In her classic work Gender Trouble - a book that changed the face of gender studies - Judith Butler presented the idea of "gender performativity"-the notion that we all 'do' gender in some way. In her new collection of essays, Butler clarifies the critical task of "undoing gender" when its terms are produced in the service of regulatory and punitive power. Undoing Gender addresses the regulation of sexuality and gender that takes place in psychology, aesthetics, and social policy. These essays revisit the problem of kinship in light of new challenges to the family form, interrogate the meaning and purposes of the incest taboo, and challenge the ways in which intersexuality and transsexuality are pathologized. The volume also includes a reading of Willa Cather, a speculation on the millennial goals of feminist theory, as well as a cultural analysis of sexual and racial panic in the censorship of the arts. Undoing Gender deepens issues introduced by Butler's earlier scholarship: the materiality of the body, the meaning and instrument of human agency, the relation between power and the psyche or power and the body, psychic triangulation and the incest taboo, the political limits and conditions of psychoanalysis, and the ramifications of rights discourse for those who are, by definition, unauthorized to make use of those terms. The volume ends with a reflection on the way that philosophy is, and must be, engaged with cultural questions of how power works. Undoing Gender will be essential reading for all serious readers interested in gender and sexuality, and in questions of philosophy, language, and the body.
Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Among her books are Gender Trouble, Bodies That Matter, and Excitable Speech, all published by Routledge.