NOTES: Vulnerability and Resistance

JudithButler

Rethink dependancy-vulnerability as relationality: a means of resistance. Biopolitical, ontological management, reconsider interdependancy. (The tone of the introduction tips into that of a church sermon, the crowd is piqued and warm and bumbling. We gasp when the connection fails, we laugh and roar into the silence, then we hear the church voice again and drop quiet.) “In our Precarious times…” she says, “We surely know… those who gather to resist” RISK BODILY HARM.

Resistance goes with Confrontation. “Agentic acts of Resistance”. Vulnerability first. What when Infrastructure fails? Failing Infrastructure. Not knowing where support might come from… How do we understand that condition of life? “When infrastructure fails Vulnerability comes to the fore”. She asks “Does resistance require overcoming vulnerability?” Think of all those temporary shelters, the refugee camps on the borders. Syria. Struggling for resources and infrastructures and work that is paid.

The street. A public good. For which people fight. Think of the community school in Birr, designed around the Street. Platforms for Politics. Material Conditions for Speaking and Assembly. Are these Platforms Ready? Securitarian – Authoritarian rule.

Vulnerability as a Mobilising Force for political action. [I think of Grey Space. A street space on the 4th floor landing of our building, our Rambling House… it will be a mobile street space.] Spaces of appearance: material conditions for gathering. Making and presenting infrastructural conditions. Politics and Architecture. “My task is to…” she says. Public space where mobility is supported. Work places as political spaces. The exercise of freedom and material conditions for such freedoms. Rehearsing politics.

No one moves without a supportive environment and technologies. Disability Studies shows us this. A body supported – the body at work. Mobilisations presuppose a body that requires support.

[The word of the day today was ‘Succour’. All day.]

Dependance on other bodies and networks of support. The political meaning of the human body in its vulnerability. Understand these relations. A network of relations. corporeal relations.

She talks about Linguistic vulnerability – speech acts. Being named. We can and do ask am I that name? AM I THAT NAME? “She would laugh when she made that point”. Opening spaces for desire. Deviation. Queer. A movement of thought and language. Core-reality – masked and facilitated the operation of a norm. Gender norms.

The dual dimension. Language acting upon us when we act. Gender assignment. “Choice in fact comes rather late in the process of performativity’. Swerves and Derrida. The powerful citational force of gender norms. Acted upon and conditions for acting. [Radical freedom within constraints?] “An unwilled receptivity”. [I can’t help it] Enactment and reproduction in the realm of being AFFECTED. Deviant and Deviating.

The point was to RELAX. not the same as transcending. or abolishing them. The purpose? Living a more livable life.

Categories and Strategies. The speech act. Actions of the norm. The norm is interpollated, treated, hailed, formed. “Finding a queer way and becoming an agent are somehow linked.”

Interpollating and Infrastructural forms. We cannot talk about a body without talking about what supports that body. A body is less an entity than a relation. [take that gertrude stein!] Constituting dimensions. We live within these dimensions. they are non-transcendant but we can relax within these conditions. [As yer man would say, ‘Lighten up!’]

“Where we find ourselves radically unsupported under conditions of precarity we ourselves decompose and to an extent, we fall.” DE-COMPOSE. All action requires support.

Illegitimate constraints. “The question is how to replenish.”

The institution of the prison – continues the work of slavery. It is slavery by other means.

Feminism destabilised institutions that reproduce inequality and injustices – resisting police power. They say we are ‘unrealistic’ or ‘ungrateful’ – the accuse us of ‘attacking the soul of man’. Pussy Riot. A masculinist norm or a norm of racial privilege. “I’m only suggesting… it should continue to be actively criticised.”

Infrastructure understood complexly. To foreground ways in which we are vulnerable. “Vulnerability brings up the question of exit”. Theoretical consideration of its uses. Vulnerability is not the opposite of resistance. It can produce resistance. Does it shore up paternalistic power? Does Vulnerability discourse do that? A fear that “It will be captured by the term”…”Okay, I’m not interested in that”… “I’m smuggling in…” What about the power of those who are oppressed? Dismantling by subjugated people – we don’t overcome vulnerability – we don’t become in-vulnerable.

Now, colonial states claim they are vulnerable to attack from ex-colonies. Under attack. We’re vulnerable. Opposition does not remove vulnerability. Psycho analytic fools? Do we become complicit with a politics we do not condone? If we impose vulnerability in the name of agency? Aesthetics and Ethics? Receptivity and Impressionability – was we act we are acted upon.

Sovereignty is masculinist. “The posture of control that seeks to cloak the fault lines in the self. We are quite in spite of ourselves affected by discourse that we never chose.” Discourse and power. A kind of illusion of sovereignity. Being exposed and agentic at the same time. Vulnerability as a form of power that deplete paternalistic power of its power. This is another model. Moves another way. Undoing of a binary. A feminist task.

Outbreaks of Care or Getting in touch with our feelings. This stuff is linked to paternalistic rubbish.

Vulnerability is a relation to a field of forces. It’s not a mood. It’s a relationship — receptivity and responsiveness become the basis for mobilising vulnerability rather than engaging in its destructive denial.

We must resist.

[Notes from Judith Butlers talk at Trinity College Dublin on Thursday 5th February 2015.]