January 15, 2013
Concepts used by Butler
• Ontology - describes being. Butler is thinking more of the social ontology. It is important to
think about because it has to do with being human. For example, we don't exist in isolation. We
are socially constructed right from the start.
• Affect - about feeling. This question of who we are and how we are dependent on one another
brings up feelings. One of the rudimentary aspects of being human is being born with these
affects. A lot of what we are doing in the world is negotiating these feelings that have to do with
survivability. Effects of loss, aggression, shame and guilt come up and we might not even know
we are having it. There are also social affects that tells us how to feel. For example, don't feel for
those people in the Middle East because they're not people anyways. They tell us who to be
scared of. Affect is something that is hard to name and understand and also something that is
named and that is named for you. We are often affectively motivated in our actions.
Precariousness/grievability - an ungrievable life is one that cannot be mourned because it has
never lived, that is, it has never counted as a life at all. Human precarity and ontology is a central
piece for Butler. We are precarious because our lives are always in the hands of the other. There
is never a single human being that can exist alone. We rely on our institutions and the people
around us to sustain lives. One of the ways that power has worked in the age of terror is that
feelings are being manipulated. We are dependent on this nation and our loyalty is to this nation.
We are obligated to one another because we humans cannot survive without each other. In terms
of the "we", what does it consist of? Who is included and who is excluded in this defi