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Judith Butler & Wendy Brown

Judith Butler (born February 24, 1956) is an American post-structuralist philosopher, who has contributed to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy, and ethics. She is a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley. Butler received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University in 1984, for a dissertation subsequently published as Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France. In the late-1980s she held several teaching/research appointments, and was involved in "post-structuralist" efforts within Western feminist theory to question the "presuppositional terms" of feminism.

Butler currently lives with her partner, the political scientist Wendy Brown, and their son. Brown followed Butler when she joined U.C. Berkeley in 1993. 

Her research ranges from literary theory, modern philosophical fiction, feminist and sexuality studies, to 19th- and 20th-century European literature and philosophy, Kafka and loss, mourning and war. Her most recent work focuses on Jewish philosophy, exploring pre- and post-Zionist criticisms of state violence. Politically, she is a strong supporter of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.

Butler was born in Cleveland, Ohio to a family of Hungarian and Russian ancestry. Her mother was raised in Orthodox Judaism, later turning to Conservative Judaism, and finally to Reform Judaism; Butler's father belonged to a Reform Synagogue since his childhood. As a child and teenager, she attended both Hebrew school and special classes on Jewish ethics where she received her "first training in philosophy." Butler stated in a 2010 interview with Haaretz that she began the ethics classes at the age of 14 and that they were created as a form of punishment by her Hebrew school's Rabbi because she was "too talkative in class," "talk[ed] back," and was "not well behaved." Butler also stated that she was "thrilled" by the classes and chose to focus on Martin Buber. She also encountered the writings of Kant, Hegel, and Spinoza during these special sessions.


Judith Butler is an American post-structuralist philosopher, who has contributed to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy, and ethics. She is a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley. Butler currently lives with her partner, the political scientist Wendy Brown, and their son. Brown followed Butler when she joined U.C. Berkeley in 1993. They lecture together and co-authored essays.

Butler attended Bennington College and then Yale University where she studied philosophy, receiving her B.A. in 1978 and her Ph.D. in 1984. Her dissertation was subsequently published as Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France (1987). In Butler’s dissertation, she attempts to understand how gender comes into being and how gender comes to be seen as something naturally occurring rather than historical. Butler points out that it is possible for a person to choose the gender they desire to be, but society prevents us from choosing no gender.

She taught at Wesleyan University, George Washington University, and Johns Hopkins University before joining U.C. Berkeley in 1993. She will join the department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University as a visiting professor in the spring semesters of 2012 and 2013 and has the option of remaining as full time faculty. In 2009 she received the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award for her contributions to humanistic inquiry. The prize money of $1.5 million is supposed to enable the recipients to teach and research under especially favorable conditions. Since 2006 Judith Butler has been the Hannah Arendt Professor of philosophy at the European Graduate School (EGS) in Switzerland. She sits on the Advisory Board of the academic journal Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture. Butler is also working on critiquing ethical violence and trying to formulate a theory of responsibility “for an opaque subject that works with Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault and Fredrich Nietzsche”.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Butler

Wendy L. Brown (born November 28, 1955) is the Class of 1936 First Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley where she is also affiliated with the Department of Rhetoric, and where she is a core faculty member in the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory. She has made major and far-reaching contributions to modern political theory, drawing on the work of Marx and Foucault to elaborate a distinctive theory of modern power. Her work on the divergent rationalities of neo-liberalism and neo-conservativism as well as her analysis of neo-liberalism in relation to the contemporary threats to public education have established her as a major public intellectual of our time. Brown is a native of California and lives in Berkeley with her partner Judith Butler and son.

Brown received her BA in both Economics and Political Science from UC Santa Cruz, and her M.A and Ph.D in political philosophy from Princeton University. Prior to going to Berkeley in 1999, she taught at Williams College and UC Santa Cruz.

She has held visiting appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, the Goethe University in Frankfurt, and the Humanities Research Institute in Irvine. She has also taught at the Critical Theory Summer School at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities in London. She is the recipient of a distinguished teaching award and numerous fellowships, including awards from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Ford Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the American Association of University Women. She has served on the editorial boards of Political Theory, Theory and Event, Ethics and Global Politics, and Polity, among others. She served as well as Council Member of the American Political Science Association (2007-09) and as Chair of the UC Humanities Research Institute Board of Governors (2009-11). Her work has been translated into more than 15 languages.

She has established new paradigms in critical legal studies and feminist theory; she is widely taught in courses in political theory, anthropology, sociology, geography, public policy, feminist theory, education, cultural and critical theory. In particular, she has produced a work that draws upon Marx's critique of capitalism, Nietzsche's usefulness for thinking about power and the ruses of morality, Max Weber and the modern organization of power, Freud's group psychology and its implications for political identification, the Frankfurt School, Michel Foucault's work on governmentality, sovereignty, and neo-liberalism, and contemporary continental philosophers to diagnose modern and contemporary formations of political power, and to discern the threats to democracy entailed by such formations. She has offered a trenchant critique of the discourse of "tolerance", showing how it is differentially used to augment forms of official intolerance.

As a former student of political theorist, Sheldon Wolin, Brown returns time and again in her work to the question of democracy, posing the question within the present state of things of how to make a world together, emphasizing that sharing power for the purposes of making a common world must remain an ideal, however far from realization it remains at this time. Her work has had far-reaching implications of political identity, citizenship, and political subjectivity, and most recently for the view that the value of public education is, or must be, part of the very meaning of democracy.

Brown's most recent books focused on the "waning sovereignty" of states under new global conditions of power, showing how the erosion of nation-states has produced anxious efforts to shore up national identity through the building of walls. In addition, she has published on secularism, emphasizing how the meaning of "critique" in modern liberalism is bound up with the question of managing religious affiliations, so that religion as always served as a presupposition for modern secular statehood. Her most current work is engaged with the democratic value of public education. She enjoys preeminence as the predominant critic of neo-liberalism within political theory, showing how it works to imperil democratic values and the idea of public goods.

For years, Brown has been active in the effort to stem the privatization of the University of California. In her capacity as co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, she has raised awareness, organized marches, and spoken publicly about the effects of privatization on public education.
“We are marching to draw attention to the plight of public education in California and to implore Californians to re-invest in it. For all its resources, innovation and wealth, California has sunk to nearly the bottom of the nation in per student spending, and our public higher education system, once the envy of the world, is in real peril.”
She has been critical about the University's decision to cut costs by utilizing lecturers rather than hiring tenure and tenure track professors. She has spoken publicly about the perils and pitfalls of the University of California's proposed online education programs. She has also been one of several faculty members to endorse Occupy Wall Street, claiming that “We understand this to be part of what (the movement) stands for. We are delighted by the protests and consider our campaign to be at one with it.”

Brown's activism occasionally takes on a playful flair, which has drawn the attention of local and national media.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendy_Brown_(political_scientist)

Further Readings:

States of Injury by Wendy Brown 
Paperback: 219 pages 
Publisher: Princeton University Press (July 3, 1995) 
Language: English 
ISBN-10: 069102989X 
ISBN-13: 978-0691029894 
Amazon: States of Injury

Whether in characterizing Catharine MacKinnon's theory of gender as itself pornographic or in identifying liberalism as unable to make good on its promises, Wendy Brown pursues a central question: how does a sense of woundedness become the basis for a sense of identity? Brown argues that efforts to outlaw hate speech and pornography powerfully legitimize the state: such apparently well-intentioned attempts harm victims further by portraying them as so helpless as to be in continuing need of governmental protection. "Whether one is dealing with the state, the Mafia, parents, pimps, police, or husbands," writes Brown, "the heavy price of institutionalized protection is always a measure of dependence and agreement to abide by the protector's rules." True democracy, she insists, requires sharing power, not regulation by it; freedom, not protection.

Refusing any facile identification with one political position or another, Brown applies her argument to a panoply of topics, from the basis of litigiousness in political life to the appearance on the academic Left of themes of revenge and a thwarted will to power. These and other provocations in contemporary political thought and political life provide an occasion for rethinking the value of several of the last two centuries' most compelling theoretical critiques of modern political life, including the positions of Nietzsche, Marx, Weber, and Foucault

Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France by Judith Butler
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Columbia University Press (June 12, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0231159994
ISBN-13: 978-0231159999
Amazon: Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France

This classic work by one of the most important philosophers and critics of our time charts the genesis and trajectory of the desiring subject from Hegel's formulation in Phenomenology of Spirit to its appropriation by Kojève, Hyppolite, Sartre, Lacan, Deleuze, and Foucault. Judith Butler plots the French reception of Hegel and the successive challenges waged against his metaphysics and view of the subject, all while revealing ambiguities within his position. The result is a sophisticated reconsideration of the post-Hegelian tradition that has predominated in modern French thought.

Butler's study remains a provocative and timely intervention in contemporary debates on the unconscious, the powers of subjection, and the subject. This edition features a foreword by French philosophical scholar Philippe Sabot, which accompanied the French edition of Subjects of Desire and was widely praised for its keen understanding of Butler's insight and legacy. This is the first translation of the foreword into English.

Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge Classics) by Judith Butler
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (May 12, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0415389550
ISBN-13: 978-0415389556
Amazon: Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge Classics)

One of the most talked-about scholarly works of the past fifty years, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble is as celebrated as it is controversial.

Arguing that traditional feminism is wrong to look to a natural, 'essential' notion of the female, or indeed of sex or gender, Butler starts by questioning the category 'woman' and continues in this vein with examinations of 'the masculine' and 'the feminine'. Best known however, but also most often misinterpreted, is Butler's concept of gender as a reiterated social performance rather than the expression of a prior reality.

Thrilling and provocative, few other academic works have roused passions to the same extent.

Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (New Directions in Critical Theory) by Judith Butler
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Columbia University Press (July 24, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0231146108
ISBN-13: 978-0231146104
Amazon: Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (New Directions in Critical Theory)

Judith Butler follows Edward Said's late suggestion that only through a consideration of Palestinian dispossession in relation to Jewish diasporic traditions will a new ethos for a one-state solution emerge. Butler engages some forms of Jewish intellectual criticism of political Zionism and its practices of illegitimate state violence, nationalism, and state-sponsored racism. At the same time, she moves beyond communitarian frameworks, including Jewish ones, that fail to arrive at a radical democratic notion of political cohabitation, As important as it is to dispute Israel's claim to represent the Jewish people, it is equally important, Butler argues, to show that a narrowly Jewish framework cannot suffice as a basis for an ultimate critique of Zionism. She promotes an ethical position in which the obligations of cohabitation do not derive from cultural sameness but from the unchosen character of social plurality. Recovering the arguments of Jewish thinkers who offered criticisms of Zionism or whose work could be used for such a purpose, Butler disputes the specific charge of anti-Semitic self-hatred often leveled against Jewish critiques of Israel. Her political ethic relies on a vision of cohabitation that exposes the limits of every communitarian framework, including Jewish ones, to overcome the colonial legacy of Zionism. Her own engagements with Said and Mahmoud Darwish are important to her articulation of the displacement of communitarian thought.

Butler draws upon some Jewish traditions of thought to consider the rights of the dispossessed, the necessity of plural cohabitation, and the dangers of arbitrary state violence, showing how they can be extended to a critique of Zionism, even when that is not their purpose. Butler engages thinkers such as Edward Said, Emmanuel Levinas, Hannah Arendt, Primo Levi, Martin Buber, Walter Benjamin, and Mahmoud Darwish. She revisits and affirms Edward Said's late proposals for a one-state solution. Butler's startling suggestion: Jewish ethics not only demand a critique of Zionism, but must transcend its exclusive Jewishness in order to realize the ethical and political ideals of living together in radical democracy.

More Real Life Romances at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance


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