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McGill University
PHIL 242
Zoli Filotas

PHIL 242 - “PerformativeActs and Gender Constitution” JUDITH BUTLER BODIESAND ACTS - Recall that phenomenology means (at least temporarily) setting aside what we think we know about external reality... - ...and understanding the world by first getting clear on how things seem or appear to us as we experience them. MERLEAU-PONTY: PHENOMENOLOGY OF HAVING ABODY - Butler starts with an idea (discussed by Merleau-Ponty and Beauvoir) where having a body essentially means acting on the external world. - (How does ‘having hands’shape our experience: the world appears as manipulable) - The same thing goes for others: we understand other people to have bodies by seeing them as potentially using those bodies to act on the world. BUTLER: PHENOMENOLOGY OF HAVINGAGENDERED BODY - What about having a gendered body? It too is a matter of the actions we can and do perform, but it is also a matter of finding a way to survive in the context of social categories we’re expected to conform to, punishments for failing to conform, etc. - “The notion of ‘project’, however, suggests the originating force of a radical will, and because gender is a project which has cultural survival as its end, the term ‘strategy’better suggests the situation of duress under which gender performance always and variously occurs.” ACTSAND REALITY PERFORMATIVEACTS “CONSTITUTE SOCIAL REALITY” - Individual social roles: writing a law constitutes some people as criminals More complex sets of social roles: Two members of a couple, plus a legally sanctioned - Other objects in social reality: Basketball players create goals, victories, etc. by jointing accepting and following the rules. - (notice the difference between these socially constituted roles and objects and the artifacts and independent reality as described by Haslanger) - officiant perform a marriage, creating a married couple. SOCIALACTORSARE THEMSELVES CONSTITUTED BY PERFORMATIVEACTS - In those examples, the people performing the acts pre-exist the act itself.... ...Butler thinks that being a person capable of action is the product of this kind of - performative act... - I.e. entering consciousness is coming to realize that you’re already playing a game with certain rules, that certain plays are available to you, and others will be punished, etc. - Having a body is “making specific various historical possibilities” - “Actors are always already on the stage within the terms of the performance.” THERE IS NOTHING OUTSIDE OF THEACT... - There aren’t actors who existed before they started playing the roles... ...there’s no fixed set of roles that exist independently of
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