Judith Butler

Judith Butler

Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature
Dept of Comparative Literature
Research Expertise and Interest
critical theory, gender and sexuality studies, comparative literature, 19th and 20th century continental philosophy, social and political thought, philosophy and literature
Research Description

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 received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1984. She is the author of several books:  Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France (1987), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993), The Psychic Life of Power: Theories of Subjection (1997), Excitable Speech (1997), Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (2000), Precarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning (2004); Undoing Gender (2004), Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging (with Gayatri Spivak in 2008), Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (2009), and Is Critique Secular? (co-written with Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, and Saba Mahmood, 2009) and Sois Mon Corps (2011), co-authored with Catherine Malabou. Her most recent books include: Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (2012), Dispossession: The Performative in the Political  (co-authored with Athena Athanasiou 2013), Senses of the Subject and Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (2015), and a co-edited volume, Vulnerability in Resistance, with Duke University Press (2015). Her book, The Force of Nonviolence will appear with Verso Press in 2020.  Her books have been translated into more than twenty-seven languages.

She served as a founding director, with Martin Jay, of the Critical Theory Program and the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs at UC Berkeley and served as Department Chair of the Department of Rhetoric in 1998-2003 and 2006-7, and the Acting Chair of the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, 2002-3. She also served as the Chair of the Board of the University of California Humanities Research Center in Irvine.  She has served on the Executive Council of the Modern Languages Association and chaired its committee on Academic Freedom and will serve as President of the organization in 2020.  She is also affiliated faculty with the Psychosocial MA Program at Birkbeck College in London and the  Hannah Arendt Chair at the European Graduate School in Sass Fee, Switzerland.

Butler has been active in several human rights organizations, including the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace. She was the recipient of the Andrew Mellon Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in the Humanities (2009-13).  She received the Adorno Prize from the City of Frankfurt (2012) in honor of her contributions to feminist and moral philosophy, the Brudner Prize from Yale University for lifetime achievement in gay and lesbian studies, and was named the Albertus Magnus Professorship from the City of Cologne, Germany in 2016. She is as well the past recipient of several fellowships including Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Ford, American Council of Learned Societies, and was Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and at Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. She has given the Wellek Lectures at Irvine, the Carpenter Lectures at the University of Chicago, the Watts Lecture at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, the Gauss Lectures at Princeton, the Messenger Lectures at Cornell, the Tanner Lectures at Yale University, and the annual Freud Lecture at the Freud Museum in Vienna.  She has received twelve honorary degrees: Université Bordeaux-III, Université Paris-VII, Grinnell College, McGill University, University of St. Andrews, Université de Fribourg, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Liège Université, the Universidad de Costa Rica, Universidad de Guadalajara, Universidad de Chile, and University of Belgrade. In 2014, she was awarded the diploma of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Cultural Ministry. In 2015, she was made an “honorary geographer” by the American Association of Geographers and was elected as a corresponding fellow of the British Academy. She is a member of the American Philosophical Society and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019.

In the News

October 10, 2012

Grave Matters

Thomas Laqueur studies the role of cemeteries in civilization.

July 22, 2011

No artist is an island, says faculty author Shannon Jackson

Art that looks directly at the institutions that, for better or for worse, surround and support our lives is the subject of a new book, “Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics,” by Shannon Jackson, professor of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies