Judith Butler: Out of Breath: Laughing, Crying at the Body's Limit

Out of Breath: Laughing, Crying at the Body's Limit

We think of laughing and crying as expressions in the same way we think of speaking and gesturing. And yet, both laughing and crying do not express our joy and sorrow in the same way that language does. In both laughing and crying, the body breaks apart, and it shows itself breaking. And because the body belongs to a living context, it is also breaks with a certain way of functioning, departing from a sense of the ordinary. Although laughing and crying are ordinary, they are also extraordinary. In breaking with functional ways of being and instrumental modes of changing reality, they break with the ordinary, but do so within its own terms.This talk will consider the political repercussions of the body as it breaks apart in public, as it breaks with public modes of functioning, and as it breaks open new political potential.


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 is the author or co-author of more than a dozen books, including Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990); Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993); Excitable Speech (1997); Precarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning (2004); Undoing Gender (2004); Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (2009); Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (2015); The Force of Non-Violence: An Ethico-Political Bind (forthcoming in 2020). Her books have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Benjamin Arditi (Presenter) holds a PhD in Political Theory from the University of Essex. He is Professor of Politics at UNAM and author of Politics on the Edges of Liberalism: Difference, Populism, Revolution, Emancipation (Edinburgh University Press, 2007, Gedisa 2010, 2014 and 2017). Arditi co-edits the series Taking on the Political, published by Edinburgh University Press. He is currently finishing The Book of Others: Schmitt, Althusser, Laclau, Rancière and Politics.