Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble has been one of the most influential theoretical works of the past twenty-five years. Both within and without philosophy, it is a touchstone for discussions of subjectivity and identity of all kinds. In her writings, and in conversation, Butler has made clear her indebtedness to the phenomenological and existential tradition, while revising it within a poststructuralist framework. In this article, I explore just one strand of that indebtedness by comparing the performative account of gender identity, which she offers in Gender Trouble, with the imaginary personages which form the basis of Sartre’s account of individual and social identities. I suggest that some of the problems encountered by performative accounts are a consequence of this inheritance.
Disability, Gender, and Discourse in The Men
This article considers the representation of gendered disability in The Men (Fred Zinnemann, 1950), Marlon Brando’s first film. A groundbreaking yet deeply ambiguous text, the film explores notions of normative and non-normative physicality through the lens of masculinity, sexuality, and their implications for human status. In the light of key works by disability scholars and of Judith Butler’s discussion of the cultural construction of the body, this article examines the multiple and subversive meanings made available by the film, and the extent to which The Men allows for a different bodily identity based on dissent.
Re-Theorising Contemporary Tomboyism in the Schizoid Space of Innocent/Heterosexualized Young Femininities
This article critically explores the seduction of contemporary tomboyism for young tweenage girls within neo-liberal postfeminist times and an increasingly commodified (hetero)sexualised girlhood culture. A central aim of the article is to contextualize the persistence of the tomboy discourse and girls' appropriation of tomboyism within competing schizoid discourses of presumed innocence and compulsory normative (hetero)sexuality. Drawing on past and current predominantly UK based ethnographic research mapping girls' relationship to tomboyism, the first half of the article considers how to theorise girls' fluid appropriation of 'being a bit tomboy' within a discursive terrain of multiple femininities and fashion feminism. The second half of the article revisits a case study of one eleven-year-old self-identified tomboy, Eric/a, to re-think conceptualisations of girls' sustained appropriation of 'tomboy' as more than some licensed mimicry of masculinity when it is taken-up as a performative politics of subverting emphasized (hetero)sexualized femininities. The article concludes with a call for future theorizations of girlhood (for example, tomboyism) that foreground the intersection of gender, sex, sexuality, age and time and their socio-cultural and contextual contingency.
From Slave Catchers to Petty Sovereigns
Though states are founded in and dependent on successfully claiming a monopoly on the use of violent force and the certification of citizenship, these means suggest particular ends: the production of the social order. Police have the primary mandate to produce order and administer poverty. From a new abolitionist perspective, the particular social order of the U.S. is unique. The white race was founded through the production and maintenance of the color line and performed through a cross-class alliance of whites. Policing is deeply implicated in these processes. A historical account of police during the Herrenvolk era is provided. Finally, the persistence of racist policing is explained in light of a now officially color-blind political order, with officers functioning as petty sovereigns in a neoliberal era.
Bronwyn Davies, Marnina Gonick, Kristina Gottschall and Jo Lampert
This article analyzes a series of stories and artworks that were produced in a collective biography workshop. It explores Judith Butler's concept of the heterosexual matrix combined with a Deleuzian theoretical framework. The article begins with an overview of Butler's concept of the heterosexual matrix and her theorizations on how it might be disrupted. It then suggests how a Deleuzian framework offers other tools for analyzing these ruptures at the micro level of girls' everyday interactions.
David A. B. Murray
In this paper I want to trace how and why The Invention of Culture (IOC) has resonated strongly throughout my encounters with anthropological theory and fieldsite experiences in the Caribbean. I briefly outline how some of its key analytical arguments about the meanings and applications of the ‘culture’ concept can be productively compared and applied to what at first glance might appear to be quite unrelated ‘new’ theoretical models about gender and sexuality, particularly Judith Butler’s ‘performative’ approach, more than twenty-five years after its initial publication.
Performativity, Subversion and the AIDS Poetry of Rafael Campo and Mark Doty
According to Judith Butler, gender, although seemingly essential and fixed, is a series of corporeal acts and gestures which iterate or repeat cultural norms. She argues, in fact, that it is the very citationality of gender that makes it appear natural, inherent and internal. Drawing on Jacques Derrida’s ‘Signature, Event, Context’, an article which argues that the performative speech act is not a singular act but instead ‘a reiteration of a norm or set of norms’, Butler therefore poses the notion of gender as ‘performative’. She is always quick to point out that this does not mean gender is performance, in the sense of being a conscious and optional act. In an Althusserian vein, Butler instead sees the subject as compelled and interpellated into subjectivity through the compulsory imitation and continual citation of gender. Drag, according to Butler, reveals this performativity by its parodic play on gender roles, and she argues that drag can serve a ‘subversive function’
Alice A. Jardine
“What Feminism?” is an extended reflection upon several generations of readers of Simone de Beauvoir, including those readers the author herself has been, from the early 1960s to the present. Of particular interest are the serious readers of Beauvoir since her death in 1986, as opposed to the many detractors who have worked hard to tarnish Beauvoir's productive influence. Among the many groups of such serious readers there are, for example, the social theorist feminists such as Susan Buck Morss; the postcolonial/transnational feminist philosophers such as Chandra Mohanty; the poststructuralist-inspired feminist writers such as Teresa Brennan; and the queer/trans readers such as Judith Butler. What we learn from them is that, going forward, the important thing is to keep excavating the deep structures of Beauvoir's thought so as to forge new pathways for new generations to address the obviously gendered and more than sobering global crises of the twenty-first century.
Nexus of Complicity and Acts of Subversion in The Piano Teacher and Black Swan
Neha Arora and Stephan Resch
Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (2001) and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010) are films about women directed by men. Both films unorthodoxly chart women artists’ struggle with the discipline imposed on them by the arts and by their live-in mothers. By portraying mothers as their daughters’ oppressors, both films disturb the naïve “women = victims and men = perpetrators” binary. Simultaneously, they deploy audiovisual violence to exhibit the violence of society’s gender and sexuality policy norms and use gender-coded romance narratives to subvert the same gender codes from within this gender discourse. Using Judith Butler’s and Michael Foucault’s theories, we argue that Haneke and Aronofsky “do” feminism unconventionally by exposing the nexus of women’s complicity with omnipresent societal power structures that safeguard gender norms. These films showcase women concurrently as victim-products and complicit partisans of socially constructed gender ideology to emphasize that this ideology can be destabilized only when women “do” their gender and sexuality differently through acts of subversion.
Joyce E. Canaan
English higher education, like other parts of the public sector and higher education in other countries, is currently undergoing considerable change as it is being restructured as if it were a market in which universities, departments and academics compete against one another. This restructuring is producing new processes of subjectivity that discipline those who work and study in higher education institutions. Feminist poststructuralists have suggested that this restructuring is enabled partly through new forms of accountability that seemingly offer the 'carrot' of self-realisation alongside the 'stick' of greater management surveillance of the burgeoning number of tasks that academics, amongst others, must perform. This paper, located in the context of these changes, builds on Judith Butler's insight that processes of subjection to the dominant order through which the self is produced entail both mastery and subjection. That is, submission requires mastery of the underlying assumptions of the dominant order, which concomitantly introduces possibly subversive responses to subjection. This paper explores a 'neoliberal moment' I recently experienced when I had to fill out a form introduced for modules that failed to reach newly introduced marking 'benchmark' criteria. As I suggest, the process of being subjected to the disciplining that this new criterion demanded, brought me the mastery necessary to avoid such disciplining in future. However, individual subversion did not significantly challenge these forms of accountability; only a collective 'scholarship with commitment' could do so.