Legendary feminist speaks at Fordham

ROSE HILL – This Tuesday evening, famed feminist writer and philosopher Judith Butler spoke on the politics of public assembly to a packed house in Flom Auditorium. Grad students and undergrads joined faculty members to hear Dr. Butler’s lecture, “‘We, the People,’ or Plural Action,” about the right of peoples to assemble and what that means in their communities. Butler, an internationally recognized feminist, is most famous for her book on identity politics, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990). By event time, it was standing room only in Flom, located in the basement of the library.

Students crowd into Flom Auditorium to hear Butler’s lecture. Courtesy of Emily Pandise/The Ram Realm

Butler’s argument focused on the politics of assembly and what assembly even means in a contemporary context. She focused on the recent Occupy movements as well as the summer 2013 “Standing Man” protests in Instanbul’s Taksim Square. Using as an example the Standing Man protests, which begins with a singular person simply standing in the Square and leading to dozens, hundreds, and even thousands more over time, Butler illustrated certain techniques of contemporary assembly.

“It’s not just that the people are represented, but that the people are constituting themselves as a people,” Butler said.

Dr. Judith Green, director of the Women’s Studies program at Rose Hill and philosophy staff member, said she was overjoyed by both Butler’s appearance and her lecture.

“What she did with us, in this crowded Flom Auditorium, is to give us a sense of being a public together, of actually learning from one another and speaking freely,” Green said. “This was in the best spirit of Fordham’s commitment to justice, inclusion, and care for the whole person.”

Students were similarly impressed with Butler and particularly the event’s turnout.

Becky Daily, a FCRH senior and American Studies major, attended the event.

“Despite our rhetoric surrounding democracy, there’s no way to truly represent the people,” Daily said of Butler’s lecture. “I’d never seen Flom that crowded, which speaks to [Butler’s] celebrity appeal.”

The topic of public assembly is particularly significant for the Fordham population, as students have butted heads with University administration in the past regarding freedom to assemble on campus. As recently as last year, several guest speakers, such as talking head Ann Coulter and commencement speaker and CIA director John Brennan, sparked controversy. When asked about Fordham’s own problems with assembly, Butler declined to comment.

Butler at an event in 2012. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Butler gave an earlier version of her lecture at an Istanbul university last September in collaboration with Columbia Global Centers.