Representations,158: Proximities: Reading with Judith Butler


TO READ JUDITH BUTLER IS to read in community, joining what are now generations of readers around the world. It is to court the experience of disorientation, exhilaration, alienation, or uncanny recognition that entering (however incompletely) into the thought of another variously affords. To read Butler is also to read Butler reading and thus to encounter both the example and the challenge of reading well. In creating this special issue, we invited a number of Butler’s readers to think and write alongside Butler, unfolding lines of flight from a passage of their choice that has served, as the idiom has it, as ‘‘food for thought.’’ Food, which is to say nourishment: just as the mattering of the body depends on an ever-renewed incorporation of the world’s material (through processes of ingestion, transmutation, absorption, metabolization, and elimination), so the mattering of thought—as Butler’s work demonstrates at every turn—is never sui generis. It emerges from the encounter, involving analogous processes of listening, distinguishing, affirming, questioning, mirroring, or negating. We invited our authors, from their different geographical and disciplinary locations, to select a passage that has generated an alchemy of thinking. In the responses collected here, Butler’s readers read Butler, accompanying Butler’s thought, where this accompaniment takes the form, by turns, of inhabitation, paraphrase, questioning; leaning into or away from; moving in parallel, entwined, or at a magnetic distance. The title of the special issue, Proximities, designates these various modes of intellectual accompaniment, of ‘‘eating well,’’ as Jacques Derrida once put it, since thinking is always an enactment of proximity.

Debarati Sanyal
Publication date: 
May 1, 2022
Publication type: 
Journal Article