Critique as a technique of self: a Butlerian analysis of Judith Butler's prefaces

History of the Human Sciences 20 (3):105-122 (2007)
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Abstract

This article considers `critique' as performative, being on the one hand a reiterative performance, that enacts the `critic' through the act of critique, and on the other hand reflecting the constitution of the subject. While this approach takes on the conceptual framework of Judith Butler's work, it differs by refusing critique — or its correlates; parody, subversion or similar — any special status. Like any other performance critique is taken here as a cultural practice, as a Foucauldian `technique of self', though the complex genealogy of such a technique lies outside the scope of this article. In order to illustrate this argument I interpret a number of Butler's prefaces, interviews and digressions which diverge from her own theoretical framework, and argue that these `fictions' arise from critical `disavowals': that is, a `self-transformative' turn against power. The subjective `crisis' that prompts critique is then elaborated by comparison to Girard's work on imitation and sacrifice

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References found in this work

Sources of the self: the making of the modern identity.Charles Taylor - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
We have never been modern.Bruno Latour - 1993 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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