4/19/2014 11:22:27 PM

Symposium on Living Philosophers

Thursday, October 17, 2013

By Kristen Bossio '16

Every two years, Siena College devotes a year-long seminar class to studying the works of a modern, living philosopher. As part of the Symposium on Living Philosophers, the featured philosopher visits campus once each semester to deliver a public lecture and interact with the students in the course. This year’s featured thinker is Judith Butler, Ph.D.

Butler is the Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also a Visiting Tam Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University and Hannah Arendt Chair at the European Graduate School. Butler has published almost twenty books on various topics, ranging from war and torture to gender, sexuality, and power.

Butler delivered this semester’s lecture, titled “Kinship Trouble: The Bacchae for the Present,” to a full crowd in the Sarazen Student Union. Her talk, according to her abstract, was intended to “consider whether Greek tragedy still has something to teach us about the relationship between psychoanalysis, feminism, and kinship.” Throughout her lecture, Butler frequently returned to the idea of figuring out how kinship works, how it sometimes fails and how kinship is defined.

According to Butler, kinship is defined as an adoring, binding set of relations, but these bonds are often broken by things such as being disowned. She said there are even circumstances “in which [kin relations] are sometimes nearly unrecognizable.” Although The Bacchae was her main tool for understanding how the “relationship between kinship and misrecognition might work,” she also referenced the stories of Antigone and Oedipus.

After her talk, Butler fielded questions from the audience. Her dialogue with the Siena College community continued the next day when she attended the Living Philosophers class to meet with the twelve students who are studying her work.

Matt Herrmann ’15 said having Butler visit campus to deliver a lecture and speak to his class was a morale booster and a reminder of the living discussion he and his classmates are participating in.

The students in the class were able to have a conversation with Butler and ask her questions about her work.

“To be able to talk with [Judith Butler] and ask her questions directly about her own work and theories was incredible and not something that I will ever have the chance to do again,” said Vicky Rybnick ’14.

Judith Butler will be back on campus on April 10, 2014 to give another public lecture titled “Vulnerability and Resistance.” The following day, Butler will once again meet again with the Living Philosophers class. This time though, the students’ work will be in focus as they present and discuss their research with her.

The public lecture series continues on November 7 at 4 p.m. in the Sarazen Student Union when Vanderbilt University Associate Professor of Philosophy Lisa Guenther, Ph.D. will deliver a lecture titled, “Precarity and Survival in the US Carceral Archipelago.”

Click here for more information on Siena College’s Symposium on Living Philosophers.

Contact: Ken Jubie
Contact E-mail: communications@siena.edu

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