“You’ve all been very good. I’m sorry, I’m a bit traumatized.”
Neither snow nor ice nor free speech restrictions could stop her: as planned, Judith Butler, famed Professor of Rhetoric and Literature at University of California Berkeley, spoke in Memorial Chapel yesterday to a full-capacity crowd about the writings of philosopher Martin Buber and the promise they may hold for reinstating open dialogue about peace in the Middle East.
Butler was introduced by President Roth, who pointed out that she embodied the Wesleyan mission statement to a tee as a practitioner of “courageous responsibility, which is difficult to carry out to the street and back to the academy.” Professor of Anthropology and American Studies Margot Weiss, who provided background on her for a few minutes afterward, was greeted by a enthusiastic wave of applause when she rose to the stage. Realizing what had happened due to her faintly resembling Butler, she shouted, “I am not Judith Butler, but thank you!” She went on to draw connections between Butler’s current work and the work on gender that she is best known for, saying that her most recent book, Parting Ways, sees Judaism as a kind of “anti-identitarian project.”
Butler’s approach to critiquing Israeli policies was so carefully measured and focused on separating the Jewish people from the idea of the Jewish state that she paused halfway through to assure people she wasn’t a robot. She also thanked the audience for their patient listening and respect for her views, saying, “You’ve all been very good. I’m sorry, I’m a bit traumatized.” Laughter ensued.