PHIL 242 - “PerformativeActs and Gender Constitution”
- 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
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.”
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