Judith Butler’s Statement of Support for an MLA Academic Boycott Resolution

Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. She served as220px-judithbutler2013 Founding Director of the Critical Theory Program. She is the author of Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France (1987), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993), The Psychic Life of Power: Theories of Subjection (1997), Excitable Speech (1997), Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (2000), Precarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning (2004); Undoing Gender (2004), Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging (with Gayatri Spivak in 2008), Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?(2009), and Is Critique Secular? (co-written with Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, and Saba Mahmood, 2009) and Sois Mon Corps (2011), co-authored with Catherine Malabou. Her most recent books include: Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (2012) and Dispossession: The Performative in the Political co-authored with Athena Athanasiou (2013), Senses of the Subject (2015). Her book, Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, will appear in 2015. Her future projects include work on messianic gestures in Kafka and Benjamin, philosophical fictions in Freud’s work, and gender in translation. She is also active in gender and sexual politics and human rights, anti-war politics, and serves on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace. She was the recipient of the Andrew Mellon Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in the Humanities (2009-13). She received the Adorno Prize from the City of Frankfurt (2012) in honor of her contributions to feminist and moral philosophy, the Brudner Prize from Yale University for lifetime achievement in gay and lesbian studies, and the Research Lecturer honor at UC Berkeley in 2005. In 2014, she was awarded the diploma of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Cultural Ministry.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is a non-violent tactic within a larger political struggle to achieve equality, justice, and freedom for Palestinians.  The movement seeks to address and rectify long-standing discrimination, dispossession, and the absence of substantive political and human rights.  Boycotts have a time-honored place in the history of political expression.  The BDS movement opposes discrimination on the basis of citizenship, and so opposes all forms of boycott that target individuals.  It has clearly opposed anti-Semitism and all forms of racism,  These principles constitute its official policy for more than ten years.  The boycott campaign addresses those institutions that support and help to reproduce inequality, dispossession, and injustice.  What it asks is that Israeli institutions become part of the struggle to realize political freedoms and international rights, that institutions oppose the Israeli government until such time as those important political rights, principles, and freedoms are realized through the dismantling of occupation, the institutionalization of political and legal equality, and the formulation of a just solution for those who, in accord with international law, have the right to return to lands forcibly taken from them.  BDS is a movement for freedom, a call for the realization of democratic ideals, the demand for a world in which co-habitation might one day become possible. It opposes violent solutions, but so too does it oppose those forms of collaborations that ratify the status quo take colonial rule for granted as an inevitability, or refuse to name it as such.  The BDS movement opposes all efforts to render normal or necessary inequality and rightlessness.  Only with a common commitment to freedom, equality, and justice is a life together possible – and that commitment can only be realized once the structures of inequality, dispossession, and institutional violence have been dismantled. Perhaps as this new year begins, we can all still hope for that day.