Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The 2021 Holberg Debate on Identity Politics: J. Butler, C. West, G.Greenwald and S. Critchley.

The 2021 Holberg Debate: “Identity Politics and Culture Wars” Starts at 3:00. Does identity politics as it is currently manifesting itself offer a suitable avenue towards social justice, or has it become a recipe for cultural antagonism, political polarization, and new forms of injustice?

Panel: Judith Butler, Cornel West, Glenn Greenwald. Moderator: Simon Critchley

Judith Butler

Judith Butler is an American philosopher and gender theorist whose work has influenced political philosophy, ethics, queer theory, rhetoric and literary theory. She is the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as the Hannah Arendt Chair at the European Graduate School. Butler has written more than 20 books, and her best known works are Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (1993), and Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (1997), in which she challenges conventional notions of gender and develops her theory of gender performativity. Butler argues that being born male or female does not determine behaviour. Instead, people learn to behave in particular ways to fit into society. What society regards as a person’s gender can be seen as a performance made to please social expectations, rather than a true expression of the person’s gender identity.

Cornel West

Cornel West is an American philosopher, political activist, social critic, actor, and public intellectual. West is presently Dietrich Bonhoeffer Professor of Philosophy & Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. He has previously held professorships at Harvard University and Yale University. West focuses on the role of race, gender, and class in American society and the means by which people act and react to their “radical conditionedness”. A socialist, West draws intellectual contributions from multiple traditions, including Christianity, the Black church, Marxism, neopragmatism, and transcendentalism. He has written 20 books, and among his most influential works are Race Matters (1994), Democracy Matters (2004), and his memoir Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud (2010). West has a passion to communicate to a vast variety of publics in order to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. – “a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice”.

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is an American investigative journalist and author. A former constitutional lawyer, he founded and wrote for the online global media outlet The Intercept with Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill in 2014 until his departure in 2020, when he moved his writing to the online platform Substack. He is the author of several best sellers, among them, How Would a Patriot Act? (2006); With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful (2011) and No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State (2014). Living and reporting in Brazil, he was central to investigations that ultimately helped free Luis da Silva from prison after a parliamentary coup against the former President. Greenwald has received numerous awards for his investigative journalism. In 2009 he was awarded the Izzy Award by the Park Center for Independent Media for his “path breaking journalistic courage and persistence in confronting conventional wisdom, official deception, and controversial issues.” In 2010 he received an Online Journalism Award for his investigative work on the arrest and detention of Chelsea Manning. In 2013 he led The Guardian’s reporting team that covered Edward Snowden and the NSA, which earned the newspaper the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the top 100 Global Thinkers for 2013.

Moderator: Simon Critchley

Simon Critchley is a British philosopher and the Hans Jonas Professor at the New School for Social Research. His books include Very Little…Almost Nothing (1997), Infinitely Demanding (2007), The Book of Dead Philosophers (2009) and The Faith of the Faithless (2012). Recent works include a novella, Memory Theatre, a book-length essay, Notes on Suicide and studies of David Bowie and Football and Apply-Degger (Onassis, 2020). His most recent books are Tragedy, The Greeks and Us (Pantheon, 2019) and Bald (Yale, 2021). He was series moderator of ‘The Stone’, a philosophy column in The New York Times and co-editor of The Stone Reader (2016). He is also 50% of an obscure musical combo called Critchley & Simmons.

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