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#judith butler

At the same time, none of us are captured by the categories by which we gain recognition. I am that name you give me, but I am also something else that cannot quite be named. The relation to the unnameable is perhaps a way of maintaining a relation to the other that exceeds any and all capture. That means that something about the other can be indexed by language, but not controlled or possessed, and that freedom, conceived as infinity, is crucial to any ethical relation.


Judith bUtler

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“I originally took my clue on how to read performativity of gender from Jacques Derrida’s reading of Kafka’s ‘Before the Law.’ There the one who waits for the law, sits before the door of the law, attributes a certain force to the law for which one waits. The anticipation of an authoritative disclosure of meaning is the means by which that authority is attributed and installed: the anticipation conjures its object. – – the anticipation of a gendered essence produces that which it posits as outside itself.”

– Judith Butler, Gender Trouble

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“Perhaps the subject, as well as the invocation of a temporal ‘before’, is constituted by the law as the fictive foundation of its own claim to legitimacy. The prevailing assumption of the ontological integrity of the subject before the law might be understood as the contemporary trace of the state of nature hypothesis, that foundationalist fable constitutive of the juridical structures of classical liberalism The performative invocation of a nonhistorical 'before’ becomes the foundational premise that guarantees a presocial ontology of persons who freely consent to be governed and, thereby, constitute the legitimacy of the social contract.”

– Judith Butler, Gender Trouble

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Judith Butler’s 1999 preface to Gender Trouble
Gender Trouble sought to refuse a notion that lesbian practice instantiates feminist theory, and set up a more troubled relationship between the two. Lesbianism in this text does not represent a return to what is most important about being a woman; it does not consecrate femininity or signal a gynocentric world. Lesbianism is not the erotic consummation of a set of political beliefs (sexuality and belief are related in a much more complex fashion, and very often at odds with one another.) Instead the text asks, how do non-normative sexual practices call into question the stability of gender as a category of analysis?
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
We do not need to ground ourselves in a single model of communication, a single model of reason, a single notion of the subject before we are able to act.
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
At the most intimate levels, we are social; we are comported toward a “you;” we are outside ourselves, constituted in cultural norms that precede and exceed us, given over to a set of cultural norms and a field of power that condition us fundamentally.
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
To ask for recognition, or to offer it, is precisely not to ask for recognition for what one already is. It is to solicit a becoming, to instigate a transformation, to petition the future always in relation to the Other. It is also to stake one’s own being, and one’s own persistence in one’s own being, in the struggle for recognition.
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
Perhaps there is some other way to live such that one becomes neither affectively dead nor mimetically violent, a way out of the circle of violence altogether. This possibility has to do with demanding a world in which bodily vulnerability is protected without therefore being eradicated and with insisting on the line that must be walked between the two.
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
The notion of the world itself as a sovereign entitlement of the United States must be given up, lost, and mourned, as narcissistic and grandiose fantasies must be lost and mourned. From the subsequent experience of loss and fragility, however, the possibility of making different kinds of ties emerges. Such mourning might (or could) effect a transformation in our sense of international ties that would crucially rearticulate the possibility of democratic political culture here and elsewhere.
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
Various terror alerts that go out over the media authorize and heighten racial hysteria in which fear is directed anywhere and nowhere, in which individuals are asked to be on guard but not told what to be on guard against; so everyone is free to imagine and identify the source of terror.
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
Violence renews itself in the face of the apparent inexhaustibility of its object. The derealization of the “Other” means that it is neither alive nor dead, but interminably spectral.
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
The disorientation of grief— “Who have I become?” or, indeed, “What is left of me?” “What is it in the Other that I have lost?”— posits the “I” in the mode of unknowingness.
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
We all live with this particular vulnerability, a vulnerability to the other that is part of bodily life, a vulnerability to a sudden address from elsewhere that we cannot preempt. This vulnerability, however, becomes highly exacerbated under certain social and political conditions, especially those in which violence is a way of life and the means to secure self-defense are limited.
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
Violence is, always, an exploitation of that primary tie, that primary way in which we are, as bodies, outside ourselves and for another.
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
I may wish to reconstitute my “self” as if it were there all along, a tacit ego with acumen from the start; but to do so would be to deny the various forms of rapture and subjection that formed the condition of my emergence as an individuated being and that continue to haunt my adult sense of self with whatever anxiety and longing I may now feel.
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
We have an interesting political predicament; most of the time when we hear about “rights,” we understand them as pertaining to individuals. When we argue for protection against discrimination, we argue as a group or a class. And in that language and in that context, we have to present ourselves as bounded beings— distinct, recognizable, delineated subjects before the law, a community defined by some shared features.
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Judith Butler, Precarious Life
What grief displays… is the thrall in which our relations with others hold us, in ways that we cannot always recount or explain, in ways that often interrupt the self-conscious account of ourselves we might try to provide, in ways that challenge the very notion of ourselves as autonomous and in control.
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