Tea Time with Judith Butler and Jasbir Puar
Big thanks to theorists Butler and Puar for being with us today. I think we can see from both these women’s works that discourse has a huge influence on how we think and in turn function in our society. Both these theorists would agree that discourse can be restrictive, just like ideology or our own personal assimilations into gender. Puar and Butler would both also agree that though discourse can be bad, we should do more than abandon it, we should twist and contort it to fit ourselves; create our own.
For Butler, the human subject is an important aspect of changing the discourse around gender since gender is an epistemological idea created by the human world, it is only fitting that the subjects of that world be used in the process of its changing. In expanding the discourse, Butler is putting the human (individual if you will) at the center of all social relations so that we remove the association of sex organs to socially constructed gender roles as our identity realization. Rather, Butler believes that our identity is a performance and more simply, because gender is an epistemological creation, let’s only associate other epistemological traits of identity to it like our language and our speech and our gestures (all as individuals) and later on the idea of sex because that can also be epistemological. These things are what create our gender, our identity. Through this way, Butler believes that sex is gendered and gender doesn’t need to be fixed like the discourse proclaims.
Puar takes everything Butler theorizes and expands on it, like Butler’s expanding of the old discourse. She focuses more on assemblage and ontology rather than intersectionality and epistemology. While Butler is saying that your identity is a performance of many other epistemological and human realm-ish things like the way you talk and walk, Puar wants to go deeper than that look beneath the speech and gesture that materialize into identity. Puar aims to go back to the organization of the body (not always human) and the small events and matter that happen to create the speech and the gesture. Simply, Puar is looking for the agents that created the actor. If Butler believes that drags are important to the obstruction of gender because of the way they perform their gender, Puar believes that the events that occurred in the drag’s system (of life) are what led them to perform their identity that way. In this we see a shift in priority for these two theorists: for Butler it’s the individual, for Puar it’s the surroundings, the agents. Puar’s method requires a deeper analysis of the forces at work in a system that create matter.
In short, the discourse said “this is this person’s identity because s/he looks a this way;” Butler is saying “no, blah blah is her identity because she speaks and acts a this way;” Puar takes this further and says ” this and this happened, she was exposed to that and that and all those things together assemble her identity.
Q for Puar; You say categories are events but how so? No two events are the same, most can’t be recreated, yet categories are supposed to be shared by many, supposed to cover a lot of ground. Shouldn’t categories be an effect of events?