Posts Tagged ‘judith butler’

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On Cruelty | Judith Butler

July 13, 2014

‘Whence comes this bizarre, bizarre idea,’ Jacques Derrida asks, reading Nietzsche on debt in On the Genealogy of Morals, ‘this ancient, archaic (uralte) idea, this so very deeply rooted, perhaps indestructible idea, of a possible equivalence between injury and pain (Schaden und Schmerz)? Whence comes this strange hypothesis or presumption of an equivalence between two such incommensurable things? What can a wrong and a suffering have in common?’ By way of an answer, he points out that ‘the origin of the legal subject, and notably of penal law, is commercial law; it is the law of commerce, debt, the market, the exchange between things, bodies and monetary signs, with their general equivalent and their surplus value, their interest.’

In the first volume of The Death Penalty, Derrida considers the jus talionis, the principle of equivalence according to which a relation is set up ‘between the crime and the punishment, between the injury and the price to be paid’. Debt, in On the Genealogy of Morals, gives Nietzsche a way of understanding how ‘the “consciousness of guilt”, “bad conscience”’ came into the world. Earlier he laments ‘that whole sombre thing called reflection’, in which the self becomes its own object of relentless scrutiny and self-punishment. If one wants to keep a promise, one must burn memory into the will, submit to – or submit oneself to – a reign of terror in the name of morality, administer pain to oneself in order to ensure one’s continuity and calculability through time. If I am to be moral and keep my promises, I will remember what I promised and remain the same ‘I’ who first uttered that promise, resisting any circumstances that might alter its continuity through time, never dozing when wakefulness is needed. The promise takes on another meaning in Nietzsche when what I have promised is precisely to repay a debt, a promise by which I enter into, and become bound by, a certain kind of contract. What I have apparently burned into the will, or had burned there, is a promise to remember and repay that debt, to realise the promise within a calculable period of time, and so to become a calculable creature. I can be counted on to count the time and count up the money to make the repayment: that accountability is the promise. I can count on myself, and others can count on me. If I prove capable of making a contract, I can receive a loan and be relied on to pay it back with interest, so that the lender can accumulate wealth from my debt in a predictable way. And if I default, the law will intervene to protect his interest in the interest he exacts from me.

Read full text at London Review of Books

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Dispossession: The Performative in the Political (PCVS-Polity Conversations Series)

October 1, 2013

Dispossession describes the condition of those who have lost land, citizenship, property, and a broader belonging to the world. This thought-provoking book seeks to elaborate our understanding of dispossession outside of the conventional logic of possession, a hallmark of capitalism, liberalism, and humanism. Can dispossession simultaneously characterize political responses and opposition to the disenfranchisement associated with unjust dispossession of land, economic and political power, and basic conditions for living?

In the context of neoliberal expropriation of labor and livelihood, dispossession opens up a performative condition of being both affected by injustice and prompted to act. From the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa to the anti-neoliberal gatherings at Puerta del Sol, Syntagma and Zucchotti Park, an alternative political and affective economy of bodies in public is being formed. Bodies on the street are precarious – exposed to police force, they are also standing for, and opposing, their dispossession. These bodies insist upon their collective standing, organize themselves without and against hierarchy, and refuse to become disposable: they demand regard. This book interrogates the agonistic and open-ended corporeality and conviviality of the crowd as it assembles in cities to protest political and economic dispossession through a performative dispossession of the sovereign subject and its propriety.

Text and Image via Politybooks

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A Carefully Crafted F**k You: Nathan Schneider interviews Judith Butler

August 30, 2012

Judith Butler’s philosophy is an assault on common sense, on the atrophy of thinking. It untangles not only how ideas compel us to action, but how unexamined action leaves us with unexamined ideas—and, then, disastrous politics. Her work over the last few years has been devoted to challenging the Bush/Cheney-era torpor that came over would-be dissenters in the face of two wars and an acquiescent electorate. She does so not with policy prescriptions or electoral tactics, but with an analysis of the habits of thinking and doing that stand behind them. It is in response to the suffering of others, she insists, of innocent victims in particular, that we must come to terms with the world as it is and act in it.

Butler is, at University of California at Berkeley, Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature. Her reputation is secure as the most important theorist of gender in the last quarter century, thanks to books like Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (1993). The thrust of her contribution is to destabilize—to queer—identity by disentangling the fragile performances that give rise to it. Whether in gender politics or geopolitics, her analysis shows how failing to grasp these sources of identity blinds us to the common humanity of others.

Excerpt from Nathan Schneider’s interview via Guernica. Continue HERE

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Architecture as a Practice of Biopolitical Disobedience

August 30, 2012

The large-scale transformation affecting the production of life in capitalism is also transforming the topography of oppression and the conditions in which fight and resistance are possible. A process of deconstructing technologies of gender and sexual production and normalization, which contemporary feminist thinker Judith Butler has called “undoing gender,” is already taking place.

The feminist, homosexual, and transsexual movements of the 1960s and ’70s could be understood as a collective revolt against the biopolitical disciplinary techniques of production of sexual difference and sexuality that were developed in the 19th century, together with industrial capitalism and colonialism. Likewise, contemporary gender-queer, transgender, and crip micropolitical movements could be read as examples of a larger critique of the pharmacopornographic techniques of production of the body and subjectivity, and their strategic alliance with the disciplinary regime.

Text by Beatriz Preciado. Continue via Anyone Corporation. Continue HERE
Image via Fitoatlas

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Judith Butler: Behavior Creates Gender

August 2, 2012
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Solidarity in the streets: An interview with Judith Butler

May 28, 2012


We are all drawn to think about what is going on,” says Butler, who has had a close eye on various protests around the world, including the current student demonstrations in Montreal. “I think the Montreal protests are very powerful; it is getting global attention and raises fundamental questions about whether students in Canada have a right to an affordable education. It has been powerful enough to cancel classes and stop business as usual. Sometimes you have to bring the machinery to a halt to make a difference.”

“Media is very important in making certain links. News made through social media can be relatively uncensored and it undercuts or contests the more dominant media representations,” explains Butler, who sees protests in one part of the world having an effect on what is happening on the other side of the world.

“I think there was a successful movement on the part of the Chilean students last year opposing tuition. Their success has been an important point of reference for Berkeley, Athens and Montreal. People in Cairo are watching us in the U.S. and people in Chile are watching Athens. The world has been more connected in the last year and a half. There’s an increasing understanding of global dependency and new forms of global alliances.”

Interview by Samantha Sarra. Read it HERE

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Queer and Then?

January 9, 2012

Duke University Press ends its influential Series Q this month. It has been an impressive ride since the first book in the series: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s landmark 1993 collection of essays, Tendencies. Rereading her introduction, “Queer and Now,” I am reminded of the potent sense of possibility opened up 20 years ago by the idea of queer theory. The sense of a historical moment is strong in the essay, as its title underscores. Sedgwick’s optimism was far from naïve; the same introduction disclosed her diagnosis of breast cancer, which she lived with and against until her death in 2009. Fittingly, the last volume released by Series Q is a posthumous collection of her remaining essays, The Weather in Proust.

Taken together, Sedgwick’s death, the passage of time, and the news from Duke all seem to be occasions for taking stock. Even before the press’s decision, many in the field were already in a retrospective mood. A recent book in the same series, After Sex? On Writing Since Queer Theory, asked leading queer theorists to look back on the great ferment of the last two decades. The title of the book seems to place queer theory firmly in the past, though the editors, Janet Halley and Andrew Parker, generously shift the emphasis in their introduction: “What has queer theory become now that it has a past?”

The answer depends on how much queer theory is defined by the speculative energy that the phrase itself generated in the 1990s. The label, after all, came into circulation only after the major theoretical innovations that defined it—in the work of Michel Foucault, Gayle Rubin, Leo Bersani, the early Sedgwick, Judith Butler, as well as many others. Those writers had already developed an analysis of sexuality that looked to relations of power rather than to individual psychology or “orientation.” And they had already shown that sex, pleasure, and the formation of sexual cultures posed deep challenges to the normative frameworks by which some kinds of sex are legitimated and institutionalized as the proper form of sexuality. As several contributors to After Sex? point out, queer theory’s intellectual concerns have given rise to newer kinds of work, and are continued under other rubrics.

When Teresa de Lauretis and her colleagues at the University of California at Santa Cruz organized a conference called “Queer Theory” in 1990, it was manifestly provocative. The term “queer” in those days was not yet a cable-TV synonym for gay; it carried a high-voltage charge of insult and stigma. The term caught on because it seemed to catalyze many of the key insights of previous years and connect them to a range of politics and constituencies that were already developing outside academe, in a way that looked unpredictable from the start. At the 1991 Lesbian and Gay Studies Conference at Rutgers University at New Brunswick—the fifth to be held since John Boswell started the meetings at Yale University in 1987 and exponentially larger than its predecessors—the informal talk about “queer” was almost as frisky as the cruising.

A paper by Michael Warner at the The Chronicle Review. Continue HERE