Archive for the ‘Judith Butler’ Category

The Nation has printed the text of a speech given by Judith Butler to Berkeley students, who have voted to divest from General Electric and United Technologies because of their complicity in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The Senate president vetoed the bill a week later, and opponents have been waging a campaign of misinformation, with Alan Dershowitz rumoured to be visiting the campus.

The first thing I want to say is that there is hardly a Jewish dinner table left in this country–or indeed in Europe and much of Israel–in which there is not enormous disagreement about the status of the occupation, Israeli military aggression and the future of Zionism, binationalism and citizenship in the lands called Israel and Palestine. There is no one Jewish voice, and in recent years, there are increasing differences among us, as is evident by the multiplication of Jewish groups that oppose the occupation and which actively criticize and oppose Israeli military policy and aggression.

What I learned as a Jewish kid in my synagogue–which was no bastion of radicalism–was that it was imperative to speak out against social injustice. I was told to have the courage to speak out, and to speak strongly, even when people accuse you of breaking with the common understanding, even when they threaten to censor you or punish you. The worst injustice, I learned, was to remain silent in the face of criminal injustice. And this tradition of Jewish social ethics was crucial to the fights against Nazism, fascism and every form of discrimination, and it became especially important in the fight to establish the rights of refugees after the Second World War. Of course, there are no strict analogies between the Second World War and the contemporary situation, and there are no strict analogies between South Africa and Israel, but there are general frameworks for thinking about co-habitation, the right to live free of external military aggression, the rights of refugees, and these form the basis of many international laws that Jews and non-Jews have sought to embrace in order to live in a more just world, one that is more just not just for one nation or for another, but for all populations, regardless of nationality and citizenship. If some of us hope that Israel will comply with international law, it is precisely so that one people can live among other peoples in peace and in freedom. It does not de-legitimate Israel to ask for its compliance with international law. Indeed, compliance with international law is the best way to gain legitimacy, respect and an enduring place among the peoples of the world.

Full text of Judith Butler’s speech can be found on The Nation’s website here.

See also Judith Butler’s excellent article in the London Review of Books on why criticism of Israel is not anti-semitic.

Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of many books, including Bodies That Matter, Precarious Life, Gender Trouble and Frames of War.

Read Full Post »

Christopher Madden reviews Judith Butler’s Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? for 3:AM Magazine.

Butler modulates her argument about precariousness as a generalised condition by altering ‘construction’ to ‘performativity’. … Butler concludes her magisterial analysis with a call for both individual subjects and nations states to be persistently open to the need for more effectively articulated rage in light of the precariousness at the root of our survivability.

Read the full article here.

Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of many books, including Giving an Account of Oneself, Precarious Life, and Gender Trouble.

Read Full Post »

Nathan Schneider interviews Judith Butler for Guernica about her book,  Frames of War: When is Life Grievable?, Obama and Gaza:

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 Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990) and 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.

Her latest book, Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (2009), reflects on the past decade’s saga of needless war, photographed—even fetishized—torture, and routine horror. It treats these practices as issuing from a philosophical choice, one which considers certain human beings expendable and unworthy of being grieved. The concluding chapter confronts the paradoxical nature of any call for nonviolent resistance—paradoxical because the very identities that we claim and resist on behalf of were themselves formed by violence in the past. Butler does not mistake nonviolence for passivity, as so many critics do. At its best, she writes, nonviolent resistance becomes a “carefully crafted ‘fuck you,’” tougher to answer than a Howitzer.

Read the full interview here.

Read Full Post »

A conversation held several months ago in New York, between Udi Aloni and Judith Butler appears in Haaret’z.

Butler talks about gender, the dehumanization of Gazans, and how her Jewish values drove her to criticize the actions of the State of Israel.

I’ve told you that I began to be interested in philosophy when I was 14, and I was in trouble in the synagogue. … I explained that I wanted to read existential theology focusing on Martin Buber. (I’ve never left Martin Buber.) I wanted look at the question of whether German idealism could be linked with National Socialism. Was the tradition of Kant and Hegel responsible in some way for the origins of National Socialism? My third question was why Spinoza was excommunicated from the synagogue.

I was taught that it was ethically imperative to speak up and to speak out against arbitrary state violence. … I think we have to get over the idea that a state has to express a nation. And if we have a bi-national state, it’s expressing two nations. Only when bi-nationalism deconstructs the idea of a nation can we hope to think about what a state, what a polity might look like that would actually extend equality. … There is extraordinary complexity and intermixing among both the Jewish and the Palestinian populations. State should not be in the business of expressing cultural identity.

Read the full interview here.

Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of many books, including Precarious Life and Frames of War: When is Life Grievable?.

Udi Aloni is an Israeli and American artist and director whose projects in films and visual arts frequently explore the discourse between theology and politics. His documentary, Local Angel (2002), and his first feature-length fiction, Forgiveness (2006), are both radical interpretations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that have stirred controversy in the Middle East and internationally. Currently, Aloni is working on a documentary about the nonviolent movement for liberation and freedom in Jammu and Kashmir.

Read Full Post »

Judith Butler and many other members of University of California at Berkeley faculty signed an Open Letter From Concerned Members of the Faculty to Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau. The letter protested the use of unwarranted police violence against students at a demonstration, in some cases against “defenseless people who had already been pushed to the ground”:

“Instances of unprovoked police brutality would be appalling and objectionable anywhere, but we find it most painful for these events to have taken place on the UC Berkeley campus, given the important tradition of protecting free speech that you, Chancellor Birgeneau, have only very recently defended. Hence we regard with dismay and astonishment your euphemistic reference to these Friday’s violence: “a few members of our campus community may have found themselves in conflict with law enforcement officers.” There is no doubt that our students and colleagues did find themselves subject to unwarranted and illegal police brutality. It is therefore incumbent on the Chancellor of UC Berkeley to condemn such actions unequivocally and to make sure that such actions are subject to comprehensive review and disciplinary action…

We want to underscore how important it is for the campus for you to convene an investigation and to take administrative responsibility for protecting the safety of students as well as their rights of assembly and expression. Friday’s failure to do so is a most painful public display of how far UC Berkeley has strayed from its historical responsibility as a national and international institution pledged to rights of free speech and assembly and to the ideals of social justice. It is surely difficult enough to see our reputation as an excellent and affordable university jeopardized through budget cuts and fee hikes. Must we see as well the dissolution of the ideal of protecting free speech for students for whom the very future of their education is at stake?”

Butler has publicly spoken out against UC Berkeley before.

In Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? Judith Butler explores the media’s portrayal of state violence, building on her work in Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence which critiques the use of violence that has emerged as a response to the experience of loss in post-9/11 America.

Listen to Butler, with Simon Critchley and Jacques Rancière, discuss the importance of critical theory to social movements today here. Marking the release of a new set of titles in the acclaimed Radical Thinkers series, as well as publication of their own key texts, three of Verso’s most respected and influential writers met on Friday 23 for the Philosophy Department Thursday Night Workshop Series at the New School in New York

Simon Critchley will be speaking on radical thinking and art at the London launch of set 4 of the Radical Thinkers project at  the Tate Britain on November 26th: DON’T LOOK BACK: RADICAL THINKERS AND THE ARTS SINCE 1909.

Read Full Post »

Listen here to a conversation with Simon CritchleyJudith Butler and Jacques Rancière for the Philosophy Department Thursday Night Workshop Series at the New School in New York.

Marking the release of a new set of titles in the acclaimed Radical Thinkers series, as well as publication of their own key texts, three of Verso’s most respected and influential writers met on Friday 23 October in New York to discuss the future of radical thought and the importance of critical theory to social movements today.

Frames Grid.qxd:Layout 1JUDITH BUTLER is Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Her many books include Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence and, most recently Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?
Verso 9781844673513 Ethics Politics Subjectivity small
SIMON CRITCHLEY is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research and at the University of Essex, UK. Among his numerous books are Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance and his contribution to the new set 4 of Radical Thinkers, Ethics-Politics-Subjectivity: Derrida, Levinas and Contemporary French Thought

Verso 9781844673438 Emancipated Spectator smallJACQUES RANCIÈRE is a professor of philosophy at the University of Paris-VIII. His many books include On the Shores of Politics (part of Verso’s Radical Thinkers 2),The Future of the Image and Hatred of Democracy. The Emancipated Spectator is new from Verso.


‘Don’t Look Back: Radical Thinkers and the Arts Since 1909′ is at the Tate Britain on Thursday 26 November 2009, 18.30–20.00

On the 100th anniversary of the Futurism Manifesto, join critical thinkers Terry EagletonSimon CritchleyKate Soper, Eyal Weizman, and chair Alberto Toscano in exploring a century of radical thinking and the arts – and debating what lies ahead. The recent Futurism exhibition at Tate Modern reminds us of an age when politics and aesthetics were densely interwoven in an explosive rejection of the past. This distinguished panel will assess the legacy of modernism to ask how today’s radical thinkers might understand the role of the arts at the dawn of the twenty first century and beyond.

Tate Britain Auditorium £8 (£6 concessions), booking recommended
For tickets book online here or call 020 7887 8888.

Read Full Post »

Judith Butler, author of Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?, asks “Why in this age of slash and burn has the UC [University of California] administration bloated by 283%, as their own public financial reports make plain? And why does the university spend $10m a year on inter-collegiate athletics and over $123m on a new athletic centre?” forFrames Grid.qxd:Layout 1 Guardian Comment is free:

The promise of affordable higher education is dying. The University of California’s students and faculty demand answers

Faculty, staff and students are collectively outraged that the university has failed to make public and transparent what the cuts have been and will be, and by what criteria and set of priorities such cuts are made. Rage also centres on the devastation of “shared governance” – the policy that faculty must be part of any decision-making that affects the academic programmes and direction of the university. In its place, a “commission” was appointed by the administration with paltry representation by faculty. Emphatically missing are those in the arts and humanities.


During a time of corrosive neo-liberalism and rising doubts about education and the arts as public goods worthy of state support, the administration ducks and hides – when it is not boasting about its own stupidity, failing to take up the task of making its decision-making process transparent, refusing to honour the mandate to bring in the faculty to share in establishing priorities and weakening the safeguards against a rampant privatisation of this public good that will undercut the university’s core commitment to offer an education both excellent and affordable.

Read the full piece here.

Read Full Post »

Nina Power reviews Judith Butler’s Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? with Killing in War by Jeff McMahan (Oxford University Press) in tpm’s October issue:

Frames Grid.qxd:Layout 1War is losing the battle for hearts and minds. Never very popular, the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have come to be seen as ever more futile, expensive and interminable. As increasing numbers of young soldiers die in Afghanistan, the British government is under serious pressure to pull troops out at the same time as the US becomes yet more entrenched. Meanwhile, the last man in Britain to have fought in World War I, Harry Patch, who died recently at the age of 111, far from being proud of his involvement, claimed that “war is organised murder, and nothing else.”

Two authors of recent books on war, Judith Butler and Jeff McMahan, whilst taking very different approaches to the topic, would in the main agree with Patch. What the two books share, apart from a deep antipathy to recent military campaigns, is a desire to rethink classical approaches to war. For McMahan, this takes the form of a highly persuasive critique of just war theory, with a particularly acute attack on Michael Walzer, its leading theorist. For Butler it involves rethinking the “frames” of war, the way we conceive of different lives, the way some lives seem to “count” while others barely feature at all. As such, Butler’s approach focuses on the media, particularly photography, whilst McMahan’s approach effectively combines analytic moral philosophy with historical and contemporary cases. Both are vital contributions to an important, but often surprisingly neglected, debate about the morality and ethical status of war.

McMahon’s book offers some fine, clear answers including a call for an “impartial international court” to adjudicate upon the rightness or otherwise of waging war, whilst Butler’s book leaves open the question of the extent to which we are all complicit in the way in which lives are counted and framed. Both thinkers should be central in any careful discussion of war, and even more so in the frequently reckless decision to wage it.”

Read the full review here.

Read Full Post »

A full and uncut version of Nina Power’s interview with Judith Butler for the New Statesman Books Interview about her latest book Frames of War is now available to read on infinite thought. Unedited topics include abortion and bonafide feminism.

Read Full Post »

Nina Power has interviewed Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor in the departments of rhetoric and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, about her latest book, Frames of War, for the New Statesman:

Frames Grid.qxd:Layout 1

I think that even in the Obama administration there is the fear that explicit photographs of torture or death will portray the nation in a bad light or possibly turn national or international sentiment against the US. I find this a very peculiar kind of argument, because it values how we are seen more highly than whether we are seen in a truthful way.

Read more of The Books Interview.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »