Center for LGBTQ Studies (CLAGS)

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2002


I’d like to speak to you this evening on the matter of politics and, specifically, how the struggles of gender and sexual minorities might offer a perspective on current issues that are before us, questions of mourning and violence, which we have to deal with as part of an international community. I'd like to start, and to end, with the question of the human, of who counts as the human, and the related question of whose lives count as lives, and with a question that has preoccupied many of us for years: what makes for a grievable life. I believe that whatever our differences as a community, and there are many, we all have some notion of what it is to have lost somebody. And if we've lost, then it seems to follow that we have had, that we have desired and loved, and struggled to find the conditions for our desire. We have all lost in recent decades from AIDS, but there are other losses that inflict us, other diseases, and there is the fact as well that we are, as a community, subjected to violence, even if some of us have not been. And this means that we are constituted politically in part by virtue of the social vulnerability of our bodies, as a field of desire and physical vulnerability, of a publicity at once assertive and targeted.


1. Note as per Dr. Butler: "An edited version of the piece was published in Precarious Life by Verso."

2. This article was published in CLAGSNews, vol. 12, no. 1.



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