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Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly - Mary Flexner Lectures of Bryn Mawr College (Hardback)
  • Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly - Mary Flexner Lectures of Bryn Mawr College (Hardback)
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Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly - Mary Flexner Lectures of Bryn Mawr College (Hardback)

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Hardback 256 Pages / Published: 13/11/2015
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Judith Butler elucidates the dynamics of public assembly under prevailing economic and political conditions, analyzing what they signify and how. Understanding assemblies as plural forms of performative action, Butler extends her theory of performativity to argue that precarity-the destruction of the conditions of livability-has been a galvanizing force and theme in today's highly visible protests. Butler broadens the theory of performativity beyond speech acts to include the concerted actions of the body. Assemblies of physical bodies have an expressive dimension that cannot be reduced to speech, for the very fact of people gathering "says" something without always relying on speech. Drawing on Hannah Arendt's view of action, yet revising her claims about the role of the body in politics, Butler asserts that embodied ways of coming together, including forms of long-distance solidarity, imply a new understanding of the public space of appearance essential to politics. Butler links assembly with precarity by pointing out that a body suffering under conditions of precarity still persists and resists, and that mobilization brings out this dual dimension of corporeal life. Just as assemblies make visible and audible the bodies that require basic freedoms of movement and association, so do they expose coercive practices in prison, the dismantling of social democracy, and the continuing demand for establishing subjugated lives as mattering, as equally worthy of life. By enacting a form of radical solidarity in opposition to political and economic forces, a new sense of "the people" emerges, interdependent, grievable, precarious, and persistent.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674967755
Number of pages: 256
Weight: 408 g
Dimensions: 210 x 140 x 25 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
Judith Butler wonderfully analyzes the power and promise of assembly, particularly the assembly of precarious populations, and in doing so offers a lucid and exciting analysis of contemporary forms of activism. This is a thinker at the height of her intellectual powers.--Michael Hardt, co-author of Commonwealth
Judith Butler has written a vital, timely, and moving book that shines new light on the collective dimension of dissent. Instead of upholding the false division between thought and action, she recognizes that radical ideas are necessarily embodied. All over the world people are rising up and saying no to police violence, racial and gender discrimination, ecological devastation, austerity, and precarity. This powerful book is for anyone who has ever assembled with others to demand a more just and equal future.--Astra Taylor, author of The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age
In effect, Butler has written a manifesto against the privatization and individuation of political cultures. Butler's elegant and detailed philosophical reflections engage seriously and deeply with the writing of Arendt and some of the debates around humanity and social and political ontology that her work has generated. This is a profound and brief but very ambitious book. It is challenging but not dense, as lucid as it is timely.--Paul Gilroy, author of Darker than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture
[An] intellectual enquiry of public assembly politics...The book questions the role and aspects of public assembly, performative space and the performing body...While Notes Toward A Performative Theory of Assembly posits and comments upon a range of substantial material in a relatively compact space, the writing and ideas are far from impenetrable; rather, Butler writes in an uncomplicated manner about significant ideas. The book should be read by anyone interested in political science, human rights, social activism, critical theory, gender studies, socio-legal studies and philosophy, as well as those who themselves are part of contemporary movements.-- (02/09/2016)
Conceptually rich... Writing in response to the powerful wave of mass movements whose defining characteristic often involves people sitting or standing in the same place--Gezi Park, Tahrir Square, Occupy, etc.--Butler argues that freedom of assembly is an inextricable part of freedom of expression. And freedom of assembly is coming under increasing assault, in part because the very spaces in which people are assembling to voice their protest (which is often simply the demand for a decent life) are the ones under threat from capitalist regimes bent on privatizing public space, public goods and services, and on the violent enactment and enforcement of the private sphere... Like all of Butler's works, Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly is a heady immersion into the thought of one of today's most profound philosophers of action... This is a call for a truly transformative politics, and its relevance to the fraught struggles taking place in today's streets and public spaces around the world cannot be denied. For those seeking a way to reconcile the waves of refugees, the alternating violence and silence of the streets, and the democratic ideals many of us have been raised to hold, Butler offers if not a way then the beginnings of a coherent way to think about it.-- (11/16/2015)
A work that stands out as perhaps Butler's most concerted attempt to make sense of constructive human agency...Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly is nonetheless Butler's most lucid and successful attempt to show that her views need not lead to 'quietism and retreat, ' and that they have always contained the seeds of a rich and important, positive contribution to political thought. Unlike some of her earlier works, this book is genuinely accessible to the intelligent student of political life who is not steeped in the abstruse and difficult claims of contemporary literary theory and cultural studies...Ultimately, Butler's project in Notes Toward a Performative Theory is valuable not only for its potential to rehabilitate humanism, but also for the clarity with which it requires the reader to recognize the political importance of contemporary media--perhaps especially social media--for the ways they have altered ethical and political domains.-- (09/01/2016)

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