Issue 21 | October 2013

  • Arşiv

  • On Vulnerability, Interdependency and Popular Sovereignty

    An interview with Judith Butler - October•13

    Judith Butler is one of the world’s leading theorists whose works such as Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter have shaken our conceptions of gender, sexuality, subjectivity, and agency. Her theories on the social constructedness of biological sex and the performative nature of gender not only challenged the hegemonic conceptions of gender, but also required a radical reconsideration of the feminist theory and politics. In her recent works, like Precarious Life, she questioned post-9/11 politics focusing on the questions of vulnerability, precarity, and grief. Her work has exposed how the conditions of war depend on the separation of human from non-human, and grievable lives from ungrieavable ones. We had the chance to meet her for an hour in Istanbul, where she came mainly for the workshop titled “Rethinking Vulnerability and Resistance: Feminism & Social Change” and gave a public seminar on “Freedom of Assembly or Who Are the People?” at Boğazici University in September 2013. During that one hour, we talked about her thoughts on the issue of vulnerability, specifically in relation to feminist politics and worldwide occupy movements. In our conversation, we discussed the implications of global experiences of public assemblies, as exemplified by Gezi Park and the Occupy movements, for the conceptions of sovereignty, political agency, and legitimacy. According to Butler, these new forms of politics not only create an “epistemic” shift and bring forth a new sense of political hope for all, but also set the ground for revisiting the notion of “the people” as a way of rethinking the unevenly distributed, and mobilized forms of, vulnerabilities. In this interview, Butler makes important and very timely comments on the ways in which novel forms of politics are manifested through spontaneous assemblies and how all these developments challenge our “accepted pessimisms” that are created under strong state sovereignty through electoral politics and police violence.

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