[NetBehaviour] Transformative thresholds: Braidotti, Butler & the ethics of relation.

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Oct 16 20:11:00 CEST 2006

Transformative thresholds:
Braidotti, Butler & the ethics of relation.

Łódz, Poland, late August 2006 is the setting for what is the height of 
an exchange between two of feminism and gender philosophy’s most 
influential writers of the past 10 years: a public exchange that began 
in the form of interviews (published in Feminism meets Queer Theory in 
1997) in the early 90s and continued between the books that both women 
wrote. I am of course referring to Rosi Braidotti, the emphatic and self 
styled nomadic philosopher and everyone’s favourite queer darling, 
Judith Butler.

The exchange is compelling to say the least – if we amplify the title of 
Butler’s own keynote address to the conference ‘Tension and Alliance’ by 
1000 levels of intensity, you may gain an idea of what it is like 
perceiving Braidotti’s philosophical attacks on the sovereignty of the 
Butlerian reign over gender studies, as her speech energised the 
audience by storming through the terrain of her affirmative ethics in 
what she described as the post secular mood of the day. Judith Butler, a 
truly diplomatic thinker is however no bridge burner as she jokingly 
shrugs off Braidotti’s verbosity as a gesture of their dynamic 
relationship – it is ultimately ‘a loving antagonism’ she asserted to 
the audience.

Relationships are what are central to both thinkers writing of late, 
that is why it is so compulsive to see the exchanges in action at what 
seems like a necessary turning point in the questions of knowledge that 
feminists are using to understand the world. While Braidotti offers many 
a creative leap from which the emotionally aware, activated person can 
interact with and transform the world, Butler remains concerned with 
grounding her thought within the politics of recognition, namely what 
counts as a human or grievable life in the world, and a steady 
commitment to non violence as the forefront of any responsible feminist 
position in the world today. While Braidotti may be keen to demonstrate 
that her flows and codes exist within a different part of the post 
structuralist philosophical possibility, I believe I can discern one 
obvious site of convergence that their thought shares: namely the time 
both writers take to focus on the ethical questions of relation or how 
we relate to the ‘other’ as the most striking ethical problematic of our 
cultural epoch.


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