Towards a cultural politics of vulnerability: precarious lives and ungrievable deaths

2014-08-18T15:22:47Z (GMT) by Moya Lloyd
For a long time now I have been interested in what I see to be a particular tension in the work of Judith Butler. This is the tension between her explicit commitment to producing ‘ontology itself as a contested field’ by exposing how particular ontological claims are constructed and then circulate and Butler’s own unacknowledged ontological presuppositions. In previous work I have explored this tension in terms of the relation between agency and performativity-ascitationality in order to raise questions about Butler’s approach for an understanding of political intervention and change. Here my focus is somewhat different. I am interested in the ethics that Butler has begun to develop in writings such as Precarious Life, which will be my main focus, Undoing Gender and Giving an Account of Oneself. In short, this is an ethics, indeed a potentially global ethics, that issues out of a common human experience of vulnerability, and particularly vulnerability to violence. What interests me are the ontological assumptions that ground this ethics.