Embodied Political Performativity in Excitable Speech

Theory, Culture and Society 23 (4):71-93 (2006)
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Abstract

The critical commentary on Judith Butler’s Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative focuses primarily on her use of speech-act theory for political purposes. Admitting the limitations of Austin’s work, she introduces an extended supplement to her linguistically based performative theory in Excitable Speech: a discussion of embodied subjectivity presented in ways never before instanced in her work. That is, in this text, she continues to use speech-act theory articulated with Derridean iterability (her usual practice) to ground performativity, while presenting a version of embodiment newly derived from psychoanalysis to establish the political efficacy of the subject. Although this shift has gone unremarked in the literature, Butler herself treats this psychoanalytic dimension as animating the entire argument. This article reviews her logic and the place that psychoanalysis holds in her theory to establish the viability of the embodied political performative and its utility for historicism.

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