Dutch Contact Survey page Niels Helsloot

Judith Butler, [Excitable speech]

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Opgefokte taal
Translation: Niels Helsloot
Amsterdam: Parrèsia 2007
ISBN 978 90 73040 05 2
239 pp.


During the past years, the notion of "saying what you think" has become a controversial one. Freedom of speech, however much praised, is faced with practical limits. For words can hurt, and if they do, their consequences are far-reaching.

Judith Butler is one of the most important philosophers who continue European traditions in the Anglo-Saxon world of thought. Her name was made by her way of looking at gender-based exclusion.

In Excitable speech, Butler gives a valuable perspective on the debate on free speech. She inquires into what turns words, and other forms of expression that at first sight seem to be purely symbolic, into acts. She goes into American excrescences like cross-burning as an expression of white superiority and the ban, within the American military, on defining oneself as a homosexual, because among soldiers this would be experienced as a threat.

In a preface written especially for this translation, Butler gives a challenging impetus to relate her findings to the Dutch context, in which an accepting disposition towards homosexuality is required as a way to disqualify (Islamitic) minorities.


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