Re: Judith Butler

I do not take offense at my response being labeled
"anti-intellectual," nor at the suggestion that I might be missing
something fundamental about the nature of the philosophical project.
Rather, I take on Din's challenge of a slow reading of the first chapter
or two of Butler's newest (as I have not, as Din noted and I stated in a
previous response, read a single word of it). Anyone care to accompany
me? I should hope, Din, that you will be there for me throughout this
adventure into the intellectual and philosophical.


On Fri, 10 May 1996 din@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> The exchange below can in no way substitute for a discussion of Judith
> Butler's writings nor of her contribution to a philosophical engagement with
> feminist studies, queer studies and increasingly issues of race. while i
> appreciate Gregory Coolidge's attempts to paraphrase Butler's arguments, it
> seems that paraphrase produces exactly the kind of polemical and
> anti-intellectual response espoused by Derrick Allums. It would be more
> fruitful for discussion and perhaps for learning, if the list could focus on
> close reading of passages. i would suggest beginning with the preface and
> introduction to *Bodies That Matter*. In those introductory pieces Butler
> lucidly addresses some of the more peculiar misunderstandings of her work.
> you might then consider reading the entire first section, but if that is too
> much at once, begin with the book's title chapter. there you will find a
> very nuanced account of her use of assujetissement, Foucault's subjection.
> Far from being the flat-footed nihilist that Derrick seems to see -- one
> wonders on what basis these opinions are formed, surely not on the
> foundation of a reading -- Butler is always at pains to produce More
> questioning rather than less. in fact, her essays always find a kind of
> speculative crescendo in whole paragraphs, sometimes whole pages, given over
> to the questions made manifest by her critique. this, i believe, is the work
> of philosophy Not polemics. for those of us working in the wake of Foucault,
> for those of us for whom Foucault's work has produced more to think rather
> than less, this questioning is essential.
> another thing, you will get nowhere in Butler's work if you refuse to
> interrogate your own assumptions about matter, empirical evidence and the
> putative rationalism subtending a commonplace about both. There is a very
> good reason that psychoanalysis is such an important speculative enterprise
> for Butler, one subject to the deformation and renewal of a substantial
> philosophical reworking. allow me to cite two passages for possible discussion:
> "Insofar as Foucault traces the processof materialization as an investiture
> of discourse and power, he focuses on that dimension of power that is
> productive and formative. But we need to ask what constrains the domain of
> what is materializable, and whether there are modalities of materialization
> -- as Aristotle suggests, and Althusser is quick to cite. To what extent is
> materialization governed b principles of intelligibility that require and
> institute a domain of radical unintelligibility that resists materialization
> altogether or that remains radically dematerialized? Does Foucault's effort
> to work the notions of discourse and materiality through one another fail to
> account for not only what is excluded from the economies of discursive
> intelligibility that he describes, but what has to be excluded for those
> economies to function as self-sustaining systems?"BTM, 35
> and:
> "Here the question is no simply what Plato thought bodies might be, and what
> of the body remained for him radically unthinkable: rather, the question is
> whether the forms which are said to produce bodily life operate through the
> production of an excluded domain that comes to bound and to haunt the field
> of intelligible bodily life. The logic of this operation is to a certain
> extent psychoanalytic inasmuch as the force of prohibition produces the
> spectre of a terrifying return. Can we, then, turn to psychoanalysis itself
> to ask how the boundaries of the body are crafted through sexual taboo? To
> what extent does the Platonic account of the phallogenesis of bodies
> prefigure the Freudian and Lacanian accounts which presume the phallus as
> the synechdochal token of sexed positionality?
> If the boudning, forming, and deforming of sexed bodies is animated
> by a set of founding prohibitions, a set of enforced criteria of
> intellibility, then we are not merely considering how bodies appear from the
> vantage point of a theoretical position or epistemic location at a distance
> from bodies themselves. On the contrary, we are adking how the criteria of
> intelligible sex operates to constitute a field of bodies, and hwo precisely
> we might understand specific criteria to produce the bodies that they
> regulate. In what precisely does the crafting power of prohibiiton consist?
> Does it determine a psychic experience of the body which is radically
> separable from something that one might want to call the body itself? Or is
> it the case that the productive power of prohibition in morphogenesis
> renders the very distinction between morphe and psyche unsustainable?" BTM, 55
> din

Re: Judith Butler, din
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