The Powers of Memory in the Little Things
Closing lecture given by Judith Butler
To conclude this new edition of the Politics and Aesthetics of Memory Chair, Judith Butler gives a lecture on the idea of memory outside hegemonic readings of history, drawing from mottos/slogans, poems, posters, excerpts from texts, and materials that look to concisely transmit something lost from the past.
In opposition to those who claim history can only be captured in long narrative reconstructions, Butler suggests that some of the most brutal periods in history are transmitted more persuasively via “the little things”, understood as short-format texts and compositions that seep into contemporary visual culture. This exercise thus aims to consider how memory loss and its resistance is built in the same formats, giving rise to constellations for a type of memory work that is neither redeeming nor monumental.
The Politics and Aesthetics of Memory Chair, led by Chilean theorist Nelly Richard, approaches a concept of memory that does not dwell on the fixed memory of concluded pasts, but, rather, operates as an agent to decipher and re-read unstable fragments and scenes, the inconclusive narratives that continue to question the recent past.
Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkely, and Hannah Arendt lecturer and professor of Philosophy at The European Graduate School (EGS). Initially specialising in Gender Studies, her work also includes significant reflections in the sphere of ethics, politics and human rights. Furthermore, she is one of the most influential intellectuals today. Her published works include touchstone titles such as Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (2007); Bodies that Matter (2008); Frames of War. When Is Life Grievable? (2009) and Undoing Gender (2012). More recently she has published Dispossessions: The Performative in the Political, with Athena Athanasiou (Polity Press, 2013), Senses of the Subject (Fordham University Press, 2015) and Allied Bodies and Political Struggle (2017). The Breus Collection, from the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), has also published her three lectures Vulnerabilitat, supervivència (2008) and Violència d’Estat, guerra, resistència (2010; published in Spanish by Katz Ediciones, 2011) and Cossos que encara importen (2017).