Judith Butler - "Freedom of Assembly, or Who are "the People"?"

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Watch Professor Judith Butler’s lecture, "Freedom of Assembly, or 'Who are the People?’" held on September 15, 2013 in Istanbul at Boğaziçi University.  Judith Butler’s lecture was a collaboration of Columbia Global Centers | Turkey, the 13th Istanbul Biennial and Boğaziçi University. Prof. Butler was based at the Columbia Global Centers | Turkey from September 16-19, co-directing a workshop with Prof. Zeynep Gambetti as part of CSSD's Women Creating Change initiative on "Rethinking Vulnerability and Resistance: Feminism and Social Change."


About the Talk
The freedom of assembly is a basic right, but how is it to be understood? How is the freedom of assembly related to the freedom of expression? The right of assembly cannot be asserted by a single person, so how do we understand the plurality that makes that claim? It seems that "the people" assert the right of assembly, but who decides who "the people" are?  And how do actual assemblies change our idea of what it means to assert a right?  Rights are not only asserted vocally, but also enacted with movement, stillness, gesture, and silence. Indeed, there can be no freedom of assembly without bodily enactments, including speech. Consequently, we have to rethink the bodily forms in which this right is enacted. And though modes of assembly and solidarity are at once embodied and virtual, the very idea of assembly presupposes that bodies act together. What kind of right is that which is enacted bodily, and who are the people who enact this right? Are these "the people"?

Judith Butler, Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Visiting Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University
Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature and the Co-director of the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1984 on the French Reception of Hegel. Judith Butler is the author of Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France (Columbia University Press, 1987), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge, 1990), Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (Routledge, 1993), The Psychic Life of Power: Theories of Subjection (Stanford University Press, 1997), Excitable Speech (Routledge, 1997), Antigone's Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (Columbia University Press, 2000), Precarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning (2004); Undoing Gender (2004), Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging (with Gayatri Spivak in 2008), Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (2009), and Is Critique Secular? (co-written with Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, and Saba Mahmood, 2009). Her most recent book is Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (2012). She is also active in gender and sexual politics and human rights, anti-war politics, and Jewish Voice for Peace. She is presently the recipient of the Andrew Mellon Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in the Humanities and is the 2012 receipient of the Adorno Prize in Germany.