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Enduring and Broken Time - Judith Butler and Lisa Baraitser

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Room B01, Clore Management Centre, Torrington Sq., Birkbeck, University of London

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A conversation between Professor Judith Butler and Professor Lisa Baraitser.

Organized by the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research and the Department of Psychosocial Studies (Birkbeck).

This event brings together Judith Butler and Lisa Baraitser to think about enduring and ruptured time, and the way that temporal experiences help us to understand the fraught nature of affective relations.

Judith Butler will consider the work of José Muñoz who discerns forms of potential futurity within the fragments of a devastated present. She will contextualize his contribution, cut short by his early death, in light of queer theories of temporality. These latter ask about modes of belonging and transmission that take place outside the temporal lines imagined within heteronormative reproduction, opening up the question of whether queer forms of belonging exceed even the alternative accounts of kinship. For Muñoz, transmission of emotional investments takes place along the logic of excitation and even contagion, centring on works of art or on vast potentials that open up in uncanny ways within the most conventional visual scenes. One question raised by the comparison between Lisa Baraitser’s work and that of Muñoz is whether relational accounts can take account of forms of rupture that produce radical hope.

Taking up the themes of her recent book Enduring Time, Lisa Baraitser offers some reflections on continuity and rupture in order to think about the question of care. Care is often assumed to be a set of practices that take the form of an affective engagement with others, and have to do with maintaining, sustaining, or repairing the world. Yet care can also be thought about as a political and ethical decision to remain in what Christina Sharpe calls ‘the wake’: the ongoing disastrous time of the persistent effects of slavery. Remaining, for Sharpe, involves inhabiting and rupturing the wake’s elongated temporality. From this perspective, Lisa will argue that care is bound up with histories of the antithesis of care, or failures of care, that bring on ways of thinking that we may also need to take care of, and involve the temporal practices of staying alongside others and ideas when care has failed; waiting, staying, delaying, enduring, repeating and returning as the temporal forms that care takes. Engaging with the way Judith Butler ‘traps time’ in her use of the now anachronistic notion of ‘psychic reality’, Lisa will offer some psychoanalytic resources to think about the chronic and interminable, and the repetitive and developmental, in order to better understand the intersections between time, care and not moving on.

The event will be followed by a reception to launch Lisa Baraitser’s book Enduring Time (2017, Bloomsbury) hosted by the Department of Psychosocial Studies. Copies of the book will be available to purchase on that evening.

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 of a large number of highly influential texts in social theory, from Gender Trouble in 1990 to Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly in 2016. She has received numerous awards, including the Adorno Prize from the City of Frankfurt in honour of her contributions to feminist and moral philosophy and the diploma of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Cultural Ministry.

Lisa Baraitser is Professor of Psychosocial Theory in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck and author of Maternal Encounters. Her current research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, is on temporality and care in health contexts, and her most recent book is Enduring Time (Bloomsbury, 2017).

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Room B01, Clore Management Centre, Torrington Sq., Birkbeck, University of London

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