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Butler and Ethics$
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Moya Lloyd

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748678846

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748678846.001.0001

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Two Regimes of the Human

Two Regimes of the Human

Butler and the Politics of Mattering

(p.141) 6 Two Regimes of the Human
Butler and Ethics

Drew Walker

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter argues that Butler–both before and after her “ethical turn”–presents two distinct images of the human that track competing drives for subversion and survival in her work and that have very different political effects. First, Butler’s focus on “grievability” and precariousness offers a view of the human as a category necessary for one’s life to matter and bear political agency. This figure of the human overstates the power of the “human” to protect us from state and social violence, and it can undervalue the agency of lives outside dominant norms of the “human.” Second, Butler presents an image of the human as a dynamic field of contestation that is always in the flux of reiteration and subversion. This image of the human comes closer to realizing the potential of Butler’s work to trouble the terms of the human and provoke a politics of difference. Examining these theorizations of the human, I consider the uncertainty of “the human” as a power both to redeem and to abject. In so doing, I develop a politics of the human that dramatizes moments where the human expresses itself in spite of attempts to stifle it or snuff it out.

Keywords:   The human, Politics of mattering, Dehumanization, Subversion, Survival

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