issue 1-2 (2004), pp. 73–98.
- Nader El-Bizri, "Ontopoiēsis and the Interpretation of Plato’s Khôra," Analecta Husserliana: The Yearbook of Phenomenological Research, Vol. LXXXIII (2004), pp. 25–45.
- Nader El-Bizri, "Being at Home Among Things: Heidegger’s Reflections on Dwelling", Environment, Space, Place Vol. 3 (2011)pp. 47–71
- Fernández Agis, Domingo,"Cuerpo, Khôra y espacio político"