Judith Butler: Keep focused

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Reconstruction Women’s Fund, right after launching on its website “Performing Political”, a talk by Judith Butler  – video with titles and the transcript in Serbian is available here – had the opportunity to contribute financially to the conference “How to act together: From collective engagement to protest” organized in Belgrade, November 19-21, by Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory.  

The conference raised high attention, intersecting academic and activist knowledge and practices. Impressive scene was around Cultural Center of Belgrade, venue of Judith Butler’s lecture on vulnerability and resistance – the hall and the lobby were so crowded that numerous people could not enter.

However, we were also interested in Judith’s thoughts on feminist philanthropy:

RWF: The first question is do you think it’s important to invest in women’s human rights?

JB: Yes, it is important to invest in women’s human rights, if you mean to invest our time, invest our money, invest our hopes, our dreams – yes. I’ve always been interested by that phrase women’s human rights, because women are outside the human in that phrase and there is something true about that. So it states a reality in which women are excluded from the human, but also is making a demand to have human rights extended to women. But also there are specific rights that belong to women, including reproductive freedom or sexual autonomy or right to live without a fear of rape or becoming someone’s sexual property – all those are specific human rights that belong to women.

RWF: Do you think it’s important to have women’s feminist foundations and why?

JB: Well, feminist foundations in general have been extremely important in funding research on women and in representing women’s concerns in a public sphere, and in establishing the specific kinds of issues that are of concern for women, whether it’s safety or equality, discrimination, literacy or the entry of women into positions of political power and representation of women in national assemblies, for instance, so I think all of those issues have to be studied – I think there has to be policy formulated on the basis of them. I also think the arts are really, really important to fund. Women in arts are seeking to realize and express feminist ideals, and sometimes popular art forms are the very best way of influencing popular opinion.

RWF: And the last question is what a concept of solidarity is for you?

JB: A concept of solidarity means you stay with others in a group because you share a sense of indignation or injustice or you want to see a change in the world and you stay in that group even though you may not love them, and it may be difficult to stay, it takes up a lot of time, it means hanging out with people you don’t necessarily love, it means departing from the ease of your private life, it means continuing to share work and sometimes working overtime – but it means staying in and staying together in order to achieve that goal. I think solidarity does not work so well when you loose track of what your goal is, of what you want to change or what kind of justice you want to realize. People become angry with one another or they feel like their internal differences are so important, but it’s important to keep in mind what it is that brought you together to begin with and to keep focused on that object.

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Help with the realization of the interview: Adriana Zaharijević

Photo: Vladimir Opsenica



Gudrun Schyman: We must introduce the discussion on human rights into the politics and the parliament