The Judith Butler Affair

Lund U in breach of Unesco recommendations

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There are two things I object to:

  1. The idea that women authors should be placed on a reading list according to 40/60% formula. Books and articles by women authors must be given a rationale just like any other item on the reading list. Giving rationales is an intellectual activity. The present system is brain-dead, anti-intellectual.
  2. That power is exercised over me, my course, my students and our discussions. That we are told what to think and talk about by a committee to which we don’t have access.  And that I’m being bullied by some students for failing to comply. The reading list is a “legally binding document,” they argue, and not teaching Judith Butler is thus a breach of contract.

On the second of these points: I’m not much of a lawyer, but it certainly seems to me that Lund University is in breach of Unesco’s Recommendations concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel:

Higher-education teaching personnel have the right to teach without any interference, subject to accepted professional principles including professional responsibility and intellectual rigour with regard to standards and methods of teaching. Higher-education teaching personnel should not be forced to instruct against their own best knowledge and conscience or be forced to use curricula and methods contrary to national and international human rights standards. Higher education teaching personnel should play a significant role in determining the curriculum.

It’s these bits in particular: “… Higher-education teaching personnel have the right to teach without any interference, subject to accepted professional principles including professional responsibility and intellectual rigour,” and “… should not be forced to instruct against their own best knowledge and conscience …”  If a Lund University committee puts Judith Butler on my reading list and if students bully me for not teaching it, surely Lund U is in breach of these recommendations.

What to do about this?  Sweden has signed on to the recommendations but it’s presumably not the kind of thing that would stand up in court. Any lawyers out there?

1 Comments


  1. Mitt råd i all välmening till studenten vore att inte ta så hårt på avvikelser från läslistan. Ta vara på det som eventuellt är intressant i kursen. Komplettera perspektiven på egen hand. Starta en läscirkel med Butler och feministisk litteratur. Gå inte i symbios med byråkraterna. De kommer att förvandla de radikala idéerna till reaktionärt nonsens. Radikalitet behöver stå fri från makten.

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