Judith Butler is the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. Butler earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy at Yale University in 1978, and her PhD at Yale in 1984. In addition to UC Berkeley, Butler has taught at Wesleyan University, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and the University of Amsterdam.
Drawing on critical traditions including phenomenology, feminism, cultural criticism, and philosophy of language, much of Butler’s work focuses on issues of gender. At the core of her work is the argument that gender is performative, an idea heavily influenced by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Simone de Beauvoir. In this approach, Butler differentiates between sex as a biological designation, and gender as the product of culture and action. Consequently, however much a person identifies with or resists their declared gender is a matter of performativity in regards to established norms and expectations. From this, Butler argues gender is real in that we perform it and make it real, which also makes it fluid, and capable to change through our performative choices.
For her work, Butler has received numerous awards and honors, including honorary doctorates from McGill University and the University of Belgrade, the Theodor W. Adorno Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
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