Butler Judith Excitable Speech A Politics of the Performative 1997
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A Po~itics of the Performative ·: ::: =·;· =· ,·,:-~·;·~=·:=:=·::-::·<:=·:: .. =::=::=::~>: ::::,:;:~:i>:::::·:;:::;::::::::~-=;::\:t-:\:=~<:;:~;; :--:·.-... :::,~:~~'::? .... _~::~::::~~~;L~~~::~L:,~.~~~~~>: :,_ ... PHILDS DPHY 1 POLITICS I CULTURAL nJ~1i$ '"' '' "'F£'1;cl'~~jC~~f ~· .. .··· .· .. · ........ ···\u2022· <II);;;;;;;;;;;;·;!. "This sober and subtle work draws us into the dark heart of a world wh~r~ Wllrd~ l~= ~ images enrage, and speech is haunted by hate. Butler intervenes brilliantly in an ari;Cj · ·~ that tests the limits of both legal claims and linguistic acts. She explores the link b;,.c;; . ~ 'reasons' of state and the passions of personhood as she meditates on utterance as a::·~= ~ incitement, excitement, and injury. There is a fine urgency here that expands our i:_,-- ~ sta_ndin~ of the_ place of the 'affective' in the realm of public events." ~HomiB:·'-:\u2022· · ~ Umvers\u2022ty of Ch1cago . ,, OJ = .. .......... =:::1 === 0 "Judith Butler has brilliantly challenged us to rethink our conventional ideas about the .,,_,~-- of speech. As is to be expected of Butler, Excitable Speech is original, witty, and iucidly argued. This book is essential reading for anyone concerned with the politics of free speech." -Oruci/la Cornell, Rutgers University School of Law "If to speak is to act, what follows? In this shrewd and compelling book, Judith Butler takes up the thorniest problems of our day concerning the relation between speech and action, such as hate speech, pornography, and the military's policy that makes a declaration of homosexuality a punishable act. Her analyses are brilliant engagements that refuse to oversimplify and that show us that politics requires serious thinking." -Jonathan Culler, Cornell University "Flag burning and cross burning; pornography and coming out; racial taunts and AIDS educa- tion; using 'race blind' : this book will provide constitutional and legislative debates about regulating these forms of 'injurious speech' with a brilliantly nuanced analysis of language as action. Butler has provided us with a sustained demonstration that we should fill in the moat that separates law schools from the human sciences, and quickly." -Janet E. Halley, Stanford Law School "In this relentlessly intelligent analysis of hate speech, Judith Butler proposes a speech act theory of verbal injury that is not dependent on the grammar of accountability. Cautioning against recourse to state speech to regulate hate speech, Butler argues that, since naming constitutes as well as devastates, injury cannot be cleanly and legalistically separated from recognition. This gives hate speech so much power to wound, but also what opens a space for turning misnaming to new purposes. There is never a slack moment in this brilliant book~" -Barbara Johnson, Harvard University Judith Butler is Chancellor's Professor in the departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also the author of Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter, co-author of Feminist Contentions, and co-editor !with Joan W. Scotti of Feminists Theorize the Political All are available from Routledge. 8 ~ 29 West 35th Street i=! New York, NY 10001 ~ ~ 11 New Fetter Lane ISBN 0-415-91588-0 ~ 11111111111111111111111111111111 il1~1111~1r 1Excitable Speech 1 A Politics of the Performative Judith Butler Routledge New York & London Published in 1997 by Rourledge 29West 35th Street New York, NY 10001 Published in GTeat Britain by Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane London EC4P 4EE Copyright© 1997 by Roudedge Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utifued in any fOrm or by any electronic. mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Butler, judith P. Excitable speech: a politics of the performative I Judith Buder p. em. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-415-91587-2 (he.) - ISBN 0-415-91588-0 (pbk.) I. Oral communication-Social aspects. 2. Hate speech. 3. Speech acts (Unguistics). 4. Language and languages-Political aspects. I. Tide. P95.54.B88 1996 302.2'242-dc21 96-33054 C!P for Maureen I contents; Acknowledgments vii Introduction On Linguistic Vulnerability I 1 I Burning Acts, Injurious Speech 43 2 I Sovereign Performatives 71 3 I Contagious Word: Paranoia and "Homosexuality" in the Military 103 4 I Implicit Censorship and Discursive Agency 127 Notes 165 Index 183 ~:.: I Acknowledgments 1 This project could not have been completed without the generous support of the University of California Humanities Research Institute located on the Irvine campus, and a Faculty Research Grant from the Humanities Division at the University of California at Berkeley. I also thank Wendy Brown, Robert Gooding-Williams, Joan W Scott, Diana Fuss, Hayden White, Morris Kaplan, Horni Bhabha, Janet Halley, Robert Post, and Drucilla Cornell for responding with useful comments to parts of the manuscript in process. I alone remain responsible for not heeding all their important suggestions. I also thank Dave Wittenberg, Valerie Ross, Jane Acknowledgments Malmo, and Gayle Salamon for their research assistance. As always,. I thank Maureen MacGrogan for her versatile and generous editorial guidance. Most of all, I thank my students at UC-Berkeley and at the Dartmouth School for Criticism and Theory during the summer of 1995 for indulging my thinking and showing me directions to take I otherwise would not have seen. Chapter One appeared in (:ritical Inquiry 23:2 (Winter: 1997), and Chapter Two appeared first in Deconstruction is/in America: A New Sense of the Political, ed. Ansehn Haverkamp (New York: New York Univer- sity Press, 1995) and was reprinted in Performativity and Peiformance, eds. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Andrew Parker (New York: Rout- ledge, 1995). "Infelicity is an ill to which all acts are heir which have the general character of ritual or ceremonial, all conventional acts:' "There are more ~ys of outraging speech than contradiction merelY.' J.L. AUSTIN I Introduction 1 0 N LINGUISTIC VULNERABILITY When we claim to have been injured by language, what kind of claim do we make?We ascribe an agency to language, a power to injure, and position ourselves as the objects of its injurious trajectory. We claim that language acts, and acts against us, and the claim we make is a further instance of language, one which seeks to arrest the force of the prior instance. Thus, we exercise the force of language even as we seek to counter its force, caught up in a bind that no act of censorship can undo. Could language injure us if we were not, in some sense, linguistic beings, beings who require language in JUDITH BUTLER order to be? Is our vulnerability to language a consequence of our being constituted within its terms? If we are formed in language, then that formative power precedes and conditions any decision we might make about it, insulting us from the start, as it were, by its prior power. lj The insult, however, assumes its specific proportion in time. To be called a name is one of the first forms of linguistic injury that one learns. But not all name-calling is injurious. Being called a name is also one of the conditions by which a subject is constituted in language; indeed, it is one of the examples Althusser supplies for an understand- ing of "interpellation:'