Reading Judith Butler

Quilting Points returns for its seventh consecutive year with a new focus on Judith Butler.

We are very pleased to announce the return of Quilting Points, an interdisciplinary critical and cultural theory reading group based at the University of Leeds.

This year, we will be conducting a year-long discussion on the work of Judith Butler. Since the publication of her first two monographs, Subjects of Desire (1987) and Gender Trouble (1990), Butler’s theories on gender and identity, and power and language, are now widely recognised as cornerstones in the development of contemporary critical theory and philosophy. While Butler’s most notable impact has been in the fields of gender studies, feminist theory, queer theory, and ethics studies, there are few areas in the Humanities left untouched by her work. From her foundational notion of gender performativity to her recent and ongoing work on precarity, Butler’s intellectual range is both established and continually evolving. Over the course of the year, we will take the opportunity to critically reflect on Butler’s canonical status in the field of critical theory. In what ways does her work influence today’s gender theorists and cultural commentators? What can we learn from the critics who challenge and dispute her work?

As a group, we will explore what Butler’s relevance is now – not only to contemporary critical theory, but to wider political debates such as the #MeToo movement, trans and non-binary rights, and the Title IX amendment. When Butler is as readily quoted by Gayatri Spivak as she is by New York drag queen Sasha Velour, it seems prudent to probe just how and why she has come to make such a profound mark on the way we talk about gender, identity formation, and daily operations of power.

By way of introduction to Butler’s diverse corpus, during the first term, we will focus closely on some of Butler’s most foundational theories. Sessions will be broadly organised around four areas of inquiry: gender and identity; queerness; symbolic violence and language; and ethics.

We will begin with a close reading of passages from Gender Trouble and her 1988 essay ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution’. Our first session will be held on Thursday 4th October. All are very welcome to attend. Stay tuned for further updates, and welcome to a new year of Quilting Points.


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