Second Session: Terror and Trauma

Our second meeting will take place on Thursday 25th February in Room GSB2, 2 Gower Street between 1 and 3pm, and we will discuss chapter 2 and chapter 5 of Judith Butler's Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004), 'Violence, Mourning, Politics,' and 'Precarious Life.'

As optional secondary reading, we suggest Adriana Cavarero's Horrorism: Naming Contemporary Violence, Trans. William McCuaig (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).

The session's key questions will be as follows:

'From the subsequent experience of loss and fragility, ... the possibility of making different kinds of ties emerges' ('Violence, Mourning, Politics', p. 40). Does Butler's theory of mourning and vulnerability provide an adequate ethical response to acts of terror in the West?

'[W]e would be wrong to think that the First World is here and the Third World is there, that a second world is somewhere else, that a subaltern subtends these divisions. These topographies have shifted, and what was once thought of as a border ... is a highly populated site ...' ('Violence, Mourning, Politics', p. 49). Has a shifting of global borders in the early twenty-first century rendered ideas of 'otherness' and 'difference' newly problematic?

'The Other makes an ethical claim upon us ... the Other is the condition of discourse' ('Precarious Life', pp. 138-9). What does Butler mean when she uses the term 'discourse', and does she employ it in an appropriate way?

'The derealization of loss - the insensitivity to human suffering and death - becomes the mechanism through which dehumanization is accomplished. This derealization takes place neither inside nor outside the image, but through the very framing by which the image is contained' ('Precarious Life', p. 148). In what ways can literature and/or critical theory effectively respond to a dehumanising 'derealization of loss'?

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