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Undoing Gender constitutes Judith Butler's recent reflections on gender and sexuality, focusing on new kinship, psychoanalysis and the incest taboo, transgender, intersex, diagnostic categories, social violence, and the tasks of social transformation. In terms that draw from feminist and queer theory, Butler considers the norms that govern and fail to govern gender and sex Undoing Gender constitutes Judith Butler's recent reflections on gender and sexuality, focusing on new kinship, psychoanalysis and the incest taboo, transgender, intersex, diagnostic categories, social violence, and the tasks of social transformation. In terms that draw from feminist and queer theory, Butler considers the norms that govern and fail to govern gender and sexuality as they relate to the constraints on recognizable personhood. The book constitutes a reconsideration of her earlier view on gender performativity from Gender Trouble. In this work, the critique of gender norms is clearly situated within the framework of human persistence and survival. And to "do" one's gender in certain ways sometimes implies "undoing" dominant notions of personhood. She writes about the "New Gender Politics" that has emerged in recent years, a combination of movements concerned with transgender, transsexuality, intersex, and their complex relations to feminist and queer theory.


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Undoing Gender constitutes Judith Butler's recent reflections on gender and sexuality, focusing on new kinship, psychoanalysis and the incest taboo, transgender, intersex, diagnostic categories, social violence, and the tasks of social transformation. In terms that draw from feminist and queer theory, Butler considers the norms that govern and fail to govern gender and sex Undoing Gender constitutes Judith Butler's recent reflections on gender and sexuality, focusing on new kinship, psychoanalysis and the incest taboo, transgender, intersex, diagnostic categories, social violence, and the tasks of social transformation. In terms that draw from feminist and queer theory, Butler considers the norms that govern and fail to govern gender and sexuality as they relate to the constraints on recognizable personhood. The book constitutes a reconsideration of her earlier view on gender performativity from Gender Trouble. In this work, the critique of gender norms is clearly situated within the framework of human persistence and survival. And to "do" one's gender in certain ways sometimes implies "undoing" dominant notions of personhood. She writes about the "New Gender Politics" that has emerged in recent years, a combination of movements concerned with transgender, transsexuality, intersex, and their complex relations to feminist and queer theory.

30 review for Undoing Gender

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Anyone who has read Judy Butler has had to contend with philosophical mind-benders of astonishing brilliance and tortured diction, such as: "What happens to the subject and to the stability of gender categories when the epistemic regime of presumptive heterosexuality is unmasked as that which produces and reifies these ostensible categories of ontology?" Which makes it all the more surprising to run into the same brilliance, the same incisiveness, but this time with a kind of heartrending poetry Anyone who has read Judy Butler has had to contend with philosophical mind-benders of astonishing brilliance and tortured diction, such as: "What happens to the subject and to the stability of gender categories when the epistemic regime of presumptive heterosexuality is unmasked as that which produces and reifies these ostensible categories of ontology?" Which makes it all the more surprising to run into the same brilliance, the same incisiveness, but this time with a kind of heartrending poetry that absolutely cuts to the quick. Like from the first chapter: "Let's face it. We're undone by each other. And if we're not, we're missing something. If this seems so clearly the case with grief, it is only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. It may be that one wants to, or does, but it may also be that despite one's best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other, by the touch, by the scent, by the prospect of the touch, by the memory of the feel." Make of that what you will. That paragraph has been haunting me for days.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Before I read Judith Butler, I would have identified myself as a woman. But she says I'm wrong. At the most basic level I'm not necessarily a woman. Butler sees gender as performance. Butler says anatomy has cultural framing. It is Performance, not an essence. Gender is performed without ones being conscious of it. "Terms that make up ones own gender are outside oneself, beyond oneself in a sociality that has no author." Anatomy and sex have cultural framing. They are not natural, not essential, Before I read Judith Butler, I would have identified myself as a woman. But she says I'm wrong. At the most basic level I'm not necessarily a woman. Butler sees gender as performance. Butler says anatomy has cultural framing. It is Performance, not an essence. Gender is performed without ones being conscious of it. "Terms that make up ones own gender are outside oneself, beyond oneself in a sociality that has no author." Anatomy and sex have cultural framing. They are not natural, not essential, not pre-cultural. You could have fooled me! She says all this in incomprehensible jargon. I guess that's why she's a philosophy professor. Believe it or not, her philosophy has caught on, in college campuses all across the country. Well. I just thought you should know. It was news to me. On the subject of social norms Butler writes "The task of all these movements seems to me to be about distinguishing among the norms and conventions that permit people to breathe, to desire, to love, and to live, and those norms and conventions that restrict or eviscerate the conditions of life itself" and later she says "What is most important is to cease legislating for all lives what is livable only for some, and similarly, to refrain from prescribing for all lives what is unlivable for some." This, at least, makes sense.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Givens

    This one-star rating is probably unfair. Butler certainly made statements I agreed with, and is a widely respected feminist scholar who seems to be very important intellectually. But this book was a flaming heap as far as I'm concerned. In no essay did I ever figure out what she was actually trying to say, because she just rambles all over the place saying random things (using the biggest words possible) and never seems to have a point at all. The assertions I did understand seem actively unhelp This one-star rating is probably unfair. Butler certainly made statements I agreed with, and is a widely respected feminist scholar who seems to be very important intellectually. But this book was a flaming heap as far as I'm concerned. In no essay did I ever figure out what she was actually trying to say, because she just rambles all over the place saying random things (using the biggest words possible) and never seems to have a point at all. The assertions I did understand seem actively unhelpful, like an effort to get everyone to disassociate themselves from their attributes. The book is also almost completely devoid of examples. Maybe this is typical for psychoanalysis and/or philosophy, but I am a historian, so it calls her whole shtick into question for me. I don't buy an argument with no evidence, and what's more, I don't UNDERSTAND an argument with no evidence because there's no real-world situation to hang it onto, no question or problem to which she's proposing a solution. (While I can totally get behind some literary analysis, in fact I am a committed advocate for using fiction and pop culture more in history and other disciplines, an example from a play or a movie DOES NOT COUNT as evidence for the motivations of real people unless you specifically make that link. Just because it happened in a play doesn't mean it represents the whole of humanity.) The whole thing just came off as pretentious. The Joan Scott book I read recently was dense, jargon-heavy, and challenging, but ultimately rewarding because it was written as simply as possible given the subject matter and she chose the specific words she needed. Butler just sounded like she was making stuff up to sound smart, but again, not actually saying anything.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kate Hunc

    Her discussion of what it means to be "human" and socially intelligible made me cry. Specifically: "To be called a copy, to be called unreal, is thus one way in which one can be oppressed. But consider that it is more fundamental than that. For to be oppressed means that you already exist as a subject of some kind... But to be unreal is something else again. For to be oppressed one must first become intelligible. To find that one is fundamentally unintelligible is to find that one has not yet ach Her discussion of what it means to be "human" and socially intelligible made me cry. Specifically: "To be called a copy, to be called unreal, is thus one way in which one can be oppressed. But consider that it is more fundamental than that. For to be oppressed means that you already exist as a subject of some kind... But to be unreal is something else again. For to be oppressed one must first become intelligible. To find that one is fundamentally unintelligible is to find that one has not yet achieved access to the human" (218). Similarly, I appreciated her thoughts on the nature of philosophy in the last essay, "Can the "Other" of Philosophy Speak?".

  5. 5 out of 5

    womanist bibliophile

    Constant conflations of sex with gender. Annoying lack of citations for assertions made. Callous minimisation of child sexual abuse. Abounds in Freudianism (bear in mind Freud had no sound reasoning or empirical evidence for his assertions either). Wilfully obtuse language & writing. A woeful piece of scholarship. Would be risible if it had not become so culturally influential in such a detrimental way.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    I'd heard this was the "accessible" Butler text, which is sorta true, but just remember--it's still Butler. I think perhaps the reason many people find this to be a more engaging text is that Butler's concerns, though densely theoretical, have more immediate 'real life' applications than, say, in Gender Trouble or Bodies that Matter. It seems Butler's become increasingly interested in what it might mean to be an ethical, incoherent/post-modern (ha) subject, and as such, her interests in regulato I'd heard this was the "accessible" Butler text, which is sorta true, but just remember--it's still Butler. I think perhaps the reason many people find this to be a more engaging text is that Butler's concerns, though densely theoretical, have more immediate 'real life' applications than, say, in Gender Trouble or Bodies that Matter. It seems Butler's become increasingly interested in what it might mean to be an ethical, incoherent/post-modern (ha) subject, and as such, her interests in regulatory regimes of gender, sexuality, & co. have shifted to concerns about reconstituting the notion of 'the human' as a way of encountering the other in an ethical way. Secondly, the book is more accessible because the essays included are essentially stand-alone essays--which isn't entirely different to some other texts (Bodies that Matter, in particular), but that the essays are also fairly distinct from one another. So there's a piece on intersexuality; one on the heterosexuality--in question for Butler, obvs.--of kinship systems; one concerning representations of incest, following in light of recent trauma theory; so on and so forth. I was most interested, I think, in Butler's rethinking of the human, and what makes for an unlivable life--this seems particularly resonant, because it navigates the line between theory (she's clearly working through Kristeva's idea of the abject--as well as her own earlier work on abjection in Bodies that Matter) and experience--why is it that some people quite literally are regarded, even if only implicitly, as subhuman? As less worthy of rights, dignity, respect? Butler's challenges have direct impact and the comparatively lucid style on display in this text makes it an often emotionally engaging read. Many people have quoted the "Let's fact it. We are all undone..." passage, and I think rightfully so. If Butler ever had dreams of creative stardom, they're probably most on display in this text--the writing is exciting and sometimes strangely beautiful. Also, there's another great Butler joke about her exhaustion with the phallus, as well as some great "accounts of the self" scattered throughout--I believe in the last chapter, we're offered a picture of Butler as a tweenager; as might be expected, she's not brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack or swooning over the latest Teen Beat sweethearts, but rather, is reading Hegel and Spinoza, and generally being everything I imagined a mini-Butler might be. It's a fabulous text--if you like Butler, grab it. If you hate her, grab it. If you've yet to check Butler out, I tend to agree with many--this is a good starting place.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Maia

    In her introduction to this collection of essays theorist and philosopher Judith Butler states why an ongoing critique of gender norms in not only necessary but vital: "Not so much to celebrate difference as such but to establish more inclusive conditions for sheltering and maintaining life that resists models of assimilation" (pg 4). She calls for trans, intersex and gender nonconforming people "to be treated with the presumption that their lives are and will be not only livable, but also occas In her introduction to this collection of essays theorist and philosopher Judith Butler states why an ongoing critique of gender norms in not only necessary but vital: "Not so much to celebrate difference as such but to establish more inclusive conditions for sheltering and maintaining life that resists models of assimilation" (pg 4). She calls for trans, intersex and gender nonconforming people "to be treated with the presumption that their lives are and will be not only livable, but also occasions for flourishing" (pg 4). "The critique of gender norms must be situated within the context of lives as they are lived and must be guided by the question of what maximizes the possibilities for a livable life, and minimizes the possibility of unbearable life or, indeed, social or literal death" (pg 8). I have no background in philosophy and was unfamiliar with most of the texts and thinkers Butler referenced, as well as some of the academic terms. I still found this a very readable and exciting book. I bought a physical copy so that I could mark it up as I went along, and I anticipate reading it in part or in full again in the future, applying new insights and gaining new meaning.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    I often see people warning potential readers to stay away from Judith Butler due to the 'incomprehensibility' or 'difficulty' of the material. Should the style in which something is written decrease the value? Should all works be written to the same style and standard in order that they are acceptable? Is comprehensibility a so-called valid outcome? Butler addresses the issue of style in the new foreword to Gender Trouble: "It is no doubt strange, and madden-ing to some, to find a book that is not I often see people warning potential readers to stay away from Judith Butler due to the 'incomprehensibility' or 'difficulty' of the material. Should the style in which something is written decrease the value? Should all works be written to the same style and standard in order that they are acceptable? Is comprehensibility a so-called valid outcome? Butler addresses the issue of style in the new foreword to Gender Trouble: "It is no doubt strange, and madden-ing to some, to find a book that is not easily consumed to be “popular” according to academic standards. The surprise over this is perhaps attributable to the way we underestimate the reading public, its capacity and desire for reading complicated and challenging texts, when the complication is not gratuitous, when the challenge is in the service of calling taken-for-granted truths into question, when the taken for grantedness of those truths is, indeed, oppressive." I would argue that easy answers are harmful. Can complex ideas truly be encapsulated in 'straightforward' writing or a simple diagram? Does the reduction of the idea to digestible simplicity remove the nuance? Finally, does simplicity of presentation argue an answer, rather than a question? We claim to have answers to many concepts, and present them as fact, framework, acknowledged truths. Time, space, gender, history, sex. These ideas are often presented in summaries, as answers, as truths - and one would do well to interrogate the cultures and societies that bring forth these truths, these understood facts. Life is a question - a perpetual conversation. Undoing Gender is a conversation. Butler never attempts to answer the complexity of gender; rather she asks question upon question, changing her approach and focus, pulling in new concepts and theories as the book progresses. Butler challenges the legitimacy of recognition of the diversity of being - who recognises? Who regulates? Is recognition harmful or helpful? In recognition, are we reduced to answers, rather than questions? We 'do' ourselves as we do 'gender' - perpetually, over and over, rewriting the self and the understanding of the self. We learn to present ourselves in a discourse that "denies the language [we] might want to use to describe who [we] are, how [we] got here, and what [we] want from this life." Language limits us. Structure is dictated by power. When we 'do' gender, and categorise it using understood norms, do the understood norms apply or are they categories differently interpreted by the individual? When one 'does' woman, as another 'does' woman, is the category 'woman' a convenience and understood norm? If we 'do' woman differently, what is 'woman'? This books gifts us with questions - I have a lifetime of questions. I will 'do' myself and overwrite myself as I live and the world lives alongside me. Will we reach a point when the multiplicity of genders that are done - a multitude, an infinity of genders - will be admitted into the terms that govern reality? Will we develop "a new legitimating lexicon for the gender complexity that we have always been living?"

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nasim

    some sloppy opinions. Butler asks a lot of questions, but barely ever appears too doubtful. Most of the time she isn't interested in providing her answers and opinions - which is what I read other people for. Questions aren't that hard to find alone. A book should provide clearly stated opinions, attempts at answers, rather than end every chapter with more extra issues than before. I can't help thinking she doesn't always want the reader to answer her questions and uses them for the sake of rheto some sloppy opinions. Butler asks a lot of questions, but barely ever appears too doubtful. Most of the time she isn't interested in providing her answers and opinions - which is what I read other people for. Questions aren't that hard to find alone. A book should provide clearly stated opinions, attempts at answers, rather than end every chapter with more extra issues than before. I can't help thinking she doesn't always want the reader to answer her questions and uses them for the sake of rhetorics; that this problem is a stylistic issue she can't help. She seems to avoid concrete judgements; I've just read her book and I know what questions she asks herself, what books she reads and what films she watches, but what does Judith Butler think ? I wasn't particularly interested in the parts dealing with psychoanalysis or her accounts of transgendered people (something I think she could have said much more interesting things on). I loved the fragments on norms, probably because I hadn't read much about the subject before. After reading Undoing Gender, I'd like to know more about Butler's ideas on "being human", something I've never thought about the way she has. I wish she elaborated on the subject, providing some ethical or generally philosophical background. I thought there'd be more about how gender affects one as a person in the social sphere. Perhaps I'll find it in a different text of hers. Some of her points seem obvious, and she's willing to go over and over them in simple language. At other times, she comes out with long and complicated sentences or vague references the reader is expected to understand - and I really don't know who this book is aimed at. I don't think she does herself. Some things I find simple fillers, and others, in chapter 2, I don't understand on the first reading. The chapters are too autonomical in the questions they want (and often don't want) answered, their language, their references. I know varied ways of looking at subjects are often the best, but here it was a little ill-fitting. Every chapter is for someone else, and the last one came out of the blue. It was interesting but I don't think it needed to be there. If she said anything about why she thinks the problems she deals with are philosophically valid, there'd be a point in talking about the two philosophies. I think these problems with unifying make the book hard to be enjoyable to anyone in full. I will be returning to Butler, but I'm certainly critical of her method of writing and of which subjects she chooses to elaborate on.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Aja

    This is another philosophy book on the same lines of the Michel Foucault we just read for class as well. And once again, what she is saying is very important but most of what is said is unattainable by the average reader. After discussing the concepts in class I would have given this book five stars, but I think that if someone picked up this book without that avenue for discussion much of the main concepts and theories would be lost. I think that most of the book was not to get the reader to sub This is another philosophy book on the same lines of the Michel Foucault we just read for class as well. And once again, what she is saying is very important but most of what is said is unattainable by the average reader. After discussing the concepts in class I would have given this book five stars, but I think that if someone picked up this book without that avenue for discussion much of the main concepts and theories would be lost. I think that most of the book was not to get the reader to subscribe to a certain moral or ideal, but more to get the reader to think in a way that they have not before (example: legalization of gay marriage may work as a legitimization of those relationships, but in the end could ostracize other members of the community who were never looking for that type of legitimacy, the real answer maybe something other then marriage for everyone no matter your sexual preference - rather then defining something newly legitimized by something already considered a recognized norm maybe we need to look at the language we currently have). I believe that in the end she is trying to open up new conversation to address old arguments. But if you chose to pick it up, please try chapters 3 and 4. They are very worth the work.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Barney

    I do not understand this book. It feels like the ratio of verbosity to content approaches unfathomable heights. I'm used to being told that I should express myself more simply and I usually respond that there's a reason for my choice of complexity of expression. Here, I find myself on the other side of that fence. I imagine that a large part of my inability to comprehend comes from my complete ignorance of a large part of the terminology and the concepts that Butler builds upon. However, perhaps I do not understand this book. It feels like the ratio of verbosity to content approaches unfathomable heights. I'm used to being told that I should express myself more simply and I usually respond that there's a reason for my choice of complexity of expression. Here, I find myself on the other side of that fence. I imagine that a large part of my inability to comprehend comes from my complete ignorance of a large part of the terminology and the concepts that Butler builds upon. However, perhaps self-indulgently, I also claim that her language is not wired the same way I am, it's not meant to be completely precise so that it is understood even by people who express themselves differently than it: on the contrary, it is quirky, highly stylized and is very much a performance, besides essays on its subject matter, which is gender. I cannot make that distinction myself, not before I read some of the book's sources, especially Foucault, who is mentioned a lot in the first fifth. However, I don't see myself finishing it. Not now, at any rate.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nerita

    I don't agree with everything that the author presents in this book but it is interesting and very good nonetheless. I don't agree with everything that the author presents in this book but it is interesting and very good nonetheless.

  13. 5 out of 5

    jose coimbra

    "If queer theory is understood, by definition, to oppose all identity claims, including stable sex assignment, queer theory's claim to be opposed to the unwanted legislation of identity". "Many people think that grief is privatizing, that it returns us to a solitary situation, but I think it exposes the constitutive sociality of the self, a basis for thinking a political community of a complex order". "Gender is the apparatus by which the production and normalization of masculine and feminine tak "If queer theory is understood, by definition, to oppose all identity claims, including stable sex assignment, queer theory's claim to be opposed to the unwanted legislation of identity". "Many people think that grief is privatizing, that it returns us to a solitary situation, but I think it exposes the constitutive sociality of the self, a basis for thinking a political community of a complex order". "Gender is the apparatus by which the production and normalization of masculine and feminine take place along with the interstitial forms of hormonal, chromosomal, psychic, and performative that gender assumes". "Every time I try to write about the body, the writing ends up being about language". "What is the value of the "common"?"

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    I think my difficulties with this book stem from two areas: 1. We had a week to read this for my class, in addition to several other articles. Judith Butler has never been cited as easy to read, and a read through in one day is certainly not enough time to unpack many of her thought-provoking statements. 2. I kept thinking of LDS church leaders saying that "the family is under attack", and realizing that if that is the case, Judith Butler is on the frontlines of the anti-traditional family side. I think my difficulties with this book stem from two areas: 1. We had a week to read this for my class, in addition to several other articles. Judith Butler has never been cited as easy to read, and a read through in one day is certainly not enough time to unpack many of her thought-provoking statements. 2. I kept thinking of LDS church leaders saying that "the family is under attack", and realizing that if that is the case, Judith Butler is on the frontlines of the anti-traditional family side. Her social agenda seems to be to de-centralize the importance of marriage and families with fathers and mothers, something that I cannot agree with.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Prerna Munshi

    In this, Butler establishes herself as one devout Hegelian - Foucaldian scholar and in the course of making her arguments, she critiques other similar thinkers and their works. She begins this book with a pivotal question as to ‘what kind of lives is livable? What kind of lives is grievable?’, wherein she establishes that in the moment of recognition , we are always undone i.e. we do not continue to stay our previous selves and are thus negated. For Butler, this negation is the very locus of our In this, Butler establishes herself as one devout Hegelian - Foucaldian scholar and in the course of making her arguments, she critiques other similar thinkers and their works. She begins this book with a pivotal question as to ‘what kind of lives is livable? What kind of lives is grievable?’, wherein she establishes that in the moment of recognition , we are always undone i.e. we do not continue to stay our previous selves and are thus negated. For Butler, this negation is the very locus of our recognition and thereafter she extensively studies this experience of becoming ‘undone’ in the context of gender which is simultaneously done to us and done by us. Before the book delves into gender, per say, Butler examines into forms and embodiment of desire, sexuality, sexual difference,fantasy,kinship , psychoanalysis, the prevalent diagnostic practices and has several interesting insights to offer therein. At often times, she also appears abstruse for her complex style of writing and the lose arguments that she makes like for instance, her views on the ‘incest taboo’. The book is not a seminal text on queer theory but she does challenge the heteronormative culture that shapes identity, desire and kinship. Queer theory, for her, opposes the unwanted legislation of identity. Identity, which for her, has been made into one congealed entity , constrained by the enormous machinery of ‘mainstream’ at work...the very mainstream that assumes ‘reality’, ‘truth’ and thus holds power. She denounces upholding marriage for ‘non binary’ togetherness (which invariably every campaign that advocates queer rights does ) because marriage makes a model for social legitimacy and this constrains the sociality of body. Further , marriage, is a heteronormative construct and even when non binary folks undergo the praxis of marriage, they are invariably reduced to a typical heterosexist coupling. Marriage being ‘lawful’ reaps several benefits like parenting, considerable acceptance and thus is instrumental in one’s safer manoeuvring in the socio-cultural framework while for people who are in other arrangements like non-marriage, polyamory etc are stripped of recognition. Its hence imperative to expand the notions of kinship beyond heterosexual frames and she seeks an expansion of Freedom and Justice which for her should also embrace what it couldn’t contain before. For her, the human rights campaign should always uphold the spirit of rearticulation and renegotiation so that a greater diversity could be recognised without being reduced to a heteronormative rhetoric. Butler has a very interesting insight on ‘fantasy’, which according to her, is an articulation of the possible , an extension of the real and thus the foreclosure of fantasy, puts a constraint on the possibility of reality. This foreclosure of fantasy prepares grounds for social death. Thus, people embodying their fantasies are received as ‘unreal’, they are stripped off their subjectivity and are thus illegible and apolitical. She says that the non violent response to the non normative or the Other is to live with its unknowingness and to not strive forming ties of ‘commonality’ with it because ‘commonality’ erases the possibility in the Other and thus forecloses it with our normative knowledge. She upholds ‘cultural translation’ which makes our most fundamental categories vulnerable and brittle in the face of a new episteme and thus rearticulates itself. She takes up the David / Brenda case study to establish the fluidity of gender , the pathologization of a different embodiment and its correction. Butler says that the humannness of David Reimer emerges from the ‘not fully recognisable/disposable/ categorisable’ in him i.e, from the part of his self which is beyond discourse. She critiques ‘diagnosis’ which, on one hand, gives will to the non conforming while on the other, it breaks their will by trying to pathologize their condition and thus reinforcing the very gender norms. She urges for a reevaluation even of the usual binaries saying that there are middle grounds, unintelligible blind spots in them which are ineffable. These are sites of uncertain ontology. For her, sexual difference is not reducible to biology, culture , psyche or societal factors. It is an ontologically indeterminable category which is neither fully given nor fully constructed. Thus, for her, sexual difference offers a high potential site of rearticulation and reaffirmation. The chapters in this book are independent essays. Some are personal. For example , the last essay ‘Can the Other of Philosophy speak?’ Is Butler tracing her evolution as a thinker and how she sees philosophy enriching itself through its Other , an interdisciplinary approach. How philosophy in its institutional form shall always stay confined. However, I dont find its relevance with the other essays. On certain occasions, the book appears repetitive , possibly because these are independent essays revolving around the same arguments and yet quite disjointed. On others, it appears like a needless intellectual gymnastics. While some arguments are radical , others simply dont make any sense even if they may apparently be radical. She also appears to be romanticising the ‘drag culture’ which i feel is both an exploration into one’s fantasies, sexuality , desires , modes of recognition and thus constitutes a political field but it also reinforces the same heteronormative dyad. It required a more careful dissection on her part. Similarly, a few more portions felt half baked. Above all,the ambiguity is worth an indulgence, though.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Ringsmuth

    Some people manage to convince the world of their intelligence by writing long, confusing sentences, full of polysyllables, about an emotionally charged subject. Their claims don't need to be testable, commonsensical or even intelligible. If they're intelligent-sounding, their opacity seems to actually work in the author's favour, perhaps because the reader assumes that their inability to understand is evidence of the author's sophistication. If you'd like to spend some hours under a firehose of Some people manage to convince the world of their intelligence by writing long, confusing sentences, full of polysyllables, about an emotionally charged subject. Their claims don't need to be testable, commonsensical or even intelligible. If they're intelligent-sounding, their opacity seems to actually work in the author's favour, perhaps because the reader assumes that their inability to understand is evidence of the author's sophistication. If you'd like to spend some hours under a firehose of nonsense, I can't recommend this book enough.

  17. 4 out of 5

    John Carter McKnight

    A brilliant but somewhat uneven collection of essays. Your mileage may vary as to what resonates and what's skippable: for me the critiques of Lacanian psychoanalysis definitely fell into the latter category. I'd thought that the Oedipal complex had about the scientific currency of phlogiston; it was astonishing to see that Freud and Lacan arent' dead yet, but beyond that, not a great investment of my time. The remaining essays, however, are sheer gold. A brilliant but somewhat uneven collection of essays. Your mileage may vary as to what resonates and what's skippable: for me the critiques of Lacanian psychoanalysis definitely fell into the latter category. I'd thought that the Oedipal complex had about the scientific currency of phlogiston; it was astonishing to see that Freud and Lacan arent' dead yet, but beyond that, not a great investment of my time. The remaining essays, however, are sheer gold.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Riley Holmes

    Brilliant writing. The essay format is great because once I'm bored with 1 topic she's onto the next. She puts her personality into it despite the "dryness" of the content. I wouldn't read this without a background in French theory. These 2 books provide a good basis: -Irigaray & Deleuze: Experiments in Visceral Philosophy -Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction Hegel's important but I have zero exposure. Recommendations? Brilliant writing. The essay format is great because once I'm bored with 1 topic she's onto the next. She puts her personality into it despite the "dryness" of the content. I wouldn't read this without a background in French theory. These 2 books provide a good basis: -Irigaray & Deleuze: Experiments in Visceral Philosophy -Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction Hegel's important but I have zero exposure. Recommendations?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Morgane

    I didn't read the last essay as I had to return the book to the library. I didn't read the last essay as I had to return the book to the library.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Fosse

    Intended for anyone with an interest in philosophy, psychology, or sociology, this collection of psychoanalysis essays will bring up many questions for its readers as Judith Butler takes us on a journey of what it means to be human, and what it means to live a livable life. Referencing everyone from Freud to Hitler, Butler spends 250 pages discussing these questions with regard to gender differences within society today. Throughout the novel, Butler goes off on many tangents and uses large words, Intended for anyone with an interest in philosophy, psychology, or sociology, this collection of psychoanalysis essays will bring up many questions for its readers as Judith Butler takes us on a journey of what it means to be human, and what it means to live a livable life. Referencing everyone from Freud to Hitler, Butler spends 250 pages discussing these questions with regard to gender differences within society today. Throughout the novel, Butler goes off on many tangents and uses large words, and it’s a very dense read. I feel as though there was a lot of information that wasn’t appropriate for the subject matter (she spends an entire chapter on incest (chapter 7), and how that plays into a heterosexual family structure, and another chapter entirely on confessions (chapter 8), which seemed more like a psychological interpretation than having anything to do with gender). Asking far more questions than she answers, I felt like Butler didn’t really want to showcase her personal opinion, which is partly why I read any book: for the author’s opinion on the subject. While the subject was rarely clear, something that I have to give Butler props for is her ability to reference her sources. Considering this book was more of an academic book, I would suspect there to be some references, but she made sure to have plenty. At the end of the book there is a large works cited page as well, so we can go back and check her sources if need be. Even though she made sure to reference whenever she drew from an outside source, I felt like that was basically the entire book. There were never more than two or three paragraphs of her own writing with her own thoughts. I felt like the book was basically her compiling other people’s opinions and thoughts into an essay and then throwing in a question or two to make us think she’s the one being philosophical. In addition to the book review, we had to do a PowerPoint summarizing the books we chose for my class. In my PowerPoint, the only way for me to simplify her book was to just type out the questions she asks throughout and answer them (or try to answer them anyway) with my own opinions. In conclusion, I personally wouldn’t choose to recommend this book to a friend. While I understand that not all books can be written from first person account (the style I prefer), I would hope that books on intersex or gender studies would at least list more than two real-life stories. I would also hope that they’d have more data. This book had none. I’m sure Butler is a good author, and maybe I’m just bitter that my classmates seem to have chosen a book more interesting to read. The biggest thing I learned from this book, and from the class I’m taking so far, is to research the next book I choose to review so I make an informed choice.

  21. 5 out of 5

    I wish I had eyeballs

    First of all, I wanna point out how confusing it was to me, that even though some pats of the book are completely intelligible, some are weighed down by how liberal she is with using rare, obscure, anglicised Latin words, etc. It's not that she uses technical terms, which is fine, but rather also makes simple thoughts needlessly convoluted. The first thing they tell you at a BA-level English department thesis writing seminar is to write clearly and only use special/rare words when you have to fo First of all, I wanna point out how confusing it was to me, that even though some pats of the book are completely intelligible, some are weighed down by how liberal she is with using rare, obscure, anglicised Latin words, etc. It's not that she uses technical terms, which is fine, but rather also makes simple thoughts needlessly convoluted. The first thing they tell you at a BA-level English department thesis writing seminar is to write clearly and only use special/rare words when you have to for technical terms and accuracy. A suprisingly novice attitude, in my eyes. However, I understood and felt some other thoughts, like being undone by not being recognised in the first few chapters (like lesbians not being punished by law or the public, since their existence was not even acknowledged at certain times in European/American cultures). I also very much appreciated her point that non-hetero, non-man-on-woman sexual harassment reinforces sexual and gender norms, having been in that situation and suffering from this issue. Her chapter about intersex bodies and about Antigone were also more fun and understandable (although the part about Antigone connected to gender a bit too vaguely for me). The chapter called "Bodily Confessions" was interesting, but nothing too life-changing, new, grandiose.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Candy Wood

    Butler’s prose in this book is much clearer than in most works of theory, even with frequent reference to Foucault, Irigaray, Deleuze, Hegel, and many such thinkers. Still, the concepts she discusses make my brain hurt, and I think she would be happy with that, contending that the questions are more valuable than any approximation of answers. Underlying most of the chapters, many of which were published or presented in earlier versions, is the perception that undoing gender requires social trans Butler’s prose in this book is much clearer than in most works of theory, even with frequent reference to Foucault, Irigaray, Deleuze, Hegel, and many such thinkers. Still, the concepts she discusses make my brain hurt, and I think she would be happy with that, contending that the questions are more valuable than any approximation of answers. Underlying most of the chapters, many of which were published or presented in earlier versions, is the perception that undoing gender requires social transformation. When social norms allow people to view certain others as not quite human and therefore not worthy of human rights, grief, or even life itself, the society needs to change: “The point is to try to imagine a world in which individuals with mixed gender attributes might be accepted and loved without having to transform them into a more socially coherent or normative version of gender.” She suggests that continuing to ask the questions from many different disciplinary perspectives could be a way toward that world. Instead of naming new genders, she says, “It is a question of developing, within law, within psychiatry, within social and literary theory, a new legitimating lexicon for the gender complexity that we have always been living.” Much to think about.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    I'm very mixed on this one. There are a lot of Butler haters out there and I kind of get what they mean when they say she is unnecessarily obtuse and verbose, but you just described some of the most read and studied philosophers in the Western Canon. I find her over-reliance on Lacanian psychoanalysis to be tiring and how unsystematic she is in her arguments can be pretty frustrating. Some philosophers can pull off the "postmodern" style but it usually involves either a dose of Nietzsche's anta I'm very mixed on this one. There are a lot of Butler haters out there and I kind of get what they mean when they say she is unnecessarily obtuse and verbose, but you just described some of the most read and studied philosophers in the Western Canon. I find her over-reliance on Lacanian psychoanalysis to be tiring and how unsystematic she is in her arguments can be pretty frustrating. Some philosophers can pull off the "postmodern" style but it usually involves either a dose of Nietzsche's antagonism or Kierkegaard's method of indirect communication. (Butler talks about admiring Kierkegaard and she should take some cues from his techniques.) But there are also a ton of things Butler gets at in this collection of essays that is not only great but indispensable. She questions the hetero-normative basis of contemporary feminist theory. She contextualizes transgender identity and intersex issues in bold and interesting ways. She even wonders about the state of contemporary philosophy. Butler's views challenge those of radical feminists, liberal feminists and socialist and Marxist feminists alike to look at the limitations of their own systems.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    The book is a solid collection of essays outlining Judith Butler's seminal theories on gender. I found it easier to digest than Gender Trouble but still quite esoteric. Butler's chapters on Undiagnosing Gender and kinship are particularly interesting. Butler's writing remains theoretical and does not bring in an intersectional perspective outside of the question of gender performance in most chapters. The book was published before marriage equality became legal in all states so it would be inter The book is a solid collection of essays outlining Judith Butler's seminal theories on gender. I found it easier to digest than Gender Trouble but still quite esoteric. Butler's chapters on Undiagnosing Gender and kinship are particularly interesting. Butler's writing remains theoretical and does not bring in an intersectional perspective outside of the question of gender performance in most chapters. The book was published before marriage equality became legal in all states so it would be interesting to read an updated evaluation of her position on state-defined kinship in 2018.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tara Calaby

    The thing that struck me the most about this collection of essays is just how readable it is in comparison to Gender Trouble. There's a lot of good stuff here, too. Some points really resonated with me, especially in the earlier chapters. She lost me whenever it started to get too psychoanalytical, but that's my own bias. A hard one to rate, because some essays were five stars for me, and a few only two. The thing that struck me the most about this collection of essays is just how readable it is in comparison to Gender Trouble. There's a lot of good stuff here, too. Some points really resonated with me, especially in the earlier chapters. She lost me whenever it started to get too psychoanalytical, but that's my own bias. A hard one to rate, because some essays were five stars for me, and a few only two.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Fatemeh

    In this book, Butler reviews the relation between desire, gender, and one person' recognition in the society. She also discusses how her own thinking has been influenced by “New Gender Politics”, including activism initiated with transgender, transsexuality, intersex, and their complicated relation with queer and feminist theory. According to her, the transition from feminist to queer and trans is complex as there is no written story, and the stories are taking place in the real time. In this book, Butler reviews the relation between desire, gender, and one person' recognition in the society. She also discusses how her own thinking has been influenced by “New Gender Politics”, including activism initiated with transgender, transsexuality, intersex, and their complicated relation with queer and feminist theory. According to her, the transition from feminist to queer and trans is complex as there is no written story, and the stories are taking place in the real time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Schuschu

    Was kind of about trans rights and then went into gay marriage, the Vatican appropriating anti- colonialism to keep international feminism from being unified, and then into asking why philosophy outside of philosophy isn’t legit philosophy. In other words, it should have been titled “This Was Going To Be About Transgenderism But I Forgot”

  28. 4 out of 5

    Layika

    Easy read if you're not a part of the binary. English is not my first language, but I managed to get through the book and understand it easily. It was very familiar to my own experience, thus I didn't have to spend time trying to get what Butler means. Easy read if you're not a part of the binary. English is not my first language, but I managed to get through the book and understand it easily. It was very familiar to my own experience, thus I didn't have to spend time trying to get what Butler means.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tiffeni Russo

    Gender for Dummies Judith Butler‘s seminal work on gender allows even the most uneducated individual to comprehend the overlap between sex and gender and what it means for the LGBT community.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Krystal Peak

    It was more dry and academic than I was expecting. Great read for research and citations but I was hoping for a little more color and life in there.

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