Sunday, September 20, 2009

Judith Butler Day 5

NOTE TO FACEBOOK VIEWERS: to view any of the clips you'll need to visit the actual blog. Scroll to the bottom and click "View Original Post"

Judith Butler taught a class entitled ETHICS AND POLITICS AFTER THE SUBJECT. The first half of the classes were focused on Hannah Arendt: performativity, politics, political theory (sovereignty, zionism), "Questions of Judgement."

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

The first half of this class we discuss binationalism and Israel; the second half we discuss transgender and psychoanalysis things.

Why does she work on both of these issues?
  • modes of address, how we are called, what are the names by which we are interpellated - "Am I that name?" a reference to Sojourner Truth, Fanon asks, "Am I a [white] man?"
  • My son just calls me JB and I'm fine with whatever, which is lame, I guess.
  • It is from the basis of my Jewish education I came to be vocally critical of Israel, which got me called a lot of names.
  • This chills intellectual inquiry.
  • I feel my work has been concerned with implicit and explicit censorship - Hannah Arendt was called a lot of names
  • There are questions of fracturous co-habitation and community, which is part of the thinking in transgender thinking.
There is always in Israel the question of impingement, the border is part of the territory and exposed to the nonterritory and so it is an ethical question of alterity. We think of Levinas' face, but he explicitly said the Palestinians do not have a face. I know, it's a problem that we must deal with when thinking with Levinas.
  • What would it mean to take this Levinasian idea, to take it to a place even he was unwilling to go? (we are referred to Jonathon N. Boyarin)
  • Benjamin seems to have an idea of the messianic (youtube) that is not progressive and is sporadic and ...(temporary?)
  • Scholem separates from Arendt and Benjamin by claiming that Messianism is progressive and based on an ancient claim that this is situated in time. See Raluca Eddon
  • The Question of Zion, Jacqueline Rose - she blames Messianism stating the catastrophe of Israel is recreated so as to establish this Messianic narrative; but, she fails to account for the different forms of Messianism.
It's hard to say there is a religious movement in Arendt; at least, she would deny it. Gershom Scholem sent Arendt a letter after Eichmann in Jerusalem. They had worked together. He called her heartless. Primo Levi was also called heartless in 1982.
  • Arendt is said to have no love for the Jewish people, to which she replied, "No, I have no love for nations, I love persons."
  • Physis and not nomos (social order) - to say, "I am not a Jew," is to say, "I am a Man," is to talk about phusis, the natural order. It is a given and something to be thankful for.
  • To understand her position we have to understand what she is doing with the nation-state: they inevitably create exiles and refugees for those that are not part of the nation
  • A nation for Jews of Jews is problematic for Arendt because its similarities to Nazism. In her mind, when you base a state on a homogeneous population it is problematic because this leads to another Holocaust.
  • This critique does not come from only outside of Israel (how subversive!) we can look to Idith Zertal (although mainly in French) and Adi Ophir
In Arendt's "Zionism Reconsidered" she terms it absurd that Israel be installed by superpowers that must inevitably, constantly, reinforce their interest and to not federate will inexorably lead to problems with their neighbors in the region.
  • she becomes concerned with the stateless in the late-40s early 50s; perhaps this is due to her own forced exile.
  • we are recommended to read Edward Said's "Freud and the Non-European"
  • By focusing on the problematic of the diaspora, Said takes up the idea of the political diaspora
  • Arendt does call for home and belonging, but these can never be the basis of a polity b/c a plurality cannot have one part that is exemplary of the whole.
  • To have a polity is to accept the unchosen stranger, perhaps an echo of Levinas
Seems to me, when thinkers are interested in sovereignty, as today, what Schmidt and Agamben call for does describe some of what's going on.
  • Federated binationalism seems to be an experiment in critiquing sovereignty and perhaps federations resemble/result in smaller forms of self-determinism.
  • Statelessness is a condition where there is an extreme distribution of power among a few
  • This is not a metaphysical state, but metaphysics is under siege
Butler is very enthusiastic about Eyal Weizman, who sees the problem as an architectural one
She also recommends the film Arna's Children:

Note to Self: Robert Frost's "Mending Wall" as a non-linguistic action which demonstrates how we might live adjacently?


Who counts as real or who has recognizable gender? This is a question that shows ontology changes the way in which we recognize the world.
  • it's an Hegelian problem of recognition
  • Whose lives are mournable? grew from this. There is an unequal distribution of grieve-ability and this is largely dependent upon the dominant framing among the media.
  • Antigone's claim was that she wanted to bury her brother in public.
  • Plato wanted to ban poets because the public would grieve voluptuously, they would fatten on grief.
To decide to become transman is not necessarily rooted in terms of repudiating one's gender, that there might be something positive in doing this issue has largely been ignored.
  • Here Butler tells us a great story about attending an GLBT poetry slam in San Francisco during which one poet, who was working towards becoming male from female, recited a poem that ended with the lines "fuck the DSM-IV, and fuck you, Judith Butler." This has been told before, apparently.
  • The poet rejected "Butler" (the interpellation) for being a representation of gender non-fixity, which does not meet her needs for being understood as a fixed-gender person.
  • It is an unfortunate problem to have to address one that we no longer wish to address because it is often necessary to tell that person - we have this need to live within a name.
  • We might think of Kate Borstein as a closet Deleuzean, where the transformation never ends, which brings her closer to my thinking.
  • Can we think of transexuality without reinforcing sociological/psychological categories in our call for recognition?
Note to Self: ways this might relate to 荀子 Xunzi's "Proper Naming"

We're recommended to read Freud's "Mourning and Melancholia"
  • Mourning - where loss is accepted
  • Melancholia - where loss is not allowed. Self-laceration is a way of preserving the other in our bodies. We are angry at the lost and strike-out at them, now housed in ourselves. This is the basis of Freud's idea of the superego.
Freud's way out of this bind is to say that there is a rage against the lost object;
  • what would it take to disengage this formation?
  • we must forget and let go of that other
What happens if we think of this as a cultural strategy?
  • At a cultural level, where there are those that can't be mourned, we get a culturally-induced melancholia
  • such that we don't have the vocabulary to describe the loss we have.
What is lost for transgendered people is the ability to be articulated because we are in a transphobic culture.


No comments:

Post a Comment