#JudithButler: Speaking of Rage and Grief

Butler (2009) states on images from war produced by embedded reporting, what I want to stress in contexts of images on gender-based violence: to question the forms of social or political power as well as the forms of prescriptive meaning and to consider that the image itself follows its own structure, opening or closing ways to scrutiny frames of gender-based violence – to transform from reproducing violence to a state of non-violence, to responsiveness and grieving. Butler’s concept of vulnerability, social interdependence and grievable life, establishes the subject we are as bound to the subject  we are not, so we each have the power to destroy and to be destroyed, and “we are bound to one another in this power and this precariousness” (Butler 2009). She says that “the body is a social phenomenon: it is exposed to others, vulnerable by definition”, which for her is an argument to rethink responsibility. Thus when we are working and researching in communications, her concept of vulnerability of the body, the subject, the life per definition, and responsiveness to grievable life is a crucial instrument to question the norms of visual and narrative frames, social and political conditions of power, and to question what is in the frame and what is left aside.

In her speech about Rage and Grief (2014), Butler says “In other words before ever losing we are lost in the other, lost without the other. But we never knew it as well as we do when we do actually lose.This being inthral is one way of describing the social relations that have the power to sustain and to break us way before we enter into contracts that confirm that our relations are the result of our choice. We are already in the hands of the others; a thrilling and terrifying way to begin. We are from the start both done and undone by the other. And if we refuse this, we refuse passion, life, and loss.” And she stresses “The lived form of that refusal is destruction. The lived from of its affirmation, is non-violence. Perhaps non-violence is the difficult practice of letting rage collapse into grief since then we stand the chance of knowing we are bound up with others such that who I am or who you are is this living relation that we sometimes lose.

Thank you Judith Butler, for that great speech and being who and what you are.


Butler, Judith. Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2009.

Butler, Judith. Speaking of Rage and Grief; © 2014 Leigha Cohen Video Production. Filmed in The Great Hall, The Cooper Union 7 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003 on April 28, 2014 at the 2014 PEN World Voices Festival. Published on 29 Apr 2014

Wolf, Birgit.‘Shaping the visual’ of gender-based violence. How visual discourse on intimate partner violence and European anti-violence initiatives construct accounts of the social world . PhD Thesis. Barcelona: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 2013


About birgitstoeckl

gender & communication expert, researcher, networker, activist.
This entry was posted in equal rights & social change, peacebuilding, social change, visual communication and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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