Re: Judith Butler

At 10:26 10/05/96 -0700, you 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
>"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
>"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
I agree. Finally a post that proposes an engagement with how Butler is using
notions of materialisation etc. Rather than the same old tired lines
regarding lingustic monism, idealism etc.
John Banks

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