Sara reviewed important themes that come up through Butler and the notion of queer ethics in general. (See blog post below for list). We then watch three Judy clips!
Clip 1: Judy discusses how she reposes questions of grief, mourning, melancholia in relation to AIDS and the war in Iraq. What is a grievable life? Her questions become deepened and more complicated, but she doesn't try to reconcile her old and new writing/questions. "It's not a system, it's a process that's on its way."
Clip 2: Gender is about doing, acting, making, becoming. What are the various things we can do with gender? Now she's asking a different question: how do the norms that constitute gender do us and undo us...They make us but they also prevent us from making ourselves. We don't want to say "we never want to be undone again, we only want to undo ourselves." We are undone by other people; we don't always know ourselves. Be open to a future of what we cannot know.
Clip 3-"The Examined Life": Judith Butler&Sanaura Taylor (What does it mean to take a walk?)
Sanaura says that most disabled people will use the language of "taking a walk." She notes that SF is most accessible place in the world. More access means more socialability, acceptability. "Physical access leads to a social acceptance." There is discomfort that is caused when she does things with body parts that people don't think is their proper use. No one takes a walk without there being something that supports that walk outside of oneself. Maybe we have a false idea that the able-bodied person is radically self-sufficient. We all have our own unique embodiments; then there's disability-social repression of disabled people. Socially and economically isolated. Disabling effects of society. Says it's a political protest to go into a coffee shop and demand help. "Help is something that we all need, but it's something that's looked down upon in our society." Judy says that gender and disability converge in a lot of ways; both get us to rethink what the body can do. Deleuze asks "what can a body do?" Challenge traditional ways we think about bodies. We are assemblages of our abilities/characteristics. The question is not what a body should look like. Tells the story of the effeminate walk leading to his murder. How could it be that someone's style of walking could engender the desire to kill a person? The walk could be a dangerous thing. The disabled body invokes hatred for being a reminder that we are going to age, to die.
Do we or do we not live in a world in which we assist each other? There's a challenge to individualism that happens in the moment you ask for assistance with the coffee cup.
Melody brought up the question of help versus agency. How does this relate to vulnerability or precariousness? How do we read and value precariousness? To recognize dependency is not to have agency. She does assert agency by asking the question. Remy suggests that it is important to also realize that not everyone in a wheelchair actually needs assistance. Does this make you more human to recognize their humanity as maybe needing it, maybe not needing it; should we risk embarrassment--is not asking a selfish act to protect our embarrassment?
Raechel asks the group: is this a political act to ask for help if the others don't recognize it as a challenge to individualism? Ashley suggests that individual forms of resistance create visibility, which can lead to structural change (like more public access). What does it mean for her to use body parts in ways they weren't "meant for." What kind of visibility disruption is caused through her picking up a coffee cup with her mouth? Remy recollects an image from their past when they saw someone using their feet to do different tasks, such as eating, and remembering that they felt weirded out/grossed out by that. They then make the connection to gender and how others respond to their gender as a similar thing, and gender visibility does create space for actual change. Remy challenges the word "individual" and prefers word "solo"--Sanaura's act impacts other people; it's not just about her. Liora points out that coffee is treated as a basic human need. Some agree that it is. : )
Sara P. asks: How can we think about Butler as a body? What are the implications of the mundane experiences we witness? What does this do to our thinking about ethics? (This reminds me of "Stars: they're just like us!" Is Us magazine challenging our ethics?) There are issues that non-normative bodies experience in the everyday experiences--dressing rooms, for example. Sarah and Ashley note that Victoria Secret, for example, demands a lot of rules, a lot of surveillance. Remy notes that waiting for bathrooms is a similar experience.
(In Yo' Face!/) Precarious Life
How do these clips connect to the readings? Let's talk about Levinas' face. Remy points out the quote: "That language communicates the precariousness of life that establishes the ongoing tension of a non-violent ethics" (139). Mary points us to, ".....language arrives as an address we do not will." Is the address the same as interpellation? Althusser discusses being hailed by authority, versus hailed by the Other.
*Mini-lecture on interpellation!: Althusser suggests that one is hailed or interpellated by authority. His example is of the police saying "hey you!" When you respond and recognize yourself as the 'you' in "hey you" makes you come into being.
Sara struggles with the "ethic of non-violence": that struggle between self-preservation and resisting urge to kill other in order to preserve other, as our "duty to the other" (132)? Sarah compares it to being a mother and growing an Other inside your body. There's no violence in pregnancy, in putting your fetus before yourself. Can we relate this to the coffee shop incident? Remy says that the coffee shop doesn't seem like a kill or be killed situation. Ashley thinks the Other is more intentionally villianized in the other readings, but the precarious life reading every Other is a being to be killed. Remy reminds us of his feelings about the foot-tasks--there are ways in which we're taught to having other-ing thoughts about not quite as obvious Others. Butler highlights that Levinas never says the face is; the face, verbless: "The face as the extreme precariousness of the other. Peace as awakeness to the precariousness of the other" (quoting Levinas, 134). Also, recognizing the precariousness of the Other as just about the Other and not about your own precariousness means ethics is entwined with a removal of the ego. There is an interdependence that is necessary (we see this in the clip as well).
Undoing Gender. [let's face it. we're undone by each other.]
We point out, on pg. 3: "If my doing is dependent on what is done to me or, rather, the ways in which I am done by norms, then the possibility of my persistence as an "I" depends upon my being able to do something with what is done with me. This does not mean that I can remake the world so that I become its maker. That fantasy of godlike power only refuses the ways we are constituted, invariable and from the start, by what is before us and outside of us. My agency does not consist in denying this condition of my constitution. If I have any agency, it is opened up by the fact that I am constituted by a social world I never chose. That my agency is riven with paradox does not mean it is impossible. It means only that paradox is the condition of its possibility."
I'm confused! I pipe up. She sounds all structural-isty. I want to figure out her theoretical foundation here. Is my reading Marx in this just wishful thinking? Sara responds (helpfully): Our agency comes through the excess (Derrida); we always have the possibility to do something to them differently, even though they're given to us. This chapter is heavily influence by post-Marxist, radical democracy Ernesto Laclau. We have to undergo this process without knowing where it will lead--this democratic process is always 'on the horizon.' Sara P remarks, "She's a whole lot of 'posts'!" Looking at structures is looking at failures or excess.
Remy adds a helpful passage, p.7: "Conversely (and as a consequence), it turns out that changing the institutions by which humanly viable choice is established and maintained is a prerequisite for the exercise of self-determination."
The notion of "the livable life" is a salient, important Butlerian theme. On pg 8: "What is most important is to cease legislating for all lives what is livable only for some, and similarly, to refrain from proscribing for all lives what is unlivable for some." Butler says we must "distinguish among the norms and conventions that permit people to breathe, to desire, to love, and to live, and those norms and conventions that restrict or eviscerate the conditions of life itself" (8). Remy and I talk about trickiness in policy language. In MN "gender identity and gender expression" are included under the "sexual orientation" human rights declaration. Is using Butler in policy a good idea? Must you know the rules first before you can break them, Remy asks?
Moving on (quickly through): "Politics, Power and Ethics: A Discussion Between Judith Butler and William Connolly" (2000)
Responding to critiques that Butler has no place for politics in her work. So Connolly asks what are the political ethics in what you do? Critics ask "how can we tell the difference between acts that resist and acts that reinforce; you give us no way to proceed, no political vision." But in not responding, Butler may be queering ethics. Is a way of doing queer ethics, though, a shift away of giving rules or norms, to doing something else. For Butler this means, "possibility." Butler goes on to say that we need to "understand the relation among...language, discourse, practice, institution" (10). She also draws on Foucault to talk about codes: "it is not possible to study this moral experience without understanding both the codes and the shifts that happen between and among them, and the modes of subjectivation and the shifts that happen between and among them" (11). Then, Butler on universality: "Those who enact the performative contradiction, weighing in on the side of the excluded, positing their ontological effects, not only deepen the impression of the exclusionary universality's spectrality, but enact an allegory, as it were, of those performative acts by which ontological effects are achieved within the field of politics"(17). Finally, builds on Foucault/critique: "Do you know up to what point you can know?...is there any way to think the limits without undergoing that danger? And for a political reflection on the future of universality, is there any way for this question that I have just posed to be anything other than open?" (18)
And, "Frames of War":
Butler in conversation with Sontag. Butler says that question isn't about good representation v. bad representation, or representation v. lack of representation, but rather being able to capture the failure to fully represent. Sontag says "Narratives can make us understand: photographs do something else. They haunt us" (quoting Sontag, 69). Butler says that narratives can haunt, and photographs can make us understand. Sara P brings up Ahmed to address the relationship between affect, emotion and theorizing? What is the value of "being haunted"? Mel says that she has been moved by photographs, so she doesn't agree with Sontag. Ashley brings up the passage on disgust, when Bush responds to the pictures as "disgusting." Butler asks, "why did he use that word, rather than wrong or objectionable or criminal?" (87). Melody thinks a good take away is to be aware how involved photographs actually are. Mel likes last line: "...the circulation of the image outside the scene of its production has broken up the mechanism of disavowal, scattering grief and outrage in its wake" (100). Sara wonders about the ethical value of care; "I want to pay attention/care about this."
I ask how we can put this in conversation with Egypt? Mary suggests maybe "precarious life" is more helpful to answer that question when Butler asks which "Other's" we respond to/not respond to.
*note: do not call her judy. this term is reserved for those to whom she is connected intimately. because she is my girlfriend, it makes sense that i would call her this. but if you try it, she may get kind of mean, a la her response to the 'zine, "judy!" (http://90swoman.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/judy-the-judith-butler-zine/)