SAAP Annual Meeting 2014

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Cultural Politics of Performativity: A Pragmatist Companion to Judith Butler

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Judith Butler and Richard Rorty share a number of philosophical commitments that are by and large underexplored in the literature. In particular, their commitment to antifoundationalism in accounting for social change offers the occasion to put them in a fruitful dialogue on the problem of normativity. Butler’s theory of performativity and the processes of ‘resignification’ that it describes bears close resemblance to Rorty’s account of redescription through ‘irony’, despite some important points of divergence. Rorty’s pragmatism, however, yields an important normative component that Butler’s theory of performativity lacks, even though Rorty’s account of normativity has often been criticized for being incomplete or inadequate. This paper argues that there is enough common ground between Rorty’s and Butler’s political writings such that Rorty’s positive conception of normativity can complement Butler’s theory of gender, and serve as a normative guide to a feminist political agenda.


Fulden Ibrahimhakkioglu    
University of Oregon
United States


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