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Butler, Judith

Judith Butler is the author of several highly influential books, as well as numerous ground-breaking articles, within the fields of philosophy, feminism and Queer Theory. These include Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), Excitable Speech: Politics of the Performance (1997), and (with Athena Athanasiou) Dispossession: The Performative in the Political (2013). She is commonly cited in relationship to the concept of Performativity. In Gender Trouble (1990) this refers to an argument that sexual identity is not connected to a stable or core ‘essence’, but rather that it is a free-floating secondary narrative, created through action; we do not ‘perform’ being male or female because that is already our existing core identity, it is rather that maleness or femaleness are created as effects of how we act (and are therefore fluid and changeable, rather than being a fixed biological destiny). In Excitable Speech (1997) this is extended towards an analysis of political action through the notion of Interpellation - a term that refers to the way in which powerful political and social institutions ‘hail’, talk to, or address us and thus point out who we are - and put us into place - in a dominant social or political order. Butler analyses name-calling, as both a social injury and a call to political action. She addresses the ambivalent relationship between being negatively ‘called’ or identified (as in hate speech) and how this provokes the political act of refusal, resistance or subversion of such naming.

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