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Stanley Fish Lecture 2009: Judith Butler

Judith Butler

Maxine Elliot Professor, Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley

“Frames of War”

Friday, April 17, 2009 at 3:00 p.m.
UIC Forum, Second Floor Meeting Rooms,
725 West Roosevelt Road, University of Illinois at Chicago

In Frames of War (Verso, 2009), Judith Butler explores the way that recent US-led wars have enforced a distinction between those lives that are recognized as grievable, and those that are not. Arguing that this process of differential grieving is enacted through media forms that have become part of the very waging of war, Butler shows how this situation has led to the first-world destruction and abandonment of populations who do not conform to the prevailing norm of the human. Cast as threats to human life as we know it, rather than as living populations, such populations become targeted for destruction in order to protect the lives of “the living”. This disparity, Butler argues, has profound implications for why and when we feel horror, outrage, guilt, loss and righteous indifference, both in the context of war and, increasingly, everyday life

This book discerns the resistance to the frames of war in the context of the images from Abu Ghraib, the poetry from Guantanamo, recent European policy on immigration and Islam, and debates on normativity and non-violence. In this urgent response to ever more dominant methods of coercion, violence and racism, Butler calls for a reconceptualization of the Left, one that brokers cultural difference and cultivates affective and effective resistance to the illegitimate and arbitrary effects of state violence and its vicissitudes.

Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France(1987), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990),Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993), The Psychic Life of Power: Theories of Subjection (1997), Excitable Speech (1997), Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (2000),Hegemony, Contingency, Universality, with Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Zizek, (2000). In 2004, she publishedPrecarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning, which considers questions of war, representation, and ethics. That same year, The Judith Butler Reader appeared, edited by Sara Salih. In 2004, a collection of her essays on gender and sexuality, Undoing Gender, appeared. Her most recent book, Giving an Account of Oneself (2005), considers the relation between subject formation and ethical obligation, situating ethics in relation to critique and social theory. She is currently working on essays pertaining to Jewish philosophy, focusing on pre- and post-Zionist criticisms of state violence. She is also working on a set of essays on current wars, focusing on the relation between violence, non-violence, sexual politics and allied forms of resistance. She continues to write on contemporary politics, cultural and literary theory, philosophy, psychoanalysis, feminism, and sexual politics.

This lecture is free and open to the public.

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