The Theory Understanding Judith Butler’s Precariousness and Grievability theory


The Theory
Understanding Judith Butler’s Precariousness and Grievability theory is not easy. Start with focusing on three key terms. Activate your knowledge about each of these terms using your lived experiences. Ann listen to my last two class lectures where I explain her theory.
Apprehension: What does Butler mean when she applies this term to people? How is apprehending different from seeing (think how hearing is different form listening)? What might the difference be between seeing a homeless (or unhoused person) and apprehending them? Butler does NOT mean apprehension in the same context as law enforcement though I suppose the root concept is similar.
Precariousness: What does Butler mean when she applies this term to people? Think about precarity as your standing on the edge of an ocean cliff THROUGHOUT your whole life. That is precarity; a wrong move and you die. Recognizing someone’s precarity means recognizing their mortality, the susceptibility of the human body for injury, thirst or starvation, etc. If you apprehend the humanity of a person, you should also be able to sense their precarity.
Grievability: What does Butler mean when she applies this term to people? Well most of us have grieved something, someone, or the outcome of some situation. It might be a simple as grieving your lost 4.0 GPA if you earn a C in a class. Or you may grieve the loss of a loved one; someone you apprehended and sensed the precarity of without having to think about it. Of course, you will grieve a loved one. However to grieve the death of an unhoused (homeless) person or a Russian soldier or a Ukrainian mother, you have to first apprehend them as a person in Butler’s sense of the term. The little match girl is desperately poor and abused. I know her story will bring many readers to tears. If you read about a child dying from starvation in Sudan, would you grieve? Would you be concerned her for more than a nano-second (whatever that is)?


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