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Judith Butler: From Norms to Politics

Judith Butler: From Norms to Politics

Moya Lloyd

ISBN: 978-0-745-65480-5

May 2013, Polity

216 pages



With the publication of her highly acclaimed and much-cited book Gender Trouble, Judith Butler became one of the most influential feminist theorists of her generation. Her theory of gender performativity and her writings on corporeality, on the injurious capacity of language, on the vulnerability of human life to violence and on the impact of mourning on politics have, taken together, comprised a substantial and highly original body of work that has a wide and truly cross-disciplinary appeal.

In this lively book, Moya Lloyd provides both a clear exposition and an original critique of Butler's work. She examines Butlers core ideas, traces the development of her thought from her first book to her most recent work, and assesses Butlers engagements with the philosophies of Hegel, Foucault, Derrida, Irigaray and de Beauvoir, as well as addressing the nature and impact of Butler's writing on feminist theory. Throughout Lloyd is particularly concerned to examine Butler's political theory, including her critical interventions in such contemporary political controversies as those surrounding gay marriage, hate-speech, human rights, and September 11 and its aftermath.

Judith Butler offers an accessible and original contribution to existing debates that will be an invaluable resource for students and scholars alike.

Abbreviations x

Acknowledgements xii

1 Introduction 1

Feminism, identity and difference 4

From homosexual to gay and lesbian to queer 7

The influence of poststructuralism 10

Hegel and desiring subjects 13

Postscript 23

2 Rethinking Sex and Gender 25

The trouble with women 25

Feminism and the sex/gender debate 28

Denaturalizing sex and gender 30

Cultural intelligibility – contesting heteronormativity 33

From phenomenology to performativity 36

Performing gender 42

Women in/and feminism 44

Conclusion 46

3 Towards a Subversive Gender Politics 49

From parody to politics 50

Subversive gender politics 51

Performativity and subversion 54

Free will versus determinism 57

Enter iterability 61

The ambivalence of drag 66

The matter of bodies 68

Politicizing abjection – making bodies matter 74

Conclusion 76

4 Psychoanalysis and the Gendered Subject 78

Gender Trouble and psychoanalysis 79

Rubin and 'The Traffic in Women' 80

Freud and Oedipus 82

Melancholic gender identifi cations 83

Melancholia and performativity 85

Lacan and Oedipus 88

Assuming sex 89

Locating resistance 91

Kinship matters 93

Psychic subjectivity 97

Passionate attachment and primary dependency 99

Resisting Butler 102

Conclusion 105

5 'Talking Back' – Resignifi cation and Politics 107

Words that Wound 108

The force of the performative 110

Opposing sovereign performatives 113

A linguistic account of subjectivity 115

Linguistic subjectivity and responsibility 118

Revisiting agency – politics and resignifi cation 120

Against the state 126

Conclusion 133

6 What Makes for a Liveable Life? 134

Normative violence and questions of liveability 135

Corporeal vulnerability 138

Mourning and grief 141

Questions of recognition 143

What's wrong with 'desiring the state's desire'? 146

The politics of radical democracy 14

Cultural translation 150

Conclusion 154

Notes 157

Bibliography 182

Index 197

"An original and engaging overview of Butler's body of work."
Australian Journal of Political Science

"For students and faculty struggling to understand Judith Butler, I strongly recommend this book. Lloyd proves to be a reliable guide who is not afraid to engage critically with Butler’s gender theory and politics."
Steven Seidman, University at Albany, State University of New York

"Moya Lloyd’s careful reading of the work of Judith Butler is a gift of scholarly generosity. With insight and precision, Lloyd sets out the themes, questions and contexts driving Butler’s philosophy. This important book will benefit beginning and advanced readers of Butler as it traces the deep connections between the body, language, ethics and politics extending throughout her thought."
Jodi Dean, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

  • A new book in the very successful Key Contemporary Thinkers series which looks at the highly influential feminist theorist, Judith Butler
  • Explores Butler’s core ideas and philosophical engagement, tracing the development of her thought from her first book to her most recent works
  • Examines Butler’s critical interventions in contemporary political debates, such as gay marriage, hate-speech, human rights and September 11
  • Accessible and original contribution to existing debate that will be an invaluable resource for students and scholars alike