A Life Worth Mourning

In Frames of War Judith Butler discusses the topic of grief and in what ways it is acceptable to express it. Some aversions to public displays of grief result from the thinking that some people are more or less deserving of it. For various reasons some lives are thought to be underserving of being mourned or not even considered to be living enough to be mourned (38). Governments have more control over this than most of the public consciously realizes by regulating the media. In censoring the Abu Ghraib the public was not fully aware of the extent or background of what their own government was doing, without all the information people were steered in the direction of thinking that the prisoners were partly at fault for what happened. The government spread the thought that since the prisoners were from a culture deemed “backwards” by Americans their tortures were warranted and therefore unworthy of grief. But how far does this go? With this method of reasoning it seems that many cultural practices could be used as evidence of being less than worthy lives. Even when people think for themselves about the innate value of a life the government still restricts how they mourn a death, because we would be acting unpatriotically. Patriotism seems to be more important than fundamental human rights. But in the end we are all human and interconnected, no matter how much we try to substantiate divisions (44).    

-Annie Grant



Our class discussion on the Occupy Movement following the clip about Occupy Oakland immediately brought to mind the famous Audre Lorde quote that “the Master’s Tools will never dismantle the the master’s house.” In class, we discussed arguments that have been made against the Occupy Movement. Someone mentioned the common argument that they have not outlined goals and lack a leader. As was pointed out, however, these are intentional. The point is not to reform, but to change. I think this is where Lorde’s quote comes into play. While Lorde is discussing the ways in which women utilize patriarchal structures to exclude other women, I think the same idea can be applied to Occupy. The Occupy movement seeks to genuinely change the system, not merely adjust or reform it. The goal to override and start a new, better system, not work through the channels of the system to modify it. As Lorde argues, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” The current system that benefits only the few at the expense of the many doesn’t need just reform, it needs to be completely changed.

These ideas were present in the second video we watched as well. Something new has to be created, it can’t just be moved on to something or somewhere else. It stressed the need for something new to be constructed.

The Audre Lorde article can be found here:http://lists.econ.utah.edu/pipermail/margins-to-centre/2006-March/000794.html
–Hannah Craddock

The Battle in Oakland

Prior to seeing the video clip of “The Battle in Oakland”, I was unaware of the Occupy Oakland movement and the series of events that occurred earlier this year regarding this issue. For those of you who missed the video clip last week, this “battle” in Oakland happened January 28th when Occupy Oakland tried to move into a building that had been vacant since 2006 and was used as a social center. When Occupy Oakland attempted to move into a building in which they re-named Oscar Grant Plaza, police tried to evict them and stop further movements. Occupy Oakland’s intentions were to provide shelter and food for those who are in need, a space for people to gather, have books for people to read whenever and a place for social functions to be held at. These intentions were to provide for other people and did not come off as malicious at all from what I saw in the video clip from class. 

I was very surprised by how the police reacted to these people trying to do something that could potentially benefit the public. I believe that had the police not intervened, that the Occupy Oakland people would not have been violent- it appeared that it was in reaction to the police trying to stop their actions. The part that really stood out to me from the video clip was when the police ordered them to evacuate the area, but they did not provide them with a way out and did not cooperate with them to help them get out of the area that they wanted them to leave. This was evident in the part where the people were begging the police to just show them how to get out and they would leave, and the police just stood there emotionless and then ended up hitting people and using force. I was really surprised at how violent the police were towards the Occupy Oakland people, and in turn how they reacted to the police using force. The fact that they were using tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets, and physically hitting people was a bit eye opening to me, because I could not imagine something like that happening here in Bloomington. It is clear that the Occupy Oakland group had good intentions, however the city of Oakland police force did not agree and see eye-to-eye with their movements. I felt that this video clip was a good example of violence that occurs during protests, and it made me more aware of issues that are more current because I have heard of several protests that have occurred in the past that have resulted in violence, but I was not aware that protests like this still occur now as often as they do. 

– Mallory Hart

Yours, Mine, Ours

Butler suggests that we think beyond the idea that our bodies are ours and ours alone. By considering the body as a common asset instead of merely something of which one has sole control, we can be substantially more effective. This, of course, makes sense. By rethinking our relationship to our body in this way, we are able to combat the “mind/body split” ideology as well as move toward a collective recognition of the capacities of many bodies striving simultaneously towards a desired change. In doing so, however, it seems important not to forget the empowerment one can experience during that moment in which s/he discovers autonomy over his/her body.

Not that Butler is referencing 2 year olds in her writing, but the principle of bodily autonomy hold true even in their case. Once a toddler figures out that he/she has control over his/her body, a myriad of possibilities open up.

If/when victims of continued sexual abuse are given the opportunity to realize that they actually can decide when and with whom they want to have sex, their prospects and opinions of the future improve markedly.

Many intellectually disabled individuals live a life filled with ridiculously low expectations. After encountering someone who refuses to coddle them and encourages realistic participation in everyday normal activities, their skillset multiplies very quickly.

All of this happens largely due to the simple realization that, “I own my body and I will choose what to do (or not do) with it.”

My point here is not to suggest that considering one’s body as solely their own is the ideal framework. In fact, in each of these examples it takes other bodies acting the bodies in question to affect the change. So, Butler is right (as usual 🙂 but it never hurts to remember that valuing the “body as individual property” stage is just as important as striving to move through it and on to the recognition that our bodies are not only ours.

-Mika Baugh

Judith Butler Speaks Out Against Homonationalism

In June of 2010, Judith Butler turned down the Civil Courage Award from Berlin Pride, critiquing the organizers’ association with homonationalism.  She said that if she could, she herself would award the prize to the number of activist groups which work to fight both racism and homophobia.

But what exactly is homonationalism?

In her speech, which was received with much applause from the audience and contempt on the part of the organizers, Butler described the problem as such: “Lesbian, gay, trans, and queer people can be used [by] warmongers involved in cultural wars against immigrants through labored Islamophobia and military wars against Iraq and Afghanistan.  In this time, through these instruments, we become recruited for nationalism and militarism.”

Homonationalism is using a nation’s liberalism towards homosexuality as a means to encourage racist attitudes towards other nations, on grounds that they are less enlightened.

Here is an example of homonationalism from immigration policy in the Netherlands.  In 2006 the Netherlands passed a new requirement for dual citizenship.  Those looking to become Dutch residents would first need to pass a citizenship test before leaving their country of origin.  This includes a Dutch language test, which costs upwards of $400.  Additionally, applicants were required to take a test in compatibility with Dutch liberalism, and they were required to watch a film on Dutch liberalism, which featured images of homosexuals making out and topless women sunbathing on a beach.

The citizenship test was not required of immigrants coming from the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, which indicates that the policy was meant to target those from non-Western nations, specifically Muslim immigrants.

The video and the test on liberalism were criticized as particularly problematic, as they clearly relied on homonationalism, and imperialistic feminism in order to discourage and prevent Muslim immigrants from immigrating to the Netherlands.

The Dutch immigration minister was very open about the intent of the policy “There are over 600,000 people in the country that don’t speak proper Dutch and are mostly unemployed. We can no longer afford to welcome immigrants who will not integrate into mainstream society, which is why we have advocated a new restrictive visa system.”

In addition to taking advantage of potential immigrant’s poverty and illiteracy as a basis for exclusion, liberal Dutch views toward gay and feminist rights were clearly used as tools in a racist immigration policy, to keep persons from less liberal nations out.  Human Rights Watch denounced the citizenship tests as discriminatory for these reasons.   In 2008, a judge ruled against and abolished this discriminatory citizenship test, when an illiterate Moroccan woman filed a case against the Dutch state, and won.

“The Netherlands is not the only European country that has begun to restrict immigration or citizenship” reads an article from workpermit.com. “Britain will rate potential immigrants in accordance to a points system favouring skilled workers, and Germany has proposed a history exam, and would question applicant’s views on arranged marriages, homosexuality, women’s rights and terrorism.”  Perhaps this is what Butler was protesting when she rejected Berlin Pride’s award.

– Robyn Brush

sources: http://www.workpermit.com/news/2006_04_06/europe/new_dutch_immigration_test.htm


Unwinding Torture


“There is no such thing as a little bit of torture.” -Rear Admiral John Hutson

When I first was informed about the photographs of Abu Ghraib, I did not expect to see what those pictures displayed.  I was always somewhat aware of the iconic function of an image, but these photos brought that meaning to a whole new level.  I couldn’t decide whether I was more horrified or shocked, but above all of that, I did not know exactly what the significance was behind them.  After being informed a little bit more on the subject matter, I felt distressed to know that our soldiers were behind all of this.  I believe this was the first time I was not proud of our soldiers, but confused and wanted an explanation.  Although there are many pieces on this matter, it was not until I read Judith Butler’s, Frames of War: Survivability, Vulnerability, Affect, that some of my questions were answered.

In Chapter 1 of Frames of War, Butler focuses on certain issues and questions in relation to the context of war.  She believes that during wartime, there is a heightened sense of national identity.  Within this chapter, Butler calls into question whom the subject is, and who fits or does not fit into the cultural conception of human, during times of war.  Within this matter, Butler conveys the circumstances under which a life is ungrievable.  “An ungrievable life is one that cannot be mourned because it has never lived, that is, it has never counted as a life at all” (Butler 38).  Butler calls into question, “Why is it that the government so often seeks to regulate and control who will be publicly grievable and who will not?”  To demonstrate her point, she brings forth some of the photographs and poetry of Abu Ghraib prisoners, along with the controversy surrounding them.  From the content of the poetry, the collective pain the poets felt was revealed.  In a poem written by Abdulla Majid al-Noaimi, “My rib is broken, and I can find no one to heal me-My body is frail, and I can see no relief ahead.”  From the content of this poetry that Butler includes, it is also revealed how torture exploits the vulnerability of the body.  It becomes evident, among other things, that human bodies are denoted as vulnerable entities in this chapter of Frames of War by Judith Butler.

-Nicki Moon

Public Mourning

In her piece that we read this week, Judith Butler discusses public mourning and which lives are (considered by some) worthy of being mourned publicly. While Butler focuses on terrorists and soldiers in her argument, this discussion brings to mind to the recent death of Whitney Houston.  After her death, I saw a number of posts online (and rants on Facebook) about how we should not be surprised about her death, since she was on drugs for a number of years. (Just to add, I don’t necessarily agree with this stance and don’t want to offend…)  Now I am not saying that Whitney Houston’s death isn’t worthy of public mourning just because she was an addict, but rather I am calling fame and status into the question.  Every year, there are memorials and public services for celebrities and publicly esteemed icons who suffer the same fate as ordinary people – whose lives and deaths go unknown.  Do celebrities deserve to be mourned any more than the average person? Even those with the greatest impact? Because in the end, aren’t we all just “zoe” – bare life?

Going off of that, it seems that celebrities often “get off the hook” for things that would typically regarded as unacceptable.  To mind comes Chris Brown.  After his performances on the Grammy’s, I recall some online sources claiming that he had “redeemed himself” from the abuse scandal a few years ago.  Does being a great performer mean that we can overlook that outburst of domestic abuse?  It outrages me that the public is willing to simply forgive and forget so quickly in the case of celebrities.  Are celebrities a higher form of life – are they “bios” and the rest of us just “zoe”?  I think not.  But apparently the production of popular music and entertainment outweighs breaches of justice.  Now I don’t want to judge Chris Brown too quickly either without proper knowledge of his personal life, but it is just something to think about and consider.

In the end, I think that pop culture has an astronomical impact on whose deaths we mourn and who we view as “bios” and “zoe.”

Mallory Thayer