Introduction

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Abstract:

Nearly twenty years have passed since most of us first encountered Judith Butler. It was in 1990 that Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity was published, a book whose bold retheorization of how normative sexuality shores up normative gender radically transformed so many of our intellectual, political, and personal lives. Indeed, one good measure of the extraordinary impact of Butler and her book may be the difficulty - even impossibility - for so many of us today to imagine bodies as anything other than the performatively constituted referent of gendered identities. There is no small sense, in other words, in which much of what Butler wrote then functions as common sense now. Another way of taking stock of Butler's and the book's extraordinary impact is to track the history of the uses to which it has been put. Since its original printing, Gender Trouble has routinely been identified as one of the landmark texts of contemporary feminist thought; it has been credited with founding Queer Studies; and it has continued to function as a site of theoretical and political struggle, with some of its less than thoroughly satisfying formulations (not the least of which is the performative itself) serving as productive points of departure for Butler's own subsequent reflections in Bodies that Matter, The Psychic Life of Power, and Undoing Gender. Notably, Gender Trouble has also recently been reissued as a Routledge Classic (the series itself perhaps worthy of a forum's attention), and it now plays a significant - albeit technically speaking, supporting - role in Judith Butler: Philosophical Encounters of the Third Kind, a new film by Paule Zadjermann. For the purposes of this Forum, I invited five scholars to share their responses to this new (mode of) encounter with Judith Butler. Both alone and of a piece, their short essays lend legibility to what, at least for me, is a most curious communicative and cultural event. On the first anniversary of his death, the March Forum will revisit the work of Jean Baudrillard. Contributors to the Forum are: Douglas Kellner, Arthur Kroker, Ken Rufo, and Sarah Sharma.
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