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Judith Butler - Quotes

I think … that we have not yet become human. Or, I might say, in a different way, that the category of the human is in the process of becoming. What constitutes the human is a site of contestation. there are clashing cultural interpretations about what the human ought to be, and that every time you assert human rights, you are also adding to the meaning of what the human is.
Butler, Judith

Like such miraculously resilient characters of the Saturday morning cartoons. Hegel's protagonists always reassemble themselves, prepare a new scene, enter the stage armed with a new set of ontological insights—and fail again.
Butler, Judith.

I think that there are very often provocative encounters that take place in human rights negotiations where different notions of the human have to yield. They have to yield to new notions of the human. And they have to yield to new notions that are promoted in the name of a more expansive, or more universal notion of what the human is. I think currently, we're seeing the US government make an argument that the Guantanomo Bay detainees, Arab-Americans, and Arab immigrants or residents, who have been detained illegally since September 11th, that they are not entitled to certain kind of civil liberties, or that they don't fall under the rubric of international human rights. And I think implicitly we're being told that these humans are not humans in the ordinary sense. Or that they are 'suspected' to not be human in the ordinary sense.
Butler, Judith.

I signed a petition framed in these terms … in which 3700 American Jews opposed the Israeli occupation, though in my view it was not nearly strong enough: it did not call for the end of Zionism, or for the reallocation of arable land, for rethinking the Jewish right of return or for the fair distribution of water and medicine to Palestinians, and it did not call for the reorganisation of the Israeli state on a more radically egalitarian basis.
Butler, Judith.

[There's] an ordinary sense of the human that is sometimes defined by a racial or racist episteme, which has a certain view of what qualifies as a human, who are subjects entitled to certain rights. And so when another so-called human comes along who doesn't fit that, there are authorities, such as the US government, that do not consider these people subjects entitled to human rights — these rights, which we nevertheless deemed universal! So they just commit this extraordinary contradictory act, by which they claim the universality of human rights in one breath, and then they insist on the exceptions to this universality in another. And we have to ask, under what conditions, do certain members of certain populations get targeted as exceptions to that universal. And as long as that continues to happen, we have not yet achieved the human.
Butler, Judith.

We can transpose this into broader questions of identity when people say that there's a certain kind of essential "Americanness," what it is to be an American, what it is to be patriotic, what it is to belong, what the norms are to which you must conform if you are to appear in public, right now, as a patriotic American. Many people in the media have sought to conform to those norms to suppress dissent, to expunge criticism of US policy from the mainstream media, to selectively report on the deaths of Afghanistan, to selectively report on the Mid-East — although some of it is breaking up right now. Many of these self-censoring practices are about trying to produce the US reporter as a kind of foot soldier in the Bush army, and there were several reporters who did define themselves as such, especially after the very tragic murder of Daniel Pearle, the Wall Street Journal reporter.
Butler, Judith.

The very fact that we live with others whose values are not the same of our own, or who set a limit to what we can know, or who are opaque to us, or who are strange, or are partially understood, that just means we live with a kind of humility, that means we are decentered. And that is to say, who I am is not the center of this world. I live in a world in which I am constantly decentered with the differences of others.
Butler, Judith.

[The] place of critique and dissent in democracy and in radical democratic culture is always going to be agonistic, it's always going to be conflictual. And I worry that very unified and conformist, monolithicnotions of what it is to be American at this moment and not only suppressed dissent and conflict, on the one hand, but they also tend to produce certain kinds of images of what Americans look like and what they ought to be like. With the racial profiling practice and the request to be "on alert." And what are we supposed to be "on alert" for? We're supposed to be looking at people who might look vaguely Arab-American and watch their movements. It's kind of patrolling the phantismatic Arab, on the streets and in the cities of the US.
Butler, Judith.

I have to find of cultural translation, modes of encounter, modes democratic participation, which actually work to foster understanding, without mandating unity. And it also means that when I take responsibility it is not a grandiose act, it's not a narcissistic act, in which I am responsible for the entirety of the world. No, I place myself in a vividly decentered way in a world with others, who are their own centers, and which I must understand to live socially, to live democratically, to live in a polity, is always to in some sense be displaced by the subject. It is partially what it is to live in a culturally diverse, democratic culture. But if one finds that the modes of communication and deliberation that allow for that to exist in its complexities, then I think we have the chance to take a kind of collective responsibility. But one cannot take collective responsibility alone. It is something taken with others.
Butler, Judith.

I have recently learned that your organization is compiling dossiers on professors at U.S. academic institutions who oppose the Israeli occupation and its brutality, actively support Palestinian rights of self-determination as well as a more informed and intelligent view of Islam than is currently represented in the U.S. media. I would be enormously honored to be counted among those who actively hold these positions and would like to be included in the list of those who are struggling for justice during these times.
Butler, Judith (Email sent to Campuswatch).

I am much more open about categories of gender, and my feminism has been about women's safety from violence, increased literacy, decreased poverty and more equality. I was never against the category of men.
Butler, Judith. "As a Jew I was taught it was ethically imperative to speak up." in: Haaretz. February 24, 2010.

As a Jew, I was taught it was ethically imperative to speak up.
Butler, Judith. "As a Jew I was taught it was ethically imperative to speak up." in: Haaretz. February 24, 2010.

It seemed that if you were subjugated, there were also forms of agency that were available to you, and you were not just a victim, or you were not only oppressed, but oppression could become the condition of your agency.
Butler, Judith. "As a Jew I was taught it was ethically imperative to speak up." in: Haaretz. February 24, 2010.

If … we distinguish between anti-semitism and forms of protest against the Israeli state … , then we stand a chance of understanding that world Jewry does not see itself as one with Israel in its present form and practice, and that Jews in Israel do not necessarily see themselves as one with the state. In other words, the possibility of a substantive Jewish peace movement depends on our observing a productive and critical distance from the state of Israel.
Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. Verso. May 6, 2004. Hardcover, 160 pages, Language English, ISBN: 1844670058.

There was a brief moment after 9/11 when Colin Powell said “we should not rush to satisfy the desire for revenge.” It was a great moment, an extraordinary moment, because what he was actually asking people to do was to stay with a sense of grief, mournfulness, and vulnerability.
Butler, Judith. "Interview with Judith Butler." in: The Believer. May 2003.

If we think that to criticise Israeli violence, or to call for economic pressure to be put on the Israeli state to change its policies, is to be 'effectively anti-semitic', we will fail to voice our opposition for fear of being named as part of an anti-semitic enterprise. No label could be worse for a Jew, who knows that, ethically and politically, the position with which it would be unbearable to identify is that of the anti-semite.
Butler, Judith. ”No, it's not anti-semitic.” in: London Review of Books. Vol. 25, No. 16, August 21, 2003. (English).

A challenge to the right of Israel to exist can be construed as a challenge to the existence of the Jewish people only if one believes that Israel alone keeps the Jewish people alive or that all Jews invest their sense of perpetuity in the state of Israel in its current or traditional forms.
Butler, Judith. ”No, it's not anti-semitic.” in: London Review of Books. Vol. 25, No. 16, August 21, 2003. (English).

Indeed, even if one believed that criticisms of Israel are by and large heard as anti-semitic (by Jews, anti-semites, or people who could be described as neither), it would become the responsibility of all of us to change the conditions of reception so that the public might begin to distinguish between criticism of Israel and a hatred of Jews.
Butler, Judith. ”No, it's not anti-semitic.” in: London Review of Books. Vol. 25, No. 16, August 21, 2003. (English).

For a criticism of Israel to be taken as a challenge to the survival of the Jews, we would have to assume not only that 'Israel' cannot change in response to legitimate criticism, but that a more radically democratic Israel would be bad for Jews. This would be to suppose that criticism is not a Jewish value, which clearly flies in the face not only of long traditions of Talmudic disputation, but of all the religious and cultural sources that have been part of Jewish life for centuries.
Butler, Judith. ”No, it's not anti-semitic.” in: London Review of Books. Vol. 25, No. 16, August 21, 2003. (English).

It seems, though, that historically we have now reached a position in which Jews cannot legitimately be understood always and only as presumptive victims.
Butler, Judith. ”No, it's not anti-semitic.” in: London Review of Books. Vol. 25, No. 16, August 21, 2003. (English).

No political ethics can start from the assumption that Jews monopolise the position of victim. 'Victim' is a quickly transposable term: it can shift from minute to minute, from the Jew killed by suicide bombers on a bus to the Palestinian child killed by Israeli gunfire. The public sphere needs to be one in which both kinds of violence are challenged insistently and in the name of justice.
Butler, Judith. ”No, it's not anti-semitic.” in: London Review of Books. Vol. 25, No. 16, August 21, 2003. (English).

The argument that all Jews have a heartfelt investment in the state of Israel is untrue. Some have a heartfelt investment in corned beef sandwiches or in certain Talmudic tales, religious rituals and liturgy, in memories of their grandmother, the taste of borscht or the sounds of the old Yiddish theatre. Others have an investment in historical and cultural archives from Eastern Europe or from the Holocaust, or in forms of labour activism, civil rights struggles and social justice that are thoroughly secular, and exist in relative independence from the question of Israel.
Butler, Judith. ”No, it's not anti-semitic.” in: London Review of Books. Vol. 25, No. 16, August 21, 2003. (English).

What is ironic is that … equating Zionism with Jewishness, … is adopting the very tactic favoured by anti-semites.
Butler, Judith. ”No, it's not anti-semitic.” in: London Review of Books. Vol. 25, No. 16, August 21, 2003. (English).

… It is important to distinguish between anti-semitic speech which, say, produces a hostile and threatening environment for Jewish students — racist speech which any university administrator would be obliged to oppose and regulate — and speech which makes a student uncomfortable because it opposes a particular state or set of state policies that he or she may defend. The latter is a political debate, and if we say that the case of Israel is different, that any criticism of it is considered as an attack on Israelis, or Jews in general, then we have singled out this political allegiance from all other allegiances that are open to public debate. We have engaged in the most outrageous form of 'effective' censorship.
Butler, Judith. ”No, it's not anti-semitic.” in: London Review of Books. Vol. 25, No. 16, August 21, 2003. (English).

Indeed, if the charge of anti-semitism is used to defend Israel at all costs, then its power when used against those who do discriminate against Jews — who do violence to synagogues in Europe, wave Nazi flags or support anti-semitic organisations — is radically diluted. Many critics of Israel now dismiss all claims of anti-semitism as 'trumped up', having been exposed to their use as a way of censoring political speech.
Butler, Judith. ”No, it's not anti-semitic.” in: London Review of Books. Vol. 25, No. 16, August 21, 2003. (English).

If one can't voice an objection to violence done by Israel without attracting a charge of anti-semitism, then that charge works to circumscribe the publicly acceptable domain of speech, and to immunise Israeli violence against criticism. One is threatened with the label 'anti-semitic' in the same way that one is threatened with being called a 'traitor' if one opposes the most recent US war. Such threats aim to define the limits of the public sphere by setting limits on the speakable. The world of public discourse would then be one from which critical perspectives would be excluded, and the public would come to understand itself as one that does not speak out in the face of obvious and illegitimate violence.
Butler, Judith. ”No, it's not anti-semitic.” in: London Review of Books. Vol. 25, No. 16, August 21, 2003. (English).

I think politically it is the bankrupcy of the politics of identity and the showing that we have to think coalitionally to get things done. That it doesn't matter with whom we sleep with. The queer movement was anti institutional with a critique to normalization: that you don't have to get normal to become legitimate.
Butler, Judith and Regina Michalik (Interviewer). ”The Desire for Philosophy. Interview with Judith Butler.” in: Lola Press. May 2001. (English).

My understanding of queer is a term that desires that you don't have to present an identity card before entering a meeting. Heterosexuals can join the queer movement. Bisexuals can join the queer movement. Queer is not being lesbian. Queer is not being gay. It is an argument against lesbian specificity: that if I am a lesbian I have to desire in a certain way. Or if I am a gay I have to desire in a certain way. Queer is an argument against certain normativity, what a proper lesbian or gay identity is.
Butler, Judith and Regina Michalik (Interviewer). ”The Desire for Philosophy. Interview with Judith Butler.” in: Lola Press. May 2001. (English).

Sexual harassment law is very important. But I think it would be a mistake if the sexual harassment law movement is the only way in which feminism is known in the media.
Butler, Judith and Regina Michalik (Interviewer). ”The Desire for Philosophy. Interview with Judith Butler.” in: Lola Press. May 2001. (English).

It is almost always the notion that America knows what human rights are despite its own racist culture — and they really export this. The others have to be grateful for this exportation. I think it has to deal with cultural translation: how we come across what it means to learn not just another language, but another political idiom, how people organize, how they function politically, how they make their claims.
Butler, Judith and Regina Michalik (Interviewer). ”The Desire for Philosophy. Interview with Judith Butler.” in: Lola Press. May 2001. (English).

I am a nice Jewish girl from the Midwest who has quite a good education. My family was from Hungary and from Russia. And they maintained ties to Europe. And many of my family lived here through the 30ths and died in the War. My grandmother was always very clear that I should go back to Europe to study and so I came to study in Heidelberg in 1979. My mother and her generation were worried whether I should go to Germany and that could be difficult being Jewish. But my grandmother said: "Yes, you go to Germany. Jews always went to study in Prague, in Berlin, yes, you go!"
Butler, Judith and Regina Michalik (Interviewer). ”The Desire for Philosophy. Interview with Judith Butler.” in: Lola Press. May 2001. (English).

I have always been very worried about hops of feminism who are highly regulative or repressive towards. I am against normativities and for sexual freedom. I always hated this saying that feminism is the theory and lesbianism must be the practice.
Butler, Judith and Regina Michalik (Interviewer). ”The Desire for Philosophy. Interview with Judith Butler.” in: Lola Press. May 2001. (English).

I wanted to work out how a norm actually materialises a body, how we might understand the materiality of the body to be not only invested with a norm, but in some sense animated by a norm, or contoured by a norm.
Butler, Judith and Regina Michalik (Interviewer). ”The Desire for Philosophy. Interview with Judith Butler.” in: Lola Press. May 2001. (English).

I am living in Northern California. I live in heaven. But even I had to be denied by the social service agency that considered me as they had no category for me when I adopted my son. They said: 'You look like a great parent. But we don't have a category for lesbians to adopt. So we can't accept you.' And the judge had to overturn the denial. So in my case I was lucky. But I could have been in another part of California where the judge says no.
Butler, Judith and Regina Michalik (Interviewer). ”The Desire for Philosophy. Interview with Judith Butler.” in: Lola Press. May 2001. (English).

I never expected my work to be read by very many people. I am dense, I am abstract, I am esoteric. Why should I become popular? But politically it is important that people ask the question 'what is possible' and believe in possibility. Because without the motion of possibility there is no motion forward. The idea that people might live their gender in a different way, or they might live their sexuality in a different way, that there might be room for a livable sustainable pleasurable happy politically informed life out of the closet.
Butler, Judith and Regina Michalik (Interviewer). ”The Desire for Philosophy. Interview with Judith Butler.” in: Lola Press. May 2001. (English).

My thesis' on social construction seems to be very frightening to people: the idea that sex is culturally constructed. They seem to fear that I am evacuating any notion of the real, that I make people think that their bodies are not real or that sexual differences are not real. They believe that I am too charismatic and that I am seducing the young.
Butler, Judith and Regina Michalik (Interviewer). ”The Desire for Philosophy. Interview with Judith Butler.” in: Lola Press. May 2001. (English).

In the last few years, a small, culturally conservative academic journal has gained public attention by showcasing difficult sentences written by intellectuals in the academy … the whole exercise hints at a serious question about the relation of language and politics: why are some of the most trenchant social criticisms often expressed through difficult and demanding language?
Butler, Judith. ”A 'Bad Writer' Bites Back.” in: New York Times. March 20, 1999. p. A27. (English).

… Race and class are rendered distinct analytically only to produce the realization that the analysis of the one cannot proceed without the other. A different dynamic it seems to me is at work in the critique of new sexuality studies.
Butler, Judith (Conference.) "Left Conservatism, II." in: Theory & Event. Vol.2, Issue 2, 1998.

[There] is no political position that follows necessarily from anti-foundationalism, nor does it necessary destroy a politics. Its relationship to political formations strikes me as very different. It cannot be a foundation. This is an important point. If anti-foundationalism is what secured a politics, it would be taking the place of a foundation. If it is that which destroys a politics, it would still be in the place of that which ought to be a foundation. In other words, the whole debate concerning the politics of anti-foundationalism takes place within a foundationalist imaginary, which I think is the problem.
Butler, Judith (Conference.) "Left Conservatism, II." in: Theory & Event. Vol.2, Issue 2, 1998.

[Is] one's material livelihood not at issue in those instances in which lesbians and gays are rigorously excluded from state sanctioned notions of the family [not that I think we should all be included], but certainly when they are stopped at the border, deemed inadmissible to citizenship, selectively denied the status of freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly, denied the [questionable] benefit of being a member of the military who might speak his or her desire, deauthorized by the law to make emergency medical decisions about one's dying lover, to receive the property of own's dead lover, to have received from the hospital the body of one's dead lover?
Butler, Judith (Conference.) "Left Conservatism, II." in: Theory & Event. Vol.2, Issue 2, 1998.

A serious misunderstanding has taken place. Calling the foundational status of a term into question does not censor the use of the term. It seems to me that to call something into question, to call into question its foundational status, is the beginning of the reinvigoration of that term. What can such terms mean, given that there is no consensus on their meaning? How can they be mobilized, given that there is no way that they can be grounded or justified in any kind of permanent way. What is the task for politics when it invariably must use terms, must use the language of universality, for instance, precisely when the conventional usages of the term do not include the radical democratic uses of the term one has in mind for the term?
Butler, Judith (Conference.) "Left Conservatism, II." in: Theory & Event. Vol.2, Issue 2, 1998.

If we were to say there is a certain point at which intellectual interrogation of a category must stop because we must use it, what have we done? We have, at that moment, premised our politics on anti-intellectualism. We've paralyzed ourselves at that moment, because we make use of a category that we cannot possibly believe in, that we cannot possibly discuss, that we may not radically interrogate. That kind of self-censoriousness is a terrible, terrible move.
Butler, Judith (Conference.) "Left Conservatism, II." in: Theory & Event. Vol.2, Issue 2, 1998.

[The] cultural Leftism has somehow abandoned the project of Marxism, and … it fails to address questions of economic equity and redistribution, and it fails to situate culture in terms of a systematic understanding of social and economic modes of production, … the cultural focus of Left politics has splintered the Left into identitarian sects, and … we have lost a set of common ideals and goals, a sense of a common history, common set of values, language and we've lost objective and universal modes of rationality.
Butler, Judith (Conference.) "Left Conservatism, II." in: Theory & Event. Vol.2, Issue 2, 1998.

[The] state produces hate speech, and by this I do not mean that the state is accountable for the various slurs, epithets, and forms of invective that currently circulate throughout the population; I mean only that the category cannot exist without the state's ratification, and this power of the state's judicial language to establish and maintain the domain of what will be publically speakable suggests that the state plays much more than a limiting function in such decisions; in fact, the state actively produces the domain of publically acceptable speech, demarcating the line between the domains of the speakable and the unspeakable, and retaining the power to make and sustain that consequential line of demarcation.
Butler, Judith. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. Routledge. February 1997. Hardcover, Language English, ISBN: 0415915872.

The inflated and efficacious utterance attributed to hate speech in some of the politicized contexts discussed above is itself modeled on the speech of a sovereign state, understood as a sovereign speech act, a speech act with the power to do what it says. This sovereign power is attributed to hate speech when it is said to deprive us of rights and liberties. The power attributed to hate speech is a power of absolute and efficacious agency--performativity and transitivity at once (it does what it says and it does what it says it will do to the one addressed by the speech). This power of legal language is that to which we refer when we call upon the state to effect the regulation of offensive speech. The problem, then, is not that the force of the sovereign performative is wrong, but when used by citizens it is wrong, and when the state intervenes with its citizens, the force of the performative is, in these contexts, right.
Butler, Judith. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. Routledge. February 1997. Hardcover, Language English, ISBN: 0415915872.

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
Butler, Judith. ”Further Reflections on Conversations of Our Time.” in: Diacritics. Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 13-15, Spring 1997. (English).

I think that every sexual position is fundamentally comic.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

I would say that I'm a feminist theorist before I'm a queer theorist or a gay and lesbian theorist.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

Some people would say that we need a ground from which to act. We need a shared collective ground for collective action. I think we need to pursue the moments of degrounding, when we're standing in two different places at once; or we don't know exactly where we're standing; or when we've produced an aesthetic practice that shakes the ground. That's where resistance to recuperation happens. It's like a breaking through to a new set of paradigms.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

When the woman in the audience at my talk said "I survived lesbian feminism and still desire women", I thought that was a really great line, because one of the problems has been the normative requirement that has emerged within some lesbian-feminist communities to come up with a radically specific lesbian sexuality.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

Lesbians make themselves into a more frail political community by insisting on the radical irreducibility of their desire. I don't think any of us have irreducibly distinct desires.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

It is important to understand performativity — which is distinct from performance — through the more limited notion of resignification. I'm still thinking about subversive repetition, which is a category in Gender Trouble, but in the place of something like parody I would now emphasise the complex ways in which resignification works in political discourse.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

It is important to distinguish performance from performativity: the former presumes a subject, but the latter contests the very notion of the subject. The place where I try to clarify this is toward the beginning of my essay "Critically Queer", in Bodies that Matter, I begin with the Foucauldian premise that power works in part through discourse and it works in part to produce and destabilise subjects. But then, when one starts to think carefully about how discourse might be said to produce a subject, it's clear that one's already talking about a certain figure or trope of production. It is at this point that it's useful to turn to the notion of performativity, and performative speech acts in particular — understood as those speech acts that bring into being that which they name. This is the moment in which discourse becomes productive in a fairly specific way. So what I'm trying to do is think about the performativity as that aspect of discourse that has the capacity to produce what it names. Then I take a further step, through the Derridean rewriting of Austin, and suggest that this production actually always happens through a certain kind of repetition and recitation. So if you want the ontology of this, I guess performativity is the vehicle through which ontological effects are established. Performativity is the discursive mode by which ontological effects are installed. Something like that.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

People then go on to think that if gender is performative it must be radically free. And it has seemed to many that the materiality of the body is vacated or ignored or negated here — disavowed, even. … So what became important to me in writing Bodies that Matter was to go back to the category of sex, and to the problem of materiality, and to ask how it is that sex itself might be construed as a norm.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

There's a very specific notion of gender involved in compulsory heterosexuality: a certain view of gender coherence whereby what a person feels, how a person acts, and how a person expresses herself sexually is the articulation and consummation of a gender. It's a particular causality and identity that gets established as gender coherence which is linked to compulsory heterosexuality. It's not any gender, or all gender, it's that specific kind of coherent gender.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

One of the problems with homosexuality is that it does represent psychosis to some people. Many people feel that who they are as egos in the world, whatever imaginary centres they have, would be radically dissolved were they to engage in homosexual relations. They would rather die than engage in homosexual relations. For these people homosexuality represents the prospect of the psychotic dissolution of the subject. How are we to distinguish that phobic abjection of homosexuality from what Zizek calls the real — where the real is that which stands outside the symbolic pact and which threatens the subject within the symbolic pact with psychosis?
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

What's needed is a dynamic and more diffuse conception of power, one which is committed to the difficulty of cultural translation as well as the need to rearticulate "universality" in non-imperialist directions. This is difficult work and it's no longer viable to seek recourse to simple and paralysing models of structural oppression. But even her, in opposing a dominant conception of power in feminism, I am still "in" or "of" feminism. And it's this paradox that has to be worked, for there can be no pure opposition to power, only a recrafting of its terms from resources invariably impure.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

… [The] theory of performativity was originally a theory of gender, about how gender is performed, how gender is enunciated and articulated and how it's done in relationship to certain kinds of norms. Performativity, in the work which I elaborated most fully, probably has to do with becoming a man or becoming a woman, or becoming something else, where the norms of man or woman are hegemonic and one has to negotiate them, either through replicating them and resignifying them or by crossing them or confusing them, or vacating them, or posing them many different relations.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

What's interesting is that this voluntarist interpretation, this desire for a kind of radical theatrical remaking of the body, is obviously out there in the public sphere. There's a desire for a fully phantasmatic transfiguration of the body. But no, I don't think that drag is a paradigm for the subversion of gender. I don't think that if we were all more dragged out gender life would become more expansive and less restrictive. There are restrictions in drag. In fact, I argued … that drag has its own melancholia.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

I oppose the notion that the media is monolithic. It's neither monolithic nor does it act only and always to domesticate. Sometimes it ends up producing images that it has no control over. This kind of unpredictable effect can emerge right out of the centre of a conservative media without an awareness that it is happening. There are ways of exploiting the dominant media. The politics of aesthetic representation has an extremely important place.
Butler, Judith, Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal (Interviewers). "Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler." in: Radical Philosophy. 1994.

What is at stake is less a theory of cultural construction than a consideration of the scenography and topography of construction. This scenography is orchestrated by and as a matrix of power that remains disarticulated if we presume constructedness and materiality as necessarily oppositional notions.
Butler, Judith. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of 'Sex'. Routledge. London, New York, October 1993. Paperback, 288 pages, Language English, ISBN: 0415903661.

Indeed it may be only by risking the incoherence of identity that connection is possible.
Butler, Judith. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of 'Sex'. Routledge. London, New York, October 1993. Paperback, 288 pages, Language English, ISBN: 0415903661.

Perhaps the promise of phallus is always dissatisfying in some way.
Butler, Judith and Sarah Salih (Co-Editor). "The Lesbian Phallus and the Morphological Imaginary" (1993), later published in: The Judith Butler Reader 2004.

Gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself.
Butler, Judith and Dian Fuss (Editor)."Imitation and Gender Insubordination" in: Inside/Out. 1991.

There is no original or primary gender a drag imitates, but gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge. November 15, 1989. Paperback, 192 pages, Language English, ISBN: 0415900433.

There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender…Identity is performatively constituted by the very 'expressions' that are said to be its results.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge. November 15, 1989. Paperback, 192 pages, Language English, ISBN: 0415900433.

Gender is not something that one is, it is something one does, an act… a "doing" rather than a "being".
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge. November 15, 1989. Paperback, 192 pages, Language English, ISBN: 0415900433.

There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very "expressions" that are said to be its results.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge. November 15, 1989. Paperback, 192 pages, Language English, ISBN: 0415900433.