Blogging the Theoretical

Butler Quote for Group Two

November 2, 2011 · 6 Comments

The body implies mortality, vulnerability, agency: skin and the flesh expose us to the gaze of others but also to touch and to violence. The body can be the agency and the instrument of all these as well, or the site where “doing” and “being done to” be equivocal. Although we struggle for rights over our own bodies, the very bodies for which we struggle are never quite our own. The body has its invariably public dimension; constituted as a social phenomenon in the public sphere, my body is and is not mine (Butler 2004, 21).

Categories: Brooke · Erika · Group Two · Jennifer R · Kate · Olivia · Troli

6 responses so far ↓

  •   emseav09 // Nov 6th 2011 at 11:13 am

    Butler poses great insight on a phenomenon that society still struggles with today; for why ones body is truly not our own. Butler expresses how our bodies are portrayed to others through various forms or representations that take away from the real us, our real selves, and our bodies are portrayed through images and hetero-normative ideals of the ways in which men and women should look or express themselves in the public domain. Having our bodies’ portrayed in different lights of the public and public media forms is were we become vulnerable and exposed to others in the outside world. These portrayals and vulnerability to others is the site in which Butler believes that we are “being done to”. We are no longer in control of how our bodies are seen or portrayed. We are not able to control how one sees us/ our bodies and are left at the mercy of the public dimensions/ interpretations of oneself. We are bound by these constraints of the public sphere and in turn our bodies will never fully be our own, but will be another representation of the human body through the lens of hetero- normative ideals of what the body “should” look like/ represent.

    – Erika

  •   bphess09 // Nov 6th 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Erika-I think you’ve made some great connections in your post regarding bodily portrayal and vulnerability. I’d like to expand Butler’s notion of bodily autonomy and how ultimately, we exists as public bodies that hinder our ability to “be undone”. From her discussion on bodily autonomy she notes that although agency is implied through the individual’s bodily actions it is those actions that are mimetic rather than autonomous. This is because through the body’s interaction a person can only become a subject through taking on something that is not biologically theirs. The body must reproduce what is already known and understood making any interaction a replication rather than original, which demonstrates the dialectic of the subject-social. This means that the subject cannot exist without the social and vise versa; thus, society is shaped by the subjective, which is in no way individualistic because society directly influences the creation of the subjective. In turn, the process of “undoing” can only occur if and when dispossession occurs. To dispossess indicates that possession had once occurred publically and the occupancy of the previous possession must be deconstructed.


  •   jmrodr09 // Nov 6th 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Within this quote and the comments expressed by my peers, I interpret a new viewpoint that corresponds to what has been said previously. Butler is trying to reflect the idea of acknowledgement. Acknowledgment is pertaining to the body as an object and that whether we know it or not, one’s body does not entirely belong to them. There is always something detaching us from our whole self, whether it is the media, maternity, sexuality, or etc. We, as humans and people, fight to claim our own individual rights. We fight what we believe is entirely ours which would be freedom to express ourselves or be who we want to be but through this process, we are always tending to give ourselves away. When a woman id pregnant, the body does not entirely belong to her, it belongs to her, her unborn child and society. When it comes to the media, a woman is masking up her body and herself with a perception of beauty she has interpreted from society and in a way these examples show how people have given a piece of themselves away without even knowing it. Showing that one’s body does not entirely belong to them because the rest is depicted upon a norm that strives to survive in an unjust world.

    -Jennifer R.

  •   kaasel09 // Nov 6th 2011 at 8:31 pm

    My peers have done an excellent job articulating what it means to think of the body as a public domain. I also think it is important to consider how the vulnerability of our bodies renders us dependent, a notion that completely contradicts the message our society preaches: that independence and individuality are paramount. Butler asks us to consider how our political systems might be remade if we were to acknowledge our position as dependants. As she argued in the lecture we viewed in class, the life of the other is a part of our life. To occupy a social space, the space which affords us our legitimacy, and in the most basic sense- our humanity, is to live a life that is sustained by others. How can this change how we view our body, and our responsibility to others? If my body is both mine and not mine, belonging also to “the other,” then my responsibilities to my fellow humans take on a whole new dimension. This ideology fosters a humanitarian approach to public and foreign policy; I become intrinsically linked to the violence and hardship experience by others. My skin is not the border of my selfhood, as I am possessed and – as Brooke has explained- I am “undone” and “remade” by others. My skin becomes a textbook upon which personal and human history is recorded. I am constantly audited and rewritten, and how I perform my-self mirrors the world around me. My performance has at its heart, my desire to make my “self” intelligible, and to be understood I must translate my being into a language that my culture understands. I can only obtain intelligibility if my performance remains within the parameters of cultural norms or dominant discourses. If I step outside this space, I become alien and incomprehensible. We must recognize that if we take an unintelligible form, if we allow our body to pursue desires that fall outside the norm, we represent chaos, we incite fear, we are rendered inhuman. This is the fate that homosexual, Trans, and intersexed people are forced to fate. Their “malady” is written on their bodies, and it is the body that carries the disease, and such people are deemed socially leprous, and are exiled. Knowing that we are dependant, we must change the way we understand “the other” by seeking to expand our space, as rendered by our linguistic and social understandings, so that people of all races, genders, cultures, and sexualities can occupy a space that is intelligible.

  •   ogmcma08 // Nov 7th 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Thus far, my peers have done an exceptional job at discussing the concepts of the body, the self and its public existence. However, I wish to further discuss this concept of Vulnerability. There exists a cultural demand for the individual. We are told to strive for internal success, to reach a mental, physical and “life” autonomy in which we do not depend on the other for anything. This is a fallacy. As Kate mentions, “the vulnerability of our bodies renders us dependent”, although we seem to strive for autonomy, there exists an inherent need for the other. Butler argues, that this need is created from birth and the detachment from the mother, and thus need continues throughout our lives. Because we constantly have this subconscious need for the other, we are vulnerable to the other. This vulnerability is manifested in the projection of our beings onto others, and acts of inhumanity. We prove our own existence by denying this vulnerability, and our dependence to the other. This it is problematic because through this denial we have a tendency to illegitimatize the other. So if we are constantly depending on the relationships between the self and the other, we are constantly battling for legitimacy, and the recognition of humanity. So not only is the body ours but we depend on the interpretation of others and their determination or lack of legitimacy to legitimize ourselves. Our body is ours but also theirs at the same time. In order to contradict this cycle one needs to recognize their inherent vulnerability, and sit with it to undo or be undone.


  •   adtrol09 // Nov 8th 2011 at 10:59 pm

    “Our bodies our never quite our own” is very powerful for me because individuals are constantly being perceived and perceiving others, taking on a specific social role. However there is a discourse of biology “you are what your born as” that does not truly belong to anyone. As young children we are all dependent on others. We are dressed up in what our parents dress us in. We behave like we are told to act. However it is only when we get older do we start to think for ourselves after we have been bombarded with social media and our parents ideas of ‘How we are suppose to be”. Therefore does one ever truly understand or really know their bodies? For as Butler states in her quote, “The body has its invariably public dimension; constituted as a social phenomenon in the public sphere, my body is and is not mine”


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