note: I was originally going to attempt to live tweet notes from this class, but I soon realized that Judith Butler's Giving an Account on Oneself was going to be difficult to present in 140 characters or less...I take full responsibility for any mis-interpretations/mis-communications in my presentation of the class notes. We had a particularly intense conversation surrounding this text. (One that I am not sure I "got" completely) I hope you will be generous in my attempts to make sense of Butler and our subsequent discussion. Thanks!
p.s. after almost a month delay, I am presenting the notes as is! Please see Mary's awesome Diablog here, here, and here. A wonderful afterword can also be found here.
After a brief check-in about the course, we began with a wonderful summary and outline by our facilitator, Mary. As Chloe pointed out, Mary's thorough outline/summary of Butler's work was complete with footnotes! ☺
Our discussion began with the question "What is Butler doing in this text?"
Liora asked, what is the usefulness of it? What is the value of a text like this?
Mary responds that she didn't think about the text politically, but instead thought about it theoretically as a way to think through "responsibility."
Mary begins the facilitation by questioning the possibility for Bulter's narrative coherence to open up ethical resources. This is followed by a conversation of Butler's transference as a "practice of ethics." The discussion soon turns to truth wherein we ponder whether the truth of the self can ever be known? Making truth...describing truth...? Sara questions the "limits of language" with this passage. Next Mary points to her nifty blog diagram -see here--to discuss to Levinas' synchronic and Myself's response to his diagram. Mary notes that this occurs prior to the inauguration of time in a pre-ontological condition.
Sarah comments on the overwhelming nature of this work. I agree!
Mary points the class to page 6 of Butler's work to grapple with trauma. What is she doing with psychoanalysis? With trauma? Mary speaks of Kafka's "judgment" and brings our attention to page 60 the bridge/traffic as sexual intercourse.
Sara points us to page 21 where Butler writes, "Although synthesis is not my aim, I do not want to maintain that each theory suggests something of ethical importance that follows from the limits that condition any effort one might make to give an account of oneself." Sara questions what Butler is doing with psychoanalysis and trauma.
Mary notes that she doesn't touch on "trauma" only transfernance.
Sara wonders if Butler is perhaps reacting against Nietzsche in "becoming moral selves" she wonders if Butler is trying to find other ways to make sense of ethical responsibility. Sara questions Butler's reference to "slaughtered beings" (again see Mary's afterword complete with bloody videos here) while attempting to de-center the self and move away from "trauma." Sara wonders if Butler is trying to invoke ethics not about the self as something to mourn but in a more "positive" way as a decentering of the self-possibly moving away from Levinas and psychoanalysis.
Mary points us to pages 6-7 as the place where Butler speaks of trauma/violence and the role of sleep/dreams/nightmares...Mary also comments on how the conscious must let the self reign free wherein "waking up" one is released from the trauma especially "if you are a slaughtered being that speaks." (please see page 6-7 because I am quite confused on this part)
Sarah notes that the primary trauma I birth and point us to page 84 where slaughter is the "primary address"
Raechel questions whether the view of the subject formation that is discussed on page 15 could be interpolation (as in law) that is being called to address?
Mary comments that she included in one of her posts Bulter's mention of "ethical interpolation" (see Diablog post links above.)
Sara comments that she believes Butler is invoking a different relationship to norms---possibly getting away from "interpolation" the "other" not as law.
Our discussion now turns to Hannah Arendt in answering the question "who are you?" (55) Mary asks, "What does it mean to be ethically implicated in the lives of others? In alterity? Sara follows up by asking, "why do we have a failure to narrate fully?"
Raechel adds "we know ourselves through the other and yet we cannot know the other. Our experiences are connected to others thus we cannot fully narrate ourselves."
Sara wonders how this informs "bearing witness to accounts" while Mary questions the political implications of not bearing witness...Raechel brings up prisoners in their inability to tell or self narrate.
The conversation now turns to judgment. Raechel questions whether ethics needs judgment. Perhaps a non-judgmental approach? A different kind of judgment? What does this look like?
Sara speaks of the responsibility of giving an account-specifically a non-judgmental account. The example of 9-11 is brought up. Mary questions how one goes about "giving an account"?
After the break Sara begins with speaking about the limits of language. An example is Butler's passage on page 13 "Yes, I was the one who occupied the position of causal agent in the sequence of events to which you refer." Sara also comments on the limits of language and grammar slippages (myself, I, you). How do these help us make sense of giving an account of oneself? How do they fit into the material?