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Judith Butler Performative Acts And Gender Constitution Pdf

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The constitution of subjectivity, in other words, requires at the most basic level some kind of bodily performativity. Alternatively, this paper will provide a phenomenology of habit formation that re-introduces the body not as thematic materiality, but as lived materiality. The body will therefore be conceived as something which is already skilful and creative, sensitive and vulnerable, and ultimately, as Butler anticipates, responsive to the intertwinement of individual and social aspects of identity formation.

Judith Butler

The constitution of subjectivity, in other words, requires at the most basic level some kind of bodily performativity. Alternatively, this paper will provide a phenomenology of habit formation that re-introduces the body not as thematic materiality, but as lived materiality. The body will therefore be conceived as something which is already skilful and creative, sensitive and vulnerable, and ultimately, as Butler anticipates, responsive to the intertwinement of individual and social aspects of identity formation.

In this regard, I will argue for a performative theory of bodily habitual identity. Performativity amounts neither to a humanist or postmodern voluntarism, nor to a strict social determinism, as Butler herself emphasizes. Rather, performativity is situated between these dualities: between being acted upon and acting; the social and the individual; passivity and activity. Although Butler herself theorizes performativity merely as a linguistic process of signification or citation through which bodies or subjects are made intelligible, her general idea of performativity or the materialization of identity shows many links with the concept of habit formation to be found in the philosophical, and more specifically, phenomenological tradition.

This could render concrete her rather abstract theory of signification and citation by showing how social norms concretely shape bodies in material and phenomenological terms. This means not merely the way they are categorized as either intelligible matter or abject no matter , but how norms through habituation literally become part of what one is or becomes.

Moreover, this comparison could throw light on pre-linguistic forms of identity formation, and on how they might relate to and even found explicit forms of identification. Therefore, I will assume that identity is developed already at a bodily level and that this takes place via the processes of habit formation.

The argument will follow that such a constitution of identity or subjectivity provides a specific form of bodily performativity which in turn corresponds to a habitual identity. My aim is to integrate top-down perspectives that critically investigate how specific identity categories affect particular bodies, and how they can react to this, with bottom-up perspectives that try to define the necessary role of the body for basic forms of identity in general.

This does not mean, however, that she has nothing to say about how individual bodies take on, performatively change, subvert or resist these categories. Footnote 2 Subjective or bodily action thereby appears as something of a re-action in which respective norms are reworked or resisted.

Typical bottom-up accounts, however, such as genetic phenomenological investigations or accounts of enactive and embodied cognitive science, abstract from the concrete social situation and start with an investigation of levels of cognition and experience. In this regard, they focus mostly on lower and practical levels of cognition, like passive temporal organization of consciousness , perceptional and bodily dimensions of experience.

Their aim is to explain how higher, reflective levels of experience and cognition, which includes thinking and language, are grounded in more basic and pre-reflective dimensions of experience. While a top-down account is directed at potentially constraining aspects of identity i. Such a bottom-up approach aims at describing and understanding how any identity can be formed via bodily practices.

The moving, experiencing, and perceiving body or embodied subject is what is in constant interaction with the environment and others. In this relation, it develops a more or less flexible or persistent perceptual style and typical ways of inhabiting and comporting, what can be called, a habitual identity.

I will thereby defend both a weak and strong claim of habitual identity. Respectively, performative bodily practices are needed to acquire a stable identification with existing norms, making room also for the possibility of their individualization and transformation. On top of this, bodily performativity can be deemed necessary for every higher form of identity formation, and thus foundational apropos conceptual and linguistic forms of signification and identification.

In this way, I seek to affirm the general need for identity formation as institution of constancy or unity and individuality bottom-up , while maintaining the particular impact of historical, social and political circumstances top-down.

By way of conclusion, I make a plea for an investigation that combines both a bottom-up and top-down approach to identity formation. Both publications were followed by critical and polemic discussions about the status of biological sex, materiality and embodiment.

Some readers have even gone so far as to argue that Butler denies the material or biological existence of bodies, especially with the claim that gender is something we can somehow choose. De Beauvoir famously argues that female identities are not the instantiations of some universal essence of the feminine, rather, they are directly related to their specific material and social situation as well as to everyday bodily practices.

Footnote 4 In her later and most prominent formulation of performativity, Butler then decides to focus predominantly on linguistic performances and discursive appellations.

She wanted to make clear that performativity meant neither that we can freely choose our gender because it depends on what we do or say voluntarily , nor that we are fully determined by a prevailing discourse or norm.

In this context, Butler argues that the distinction between gender and sex as the distinction between a social phenotype and its corresponding genotype is misleading. Rather, gender and sex are something that materialize gradually through acts of interpellation or signification which represent prevailing normative frameworks. The exemplar, for Butler, is gender identity formation. Concretely, materialization happens through repeated performative acts of naming and signification.

These significations begin even before the birth of a baby and continue in repeated acts of naming the respective gender, achieving ultimately a stabilization of the gender-identity. The biological category of sex is thereby an effect produced within the performative game of signification.

This effect — the illusion that there is a pure, natural, bodily substrate underneath every form of gender identity that in turn verifies it — helps in turn to stabilize and thereby to sediment the heterosexual matrix. The reason for this is to be found in the two conflicting theoretical strands that characterize her theory of performativity, one inspired by Derrida, the other by Lacan Lacan ; Lacan The first strand presents identity formation as a process of citationality: here, identity materializes gradually while continuously transgressing its former meaning.

While the first sketches a gradual and open picture of identity formation, the latter sketches an antagonistic and rigid picture whereby identification is an exclusionary practice with the result of either the right normative identity or no identity at all. A brief reflection on both provides insight into the ambiguity of identity formation qua performativity and the limits of this. Gender signification is necessarily unstable and fragile. The repetition, necessary to preserve a prevailing normative matrix, is also that which transforms it.

Even though such citations are deeply dependent on and determined by already established meanings, they cannot be reduced to it. It is neither an identical reproduction, nor an invention ex nihilo , but a translation into new circumstances of usage, where those meanings might transform.

Linguistic discourses are thus neither stable nor fixed, but remain always fragile and open to transformation. This goes to show that one is not entirely passive or determined by the respective normative frameworks — in fact, one has to actively appropriate them. Within this processes of appropriation lies the possibility for subversions of meaning, like in parody. However, while the fact that we have to repeat or cite is a necessary condition for potential change, it is clearly not a sufficient one cf.

Allen , This potential is highly dependent on the respective circumstances. Another problem, one that it is not quite so clear, concerns whether this subversive potential is more of a side-effect of language-use or can it be the result of intentional and strategic use. Next to the focus on the fragile or subversive aspects of identity formation, that by some were interpreted as postmodern voluntarism Bourdieu , Bordo , Butler emphasizes the productive force of norms or power relations, which by others were understood as overly deterministic Benhabib Foucault Although she claims that the materialization of these norms literally produces the subject itself, the notion of materialization and the subject it produces appear to be reduced to the mere linguistic claims.

Footnote 5 Butler aims to provide a dynamic account of matter, in which matter is not a mere static bedrock hyle that awaits its form , but gradually materializes within and through processes of signification Butler , 3.

She nonetheless fails to conceive of matter as anything more than passive; the dynamic quality of her account of gender identity lies in the linguistic signification of matter. But, Butler does not actually describe the content of material bodies or of matter, only how bodies come to matter.

In this respect, she epistemologically addresses the problem of how and which bodies become intelligible under existing normative frameworks. This is because bodies are only epistemologically accessible when they have already acquired an identity and so, fall under an established identity category.

Bodies that fail to appear as meaningful, then mark the mere limit or outside of the respective normative matrix. Butler is hesitant to posit an absolute outside to the discourse or symbolic order, however. She understands this outside as produced by the same normative order and so, as functioning only in relation to it Butler , 8.

There are some problems to be found with both the deterministic and the voluntaristic reading of Butler. Most pertinently, identity formation is conceptualized merely in the negative. When bodies do matter i. When bodies do not matter, they fall outside the limits of intelligibility altogether. Performativity, for Butler, thus seems to presupposes a constraint that motivates the very processes of repetitive performance.

It conceals its very becoming and presents itself as natural, and hence as a necessary and unchangeable essence. Everyone who does not fit into the prior binary norm must therefore, by definition, be considered unnatural and abnormal, that is, as either pathological, perverse or criminal.

Although Butler herself avoids any normative claims, the subversion of such exclusionary identities are in turn conceived as an ethical aim rooted in the fragility of language in linguistic citationality.

The repetition immanent to linguistic citationality makes possible the re-signification of norms in any order; in every citation, there is the possibility for transformation. An absolute inclusion of all identity forms into the realm of intelligibility is not the desired aim, however, at least according to Butler. In this regard, Butler offers an antagonistic strategy which consists of the de-subjectivication of or resistance to identification.

If we take re-signification and de-subjectivication as mere intrinsic contingencies within the processes of signification and identification, then this would sketch an overly deterministic picture. And yet, if we were to understand re-signification as an explicit strategy of subversion, this seems overly optimistic.

Would we not then have the power to engage in de-signifying strategies and to deny any form of identification altogether? Both strategies therefore seem unsuited for the everyday life of individuals — perhaps it is only an option for privileged academics who are not necessarily in need of social acceptance and recognition Allen ; Ahmed , In her recent book, Notes toward a Performative Theory of Assembly , Butler does make note of this ambivalence.

Here, she argues that every account of performativity is comprised of a dual dimension Butler , 63 and so, she differentiates between a first and second stage of performativity. But, does such choice not itself rely on the internal possibility of subversion in the process of norm repetition? Although this later work clarifies some of the ambiguities of her earlier writings, and explicitly emphasizes the role of the material body, it leaves the main points of criticism in regard to identity intact: a identity is defined in negative terms; b identity formation or resistance is still mostly described in terms of linguistic signification.

While identity formation is a passive inscription, activity or agency can only be found in the resistance of an assigned identity category. Although this is a crucial critique of the danger of all forms of identity politics and -isms, whose political relevance I cannot do justice here, as a general theory of identity formation it does not suffice.

Identity appears here as the mere opposite of any form of individual freedom or agency and so, seems to exclude any positive account of individual or collective identity. When we take the claim seriously that identity is performative, it cannot be reduced to a thematic process of identification or to a mere psychological attachment within a symbolic order. Footnote 7 Rather, one should look at the concrete ways in which bodies are shaped by and rework social norms.

Footnote 8. So, then, if performativity was considered linguistic, how do bodily acts become performative? Norms are not simply imprinted on us …. Rather, they inform the lived modes of embodiment we acquire over time, and those very modes of embodiment can prove to be ways of contesting those norms, even breaking with them.

Butler , In her recent writing of Notes , Butler outlines the dual dimension of performativity and, in doing so, introduces the question of embodied experiences and actions as performative once again. Every affect thus implies a general bodily affectability. The signifying function of the body cannot therefore be reduced to the discursive realm as bodies appear to express norms in their own way, beyond language. In this regard, she poses two related, but different questions: a to what extent are speech-acts simultaneously bodily acts i.

Wehrle

A Succinct Summary of Judith Butler’s “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution”

Judith Pamela Butler [2] born February 24, is an American philosopher and gender theorist whose work has influenced political philosophy , ethics , and the fields of third-wave feminist , queer , [3] and literary theory. Butler is best known for their books Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity and Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex , in which they challenge conventional notions of gender and develop their theory of gender performativity. This theory has had a major influence on feminist and queer scholarship. Butler has supported lesbian and gay rights movements and they have spoken out on many contemporary political issues, [7] including criticism of Zionism , Israeli politics , [8] and their effects on the Israeli—Palestinian conflict. Their mother was raised Orthodox , eventually becoming Conservative and then Reform , while their father was raised Reform.

The chapter then goes on to discuss the major impact that GT has had on feminist theory, queer theory, trans theory, and intersectionality, along with the surprising lack of impact on theories of multiculturalism and identity theory more broadly. Finally the chapter discusses some main criticisms of the book. Keywords: Judith Butler , Gender Trouble , feminism , performativity , identity politics , queer theory , intersectionality , gender , trans. Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription. Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

Barad, K. Meeting the Universe Halfway. Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Duke university Press, Lecturas sobre la performatividad, Madrid, Editorial Egales, , pp. Butler, J. The Performative in the Political.

Agencia crítica y desposesión. La actualidad de la pregunta por la libertad en Judith Butler

In this case, gender is constituted in the mundane acts of the body; the performative acts constitute gender. In other words, gender is not the starting place; it is an identity repeatedly constructed through time, and it is always constructed through the body. You do not have gender first and then choose to perform it; rather, gender is created by the act of your performance. This performance is informed by what is already historically constituted as gender and is performed by the individual through acts of the body.

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Feminist Theatre Studies and Judith Butler’s Critique of Identity

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2 Comments

Alice Г. 06.05.2021 at 16:05

Judith Butler and Subjectivity pp Cite as.

Aaliyah B. 06.05.2021 at 21:05

Performative Acts and Gender. Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory. Judith Butler. Philosophers rarely think about acting in the.

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