Talk:Judith Butler

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Butler is American, and thought I have not read any of her works, I highly doubt she can be appropriately labeled as "Continental". The mainstream philosophy in United States is overwhelmingly Analytic. If she indeed was a Continental philosopher, the apparent acceptance of her philosophy in the United States would be due to her emphasis on feminism? Or she used language that is palatable to Analytic philosophers? Wandering Courier (talk) 07:39, 26 February 2009 (UTC)

"Continental" is a loose label for a style of philosophy (or maybe several styles) that are often contrasted with an "analytic" style. Obviously, the continent directly referred to is Europe, but many thinkers outside of Europe work in a similar style. Not all philosophers in mainland Europe (as opposed to Britain or Ireland for this purpose) are "continental" either: some are pretty well "analytic" and others really can't be classified as either of these styles. As fuzzy as the label certainly is, Butler is a pretty good example of what is often called "continental philosophy". LotLE×talk 08:43, 26 February 2009 (UTC)
There little doubt Butler qualifies as a "Continental" writer. This has little to do with her being American, nor with her working in the United States. For one, it is not a coincidence she does not teach in a Philosophy department but in Berkeley's Rhetoric Department; second, there are some major Philosophy Departments (for instance Northwestern's) that are more strongly Continental than is typical in the United States. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:09, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
None of the preceding has a verifiable source. KenThomas (talk) 16:31, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
She builds on both continental and analytic traditions - Foucault is for example clearly continental but her work with performativiy also draws from speech act theory which emerged in the analytic tradition. I do think however that she is pretty clearly placed within the continental tradition.·Maunus·ƛ· 16:49, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
Some sources: [1] (she gives continental philosophy as one of her interests on her university homepage) and [2] (she is classified as a "continental feminist")·Maunus·ƛ· 16:54, 29 November 2010 (UTC)

Editorial essay on writing style[edit]

I am concerned about this recently added paragraph:

The issue of writing style is not trivial. Postmodern theorists argue that (modernist) claims that language ought to have "clarity" are linked to naive understandings of language in which it can simply convey or relay an already existing truth. Since the Linguistic turn in Western philosophy, this has been an important and controversial issue. The arguments around Butler's writing style are related to this issue: for modernists who believe in an objective reality Butler's writing is likely to seem "bad", whereas for postmodernists the idea of a text that seriously challenges traditional ideas while remaining "clear and lucid" to those who embrace them is almost self-contradictory.[citation needed] Not surprisingly, the epistemological controversy around language is mirrored by similar controversies around the writing styles of theorists like Butler. Butler's writing about gender is illustrative of this: the taken-for-granted assumption of "natural" biological sex (as a basis for "cultural" gender) makes her arguments all but impossible to articulate in the "clear" language of everyday conversation, because such language is saturated with the very assumptions she is challenging.[citation needed] It becomes necessary to write very carefully in terms that avoid everyday understandings of sex and gender; and such writing appears as "obscurantism" to those who either do not understand her arguments, or disagree with her (and other postmodern theorists') basic assumptions about language.[citation needed]

It seems well-written, and I generally agree with the analysis. It also seems to represent the original thought or WP:SYNTHesis of User:Ψμον rather than being clearly attributed to anyone else in particular. If we can find that Butler herself makes this specific series of claims, great! Let's cite them to particular books and chapters. Or if some well-known postmodern thinker other than Butler provides this summary (with at least some specific mention of Butler, not an original synthesis that such comments must relate to Butler), also fine. But whatever it's quality, Wikipedia is not the place to publish original essays about postmodern thought or writing. LotLE×talk 23:35, 24 November 2009 (UTC)

I removed this paragraph of unsourced commentary only slightly related to the subject of the article as it is a direct violation of Wikipedia:No original research and WP:SYNTHESIS. I do agree that it raises some interesting points but will also say that it is more applicable to a personal blog than a Wikipedia article. -Classicfilms (talk) 14:25, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree with the above two comments, and I have one observation. If no one challenged and removed that, it would presumably stay there forever. This is a neat illustration that Wikipedia is what Wikipedians make it. --TheSoundAndTheFury (talk) 02:31, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Exactly. -Classicfilms (talk) 02:51, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Source/clean up tags[edit]

This is a Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons and of a particularly important scholar. It contains far too many unsourced statements and is in need of a complete clean up. I'll wait a week or two. After that point, I will begin to remove any statement which is unsourced, as stated by Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons. -Classicfilms (talk) 23:24, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

I have cleaned up the article so that it comforms to WP:BLP. Please only restore deleted material if you can provide a source re: WP:Verifiability. -Classicfilms (talk) 02:43, 6 March 2010 (UTC)

Ad miseracordiam[edit]

There's a throw-away line inserted in a recent revision: Butler had relatives who died during the Holocaust. This is in the early-life biography, right after mentioning she's Jewish, with relatives from Hungary and Russia. This statement sort of trivially follows from the general ethnicity one, but seems to be inserted to try to insinuate some additional philosophical or political point. Sort of like saying in a breathless voice that Butler is featherless and walks on two legs. Readers know the basic details of the (horrible) history of the 20th C, and this digression into them feels awkward. LotLE×talk 08:04, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

Maintaining Wikipedia:Assume good faith, the information added to her background was a summary of statements made by Butler herself in an interview. All Wikipedia articles need biographical background information and inclusion of information about parents and family is common if not expected as this is a biography, not just a list of a scholar's important works. As for the line about the Holocaust, I am not particularly attached to it and added it as part of a general summary of Butler's own statements about her childhood simply because she mentioned it herself. However, that point is not as important as information about her parents or how she became interested in philosophy so I will remove it. The other material, however, is helpful to improving the biographical nature of the article and reflects the kind of information that usually appears in biographies here.
I appreciated your edits, they are good ones. I'd like to see this article improve, which includes a clean up of the unsourced information in the book summaries. The article could potentially be raised to at least a "GA" level. Thanks for your feedback, -Classicfilms (talk) 16:12, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Your recent additions have been very good, and I thank you. I'm just concerned to avoid a too informal tone in biographical information. I still think there's a bit of that in the comments about how Butler felt about her Hebrew school studies. Sure, it's based on an interview, but a newspaper "human interest" piece is a bit less formal than an encyclopedia. However, I've left that bit, and don't feel that strongly. The Holocaust sentence is also supported by the interview, although there Butler's comment was much more specific and the newspaper added the more generic parenthetical. I considered narrowing it to "Butler's maternal great-uncles and great-aunts", but that felt weirdly over-specific for this article. The generic "relatives in the Holocaust" is also true of every Jew who had ancestors migrate to the USA in the 20th C (and many non-Jews also, etc), but like I wrote, adding the almost-tautology insinuates some further meaning that is not supported (maybe better than my featherless biped thing would be the fact that Butler also had relatives who died of cancer or of heart disease... it could conceivably be relevant if she was a medical research into those thing or otherwise wrote about them, but is not automatically relevant because true). LotLE×talk 19:31, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Sure, I appreciate your point about tone but I think that what appears now is fine. I've worked on a number of biographies on the WP including the Al Gore article which I was involved in elevating to a "Good Article," so I have a pretty good sense of what is expected in a WP biography. To be sure, the important part of this article lies in an overview of Butler's work. However, as I've noted above and with tags, these sections contain too many unsourced statements. I also agree with your point above about a paragraph which falls under WP:SYNTH. Butler is not just a BLP but a very important scholar and thus her WP page should be raised, as you suggest, to the highest standards. I cleaned up the awards and reading list sections as well as the EL. The readings I've left alone for a few weeks to give other editors time to find sources before I begin to clean them up. However, the omission of a background section in a biography is problematic, particularly if you want to run an article through GAC. Thus, the information about her experiences in Hebrew school are critically important to the structure of the article. The introduction ends with the comment that "Her most recent work focuses on Jewish philosophy, exploring "pre- and post-Zionist criticisms of state violence" and yet in the article's previous version, there wasn't much to develop this statement. I am fine with changing "Jewish American" scholar to "American" scholar - it was added for clarification but is not critical. However, it is important for readers who don't know much about Butler to understand the connection with her early training in Hebrew school. I'm not sure how this is informal - most WP biographies discuss childhood experiences particularly if they relate to current writings or research. I would agree that if Butler's current work were not in this area, it might not be as critical but since it is, the article is strengthened by its inclusion. I would really like more biographical information if sources could be found. But the real priority, as I said above, is to clean up the summaries of her books. Thanks for your response, -Classicfilms (talk) 20:23, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree that the book summaries need to be better--both better written and better cited. And the addition of the background section is definitely helpful. I guess the informality thing I was getting at is the difference between stating that Butler was "not angry, but thrilled" to study Buber/Hegel/etc in Hebrew school versus just stating that she did study them there. This childhood exposure to those sources is definitely a useful framing for her professional work. It's hard to know how accurate her characterization of her childhood emotions is; it's not that important, but what if we dug up her rabbi saying she actually was angry about having to take the courses, for example? I know we see similar "human interest" angles in many biographies, but I tend to prefer the drier factual statements. LotLE×talk 20:42, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Re: book sections - yes I agree on both counts. Also, I know that if a section is a summary of a main article but doesn't really act like a summary (ie is too long or detailed), it will not get past GAC. So some of the book sections that have main article links should probably be shortened or more reflective of the article as a whole in the form of summary. As for Butler's recollection of her childhood, I do think this is important to include but we can tweak it. We could say that Butler stated in an interview she was thrilled etc. I think this statement gives a great deal of insight into Butler as a 14 year old kid who saw philosophy not as a punishment but as something to read with delight. If you want to rephrase, it is fine but biographies, WP or not typically do include childhood experiences if they shed light towards the current work of an important individual. To just say that she studied these texts rather than that she at 14 did not see this as punishment would deprive the article of insight to her character. If you can think of a better way to phrase it, by all means go ahead but I think her reflections are important to include. Interviews are useful for this reason and are fair game in biographies. -Classicfilms (talk) 20:56, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm fine with the current phrasing. I get your point about her mood at 14 yo being relevant, not only the dry fact of studying. As to the book summaries, what length do you think is appropriate, especially for those that have independent articles. I think it would be reasonable to devote 2 paragraphs to each book, possibly stretching that to 3 paras if there is no child article (but longer than that, there should be a child article). Is that consistent with your thinking? LotLE×talk 21:03, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Good question - it really depends as I've seen different editors respond in different ways. Review Wikipedia:Summary style to give you a sense of WP guidelines. Experience has shown me that if the summary paragraph covers all of the essential points of the main article, you are covered. If the summary is long and acts as an article in its own right, it is usually rejected. So I'd use common sense. What I usually do is a) tidy up the main article first and then b) take critical points from the main and turn it into a summary. It is ok to recycle some of the same language. Hope that helps, -Classicfilms (talk) 21:15, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

Book summaries[edit]

While WP biographies of scholars could include discussion of scholarly works, this discussion should not overwhelm the biographical nature of the article or we fall into WP:UNDUEWEIGHT. In addition, summaries of scholarly works need to be referenced, with page numbers which correspond to the points of the summary. I've pasted the summaries in their current form below. They need rewrites with the above. We probably also need to include all of her works since we do not have a verifiable source which states which are her major ones. -Classicfilms (talk) 15:14, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

Another suggestion which I think would be useful and work quite well would be the creation of a subarticle called "List of works by Judith Butler" (and add as a "main link" to the current list of her books in the article). We could then put the list and summaries there. In this way, we include the information without overwhelming the biography. -Classicfilms (talk) 15:16, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
Here is an example - the biography of filmmaker Tim Asch contains this link to a long subarticle in the filmography section: List of Timothy Asch films. -Classicfilms (talk) 15:23, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

Works overview[edit]


Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990)[edit]

Main article: Gender Trouble

Gender Trouble was first published in 1990, selling over 100,000 copies internationally and in different languages [citation needed]. Alluding to the similarly named 1974 John Waters film Female Trouble starring the drag queen Divine,[1] Gender Trouble critically discusses the works of Simone de Beauvoir, Julia Kristeva, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Luce Irigaray, Monique Wittig, Jacques Derrida, and, most significantly, Michel Foucault. The book has also enjoyed widespread popularity outside of traditional academic circles, even inspiring an intellectual fanzine, Judy!.[2]

The crux of Butler's argument in Gender Trouble is that the coherence of the categories of sex, gender, and sexuality—the natural-seeming coherence, for example, of masculine gender and heterosexual desire in male bodies—is culturally constructed through the repetition of stylized acts in time. These stylized bodily acts, in their repetition, establish the appearance of an essential, ontological "core" gender. This is the sense in which Butler famously theorizes gender, along with sex and sexuality, as performative. The performance of gender, sex, and sexuality, however, is not a voluntary choice for Butler, who locates the construction of the gendered, sexed, desiring subject within what she calls, borrowing from Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, "regulative discourses." These, also called "frameworks of intelligibility" or "disciplinary regimes," decide in advance what possibilities of sex, gender, and sexuality are socially permitted to appear as coherent or "natural." Regulative discourse includes within it disciplinary techniques which, by coercing subjects to perform specific stylized actions, maintain the appearance in those subjects of the "core" gender, sex and sexuality the discourse itself produces.[3]

A significant yet sometimes overlooked part of Butler's argument concerns the role of sex in the construction of "natural" or coherent gender and sexuality. Butler explicitly challenges biological accounts of binary sex, reconceiving the sexed body as itself culturally constructed by regulative discourse.[4] The supposed obviousness of sex as a natural biological fact attests to how deeply its production in discourse is concealed. The sexed body, once established as a “natural” and unquestioned “fact,” is the alibi for constructions of gender and sexuality, unavoidably more cultural in their appearance, which can purport to be the just-as-natural expressions or consequences of a more fundamental sex. On Butler’s account, it is on the basis of the construction of natural binary sex that binary gender and heterosexuality are likewise constructed as natural.[5] In this way, Butler claims that without a critique of sex as produced by discourse, the sex/gender distinction as a feminist strategy for contesting constructions of binary asymmetric gender and compulsory heterosexuality will be ineffective.[6]

The concept of gender performativity is at the core of Butler's work. It extends beyond the doing of gender and can be understood as a full-fledged theory of subjectivity. Indeed, if her most recent books have shifted focus away from gender, they still treat performativity as theoretically central.

Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (1993)[edit]

Bodies That Matter seeks to clear up readings and misreadings of performativity that view the enactment of sex/gender as a daily choice.[7] To do this, Butler emphasizes the role of repetition in performativity, making use of Derrida's theory of iterability, a form of citationality, to work out a theory of performativity in terms of iterability:

Performativity cannot be understood outside of a process of iterability, a regularized and constrained repetition of norms. And this repetition is not performed by a subject; this repetition is what enables a subject and constitutes the temporal condition for the subject. This iterability implies that 'performance' is not a singular 'act' or event, but a ritualized production, a ritual reiterated under and through constraint, under and through the force of prohibition and taboo, with the threat of ostracism and even death controlling and compelling the shape of the production, but not, I will insist, determining it fully in advance.[8]

Iterability, in its endless undeterminedness as to-be-determinedness, is thus precisely that aspect of performativity that makes the production of the "natural" sexed, gendered, heterosexual subject possible, while also and at the same time opening that subject up to the possibility of its incoherence and contestation.

Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (1997)[edit]

In Excitable Speech, Butler surveys the problems of hate speech and censorship. She argues that censorship is difficult to evaluate, and that in some cases it may be useful or even necessary, while in others it may be worse than tolerance. She develops a new conception of censorship’s complex workings, supplanting the myth of the independent subject who wields the power to censor with a theory of censorship as an effect of state power and, more primordially, as the condition of language and discourse itself.

Butler argues that hate speech exists retrospectively, only after being declared such by state authorities. In this way, the state reserves for itself the power to define hate speech and, conversely, the limits of acceptable discourse. In this connection, Butler criticizes feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon's argument against pornography for its unquestioning acceptance of the state’s power to censor. Butler warns that such appeals to state power may backfire on those like MacKinnon who seek social change, in her case to end patriarchal oppression, through legal reforms. She cites for example the R. A. V. v. City of St. Paul 1992 Supreme Court case, which overturned the conviction of a teenager for burning a cross on the lawn of an African American family, in the name of the First Amendment.[citation needed]

Deploying Foucault’s argument from The History of Sexuality Vol. 1, Butler claims that any attempt at censorship, legal or otherwise, necessarily propagates the very language it seeks to forbid.[9] As Foucault argues, for example, the strict sexual mores of 19th century Western Europe did nothing but amplify the discourse of sexuality it sought to control.[10] Extending this argument using Derrida and Lacan, Butler claims that censorship is primitive to language, and that the linguistic “I” is a mere effect of an originary censorship. In this way, Butler questions the possibility of any genuinely oppositional discourse; "If speech depends upon censorship, then the principle that one might seek to oppose is at once the formative principle of oppositional speech".[11]

Butler also questions the efficacy of censorship on the grounds that hate speech is context-dependent. Citing J.L. Austin's concept of the performative utterance, Butler notes that words’ ability to “do things” makes hate speech possible but also at the same time dependent on its specific embodied context. [citation needed] Austin’s claim that what a word “does,” its illocutionary force, varies with the context in which it is uttered implies that it is impossible to adequately define the performative meanings of words, including hate, abstractly.[citation needed] On this basis, Butler rejects arguments like Richard Delgado’s which justify the censorship of certain specific words by claiming the use of those words constitutes hate speech in any context. In this way, Butler underlines the difficulty inherent in efforts to systematically identify hate speech.

Undoing Gender (2004)[edit]

Undoing Gender collects Butler's reflections on gender, sex, sexuality, psychoanalysis and the medical treatment of intersex people for a more general readership than many of her other books. Butler revisits and refines her notion of performativity, which is the focus of Gender Trouble.

In her discussion of intersex, Butler addresses the case of David Reimer, a person whose sex was medically "reassigned" from male to female after a botched circumcision at eight months of age. Reimer was "made" female by doctors, but later in life identified as "really" male, married and became a step father to his wife's 3 children, and went on to tell his story in As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl which he wrote with John Colapinto. Reimer had committed suicide in 2004.[12]

Giving an Account of Oneself (2005)[edit]

In Giving an Account of Oneself, Butler develops an ethics based on the opacity of the subject to itself, the limits of self-knowledge. Borrowing from Adorno, Foucault, Nietzsche, Laplanche, Cavarero and Levinas, among others, Butler develops a theory of the formation of the subject as a relation to the social – a community of others and their norms – which is beyond the control of the subject it forms, as precisely the very condition of that subject’s formation, the resources by which the subject becomes recognizably human, a grammatical "I", in the first place. The subject is therefore dispossessed of itself by another or others as the very condition of its being at all, and this process by which I become myself only in relation to others and therefore cannot own myself completely, this constitutive dispossession, is the opacity of the contemporary subject to itself, what I cannot know, possess, and master consciously about myself.

Butler then turns to the ethical question: If my narrative account of myself is necessarily incomplete, breaking down tellingly at the point precisely when "I" am called to elucidate the foundations of this "I", my genesis and ontology, what kind of ethical agent, or "I", am "I"? [citation needed] Butler accepts the claim that if the subject is opaque to itself the limitations of its free ethical responsibility and obligations are due to the limits of narrative, presuppositions of language and projection. "You may think that I am in fact telling a story about the prehistory of the subject, one that I have been arguing cannot be told. There are two responses to this objection. (1) That there is no final or adequate narrative reconstruction of the prehistory of the speaking "I" does not mean we cannot narrate it; it only means that at the moment when we narrate we become speculative philosophers or fiction writers. (2) This prehistory has never stopped happening and, as such, is not a prehistory in any chronological sense. It is not done with, over, relegated to a past, which then becomes part of a causal or narrative reconstruction of the self. On the contrary, that prehistory interrupts the story I have to give of myself, makes every account of myself partial and failed, and constitutes, in a way, my failure to be fully accountable for my actions, my final "irresponsibility," one for which I may be forgiven only because I could not do otherwise. This not being able to do otherwise is our common predicament" (page 78).

Instead she argues for an ethics based precisely on the limits of self-knowledge as the limits of responsibility itself. [citation needed] Any concept of responsibility which demands the full transparency of the self to itself, an entirely accountable self, necessarily does violence to the opacity which marks the constitution of the self it addresses. The scene of address by which responsibility is enabled is always already a relation between subjects who are variably opaque to themselves and to each other. The ethics that Butler envisions is therefore one in which the responsible self knows the limits of its knowing, recognizes the limits of its capacity to give an account of itself to others, and respects those limits as symptomatically human. [citation needed] To take seriously one's opacity to oneself in ethical deliberation means then to critically interrogate the social world in which one comes to be human in the first place and which remains precisely that which one cannot know about oneself. In this way, Butler locates social and political critique at the core of ethical practice. [citation needed]

  1. ^ Butler, Judith (1999) [1990]. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge. xxviii–xxix. 
  2. ^ Larissa MacFarquhar, "Putting the Camp Back into Campus," [[Lingua Franca (magazine)|]] (September/October 1993); see also Judith Butler, "Decamping," Lingua Franca (November-December 1993).
  3. ^ Butler explicitly formulates her theory of performativity in the final pages of Gender Trouble, specifically in the final section of her chapter "Subversive Bodily Acts" entitled "Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions" and elaborates performativity in relation to the question of political agency in her conclusion, "From Parody to Politics." See Butler, Judith (1999) [1990]. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge. pp. 171–90. 
  4. ^ For Butler's critique of biological accounts of sexual difference as a ruse for the cultural construction of "natural" sex, see Butler, Judith (1999) [1990]. "Concluding Unscientific Postscript". Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge. pp. 135–41. 
  5. ^ For Butler's discussion of the performative co-construction of sex and gender see Butler, Judith (1999) [1990]. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge. pp. 163–71, 177–8.  The signification of sex is also addressed in connection with Monique Wittig in the section "Monique Wittig: Bodily Disintegrations and Fictive Sex," pp. 141-63
  6. ^ For Butler's problematization of the sex/gender distinction see Butler, Judith (1999) [1990]. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge. pp. 9–11, 45–9. 
  7. ^ For example, Jeffreys, Sheila (1994). "The Queer Disappearance of Lesbians: Sexuality in the Academy". Women's Studies International Forum 17 (5): 459–72. doi:10.1016/0277-5395(94)00051-4. 
  8. ^ Butler, Judith (1993). Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex". New York: Routledge. p. 95. 
  9. ^ Butler, Judith (1997). Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge. pp. 129–33. 
  10. ^ For example, Foucault, Michel (1990) [1976]. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Vol 1. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage. p. 23. "A censorship of sex? There was installed [since the 17th century] rather an apparatus for producing an ever greater quantity of discourse about sex, capable of functioning and taking effect in its very economy." 
  11. ^ Butler, Judith (1997). Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge. p. 140. 
  12. ^ Colapinto, J (2004-06-03). "Gender Gap: What were the real reasons behind David Reimer's suicide?". [[Slate (magazine)|]]. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 

Why cannot the information above be condensed, summarised, paraphrased? It's not all or nothing. I feel that what is in there is too long and wordy now. I will be bold and jump ahead with that... later. --TheSoundAndTheFury (talk) 03:56, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Great! Please do. As someone who has worked on many biographies on the WP, my only concerns are the following: a) that we follow WP:BLP, b) that we are careful to avoid WP:OR, and that c) we avoid WP:UNDUE. I am not objecting to book summaries on a biography page by any means. I suppose I was trying to find ways to work with what we have without deleting the text of other editors. Certainly, any edits that improve the article and satisfy WP guidelines are appreciated. Thanks as well for your other edits, they have improved the article. -Classicfilms (talk) 04:05, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Wholesale blanking[edit]

The mass deletion of all the existing book summaries because of some insufficiencies that may exist in some of them is hugely destructive. While I entirely endorse the intention of cleaning up and trimming those summaries, the way to do it isn't by hiding the exiting work from editors who may contribute to the cleanup. The Wikipedia way is to cleanup as one finds time and citations, in place, on the article. Simply to mass delete in the hope that someone may someday write something better about the same material is... well, I know the intention is not vandalism, but the edits themselves come close. LotLE×talk 17:47, 7 March 2010 (UTC)

Again, maintaining Wikipedia:Assume good faith, moving to the talk page is not the same as deletion. It is a standard proceedure in the Wikipedia to move problematic sections to talk in order to fix and upgrade. There are some some serious WP:BLP issues with the content as well as WP:UNDUE for a biography. Placing on the talk page with suggestions for improvement including a way to create a viable subarticle are constructive ways to improve the article, not hide or damage information. I won't revert the edit, but I do feel that the section is in need of enormous clean up and should either be better integrated into the structure of the article (ie not a list) or turned into its own subarticle. -Classicfilms (talk) 19:10, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
Moving to the talk page is little better than saying "well, it's in the history". I do not believe there are any BLP issues in the existing text, but if there actually are, mention them or address those issues narrowly. Deleting 3/4 of the whole article because one sentence may be a BLP violation is... not good. (I have no idea what sentence may be so, but I'll stipulate there could be one). The WP:UNDUE concern is more plausible, but that is addressed by targeted trimming and rewriting of the over-long parts. LotLE×talk 19:31, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
WP:BLP "We must get the article right" meaning everything must be WP:Verifiable. Moving to the talk page is a way of taking material with potential and asking editors to upgrade and is a standard approach. The book summaries have a great deal of potential but more sources to the original works are needed and that is why it seemed like a good idea to work that out on talk and then move back which happens in many articles here. Anyway, as I said, I won't revert the edit but I do think more sources are needed and trimming will happen when that happens. I've added sources for the rest of the article and corrected two mistakes so the rest of the article now conforms to WP:BLP. If these summaries can be better sourced and trimmed it is fine. BLPs should be up to the highest standard for sources. -Classicfilms (talk) 19:42, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
I know we are talking about Butler and the idea of summary seems in some respects contradictory, but this is an encyclopedia and we need to think carefully about what we mean by verifiability. Some of the paragraphs have no sources at all. Others are linked to a source which directs the reader to a large chunk of pages from a particular text. I can understand the need for that on the one hand but it does also open up articles such as this to subjective interpretations of very dense and complex material which then gets us to WP:OR. Two ways of approaching a rewrite would either be to cite what scholars say about sections of her text or break down the summary to include quotes and page numbers from the text which would move us a step beyond subjective interpretation. The point is that even summaries need to be from some kind of secondary source and that is what I see as the issue at hand here. -Classicfilms (talk) 20:05, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
Here is another suggestion at least for the moment until more sources are found. Butler's biography for the European Graduate School offers both a selection of what they consider to be her major works to the time of writing the bio as well as some excellent summaries. This is a good RS to use and perhaps can be used throughout the summaries to clean up what is there - meaning to re-write existing info using this page as the source. In this way, the works are maintained, RS is resolved, and it is possible to at least for now to clean up what exists:

JB Bio, European Graduate School

-Classicfilms (talk) 20:17, 7 March 2010 (UTC)

Some rearranging[edit]

Hello, I have moved down the list of works just like the Stuart Hall article. That necessitated some other minor changes. I also changed the "commentary on prose style" to simply "commentary on style," in an attempt to make it a little more inclusive. That may be misguided, I do not know. --TheSoundAndTheFury (talk) 02:23, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

Looks great! Thanks a lot. I restored the tags re: the discussion above for the summaries. Otherwise great edits. -Classicfilms (talk) 02:57, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

No problem. I saw some of the discussion above; if no one else summarises the texts in accordance with that link, I would be happy to. --TheSoundAndTheFury (talk) 04:14, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Go for it! :-) -Classicfilms (talk) 04:17, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

WP:UNDUE Zionism section[edit]

Unfortunately, the section called "Political activism"–which is really just a debate about (anti-)Zionism–is way out of proportion to its significance to Butler's biography... and the section seems to be growing by leaps and bounds as editors find little extra trivia to add to the section. I haven't seen anything added to that section that lacks proper citation. However, there seems to be a Wikipedia-wide trend to expand every article with the vaguest connection to Israel to include more on that topic than on other far more relevant (to that topic/biography) topics. We have definitely gone well past that threshold here. LotLE×talk 18:44, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

The section is needed because it is related to her current work but I agree that it is getting too long with too many quotes. The references shouldn't be removed but it could certainly use a trim. Maybe remove the quotes or rephrase. What would you suggest? -Classicfilms (talk) 18:48, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't think the section should be removed, but it is also really not about her "current work" either. She has given a few popular interviews that form the basis of the section, but it has little to do with her actual academic work. Even with a few newspaper interviews here-and-there, Butler is not notable as 'media pundit', but rather as a densely theoretical philosopher... we don't want to misrepresent the reasons for her notability simply because it is easier to parse some popular debate that she has passingly opined about. I'll make an effort to trim the section a bit (but leave references, of course). LotLE×talk 07:56, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
Sounds like a good plan. I don't think anyone is doubting the monumental impact of Butler's writings on gender, nor looking for sections which are "easier" to write about - rather, as with Michel Foucault and his work as an activist in the aftermath of 1968:
a responsible article on Butler will acknowledge her work as an activist which is reflective of themes in her works since 2005. Thanks for taking the time to do the trim, -Classicfilms (talk) 14:10, 11 March 2010 (UTC)

Edit request from Stephan Cotton, 7 April 2010[edit]

{{editsemiprotected}} Her father's religious affiliation should be changed from "Reformed Judaism" to "Reform Judaism", which is the proper name of the movement. See, the main body of Reform Judaism.

Stephan Cotton (talk) 13:20, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

Done Welcome and thanks for contributing. Celestra (talk) 13:32, 7 April 2010 (UTC)


Spinoza needs to be added to the list of her influences. -- (talk) 19:51, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

Butler's B.A.[edit]

Professor Butler received her B.A. from Bennington College, not Yale University. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:01, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

Would you like to source this? I've seen in a number of places that she transferred to Yale partway through, where she received a B.A. (talk) 02:54, 20 December 2010 (UTC)

Many sources cite her BA as being from Yale, including her bio at the European Graduate School. In an interview at Bryn Mawr, Butler says that she attended Bennington for two years, and then transferred to Yale. Butler explains that she attended Bennington, a women’s college that had just become coeducational when Butler arrived, for two years. She then transferred to Yale and remembers, “I didn’t speak—philosophy seminars were male-dominated and it took me a long time to figure out how to enter those conversations . . . it wasn’t simple for me.” — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:12, 6 January 2013 (UTC)

"Commentary on style" section -- are political categorizations necessary?[edit]

I've moved and rearranged some information listed under "Reception" to the subheading "Commentary on style," since those two lines, citing the New Criterion and Stephen Pinker, seem to belong there.

However, I also changed wording here, and called for citation of a line that said that "conservative critics" have criticized Butler's writing style.

Open question: do we need to draw out the political orientation of each critic of her style? While it's true that some of the figures cited doing so are conservative, not all the critics of her writing style are conservative. Pinker, on his current Wikipedia entry, is quoted as characterizing himself as "neither leftist nor rightist, more libertarian than authoritarian" and Nussbaum, who is a progressive and feminist, has also criticized her style. Is it necessary or even appropriate to cite only conservatives as conservatives here, if criticisms have come from various directions?--Visualpleasure (talk) 17:59, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

Reasons for my removal of one line[edit]

This line:

Conservative critics have claimed that Butler advocates cross-dressing.[citation needed]

And here are my reasons:

  1. It was in a section titled criticisms of style; that certainly isn't one.
  2. Butler does in fact directly advocate cross-dressing near the end of Gender Trouble, so it's not necessarily a criticism to state a viewpoint of someone——you must state the argument against that viewpoint.
  3. And it's uncited.

If this is an issue, please feel free to revert, hopefully better formatted. Cheers.

-- (talk) 03:13, 17 November 2011 (UTC)

The third explanation obviously the most compelling.... The Sound and the Fury (talk) 23:30, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

An article to include[edit]

I think one of Butler's important articles to include in the list of her works is this one:

'Performative acts and gender constitution: An essay in phenomenology and feminist theory', published in Theatre Journal, vol.40, no.4, pp.519-531, December 1988.

This article is a very clear explanation of her theory on performative gender, and is not as laden with jargon as her books. I found it an easy read compared to her other works, and worth mentioning. (talk) 15:10, 21 May 2012 (UTC)

Do The Book Summary Portions Really Need Citations?[edit]

The citations needed break up the flow of the summary and also, why would you need references after the initial? (talk) 23:45, 19 August 2012 (UTC)

Education - summary of dissertation and Subjects of Desire[edit]

The back cover of Subjects of Desire describes itself as "This now classic work by one of the most important philosophers and critics of our time charts the trajectory of desire: its genesis from Hegel's formulation in Phenomenology of Spirit through its appropriation by Kojeve, Hyppolite, Sartre, Lacan, Deleuze, and Foucault." I am not sure what book the previous summary is referring to (maybe Gender Trouble?) but it is not an accurate summary of the dissertation or Subjects of Desire.Arvalz (talk) 15:11, 4 September 2012 (UTC)


Hi everyone, I really wonder if "post-structuralist" is a necessary description, or even an accurate way of describing "The" philosophical tradition that she comes from, since she draws on so many. I think "post-structuralist" is really too limiting; has she really ever described her work this way? I think calling her a "philosopher" -- no adjective needed --is really the best thing. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Keys510 (talkcontribs) 09:12, 6 September 2012 (UTC) A post-structuralist philosopher, I would say. TheSoundAndTheFury (talk) 20:43, 6 September 2012 (UTC) Judith Butler applies a Methodology that only Foucault (Who we're more likely to agree was a post-structuralist) would approve of, to deconstruct the notion of Binary between Sexes in her book "Gender Trouble", but I'm afraid I don't have second hand sources to verify this, but that's the start of the case for her being a Post-Structuralist Philosopher, while in a Gawker Interview of Zizek, he mentions Judith Butler's love of Hegel, so not being familar with her other work I'd presume She'll use the Dialectical Method. Which as this article is on the Continintal task force page, doesn't surprise me, so an alternative term we could use is "Continental Philosopher" and leave it at that. I hope this is useful. -A.Maus — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:50, 9 January 2013 (UTC)

Reason for protection[edit]

I do not see a reason for this article to be protected however I could be missing something. Could someone please provide a reason why this article was protected? There did not appear to be an edit war going on and vandalism is at a much lower rate than I have seen on other BLP pages. It did occur to me in reading the article history and the talk page that there exists some editors that refuse to allow any criticism at all. My take on it is not important as I am not an expert in this persons work or life however I find the addition of a protection template odd. Again, I am asking for a reason and not making an attack or downplaying the need for protection. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:50, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

It's done for reasons of critical analysis. In short, it's not really allowed. Even those of us who in fact are experts in the field, and have studied under these thinkers, even a balanced approach is not allowed. Did you notice that there isn't one single reference regarding Butler's influence on continental philosophy, besides the link to an interview? Objective standards that are demanded via the larger philosophy portal are completely abandoned on some individual pages which just so happen to involve socio-political issues and thinkers. The third wave feminism page actually quotes a thinker dictating a normative thinking process, and when editors included the very same quote in the critique section as to dictating people how/what to think, it's not allowed for being incorrect. Literally, the exact same quote is not allowed in the criticism section as evidence of the criticism. These are examples of how Wiki's really gone down hill. Professionals in a field can't even use a quote twice on some pages if one of the uses is not flattering. Same thing goes on here. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:11, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

Small mistakes in title of piece and origin ("Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire")[edit]

In the section on "Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire," the first line reads: "In a piece entitled 'I Women as the Subject of Feminism.'" There are a couple things about this that are confusing. First, the piece is actually titled "Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire," and while it is included in the Cudd and Andreasen anthology, it is a reprint of the first chapter of "Gender Trouble." Second, the title of the piece is listed here as "I Women as the Subject of Feminism." In actuality, that title refers to the first portion of the "Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire" chapter and does not have "I" at the beginning. In the original work, what is mistaken for "I" is actually "i." denoting the first portion of the chapter.

I've included a link to an electronic copy of Gender Trouble as well as the Amazon preview of the Feminist Theory anthology, where it is possible to see p. 145, on which the Butler essay is reprinted.

Thanks! Just want to be sure a solid article remains that way. Good work. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:29, 21 April 2013 (UTC)

Edit request on 6 May 2013[edit]

I would like to ask to have access to this page on Judith Butler in order to clarify errors of fact and misrepresentations. Can you please grant me access?

In the entry on Judith Butler, I would like to make several changes. In the first place, she is not only or primarily a "post-structuralist" philosopher, especially if one considers the work in the last ten years. Her position at UC Berkeley should be stated as follows:

Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program in Critical Theory. She is also a Visiting Professor in Humanities at Columbia University (2012-14).

in the main entry, the wording is confusing: "herself being Jewish" is awkward - I would like a chance to make this prose more smooth. The entry does not take into account her contributions to moral philosophy (her title, Giving an Account of Oneself), her two works on war (Precarious Life and Frames of War), and skips from her work on feminism in the early 90s to her most recent work on Jewish philosophy and the critique of Zionism. The work on Antigone deserves to be mentioned, as do her contributions to legal theory. I would like a chance to fill out this academic dimension of her career, including her contributions to psychoanalysis, theories of power, literature and philosophy. The article as it stands is skewed by a preoccupation with her recent politics on Israel.

In the Biography, it is simply untrue that her mother was raised in Orthodox Judaism. What are the parental affiliations with Judaism doing in this article?

She sits on several boards, but a very obscure one is mentioned under the biography section. I would like permission to fill this out with reference to a copy of her most recent CV.

In the section on political activism, the representation of her views are dated, since the essay in Logos has now been superseded by an entire book dedicated to thinking through binationalism.

Moreover, the view that is cited in the article as support for her pro-boycott position is precisely not the view that she has. She opposes going to Israeli institutions, and this citation makes it seem like she does not. In any case, I can supply better citations to clarify her actual and current views.

Similarly, the reference to "Hamas/Hezbollah" is scurrilous, given the contextualization and clarifications that Butler has offered in several venues, including Mondoweiss, The Jerusalem Post, and several German newspapers. It would be better to have a clear understanding of her view on this issue, especially since her own clarifications are not included here.

Although it is true that she is a member for Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, the more important affiliation now is the Advisory Board for Jewish Voice for PEACE. She is on the executive board of The Freedom Theatre in Jenin.

Also, she has received honorary degrees that are not cited here: Univ of Bordeaux- III, Universite Paris - VII, Grinell College, McGill University (2013) and St. Andrews University (2013) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Leff haugelin (talkcontribs) 22:26, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

There's no way to allow you specifically to edit the page; you have two options. One is to keep editing other pages on Wikipedia; in 4 days and 10 edits, you'll be able to edit this page directly. The other is to make a detailed request here, like you have, and let an already autoconfirmed editor make the changes.
Let me go through some of your suggested changes.
    • The first thing that I have to ask about all of these items is, what are your sources? Changes to WP should be done based upon reliable sources.
    • I've removed what you correctly described as awkward "herself being...". I also took out the phrase "recent", because we're not supposed to use that term anyway (given that it necessarily becomes rapidly outdated).
    • Regarding her mother, Butler herself made the claim in the Haaretz interview, which you can read by following the citation. As for why it's there, I would say it's because it seems to be relevant to her identity and her work. We could be more general and state that her parents were both Jewish, but I think that the differences between the denominations/approaches is significant enough that it warrants covering in the article.
    • As for the boards, we can update it; however, we do not want to provide as much detail as her CV does. We should focus only on those things for which she is most famous. Ideally, we would determine that by seeing what independent reliable sources choose to say about her.
    • If her activism stance has changed, we should alter our page; again, we would be much better off working from independent sources. That is, rather than trying to summarize her book itself, it's better if we see how others have summarized it. However, if such a summary is not available, a short (say, a few sentences) of our own summary is allowed, as long as we do absolutely no interpretation (doing so is prohibited as original research).
    • On the Hamas/Hezbollah, if her views have changed, we should alter appropriately. However, we should accurately report what was said at both times; that is, Butler is not herself the final interpreter of her own words. But for this I'd need to see some sources to get a better understanding of how to alter the info.
    • Memberships and degrees: same as I mentioned for Boards above. For the degrees, we can probably list any she lists on her CV, though we'd prefer independent sources; for memberships, we should limit the list to those which independent sources deem to be notable.
I hope this gives a better idea of where to go from here. Qwyrxian (talk) 02:48, 7 May 2013 (UTC)