American philosopher Judith Butler comes to Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Closing performance act Johannes Paul Raether at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

03/23/2017 | 10:28 AM

On 5-7 April 2017, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam will host the international conference ‘Critical Theory in the Humanities: Resonances of the Work of Judith Butler’. Special guest is American philosopher Judith Butler, renowned for her ‘critical theory’ of processes of social in- and exclusion. Not only is Butler a respected philosopher, she is also a public intellectual who engages in debates on feminism, homosexuality, refugees, and Guantánamo Bay prisoners, among other pressing issues.

Butler’s philosophy revolves around the question: “Which lives matter, and which lives do not?” This was already a central question in her first book, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity in 1990. Her work analyzes how our ideas about people and bodies are shaped by social and normative frames. These frames determine, for instance, that transgenderism is not acknowledged, because it deviates from the norm of heterosexuality. Or that the lives of refugees are of less importance than those of full citizens. Or that some people can be jailed without trial. Butler demonstrates that these frames are created by us, and that we can, and should, change them.

In addition to Butler herself, a number of international scholars will speak about the influence of Butler’s philosophy on their own research. Among them is Achille Mbembe, author of On the Postcolony and Critique of Black Reason, an influential voice in the discussion on the political representation of Africa. Also confirmed is Aagje Swinnen, who researches the cultural scripts of aging and the intersections between age and other identity markers such as gender and sexuality. The conference will close with a performance by the German artist Johannes Paul Raether at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. In the guise of his so-called self-sisters, named Transformella and Protektorama, Raether challenges conventional assumptions about identities, bodies, and technology.

The conference is organised by the VU research centre CLUE+ and is co-sponsored by KNAW. For the full programme and registration, see http://www.butleramsterdam.com. Next to registering for the full three days, it is also possible to buy a one-day ticket for Wednesday, April 5 (including the lectures by Mbembe and Swinnen) or a one-evening ticket for the Mbembe lecture on Wednesday evening.