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Dispossession: The Performative in the Political



Dispossession: The Performative in the Political

Judith Butler, Athena Athanasiou

ISBN: 978-0-745-65380-8 April 2013 Polity 240 Pages

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Dispossession describes the condition of those who have lost land, citizenship, property, and a broader belonging to the world. This thought-provoking book seeks to elaborate our understanding of dispossession outside of the conventional logic of possession, a hallmark of capitalism, liberalism, and humanism. Can dispossession simultaneously characterize political responses and opposition to the disenfranchisement associated with unjust dispossession of land, economic and political power, and basic conditions for living?

In the context of neoliberal expropriation of labor and livelihood, dispossession opens up a performative condition of being both affected by injustice and prompted to act. From the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa to the anti-neoliberal gatherings at Puerta del Sol, Syntagma and Zucchotti Park, an alternative political and affective economy of bodies in public is being formed. Bodies on the street are precarious - exposed to police force, they are also standing for, and opposing, their dispossession. These bodies insist upon their collective standing, organize themselves without and against hierarchy, and refuse to become disposable: they demand regard. This book interrogates the agonistic and open-ended corporeality and conviviality of the crowd as it assembles in cities to protest political and economic dispossession through a performative dispossession of the sovereign subject and its propriety.

Preface vii

1 Aporetic dispossession, or the trouble with dispossession 1

2 The logic of dispossession and the matter of the human (after the critique of metaphysics of substance) 10

3 A caveat about the "primacy of economy" 38

4 Sexual dispossessions 44

5 (Trans)possessions, or bodies beyond themselves 55

6 The sociality of self-poietics: Talking back to the violence of recognition 64

7 Recognition and survival, or surviving recognition 75

8 Relationality as self-dispossession 92

9 Uncounted bodies, incalculable performativity 97

10 Responsiveness as responsibility 104

11 Ex-propriating the performative 126

12 Dispossessed languages, or singularities named and renamed 131

13 The political promise of the performative 140

14 The governmentality of "crisis" and its resistances 149

15 Enacting another vulnerability: On owing and owning 158

16 Trans-border affective foreclosures and state racism 164

17 Public grievability and the politics of memorialization 173

18 The political affects of plural performativity 176

19 Conundrums of solidarity 184

20 The university, the humanities, and the book bloc 188

21 Spaces of appearance, politics of exposure 193

Notes 198

Index 205

"A productive read and develops and discusses many key themes that cross disciplinary boundaries. The book will therefore prove useful to various readers."
Feminist Review

"An engaging read... does an excellent job of articulating, in various ways, the need to conceptualise dispossession outside the logic of possession"
Review 31

"Full of fantastic and well-argued insights."
LSE Review of Books

"What makes political responsiveness possible? With their rich and distinct wealth of philosophical knowledge and continuous political engagements, leading feminist scholars Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou set out to answer this question. Beginning from an awareness that we are all relational and interdependent beings, their lucid, compelling exchanges encourage us all to reflect again on what feminist and queer theory can contribute to the search for forms of collectivity capable of intervening in battles against these cruel and precarious times."
Lynne Segal, Birkbeck, University of London and author of Making Trouble

"In a series of bite-sized conversations, Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou explore the concept of dispossession and show its links to subjectivity, relationality, occupation, precarity, bio-politics and collective protest. As they push each other for clarification and introduce a range of examples, they jointly craft a new vision of what 'performative politics' might entail."
Vikki Bell, Goldsmiths, University of London

  • Accessible new book from one of the world’s leading critical theorists
  • Examines what it means to be a dispossessed citizen today, the power relations involved, and citizen activism
  • Engaging and though-provoking text that discusses key contemporary events such as the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement
  • Goes beyond the conventional understanding of dispossession to discuss how an alternative and affective economy of bodies in public is being formed