File Name: antigones claim kinship between life and death file.zip
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As she writes on contemporary politics, literary theory, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and feminism, our interview was conducted with little regard for academic boundaries. The authors of this interview—a literary theorist and a political theorist—prepared their questions so that realms could be straddled, boundaries dissolved, and theory restored to its original architectonic task.
The choice of the topics to be discussed offers a biased and selected view, and our conversation remained focused on issues that Butler has critically explored in her recent writings: war, precarious life, and the subject s of responsibility. We would like to go right away in medias res and ask you something about where you locate yourself intellectually.
You engage with a number of European thinkers, especially in your recent work. You studied with Gadamer in Germany and visit regularly European academic institutions. Is it correct or does it make any sense to call you an American philosopher? Of course, I am a US citizen, and that accounts for many things, including my mobility and privilege. So, I am not sure if would choose nationality as a way to describing my thinking.
Others may well describe me in that way, and that is their prerogative. It is true though that as I trained in philosophy in the US, I can surely make use of European philosophy in a more free way. Although my own formation is in European philosophy, the foci of my political analyses tend to be U. Maybe it is the conjunction of the two that characterizes what I do, but these terms are too large for me, and get easily lost here.
And it is not that I want to live in the shadow of a certain patriarchal lineage of thought; rather, I want to mobilize some of the resources that we might find, say, in German Idealism for the purposes of thinking politics and culture in new ways. Maybe Rorty was thinking about a certain masculine club, but I do not seek entrance there.
Indeed, the most important question for me is transposition and translation, in effect, how to bring certain intellectual traditions into the present, or how to discover their active traces there. I think one can also find a critique of certain classical liberal assumptions about individualism and rationality, and certainly the project of social theory is crucial to my thinking. But I also think that philosophy has to be taken seriously as a kind of writing and that it matters that there are different genres of philosophy, and that the form makes a contribution to what it says and, indeed, to the domain of what is sayable.
This way of reading philosophy seems still to be more prevalent in the European context, although new research standards and the internationalization of the discipline increasingly involve a standardization of the argumentative form. I am thinking of those formulaic ways of proceeding in which, say, the proposition has presumptive priority as an object of logical analysis. I certainly agreed with Rorty that philosophy has become too professionalized, and applauded him for his specific use of irony.
They had been obligatory reading, and now they no longer served a purpose, so were packed onto shelves where no one could see them. I am not altogether sure why I reached for them. I picked them up, and I read them. And these were passionate, interesting, and absorbing texts. And I was, at the age of 14, interested as well in revolution, so read some of the classical liberal political philosophy to find out what justifies a revolution.
Is there still room for that? So, in a way, I started outside the professional discipline, passed through it with a PhD in Philosophy on Hegel but have been more comfortable remaining a bit outside the professional field. There were also political issues which were important to me and did not find a ready place within the discipline: because I work on gender and sexuality, I wanted to work on larger questions of cultural power, norms, and politics.
That would an unacceptable restriction on my own capacity. Your work has attracted much attention both in America and outside of America, and your books are translated in many languages. What kind of audience do you have in mind when you write philosophy We are still thinking of Giving an Account of Oneself?
Who is your implied reader? Let me say two things in response. I think sometimes I write philosophically. But those might be different things, to write philosophically and to write philosophy. When one writes philosophy one usually tries to stay within a genre that will be regarded as philosophical, or in accord with a protocol that has been accepted as part of philosophy.
In either case, one writes in relation to the norm that governs philosophical thought at a given time. I consider philosophy as a resource, and it remains true that some of the questions I pose are derived from philosophical traditions. But it is very rarely the case that I actually write for a philosophy audience.
Who, then, is my reader? Are you there? Who are you? Is it a philosophical work? I would say yes. Does it stay within the boundaries of philosophy? She is asking relevant questions: what is a woman? Is a woman a person? Can she become a person? What does it mean to become a woman? I saw in her work that someone could take a philosophical question, bringing it to bear on a concrete cultural and political problem.
Consider Antigone. Because she is not a citizen, she is not allowed to speak; she is prohibited from speaking, and yet she is compelled by the sovereign law to speak.
And yet, when she does speak, she defies that law, and her speech exceeds the law that governs acceptable speech. Perhaps the norms that govern philosophy work that way, producing a mimetic excess that questions the legitimacy of those norms. More broadly, these questions may have larger appeal and prove relevant to any number of people who are in minority position or understand themselves as excluded from official public discourse — but somehow still talking.
We read with great interest an unpublished paper in which you address a point that keeps coming up in your work, at least since the early s. Perhaps we might rephrase the question by asking, who qualifies as the subject of responsibility today? The word is used in political ways that are quite interesting.
It deflects as well from non- governmental powers, including NGOs, that regulate who may become a subject of responsibility and who may not. And implicitly, if not forcibly, identification within the national frame assumes the kind of subject already recognizable to me, a subject, in other words, who poses no challenge to the norms of recognizability with which I operate.
I wanted then to think about a different idea of responsibility, one surely influenced by Levinas, but perhaps also by Arendt, that would not make responsibility into a purely individual matter. And if I am the one who asks myself to assume responsibility, I have become, through my own doubling, a social creature at the moment in which I pose the question.
It is not just the fact of alterity, however, that makes the exchange a social one, but the fact that I If I am asked in a specific language or through a specific medium, and so am compelled to take responsibility in a language or medium that is understandable to the person who asks this of me; in that sense my efforts to take responsibility for myself are socially prompted and mediated, if not socially constructed in a specific sense. Within such frameworks, we can situate moral theory within social theory essentially — and not contingently.
This is not, though, in my view, an effort to relativize and vanquish the use of the term, but to understand the concrete changes in political conditions that are necessary to establish responsibility on non-cynical grounds.
The changing of those conditions is itself a responsibility, but it also leads to a realization of responsibility as part of the very process of instituting a more egalitarian and just organization of social life. Let us hope that this modality changes substantially under the Obama administration.
And the lives that were taken in Iraq — and right now we can see it very clearly, when US army bombed a village in Pakistan, our ally, and it continues to disavow responsibility for this — are not considered lives at all, they are already dead before we killed them, they are already non-living before we deprive them of life. This is kind of schism that characterizes US foreign policy, but also public discourse in a number of venues, including the popular media.
If we offer an alternative to this schism, between lives that are grievable and lives that are ungrievable, it seems to me that we start with the presumption that human life is precarious life — I could also say that non-human life is also precarious life and that maybe precariousness links human and non-human life in ethically significant ways.
But then when we start understanding our lives as precarious we understand that we are linked to one another, but how can I take responsibility, how can I assume responsibility if I do not recognize that link? Since I am, in general, less sure than Schmitt about who is cheating or how the cheat takes place, I would suggest that invoking humanity is ambivalent.
What is less evident, but everywhere pressing, is the tacit framework presupposed by this burst of fierce and sudden sentiment. To the degree that certain scenes of destruction compel our horror more than others equally destructive , it makes sense to ask, who is, without question, included and who is excluded from that humanity; in other words, which lives emblematize humanity, and which ones cannot so easily wield that signifying power. So, one has to be critical about how and when the notion of humanity is invoked, but I am not convinced that it is always a lie or, indeed, a way of cheating.
Rather, it is common in the sense that we are reciprocally exposed, but also invariably dependent not only on others, but on a sustained and sustainable environment. Humanity seems to be a kind of defining ontological attribute, who I am, or who we are, that properly belongs to us as persons, and in that sense it keeps the human within the humanistic frame.
Even when we ask the question, who is the human in human rights. If there is a language in which the claim is made, and if it is made before someone, then it establishes a social domain that exceeds the idea of the social presupposed by an historically contingent notion of human rights. Antigone, again, to be sure.
Here in Italy many people still think of Judith Butler as a feminist philosopher. Do you think this definition is still a valid one? I am quite sure that I am a feminist thinker of some kind. Sometimes I am a feminist philosopher. I continue to work in feminism, and I will always work in feminism, there is no question about that.
And maybe I am not always thinking in feminist terms, but if I am thinking that is probably a feminist achievement laughs. I continue to work on issues of transgender, on question of violence on women, on sexual minorities, I work with clinical psychoanalysts to rethink the explanatory frameworks and categories that tend to pathologize sexual and gender minorities.
Access options available:. Hypatia By Judith Butler. New York: Columbia University Press, Judith Butler's most recent contribution, Antigone's Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death , focuses on the character of Antigone from Sophocles' plays Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus as a site of investigation into the norms of kinship and sociality. Through her examination of the figure of Antigone, Bulter challenges both the liberal political tradition and the authority of Lacanian psychoanalysis, exposing the often unquestioned political forces of these traditions that determine our own lives and their acceptability in Western culture.
Judith Butler. Judith Butler Ismene, a shyer feminist philosopher. Luce Irigaray Creon, representative of patriarchal law. Hegel and Jacques Lacan, by turn Guard, purveyor of structuralist perceptions. Michel Foucault Eurydice, wife of Creon, feminist of previous generation.
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Yuri says that using a bio-weapon gives a two-to five-day delay until all hell breaks loose. By God, I will, though, I swear it. A bulky form loomed over him and he heard his father shout. There were two more bangs as Robert and Henry fired.
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