Posts tagged judith butler
“For inner and outer worlds to remain utterly distinct, the entire surface of the body would have to achieve an impossible impermeability. This sealing of its surfaces would constitute the seamless boundary of the subject; but this enclosure would invariably be exploded by precisely that excremental filth that it fears.”
- Judith Butler, Gender Trouble
horror film idea:
achieving the fantasy of the impermeable flesh
Butler made the argument that this system exists not to produce docile bodies who will willingly serve the state – as Foucault has taught us it does – but rather the system works to produce empty bodies who can be incarcerated. The carceral system is the endpoint in a system of colonisation: the colonisation is made (in large part) of the incarceration system. The Occupation rests on it. tobybee of jew on this on the panel “Carceral Politics in Palestine and Beyond: Gender, Vulnerability, Prison”, featuring Judith Butler, Angela Davis, and Lena Meari.
“I read this passage from Butler’s essay “Violence, Mourning, Politics” a few days ago, and was undone by it:… Perhaps one mourns when one accepts that by the loss one undergoes one will be changed, possibly for ever…I do not think, for instance, that one can invoke the Protestant ethic when it comes to loss. One cannot say, “Oh, I’ll go through loss this way, and that will be the result, and I’ll apply myself to the task, and I’ll endeavor to achieve the resolution of grief that is before me.” I think one is hit by waves, and that one starts out the day with an aim, a project, a plan, and finds oneself foiled. One finds oneself fallen. One is exhausted but does not know why. Something is larger than one’s own deliberate plan, one’s own project, one’s own knowing and choosing…When we lose certain people, or when we are dispossessed from a place, or a community, we may simply feel that we are undergoing something temporary, that mourning will be over and some restoration of prior order will be achieved. But maybe when we undergo what we do, something about who we are revealed, something that delineates the ties we have to others, that shows us that these ties constitute what we are, ties or bonds that compose us. It is not as if an “I” exists independently over here and then simply loses a “you” over there, especially if the attachment to “you” is part of what composes who “I” am. If I lose you, under these conditions, then I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself. Who “am” I, without you? When we lose some of these ties by which we are constituted, we do not know who we are or what to do. On one level, I think I have lost “you” only to discover that “I” have gone missing as well.…What grief displays is the thrall in which our relations with others holds us, in ways that we cannot always recount or explain, in ways that often interrupt the self-conscious account of ourselves we might try to provide, in ways that challenge the very notion of ourselves as autonomous and in control. I might try to tell a story here, about what I am feeling, but it would have to be a story in which the very “I” who seeks to tell the story is stopped in the midst of the telling; the very “I” is called into question by its relation to the Other, a relation that does not precisely reduce me to speechlessness, but does nevertheless clutter my speech with signs of its undoing. I tell a story about the relations I choose, only to expose, somewhere along the way, the way I am gripped and undone by these very relations. My narrative falters, as it must.Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something. This seems so clearly the case with grief, but it can be so only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. One may want to, or manage to for a while, but despite one’s best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other, by the touch, by the scent, by the feel, by the prospect of the touch, by the memory of the feel. And so, when we speak about “my sexuality” or “my gender,” as we do and as we must, we nevertheless mean something complicated that is partially concealed by our usage. As a mode of relation, neither gender nor sexuality is precisely a possession, but, rather, is a mode of being dispossessed, a way of being for another or by virtue of another.”
So good, i remember being similarly moved on first reading this passage.
that — that’s just sand in my eye
Judith Butler in Who Owns Kafka?
In focusing on just how perfectly German his language is, the archive joins in a long and curious tradition of praise for Kafka’s ‘pure’ German. George Steiner lauded ‘the translucency of Kafka’s German, its stainless quiet’, remarking that his ‘vocabulary and syntax are those of utmost abstention from waste’. John Updike referred to ‘the stirring purity’ of Kafka’s prose. Hannah Arendt, as well, wrote that his work ‘speaks the purest German prose of the century’. So although Kafka was certainly Czech, it seems that fact is superseded by his written German, which is apparently the most pure – or, shall we say, purified? ….
It is interesting that these arguments about Kafka’s German are recirculating now, just as Angela Merkel has announced the failure of multiculturalism in Germany and marshalled as evidence the further claim that new immigrants, and indeed their ‘children and grandchildren’, fail to speak German correctly. She has publicly admonished such communities to rid themselves of every accent and to ‘integrate’ into the norms of the German linguistic community (a complaint quickly countered by Jürgen Habermas). Surely, Kafka could be a model of the successful immigrant, though he lived only briefly in Berlin, and clearly did not identify even with the German Jews. If Kafka’s new works are recruited to the Marbach archive, then Germany will be fortified in its effort to shift its nationalism to the level of language; the inclusion of Kafka takes place for the very same reason that less well-spoken immigrations are denounced and resisted. Is it possible that fragile Kafka could become a norm of European integration?
We find in Kafka’s correspondence with his lover Felice Bauer, who was from Berlin, that she is constantly correcting his German, suggesting that he is not fully at home in this second language. And his later lover, Milena Jesenská, who was also the translator of his works into Czech, is constantly teaching him Czech phrases he neither knows how to spell nor to pronounce, suggesting that Czech, too, is also something of a second language. In 1911, he is going to the Yiddish theatre and understanding what is said, but Yiddish is not a language he encounters very often in his family or his daily life; it remains an import from the east that is compelling and strange. So is there a first language here? And can it be argued that even the formal German in which Kafka writes – what Arendt called ‘purest’ German – bears the signs of someone entering the language from its outside?