The highly influential and controversial post-structuralist philosopher Judith Butler, who is perhaps best known for her 1990 book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, has taken on many issues in her writings, including gender identity, feminist theory, queer theory, nationalism, and war. In her latest book, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (2012), she examines the relationship between Jewishness and Zionism. Butler will speak at Vassar about “Martin Buber's Two Zionisms and the Question of Palestine” on Monday, April 8, at 5:30pm in the Villard Room of the Main Building, free and open to the public. The Department of Religion presents this Frederic C. Wood Lecture free and open to the public, co-sponsored by the programs in Jewish Studies and Women's Studies, as well as the philosophy, political science and English departments.
For her talk Butler will draw upon Jewish philosopher Martin Buber’s 1948 essay that addressed the differences between cultural and political Zionism and advocated a bi-national state in Palestine. From that framework she will explore philosophical concerns about Zionism and the implications of a Zionism based on ethics rather than “deserved goods.”
Butler is the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is also the co-director of the Program of Critical Theory. A recipient of the Andrew Mellon Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in the Humanities, her books include Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France (Columbia University Press, 1987), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge, 1990), Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (Routledge, 1993), The Psychic Life of Power: Theories of Subjection (Stanford University Press, 1997), Excitable Speech (Routledge, 1997), Antigone's Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (Columbia University Press, 2000), Precarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning (2004); Undoing Gender (2004), Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging (with Gayatri Spivak in 2008), Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (2009), and Is Critique Secular? (2009). Butler received her PhD. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1984 on the French reception of Hegel.
Butler received the prestigious Adorno Prize in 2012, named for philosopher and Nazi refugee Theodor Adorno and awarded by the City of Frankfurt, Germany, for achievement in philosophy. Due to her vocal critiques of the state of Israel controversy arose among Jewish groups who protested Butler’s receipt of the prize. Butler is also active in gender and sexual politics and human rights, anti-war politics, and the organization Jewish Voice for Peace.
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