Judith Butler To Give Plenary Talk at 2016 AAG Annual Meeting

Judith Butler, professor at the University of California at Berkeley, will give a plenary talk about “Demography in the Ethics of Non-Violence” at the 2016 AAG Annual Meeting on March 29 in San Francisco.

This high-profile session will focus on a principled approach to non-violence that often admits to exceptions where violence is conceded as legitimate. To what extent does the exception to nonviolence in the name of self-defense or for close kin implicitly make a distinction between lives worth saving and dispensable lives? A practice of non-violence has to take into account the demographic distribution of grievability that establishes which lives are worthy of safeguarding, and which are less worthy or not worthy at all. Otherwise, both biopolitics and the logic of war can permeate calculations about when and where non-violence can be invoked. Does the demographic challenge revise our approach to non-violence? and if so, how?”

Butler, the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and Program in Critical Theory, has advocated lesbian and gay rights movements and has been outspoken on many modern political matters. Two of her influential books, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity and Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, challenge notions of gender and develop her theory of gender performativity, which is now a prominent position in feminist and queer scholarship. Butler studied philosophy at Yale University where she received her B.A. and her Ph.D.

During her session, she will receive the 2016 AAG Honorary Geographer Award recognizing her foundational contributions to feminist and queer theory, cultural studies, and feminist and moral philosophy. Her work has transformed the ways in which scholars have understood gender and sexual identities and has thus fundamentally reshaped the theoretical underpinnings of the social and the spatial.

As such, her continuing interrogations of identity and subjectivity have inspired and informed feminist geography, queer, critical, and political theory in geography, and sexuality and space studies. In addition, as a political academic and activist she has served as a role model for many geographers who understand the deep entanglements of the academic and the political. This award, therefore, acknowledges her fundamental role in shaping geographic practices, theories, and actions.

Every year the AAG bestows its Honorary Geographer Award on an individual to recognize excellence in the arts, research, teaching, and writing on geographic topics by non-geographers. Previous awardees have included sociologist Saskia Sassen, architect Maya Lin, economist Jeffrey Sachs, biologist Stephen J. Gould, political scientist Cynthia Enloe, Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, neuroscientist Nora Volkow, and authors Calvin Trillin, Barbara Kingsolver, and Barry Lopez.