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Genius or Suicide

Judith Butler: Trump’s Death Drive, 24 October 2019

... Donald Trump​ would have us believe that his behaviour, his lawbreaking, is just fine, perfect even, and that the impeachment hearings are a kind of coup. What he has done he would do again. Indeed, he has already done it again with his open appeal to China to investigate the Bidens and his refusal to comply with the impeachment inquiry. Pundits such as Roger Cohen of the New York Times and Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s short-lived director of communications (whose main achievement in life may be his name), say that all this is a form of madness, speculating that Trump is either carrying out a very public suicide or exhibiting some weird genius for survival ...

Jacques Derrida

Judith Butler: Commemorating ‘one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century’, 4 November 2004

... How do you finally respond to your life and your name?’ Derrida raised this question in his final interview with Le Monde, published on 18 August this year. If he could apprehend his life, he remarked, he would also be obliged to apprehend his death as singular and absolute, without resurrection and without redemption. At this revealing moment, it is interesting that Derrida the philosopher should find in Socrates his proper precursor: that he should turn to Socrates to understand that, at the age of 74, he still did not quite know how best to live ...

No, it’s not anti-semitic

Judith Butler: The right to criticise Israel, 21 August 2003

... Profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-semitic in their effect if not their intent. Lawrence Summers, 17 September 2002 When the president of Harvard University declared that to criticise Israel at this time and to call on universities to divest from Israel are ‘actions that are anti-semitic in their effect, if not their intent’, he introduced a distinction between effective and intentional anti-semitism that is controversial at best ...

On Cruelty

Judith Butler: The Death Penalty, 17 July 2014

The Death Penalty: Vol. I 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Peggy Kamuf.
Chicago, 328 pp., £24.50, January 2014, 978 0 226 14432 0
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... 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 ...

‘I merely belong to them’

Judith Butler: Hannah Arendt, 10 May 2007

The Jewish Writings 
by Hannah Arendt, edited by Jerome Kohn and Ron Feldman.
Schocken, 559 pp., $35, March 2007, 978 0 8052 4238 6
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... You know the left think that I am conservative,’ Hannah Arendt once said, ‘and the conservatives think I am left or I am a maverick or God knows what. And I must say that I couldn’t care less. I don’t think the real questions of this century get any kind of illumination by this kind of thing.’ The Jewish Writings make the matter of her political affiliation no less easy to settle ...

Who Owns Kafka?

Judith Butler, 3 March 2011

...  An ongoing trial in Tel Aviv is set to determine who will have stewardship of several boxes of Kafka’s original writings, including primary drafts of his published works, currently stored in Zurich and Tel Aviv. As is well known, Kafka left his published and unpublished work to Max Brod, along with the explicit instruction that the work should be destroyed on Kafka’s death ...

Dive In!

Bruce Robbins: Hegelian reflections, 2 November 2000

Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in 20th-Century France 
by Judith Butler.
Columbia, 268 pp., £12, June 1999, 0 231 06451 9
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... years before Gender Trouble made her the most famous feminist philosopher in the United States, Judith Butler published a book on Hegel’s dialectic of lordship and bondage and its impact on 20th-century French thought. The book had nothing to say about bondage in the recreational sense and, aside from a few pages at the end about Julia Kristeva and ...

The Straight and the Bent

Elaine Showalter, 23 April 1992

Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault 
by Jonathan Dollimore.
Oxford, 388 pp., £35, August 1991, 0 19 811225 4
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Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories 
by Diana Fuss.
Routledge, 432 pp., £40, March 1992, 0 415 90236 3
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... of sexual oppositions and identity politics. Feminist theorists including Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Marjorie Garber and Diana Fuss have called for more fluid work on questions of sexual difference which will address what Butler calls ‘gender trouble’. A number of recent studies focus on the radical ...

The ‘New Anti-Semitism’

Neve Gordon, 4 January 2018

... part in the struggle for liberation from colonial rule is branded an anti-Semite. In this way, Judith Butler has observed, ‘a passion for justice’ is ‘renamed as anti-Semitism’.* The Israeli government needs the ‘new anti-Semitism’ to justify its actions and to protect it from international and domestic condemnation. Anti-Semitism is ...

Short Cuts

Sadiah Qureshi: Black History, 22 November 2018

... Max Weber, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Antonio Gramsci, Jacques Derrida and, more rarely, Judith Butler. But how many are also required to read Audre Lorde, Stuart Hall, Frantz Fanon, Jasbir Puar, Sara Ahmed, Kim TallBear or Kimberlé Crenshaw? What if these writers were required reading for everyone? Present curricula assume that white men write ...

Mother’s back

Lorna Sage: Feminists with Tenure, 18 May 2000

What is a Woman? And Other Essays 
by Toril Moi.
Oxford, 517 pp., £25, October 1999, 9780198122425
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... the concrete historical body. Perhaps the most interesting encounter here is with the work of Judith Butler. Butler, too, finds the distinction between biological sex and gender specious, but she resolves it by arguing that sex is just as constructed as gender, thus (for Moi) compounding the damage. ...

He, She, One, They, Ho, Hus, Hum, Ita

Amia Srinivasan: How Should I Refer to You?, 2 July 2020

What’s Your Pronoun? Beyond He and She 
by Dennis Baron.
Liveright, 304 pp., £16.99, February, 978 1 63149 604 2
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... when my pieces passed through the office. In his mind only men were philosophers. The other was Judith Butler. I had written a commentary on one of her books, and she wrote a reply to be published along with it. In the draft of her response, she referred to me by my surname and, once, as ‘he’. Just a few lines later she wrote: ‘It is surely ...

Is there another place from which the dickhead’s self can speak?

Marina Warner: The body and law, 1 October 1998

Bodies of Law 
by Alan Hyde.
Princeton, 290 pp., £39.50, July 1997, 0 691 01229 6
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... heats the whole by the halogen sparkle of the superanovae of the American cultural empyrean – Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Patricia J. Williams, Catherine MacKinnon. ‘Can we conceptualise people as people in relations?’ he asks. ‘Can we create a bodily discourse of pleasure, or sexuality? Can we develop a constitutional jurisprudence ...

I like you

Hermione Lee: Boston Marriage, 24 May 2007

Between Women: Friendship, Desire and Marriage in Victorian England 
by Sharon Marcus.
Princeton, 356 pp., £12.95, March 2007, 978 0 691 12835 1
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... Marcus, to her credit writing boldly against the feminist critics and queer theorists – such as Judith Butler, Martha Vicinus, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Carroll Smith-Rosenberg – through whom she has evidently formulated her thinking, proposes a new account of women’s lives in the mid to late 19th century. The advantage of her method is that it ...

Not Just Anybody

Terry Eagleton: ‘The Limits of Critique’, 5 January 2017

The Limits of Critique 
by Rita Felski.
Chicago, 238 pp., £17, October 2015, 978 0 226 29403 2
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... or fitful intimation. Art, or theory, is the enemy of the natural and familiar. Felski quotes Judith Butler as denigrating the familiar in contrast to the other or unknown, a standard postmodern move; but one continues to hope in one’s churlish, outmoded way that the species will remain unfamiliar with global nuclear war, while recalling that the ...

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