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#8: Reading Butler through Berger with Professor Griselda Pollock

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27 March | 5.00 - 6.30pm | Room 1, LAHRI (29-31 Clarendon Place) | All welcome!Guest Seminar from Griselda Pollock, and a Wine Reception
We are delighted to announce that, for our final session of the semester, we have invited Professor Griselda Pollock(School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies, University of Leeds) to lead us through a reading of Anne Emmanuelle-Berger's The Queer Turn in Feminism: Identities, Sexualities, and the Theater of Gender (2014). In particular, we will be focusing on the final chapter in Berger's book, 'Roxana's Legacy: Feminism and Capitalism in the West'. Access to the pdf can be found here. In addition to this, Pollock has provided a reading guide to Berger's work, which can be downloaded here. Pollock's guide provides useful theoretical and historical context to Berger's arguments and her source material, so we recommend reading it alongside the chapter. 

Griselda Pollock is professor of Social and Critical …

#7: Gender is Burning - 06/03/2019

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Wednesday 6 March | 5 - 6.30pm | LAHRI (29-31 Clarendon Place) | All welcome

For our third session of the semester, we will be reading Butler's fourth chapter from Bodies That Matter, 'Gender is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion' (1993). In an analysis of of the legendary queer documentary Paris is Burning (dir. Jennie Livingston, 1990), Butler contests any assumed relation between drag and subversion. She uses the documentary as a touchstone for thinking about the ways in which drag performance risks reidealising certain gender, racial, and class norms - and for considering the subversive potential of the systems of kinship underpinning drag ball culture. Touching on issues such as spectatorship and fetishisation, Butler argues for the ambivalent modalities of power embedded in the queer subcultures of drag balls. 

A pdf of the chapter can be found here. Butler's chapter makes a number of important responses to negative criticisms of Paris is Burning, m…

#6: 'My life, your life, equality and the philosophy of non-violence' 13/02/2019

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Wednesday 13 February | 5 - 6.30pm | LHRI | All welcome

This semester’s second session will be a discussion of Butler’s Gifford lectures given at the University of Glasgow in October 2018. Entitled ‘My life, your life, equality and the philosophy of non-violence’, Butler’s lectures continue and develop her work on both precarity and grievability. Butler aims to uncover the mechanisms which define which life is determined as a life, which loss is registered as a loss. Critical of the myth of individualism and the concomitant notion of a subject-centred morality, Butler produces what she terms a ‘counter-fantasy’, an ethics that registers our mutual dependency and fundamental relationality. Butler’s notion of non-violence is not a call for pacificism, but rather an active and ‘aggressive’ response to the violent effects of contemporary biopolitical structures.


Our discussion will focus primarily, but will not be restricted to, Butler’s first and third Gifford lectures. We will also be rea…

#5: Frames of War 23/01/2019

Wednesday 23 January | 5 - 6.30pm | LHRI | All welcome 
A Happy New(ish) Year from Quilting Points! We have a few changes to announce. Firstly, our sessions will now take place on Wednesday evenings (23 January, 13 February, 6 March and 27 March). Secondly, and more excitingly, this semester’s programme includes the following two special events: Film Screening, 27 February: Paris Is Burning (a collaboration with Leeds Cineforum)Guest Seminar, 27 March: Griselda Pollock on Anne Emmanuelle Berger’s The Queer Turn in Feminism: Identities, Sexualities, and the Theatre of GenderThe first session of the semester will take place on Wednesday 23 January. We will be reading from Butler’s ‘Torture and the Ethics of Photography: Thinking with Sontag’ from Frames of War(2009). Written as a critical response to Sontag’s On Regarding the Pain of Others, the essay uses the Abu Ghraib torture photographs to ask whether Sontag is correct to argue that photography has lost its power to incite an ethical …

#4: Ethics 6/12/18

Thursday 6 December | 5 - 6.30pm | LHRI | All welcome For our fourth session of the year, we will be reading the second chapter of Precarious Life (2004), 'Violence, Mourning, Politics' alongside 'Precarity Talk' - a roundtable discussion of the topic between Butler and several other leading theorists. 
In 'Violence, Mourning, Politics,' Butler develops a theory of nonviolent ethics stemming from the acceptance that it is our vulnerability, and vulnerability to death and violence in particular, which connects us as humans. Adopting a relational view of the self, she reconfigures grief as a public, social experience which could and should be harnessed as a force for transformation, particularly in rethinking notions of community and international relations. State violence, she argues, is a consequence of the fact that modern nation states are founded on the principle of denying such vulnerability. Citing the US's military violence in the Middle East as an exa…

#3: Symbolic Violence and Language 15/11/18

Thursday 15 November | 5 - 6.30pm | LHRI | All welcome For our third session of the year, we will be focusing on Butler’s analyses of hate speech, censorship, and ‘obscenity’ in the introduction to Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (1997).
Excitable Speech continues Butler’s investigation of subject categories in the context of language and rhetoric. She returns to speech act theories, this time developing questions related to hate speech, injurious name-calling (such as racial slurs or epithets), pornography, rap lyrics, and gay self-expression in the US military – all these topics receive an introductory gloss in this week’s material. Central to her thesis is the rhetorical elision between physical and linguistic injury. Can words wound? How are bodies implicated in, or interpellated by, verbal pain or injury, such as name-calling or legal legislation? Her introduction, and the study as a whole, demonstrates an anxiety about the limits of resignification. Butler questi…

#2: 'Queerness' 25/10/2018

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#2: 'Queerness' 25/10/2018 Thursday 25 October | 5 - 6.30pm | LHRI: Room 1 | All Welcome For our second session of the year, we will be reading the eighth chapter of Butler’s Bodies That Matter (1993), entitled ‘Critically Queer’. We will be reading Butler’s discussion of queer identity, queerness and drag alongside a short section from Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (2015).
In ‘Critically Queer’, the concluding chapter of Bodies that Matter, Butler evaluates the refunctioning of the term ‘queer’ from its pejorative origins. She urges for the ongoing critique of a totalising queer identity category as ‘crucial to the continuing democratization of queer politics’ (227). If, as Butler argues, a performative discourse succeeds only through its iterability and ongoing citation, then the reification of a queer subject must be interrogated for its own exclusionary practices. The reading for this week allows an investigation of Butler’s claims and a reflection on how critical queerne…