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Feminist Critiques of Judith Butler's Theories

This file contains responses to a request for feminist critiques of Judith 
Butler's theories.  The discussion took place on WMST-L in October 2007.  For
more WMST-L files available on the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection. 
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2007 07:49:01 -0400
From: susan marine <marine AT FAS.HARVARD.EDU>
Subject: critiques of J Butler
Hello, Can anyone point me to  feminist critiques of Judith Butler's theories,  other
than Martha Nussbaum's article, "the  professor of parody"? Thanks in  advance-- send
them to me privately, I'll  collate anything I receive and  send it back to the list

Susan  Marine Director,  
Harvard College Women's Center 
Canaday Hall B entry Harvard Yard 
marine  AT  fas.harvard.edu 
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2007 12:55:20 -0500
From: "MIchael J. Murphy, PhD" <mjmurphy AT WUSTL.EDU>
Subject: Re: critiques of J Butler
Check out  Jay Prosser's  book which  is the  most sustained  critique. Michael  Hatt
recently wrote an article criticizing her argument about Paris is Burning. Will  send
if I  can find.  There's been  a small  cottage industry  of 'butlerian' publications
recently:  readers, comments,  etc. See  Sarah Salih's  and Vicki  Kirby's books  for
example. m

Michael J. Murphy, PhD
Women and Gender Studies Program
Campus Box 1078
Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis MO 63130-4899
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2007 14:42:19 -0400
From: Stephanie Jones <sjjonesster AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: critiques of J Butler
Also Mackinnon's research on hate speech has been contrasted with Butler's ideas 
about hate speech as well. 
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2007 22:43:06 -0700
From: Jo Trigilio <trigilio AT SIMMONS.EDU>
Subject: Re: critiques of J Butler
take a look at "sex positive: feminism, queer theory and the politics of transgression" 
by elisa glick [feminist review, no 60, spring 2000]. 


Jo Trigilio 
Assistant Professor 
Dept. of Women's Studies 
Dept. of Philosophy 
Simmons College 
300 The Fenway 
Boston, MA 02115 
trigilio  AT  simmons.edu 
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2007 17:05:45 -0400
From: susan marine <marine AT FAS.HARVARD.EDU>
Subject: FW: feminist critiques of Judith Butler's work
Hello, below is the compiled list of responses I received to my query about
feminist critiques of Judith ButlerÆs work. In most cases I did not attribute
the author unless it seemed relevant to the suggestion, or unless someone wrote
a long reply that might engage others who would wish to dialogue directly with
that person about it.

Hope this is helpful. Many thanks to all of you who replied!


Susan Marine
Director, Harvard College Women's Center
Canaday Hall B entry Harvard Yard 

1) Nelson, Lise. (1999) Bodies (and spaces) do matter: The limits of
performativity. Gender, Place and Culture. Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 331-354.

2) One example of a critique is an essay published in the Journal of Feminist
Studies in Religion by Jennifer Beste, entitled "The Limits of Poststructuralism
for Feminist Theology" (2006). In it, Beste critiques Butler from the
perspective of trauma theory.

3) "If I'm not mistaken Teresa Ebert has critiques of Judith Butler in her
acclaimed book, Ludic Feminism."

4) "You might want to look into Mary HawkesworthÆs Feminist Inquiry (Rutgers UP,
2006). In her sixth chapter, she argues that Butler, though insisting on the
possibility of multiple identifications and on the complexity of power
relations, still argues that gender is a strategy which has cultural survival at
its end, and that gender performance is a strategy for survival under a
compulsory system (which Hawkesworth claims is ultimately a well-hidden reliance
on biological determinism). Hawkesworth also critiques Butler for making gender
too much an issue of the self, and she also isolates it too easily from class,
race, etc."

5) "Theory in practice-The theory wars or who's afraid of Judith Butler in
Journal of women's history, 10(1) p. 8-19. Team Dean's excellent book Beyond
Sexuality, has a great chapter on Bodies that Mutter :-)

6) take a look at "sex positive: feminism, queer theory and the politics of
transgression" by elisa glick [feminist review, no 60, spring 2000].

7) From Lisa Schwartzman: I saw your posting on the WMST-listserv, and I wanted
to mention an essay of mine in which I offer a critique of Butler's Excitable
Speech (I assume this might be of interest to you because you mentioned that
essay of Nussbaum's). I also discuss Catharine MacKinnon and Rae Langton, and
Butler's use (and mis-use) of J. L. Austin's speech theory. Here's the reference
for the book chapter: Lisa H. Schwartzman, "Speech, Authority, and Social
Context," in Challenging Liberalism: Feminism as Political Critique (Penn State
Press, 2006), pp. 133-157. I should mention, too, that an earlier version of
this essay also appeared under the title "Hate Speech, Illocution, and Social
Context: A Critique of Judith Butler" in Journal of Social Philosophy 33, no. 3
(2002): 421-441.

8) Another colleague wrote "Lisa Schwartzman has a suberb critique of Butler in
her book *Challenging Liberalism: Feminism As Political Critique*.

9) Critique de l'antinaturalisme. Etudes sur Foucault, Butler, Habermas.
StTphane Haber PUF 2006 9) I found this to be very helpful: Barad, Karen.
"Getting Real: Technoscientific Practices and the Materialization of Reality."
Differences 10, no. 2 (1998): 87-128. Barad makes her approach from a different
angle but that's what I found to be most helpful.

10) Prosser is a good suggestion - his book is called Second Skins. Viviane
Namaste's book Invisible Lives critiques pomo queer theory, and takes a few
swipes at butler/butler-type theorizing of transpeople and translives. There
also is a devastating critique of Butler in Lee Edelman's new No Future: Queer
Theory and the Death Drive - he argues she's basically a liberal humanist!!!
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2007 18:40:07 -0400
Subject: Re: FW: feminist critiques of Judith Butler's work
One more to add to this list: Kelly Oliver, Witnessing Beyond Recognition -- here's 
the blurb from BiblioVault http://www.bibliovault.org/BV.book.epl?BookId=4113 

Dr. Lori E. Amy 
Director, Women's and Gender Studies Program 
Georgia Southern University 
Statesboro, GA 30460 
lamy  AT  georgiasouthern.edu 
Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2007 09:37:07 -0600
From: Moira Amado Miller <amadomiller AT USOUTHAL.EDU>
Subject: on critiques of queer theory (previous thread)
Someone on this list recently asked for critiques of Judith Butler.

A student has just brought to my attention an essay called "Virgins and
Queers: Rehabilitating Heterosexuality," by Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson.
[_Gender and Society_, Vol. 8, No3, Sept 1994. pp. 444-462]

Sorry if this is obvious and/or already mentioned, but I hadn't read it until
today, so thought I'd pass it along just in case.

It is less a critique of Butler than of queer theory itself, but I thought the
main critiques of the article were both salient and easy to read ù perhaps
exactly what was being sought in terms of classroom reading (the purpose of
the query, as I recall).

For instance, here's the nutshell thesis: "Althugh queer theory appeals to
those attracted by its sense of possibility, its promise of fun, and its
celebration of pleasure, we find it seriously lacking as a feminist political
strategy" (457).

Back to evaluation of final essays.....

Happy December, 
Moira K. Amado-Miller, PhD 
Department of English 
University of South Alabama 

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