on 2 November 2000
Butler's new book takes Antigone, the heroine of the Theban plays, as the basis for arguing that our ideas of kinship delimit our ideas of intelligible and legimate sexuality. Kinship, Butler argues, is constructed as pre-social, providing it with an exterior quality of the biological (blood ties). But how is kinship established? It is founded on laws which are social, laws which debar certain sexual actions within "biological" kinship networks. These social laws, such as the incest taboo, continually haunt kinship (and gender and sexuality) because they provide an abject form, which remains unintelligible, but which neverthless acts as a spectre for disruption. In practice, from this unintelligible form what counts as "human" is brought into being against it's abject other. Thus, to be human at all, to participate as a human being in the social world, demands appropriation of types of being which are seen to be intelligible. This is not a new argument from Butler. She has previously argued that it is through the continual and repitituous inciting of normative forms, and the continual exclusion of the abject, that we become human. But what does she say about Antigone? Firstly, she is arguing that Antigone is neither inside or outside of kinship, but functions as a constant disturbance on the threshold of culture. Secondly, Antigone's death actually exceeds her own life because she instigates the possibilities for an unknown future of kinship relations. In this sense Antigone provides a way of seeing how future relationships might be possible; relationships not based on the central laws embodied in Freudian/Lacanian psychoanalysis. In short, Butler argues: what happens if we take Antigone as central to an understanding of kinship, rather than Oedipus? She doesn't really tell us, but her question is interesting!
on 14 April 2014
This is not an easy text but a good one for those interested in Antigone, poststructuralist thought on gender, sexuality, law and the state. It also covers and critiques thoroughly Hegel and Lacan's treatment of Antigone, repositioning her in a new light (which might not be that new to those who enjoy Irigaray, but still adds much depth)
Brill (but v slim, shame its so expensive)