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Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative [Paperback]

Judith Butler
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 9, 1997 0415915880 978-0415915885
With the same intellectual courage with which she addressed issues of gender, Judith Butler turns her attention to speech and conduct in contemporary political life, looking at several efforts to target speech as conduct that has become subject to political debate and regulation. Reviewing hate speech regulations, anti-pornography arguments, and recent controversies about gay self-declaration in the military, Judith Butler asks whether and how language acts in each of these cultural sites.

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Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative + How to Do Things with Words: Second Edition (The William James Lectures) + Limited Inc
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Editorial Reviews


"...this book offers a challenging analysis of the free speech debates and points to an "unanticipated political future for deconstructive thinking"... Butler makes a compelling case that our laws- and our lives- are determined by conceptual frameworks... By rethinking the contexts of verbal conduct, this book, too, is sure to have an effect." -- Lambda Book Report

About the Author

Judith Butler is Chancellor's Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Her previous books include Gender Trouble (Routledge, 1990), and Bodies That Matter (Routledge, 1993).

Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (March 9, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415915880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415915885
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of The Psychic Life of Power, Excitable Speech, Bodies that Matter, Gender Trouble, Frames of War, and with Slavoj Zizek and Ernesto Laclau, Contingency, Hegemony, Universality.


Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Butler and Agency July 9, 2004
Butler is a difficult author to understand, particularly if you don't have a background in theories of performativity. I recommend reading JL Austin's How to Do Things with Words and Derrida's Limited, Inc either before or alongside this book. She also draws heavily from Foucault and Althusser.
Excitable Speech is powerful for its account of how subjects are formed through the address of hate speech and how, through this very address, the conditions for the subject's agency are enabled.
A previous reviewer pointed out that for Butler "the subject can only exhibit agency in and through language" and that agency in Butler's account emerges ex nihilio. This is a misunderstanding of both Butler and poststructural theories of agency in general. For Butler, agency is not produced by an autonomous actor; nor is it contained to language.
Drawing from Derrida and Bourdieu, Butler's point is that agency arises from social iterability and the fact that every re-iteration opens the potential for change and subversion. Such iteration, however, is part of the structure of signification broadly conceived (not simply language) and is not the conscious effort of an individual agent. Thus, Butler points to the effect of the body and how bodies are implicated in acts of speech and iteration.
In this text Butler is perhaps at her most cogent and most optimistic reach. I would recommend picking this up for anyone serious about theories of performativity.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When words injure, what do we do? July 12, 1997
By A Customer
An insightful and thoroughly researched study of the social, political, and legal ramification of not only hate speech but discourse concerning the lingusitics of hate. Butler questions the contemporary practices of the adjudication of speech which seeks to define what is correct speech and what is proscribable under law. If words are legally indistinguishable from conduct, then, Butler asks, is law not complicit in the wounds that words cause? Challenging reading
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Butler's most "grounded" work October 9, 1998
By A Customer
Butler does a good job grounding speech act theory in political and legal issues, particularly racist and homophobic "hate speech." She takes Derrida's theory of iterability and shows how repetition of discourse in new contexts can be a means of resistance. For Butler, this is very applied and I liked it much better than Gender trouble.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks December 10, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It arrived on time and in good shape. It arrived on time and in good shape. It arrived on time and in good shape.
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