“JUDITH BUTLER: PHILOSOPHICAL ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND”— A Once Important Thinker

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“Judith Butler: Philosophical Encounters of the Third Kind”

A Once Important Thinker

Amos Lassen

There was a time in my life that I considered Judith Butler to be a powerful thinker and an intellectual but that was before she unleashed her vitriolic tirades against Israel and turned her back on her own people. She is now one of the leading anti-Semitic Jews who is pro-Palestinian and the waste of a brilliant mind. And for the record, I am one of many who feel that way. Director Paule Zadjermann made this film about Butler before she voiced her views publicly and for some reason the film is not even listed on IMDB.

Butler is the author of the best seller “Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity” and this was a book I carried with me while in graduate school. I still have a very hard time reconciling that Judith Butler with the Judith Butler (Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at University of California, Berkeley) that we have today. Yet she remains for many as one of the world’s most important and influential contemporary thinkers in fields such as continental philosophy, literary theory, feminist and queer theory, and cultural politics.

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This film is an up-close and personal meeting with Butler and features interviews with her including reminiscences of her formative childhood years, illustrated by family home movies, as a “problem child”. We see her in classroom sessions in Berkeley and Paris, at public speaking engagements, and in discussion with Gender Studies professor Isabell Lorey. Butler is noted for her work on gender and the idea of whether gender and sexuality are the same. She examined the role of family on gender, the “gender norms” of society, the deep fears of those who openly flaunt there own personal feelings about gender, gender politics and other topics as well that we see here.

In the film, Butler covers a wide range of subjects, broaching not only controversial gender issues-including transsexuality and intersexuality-but also 20th century Jewish philosophy, AIDS activism, criticism of state power and violence, gay marriage, and anti-Zionism. The film can, on one hand, popularize what she has to say while on the other end it can be polarizing for her but she obviously does not care as she continues to rant about Zionism at every opportunity. Many have labeled her and one of her colleagues (also Jewish) as the two largest enemies of the state of Israel. We do get a look at her thought here but even approaching this film with a clear mind, it is impossible not to see Butler through an anti-Jewish lens. This, unfortunately, may be what she will be remembered by.

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