Judith Butler (born February 24, 1956) is an American post-structuralist philosopher, who has contributed to the fields of feminist philosophy, queer theory, political philosophy, and ethics. She is a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley, and is also the Hannah Arendt Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School. Butler received her PhD in philosophy from Yale Universityin 1984, for a dissertation subsequently published as Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France. In the late 1980s she held several teaching/research appointments, and was involved in “post-structuralist” efforts within Western feminist theory to question the “presuppositional terms” of feminism. Considered “one of the most influential voices in contemporary political theory” and as “one of the most influential feminist theorists” today, she is best known for her seminal work Gender Trouble. She was awarded the Theodor W. Adorno Award in 2012 for her work on “political theory, on moral philosophy and gender studies.”
Her research ranges from literary theory, modern philosophical fiction, feminist, gender and sexuality studies, to 19th- and 20th-century European literature and philosophy, Kafka and loss, mourning and war. Some of her work has focused on Jewish philosophy, exploring pre- and post-Zionist criticisms of state violence.
Politically, she is a member of the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace and a supporter of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. She states that she identifies with “a Judaism that is not associated with state violence”, and emphasizes that Israel does not represent all Jews.
Butler was born in Cleveland, Ohio to a family of Hungarian and Russianancestry. Her mother was raised in Orthodox Judaism, later turning to Conservative Judaism, and finally to Reform Judaism. Butler’s father belonged to a Reform Synagogue since his childhood. As a child and teenager, she attended bothHebrew school and special classes on Jewish ethics where she received her “first training in philosophy.” Butler stated in a 2010 interview with Haaretz that she began the ethics classes at the age of 14 and that they were created as a form of punishment by her Hebrew school’s Rabbi because she was “too talkative in class,” “talk[ed] back,” and was “not well behaved.” Butler also stated that she was “thrilled” by the classes and chose to focus on Martin Buber. She also encountered the writings of Kant, Hegel, and Spinoza during these special sessions. Judith Butler is a member of the progressive Kehilla Community Synagogue in Oakland, California. Butler attended Bennington College and then Yale University where she studied philosophy, receiving her B.A. in 1978 and her PhD in 1984. Her dissertation was subsequently published as Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France (1987). In her dissertation, Butler explores desire in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit tracing the ways in which Hegelian desire is appropriated by Kojève, Hyppolite, and Sartre. The published version of her dissertation also includes sections on Lacan, Deleuze, and Foucault.
She taught at Wesleyan University, George Washington University, and Johns Hopkins University before joining U.C. Berkeley in 1993. She will join the department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University as a visiting professor in the spring semesters of 2012 and 2013 and has the option of remaining as full-time faculty. In 2008 she received the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award for her contributions to humanistic inquiry. The prize money of $1.5 million is supposed to enable the recipients to teach and research under especially favorable conditions. Since 2006 Judith Butler has been the Hannah ArendtProfessor of philosophy at the European Graduate School (EGS) in Switzerland. She sits on the Advisory Board of the academic journal Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture. Butler is also working on critiquing ethical violence and trying to formulate a theory of responsibility “for an opaque subject that works with Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault and Fredrich Nietzsche”. Butler currently lives with her partner, the political scientist Wendy Brown. Butler identifies as an anti-Zionist Jew and is a critic of Israeli politics.
Overview of works
Performative Acts and Gender Constitution (1988
Butler begins to develop her arguments of the performativity of gender in this essay, which she later expands upon and continues to work through in her book Gender Trouble. Butler uses Freud’s notion of how a person’s identity is modeled in terms of the normal. She revises Freud’s notion of this concept’s applicability to lesbianism, where Freud says that lesbians are modeling their behavior on men, the perceived normal or ideal. She instead says that all gender works in this way of performativity and a representing of an internalized notion of gender norms. Butler argues for a performative understanding of gender, as opposed to the idea that gender performance is an expression of some sort of innate or natural gender. Butler argues that the performance of gender, itself creates gender. Additionally, she compares the performativity of gender to the performance of the theater. She brings many similarities, including the idea of each individual functioning as an actor of their gender. However she also brings into light a critical difference between gender performance in reality and theater performances. She explains how the theater is much less threatening and does not produce the same fear that gender performances often encounter because of the fact that there is a clear distinction from reality within the theater.
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990)
Gender Trouble was first published in 1990, selling over 100,000 copies internationally and in different languages Alluding to the similarly named 1974 John Waters film Female Trouble starring the drag queen Divine, Gender Trouble critically discusses the works of Simone de Beauvoir, Julia Kristeva, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Luce Irigaray, Monique Wittig, Jacques Derrida, and, most significantly, Michel Foucault. The book has also enjoyed widespread popularity outside of traditional academic circles, even inspiring an intellectual fanzine, Judy!
The crux of Butler’s argument in Gender Trouble is that the coherence of the categories of sex, gender, and sexuality—the natural-seeming coherence, for example, of masculine gender and heterosexual desire in male bodies—is culturally constructed through the repetition of stylized acts in time. These stylized bodily acts, in their repetition, establish the appearance of an essential, ontological”core” gender. This is the sense in which Butler famously theorizes gender, along with sex and sexuality, as performative. The performance of gender, sex, and sexuality, however, is not a voluntary choice for Butler, who locates the construction of the gendered, sexed, desiring subject within what she calls, borrowing from Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, “regulative discourses.” These, also called “frameworks of intelligibility” or “disciplinary regimes,” decide in advance what possibilities of sex, gender, and sexuality are socially permitted to appear as coherent or “natural.” Regulative discourse includes within it disciplinary techniques which, by coercing subjects to perform specific stylized actions, maintain the appearance in those subjects of the “core” gender, sex and sexuality the discourse itself produces.
A significant yet sometimes overlooked part of Butler’s argument concerns the role of sex in the construction of “natural” or coherent gender and sexuality. Butler explicitly challenges biological accounts of binary sex, reconceiving the sexed body as itself culturally constructed by regulative discourse. The supposed obviousness of sex as a natural biological fact attests to how deeply its production in discourse is concealed. The sexed body, once established as a “natural” and unquestioned “fact,” is the alibi for constructions of gender and sexuality, unavoidably more cultural in their appearance, which can purport to be the just-as-natural expressions or consequences of a more fundamental sex. On Butler’s account, it is on the basis of the construction of natural binary sex that binary gender and heterosexuality are likewise constructed as natural. In this way, Butler claims that without a critique of sex as produced by discourse, the sex/gender distinction as a feminist strategy for contesting constructions of binary asymmetric gender and compulsory heterosexuality will be ineffective.
Thus, by showing both terms “gender “and “sex” as socially and culturally constructed, Butler offers a critique of both terms, even as they have been used by feminists. Butler argued that feminism made a mistake in trying to make “women” a discrete, ahistorical group with common characteristics. Butler said this approach reinforces the binary view of gender relations because it allows for two distinct categories: men and women. Butler believes that feminists should not try to define “women” and she also believes that feminists should “focus on providing an account of how power functions and shapes our understandings of womanhood not only in the society at large but also within the feminist movement”. Finally, Butler aims to break the supposed links between sex and gender so that gender and desire can be “flexible, free floating and not caused by other stable factors”. The idea of identity as free and flexible and gender as a performance, not an essence, is one of the foundations of Queer Theory.
Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993)
Bodies That Matter seeks to clear up readings and supposed misreadings of performativity that view the enactment of sex/gender as a daily choice. To do this, Butler emphasizes the role of repetition in performativity, making use of Derrida’s theory of iterability, a form of citationality, to work out a theory of performativity in terms of iterability:
Performativity cannot be understood outside of a process of iterability, a regularized and constrained repetition of norms. And this repetition is not performed by a subject; this repetition is what enables a subject and constitutes the temporal condition for the subject. This iterability implies that ‘performance’ is not a singular ‘act’ or event, but a ritualized production, a ritual reiterated under and through constraint, under and through the force of prohibition and taboo, with the threat of ostracism and even death controlling and compelling the shape of the production, but not, I will insist, determining it fully in advance.
Iterability, in its endless undeterminedness as to-be-determinedness, is thus precisely that aspect of performativity that makes the production of the “natural” sexed, gendered, heterosexual subject possible, while also and at the same time opening that subject up to the possibility of its incoherence and contestation.
Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (1997
In Excitable Speech, Butler surveys the problems of hate speech and censorship. She argues that censorship is difficult to evaluate, and that in some cases it may be useful or even necessary, while in others it may be worse than tolerance She develops a new conception of censorship’s complex workings, supplanting the myth of the independent subject who wields the power to censor with a theory of censorship as an effect of state power and, more primordially, as the condition of language and discourse itself. Butler argues that hate speech exists retrospectively, only after being declared such by state authorities. In this way, the state reserves for itself the power to define hate speech and, conversely, the limits of acceptable discourse. In this connection, Butler criticizes feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon’s argument against pornography for its unquestioning acceptance of the state’s power to censor
Deploying Foucault’s argument from The History of Sexuality Vol. 1, Butler claims that any attempt at censorship, legal or otherwise, necessarily propagates the very language it seeks to forbid. As Foucault argues, for example, the strict sexual mores of 19th century Western Europe did nothing but amplify the discourse of sexuality it sought to control. Extending this argument using Derrida and Lacan, Butler claims that censorship is primitive to language, and that the linguistic “I” is a mere effect of an originary censorship. In this way, Butler questions the possibility of any genuinely oppositional discourse; “If speech depends upon censorship, then the principle that one might seek to oppose is at once the formative principle of oppositional speech”.
Butler also questions the efficacy of censorship on the grounds that hate speech is context-dependent. Citing J.L. Austin’s concept of the performative utterance, Butler notes that words’ ability to “do things” makes hate speech possible but also at the same time dependent on its specific embodied context Austin’s claim that what a word “does,” its illocutionary force, varies with the context in which it is uttered implies that it is impossible to adequately define the performative meanings of words, including hate, abstractly. On this basis, Butler rejects arguments like Richard Delgado’s which justify the censorship of certain specific words by claiming the use of those words constitutes hate speech in any context. In this way, Butler underlines the difficulty inherent in efforts to systematically identify hate speech.
Undoing Gender (2004)
Undoing Gender collects Butler’s reflections on gender, sex, sexuality, psychoanalysis and the medical treatment of intersex people for a more general readership than many of her other books. Butler revisits and refines her notion of performativity and focuses on the question of undoing “restrictively normative conceptions of sexual and gendered life”.
Butler discusses how gender is performed without one being conscious of it, but says that it does not mean this performativity is “automatic or mechanical”. She argues that we have desires that do not originate from our personhood, but rather, from social norms. The writer also debates our notions of “human” and “less-than-human” and how these culturally imposed ideas can keep one from having a “viable life” as the biggest concerns are usually about whether a person will be accepted if his or her desires differ from normality. She states that one may feel the need of being recognized in order to live, but that at the same time, the conditions to be recognized make life “unlivable”. The writer proposes an interrogation of such conditions so that people who resist them may have more possibilities of living.
In her discussion of intersex, Butler addresses the case of David Reimer, a person whose sex was medically “reassigned” from male to female after a botched circumcision at eight months of age. Reimer was “made” female by doctors, but later in life identified as “really” male, married and became a stepfather to his wife’s three children, and went on to tell his story in As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl, which he wrote with John Colapinto. Reimer committed suicide in 2004.
Giving an Account of Oneself (2005)
In Giving an Account of Oneself, Butler develops an ethics based on the opacity of the subject to itself; in other words, the limits of self-knowledge. Primarily borrowing from Theodor Adorno, Michel Foucault, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Laplanche, Adriana Cavarero and Emmanuel Levinas, Butler develops a theory of the formation of the subject. She theorizes the subject in relation to the social – a community of others and their norms – which is beyond the control of the subject it forms, as precisely the very condition of that subject’s formation, the resources by which the subject becomes recognizably human, a grammatical “I”, in the first place.
Butler accepts the claim that if the subject is opaque to itself the limitations of its free ethical responsibility and obligations are due to the limits of narrative, presuppositions of language and projection. “You may think that I am in fact telling a story about the prehistory of the subject, one that I have been arguing cannot be told. There are two responses to this objection. (1) That there is no final or adequate narrative reconstruction of the prehistory of the speaking “I” does not mean we cannot narrate it; it only means that at the moment when we narrate we become speculative philosophers or fiction writers. (2) This prehistory has never stopped happening and, as such, is not a prehistory in any chronological sense. It is not done with, over, relegated to a past, which then becomes part of a causal or narrative reconstruction of the self. On the contrary, that prehistory interrupts the story I have to give of myself, makes every account of myself partial and failed, and constitutes, in a way, my failure to be fully accountable for my actions, my final “irresponsibility,” one for which I may be forgiven only because I could not do otherwise. This not being able to do otherwise is our common predicament” (page 78).
Instead she argues for an ethics based precisely on the limits of self-knowledge as the limits of responsibility itself Any concept of responsibility which demands the full transparency of the self to itself, an entirely accountable self, necessarily does violence to the opacity which marks the constitution of the self it addresses. The scene of address by which responsibility is enabled is always already a relation between subjects who are variably opaque to themselves and to each other. The ethics that Butler envisions is therefore one in which the responsible self knows the limits of its knowing, recognizes the limits of its capacity to give an account of itself to others, and respects those limits as symptomatically human. To take seriously one’s opacity to oneself in ethical deliberation means then to critically interrogate the social world in which one comes to be human in the first place and which remains precisely that which one cannot know about oneself. In this way, Butler locates social and political critique at the core of ethical practice
“Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire” (2005)
In a piece entitled “I Women as the Subject of Feminism” published in Cudd, Ann E. and Robin O. Andreasen, eds. 2005. Feminist Theory: A Philosophical Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Judith Butler identifies two problematic tendencies in the contemporary feminist movement. One of these is that feminism’s subject is “Women”, which is a “discursive formation and effect” of a political system that places this category in a subordinate position relative to the category of “Men” (146). Attempting to emancipate “Women” is self-defeating because it reaffirms this discursively constructed category and its inferiority to “Men” (146). Freedom for females does not go beyond the category of “Women”; it is rather constrained within it. In this sense, Butler draws our attention to the necessity to reconsider the subject it claims to represent, women.
In this work, Butler also argues that feminists need to be more self-critical and not “identify the enemy as singular in form” (150). There is a tendency in feminism, according to Butler, to uncritically accept the notion of universal patriarchy. Such a notion, has led many feminists researchers to appropriate “non-Western cultures” with the end of proving this theory and universalizing “western notions of oppression” (147). Hence, there are many layers of oppression, and they do not necessarily fit nicely in an air-tight hierarchy where women are at the very bottom (150). The enemy comes in many shapes and forms, and essentialist and reductionist claims only serves to obscure the nuances that are necessary to effectively identifying the enemy. Certain feminists, this author argues, have also problematically sought to essentialize women out of an apparent necessity for “unity” of all women and a unified understanding this category (151). The claim that women who engage in heterosexual relations are enemies of women and feminists, for instance, “mimics the strategy of the oppressor”(150) and only contributes to dividing women in a way that does not favor the feminist cause. Recognition and respect of divisions and differences in the movement can in fact facilitate “coalition action” (151). For this reason, Butler contends that “the essential incompleteness [of ‘women’] permits that category to serve as a permanently available site of contested meanings…[relieving it] of coercive force” (151).
Butler receives the Theodor W. Adorno Award in 2012
Many scholars have praised Butler’s work. She has been referred to as “a big-deal academic, … and oft-cited academic superstar”, “the most famous feminist philosopher in the United States,” “the queer theorist par excellence,” and “the most brilliantly eclectic theorist of sexuality in recent years.” In addition, Lois McNay argues that, “Butler’s work has influenced feminist understandings of gender identity (1999: 175).” Others, such as Susan A. Speer and Jonathan Potter claim that her research has given new insight in several areas, especially in the concept of heterosexism. However, although Speer and Potter find Butler’s work useful in this respect, they find her work too abstract to be usefully applied to “real-life situations.” For this reason, they pair a reading of Butler with Discursive psychology in order to extend Butler’s ideas to real-world scenarios.
Others are more critical. Susan Bordo has chastised Butler for reducing gender to language, arguing that the body is a major part of gender, thus implicitly opposing her conception of gender as performed. Peter Digeser argues that Butler’s idea of performativity is too pure to account for identity. Digeser doubts that pure performativity is possible, suggesting that in viewing the gendered individual as purely performed, Butler ignores the gendered body, which Bordo also argues is extremely important. He also argues that neither an essentialist nor a performative notion of gender should be used in the political sphere, as both simplify gender too much. Martha Nussbaum has argued that Butler misreads J.L. Austin’s idea of performative utterance, makes erroneous legal claims, forecloses an essential site of resistance by repudiating pre-cultural agency, and provides no normative ethical theory to direct the subversive performances that Butler endorses. Finally, Nancy Fraser argued that Butler’s focus on performativity has distanced her from “everyday ways of talking and thinking about ourselves … Why should we use such a self-distancing idiom?”
Commentary on style
Butler has become famous in some circles for her “impenetrable, jargon-ridden prose,” which has also generated some controversy, according to Sara Salih, lecturer in English at the University of Kent at Canterbury The author ascribes this to the fact that the concepts she writes about are “philosophically challenging, often ‘counter-intuitive’, and not always described in immediately accessible language.” In the 1999 preface to Gender Trouble, Butler credits Avital Ronell for her continued resistance to attacks against her style and offers Ronell’s example that the “perfectly clear” recurrently serves as a code for the white lie.
In 1998, Denis Dutton’s journal Philosophy and Literature gave Butler First Prize in its “Bad Writing Competition,” which claims to “celebrate bad writing from the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles.” Butler’s 94 word long sentence, published in the journal Diacritics, for which she received the award was:
The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
Dutton discontinued the contest after being criticized for its apparently hostile spirit. Butler responded to Dutton’s criticism, with a letter to the London Review of Books and an op-ed piece for The New York Times. She argued that writing clearly can make the author too reliant on common sense and as such make language lose its potential to “shape the world” and shake up the status quo. Stanley Kurtz, in turn, argued against Butler’s op-ed in a letter to the New York Times titled, “Bad Writing Has No Defense.” Stephen K. Roney also responded that “many—indeed, most—generally recognized “great thinkers” have been clear and lucid in their writing […] Is Butler claiming to be deeper than all of them?”
Nussbaum’s “The Professor of Parody” essay also raised the issue of Butler’s style, calling it “ponderous and obscure” and “dense with allusions to other theorists, drawn from a wide range of different theoretical traditions…It bullies the reader into granting that, since one cannot figure out what is going on, there must be something significant going on, some complexity of thought, where in reality there are often familiar or even shopworn notions, addressed too simply and too casually to add any new dimension of understanding.”
In 1999, politically conservative literary journal The New Criterion cited Butler as one of a “triumvirate of absurd figures” including Homi K. Bhabha and Fredric Jameson, for bad writing.
Butler received the 2012 Adorno Prize and the prize committee has come under criticism from Israel’s Ambassador to Germany Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center office in Jerusalem, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, and the German Central Council of Jews for selecting Butler because of her remarks about Israel and specifically her “calls for a boycott against Israel.” Butler responded saying that “she did not take attacks from German Jewish leaders personally.”
Phyllis Chesler says that the Adorno Prize committee understands that Butler is “very high profile” and has “public anti-Zionist politics” which, according to Chesler, “constitute part of what the ‘new anti-Semitism‘ is about.” In addition, Chelser said that academics like Butler “are being rewarded for their political views—which is their real work.”
Gerald Steinberg said that giving the Adorno Prize to Butler is a “moral travesty.” Referring to the reaction to Butler from some Israeli or Jewish groups, Haaretz writes that “Jewish groups inside and outside Israel are using what can be interpreted as bullying tactics to silence their opponents. This is a tactical and moral mistake.”
In “No, It’s Not Anti-Semitic,” an August 2003 article published in the London Review of Books, Butler argued against statements by Harvard President Lawrence Summers who suggested that certain forms of criticism of Israeli policies are a form of anti-semitism. She responded by stating that it “will not do to equate Jews with Zionists or Jewishness with Zionism” and argued against the notion that Jews such as herself who were critical of Israeli policies are “self-hating.” She also referred to Post-Zionism as a “small but important” movement in Israel. In addition, Butler also argued that, “a challenge to the right of Israel to exist can be construed as a challenge to the existence of the Jewish people only if one believes that Israel alone keeps the Jewish people alive or that all Jews invest their sense of perpetuity in the state of Israel in its current or traditional forms.”
In a later 2004 article, “Jews and the Bi-National Vision,” published in Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture, Butler attributes this vision to the writings of Martin Buber. On September 7, 2006, Butler participated in a faculty-organized teach-in at the University of California, Berkeley, against the 2006 Lebanon War.
Butler has expressed support for the 2005 BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign, saying that one “can only go to an Israeli institution, or an Israeli cultural event, in order to use the occasion to call attention to the brutality and injustice of the occupation and to articulate an opposition to it.” In 2012, she said “she accepts a “version of a boycott” against Israel.”
According to Butler “Understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements. It doesn’t stop those of us who are interested in non-violent politics from raising the question of whether there are other options besides violence.” Her support for these movements has drawn strong criticism.
In June 2010 Judith Butler refused the Civil Courage Award (Zivilcouragepreis) of the Christopher Street Day Parade in Berlin, Germany at the award ceremony, citing racist comments on the part of organizers and a general failure of CSD organizations to distance themselves from racism, and from anti-Muslim excuses for war specifically. Criticizing the event’s commercialism, she went on to name several groups who she commended as stronger opponents of “homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, and militarism”.
In October 2011, Butler attended Occupy Wall Street and, in reference to calls for clarification of the protesters’ demands, said, “People have asked, so what are the demands? What are the demands all of these people are making? Either they say there are no demands and that leaves your critics confused, or they say that the demands for social equality and economic justice are impossible demands. And the impossible demands, they say, are just not practical. If hope is an impossible demand, then we demand the impossible – that the right to shelter, food and employment are impossible demands, then we demand the impossible. If it is impossible to demand that those who profit from the recession redistribute their wealth and cease their greed, then yes, we demand the impossible.”
She is an executive member of the Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace in the United States and The Jenin Theatre in Palestine.
The following is a partial list of Butler’s publications.
• 2013: Dispossession: The Performative in the Political, coauthored with Athena Athanasiou
• 2012: Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism :
• 2011: Europe, N° 983, mars 2011 : Georges Perros co-authored by Avital Ronell and Joseph Joubert :
• 2011: The Question of Gender : Joan W. Scott’s critical feminism
• 2011: The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere :
• 2010: “Judith Butler Interviewed by N. & R. Blanchet” in Hurly-Burly, Issue 3 :
• 2009: “Ronell as Gay Scientist” in Reading Ronell, a collection of essays on the work of Avital Ronell, edited by Diane Davis
• 2009: Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? :
• 2009: Is Critique Secular?: Blasphemy, Injury, and Free Speech
• 2007: Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging (with Gayatri Spivak) :
• 2005: Giving An Account of Oneself
• 2004: Undoing Gender :
• 2004: Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence
• 2003: Kierkegaard’s Speculative Despair in The age of German idealism (edited by Robert C. Solomon):
• 2003: Women and Social Transformation (with Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim and Lidia Puigvert)
• 2002: Prejudicial Appearances: The Logic of American Antidiscrimination Law
• 2001: “Sexual Difference As a Question of Ethics”. bodies of Resistance [edited by Laura Doyle].
• 2000: Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left (with Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Žižek) :
• 2000: Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death :
• 1997: The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection :
• 1997: Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative :
• 1993: Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”
• 1991: “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” in Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories (edited by Diana Fuss):
• 1990: Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity :
• 1990: “The Pleasures of Repetition” in Pleasure Beyond the Pleasure Principle: The Role of Affect in Motivation, Development, and Adaptation (edited by Robert A. Glick and Stanley Bone
• 1987: Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France :
• 1982: “Lesbian S & M: the politics of dis-illusion” in Against Sadomasochism: A Radical Feminist Analysis (edited by Robin Ruth Linden):
Selected honors and awards
• 2013: Doctorate of Letters, honoris causa, McGill University
• 2012: Theodor W. Adorno Award
• 2010: “25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World”, Utne Reader
• 2008: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award, University of California, Berkeley
• 2007: Elected a Member of the American Philosophical Society
• 2004: Brudner Prize, Yale University
• 2001: Rockefeller Fellowship
• 1999: Guggenheim Fellowship