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phalangingle in theoryishotcrew

Can I just substitute an interpretive dance in place of a list?

Although I am generally of the opinion that I would never be a member of a club that would have someone like me as a member, I decided to give this a try.

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  1. "Foucault" in "Dictionnaire des philosophes" 1984, - Maurice Florence


  1. Distinction - Bourdieu


  1. El Laberinto de la Soledad - Paz


  1. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life - Goffman


  1. Borderlands/La Frontera - Anzaldua


  1. The Interpretation of Cultures  - Geertz


  1. Aberrations in Black - Ferguson


  1. Ain't I a Woman  - bell hooks


  1. Giving an Account of Oneself - Butler


  1. Selections from the Prison Notebooks - Gramsci

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I wasn't trying to advocate for the text, only to highlight a few of the book's main points and indicate why it might be interesting.

I am not particularly interested in ethics either, but I do find Butler engaging. Here is a pitch for the book:

-GAO carriers over some of the themes of Bodies that Matter and Gender Trouble but at a more abstract level. BM, GT, and GAO are all concerned with subjectivation. BM and GT focus on how subjects are always already gendered, there is no originary subject that through existential choice becomes a gender, and how a heterosexual matrix of interpretation essentials gender and heterosexuality. Gender is understood as performative, which means that it is reiterated (repetition with difference), and so can be deployed in subversive ways. But what counts as a gendered, and by extension human, person does not extend to all individuals. Some subjects are rendered abject (intersect, trans, lesbians, gays, black women).

GAO raises the question of the possibility to give an account of oneself. Butler does not engage in ethics as a philosophical question, but as a social one. Rather than trying to derive a universal feature that will ground ethics and guarantee shared humanity (deliberative speech acts, reason, social contract, etc), Butler takes up the challenge of the failure for a universal feature to cover all of humanity. Subjects, as I outlined in my first response, cannot fully give an account of themselves. Rather than approach this as a failure, a loss, Butler inquires into the productivity of these two failures. If no universal feature can be philosophically derived and logically applied to ground ethics, then this does not mean that universality has not place in social struggles. Instead, universality becomes a site of contestation. Ethics does not need a universal ground or foundation, instead it should focus on the singularity of the subjects exposure. Lives are narrated through discourses that are not their own and exceed their temporality. Bodies are exposed to violence and have a formative history that is not identical to that of the subject. Everyone is exposed, yet each exposure is singular,non-substitutable.

The question of ethics must be reworked through the struggle of social recognition. GAO makes the above points and connects ethics to social recognition. Even if you aren't interested in ethics as a philosophical question, GAO makes arguments that pose questions of power to those of ethics. Who can be recognized as a subject capable of loss, as an object of mourning? GAO is worth reading to see how Butler develops these types of questions and how they emerge from theoretical discussions of psychoanalysis, Foucault, and Adorno.

I have not read Antigone's Claim. What did you think of Butler's treatment of Paris is Burning in Bodies that Matter? I ask because she seems to treat it both as symbol and text and may be a common item for us to disucss.

Butler's early attempt at outlining a theory of subjectification (being both a subject to power and a subject of power) in Psychic Life of Power covered some of the same territory as GAO, but remained restricted to the juridical account that cast subjectification as a scene of judgment. In PLP the subject is faced with having to give an account of itself in the context of establishing guilt or innocence. GAO shifts the scene of address beyond that of judgment to the question "who are you?" This question is implicitly addressed to the self by the other. In giving an account of oneself the subject is related to the other through the scene of address and prevailing cultural norms of the social order that condition the form of question and response. Butler considers Foucault's later work that poses the question of how a subject establishes ethical relation to one's self, others, and normative order. But whereas Foucault poses a question of "What can I become, given the contemporary order of being?", Butler reposes the question of "who are you?" to consider a social theory of recognition. The former question situates the self in relation to the contemporary order of being, whereas the latter situates the self in relation to a concrete other as well as the social order through which the other makes sense of the self and the self makes sense of other. If the normative order is open to critical revision then the self can make gains in grasping the other's singularity and vice versa, thus the question of "who are you?"

I am not that familiar with Spivak (have only read Can the Subaltern Speak?, and that was way back when) or Berber. What Butler adds to Foucault and Levinas is posing the problem of subjectification in relation to both concrete others and to a normative order. This is why Butler must consider both psychoanalysis and Foucault, but cannot rely solely on either.