The Judith Butler on the “Judith Butler Affair”: “The method is wrong”
The latest issue of the Swedish magazine Kvartal has an interview with none other than Judith Butler herself. The Judith Butler. Pdf here. In the interview she comments on the recent “Judith Butler Affair” at Lund University, on the use of gender quotas on reading lists, and discusses the role of academic freedom at a university. I am delighted to find that she agrees with my position on all of these issues. And not just half-heartedly either, but with gusto, with zest and with emphasis. Judith, you are the best!
I have promised the author of the article not to publish the whole English version of the interview here. Not surprisingly, he wants to find a more, well, prominent, place for it. But here, at least, are a couple of quotes:
How do you regard having your work imposed on a university lecturer in the name of gender equality?
JB: I am not in favor of my work being imposed by quotas. … Suggestions can be made about how to expand perspectives on gender, or which texts might be useful, but the final judgment has to be made by the faculty member. I am opposed to imposing specific texts and authors on faculty. I would myself reject any such attempt on the part of the administration, no matter the social goals that they seek to achieve through that method. The method is wrong, and the goals cannot be achieved through coercion.
You have written several texts on academic freedom. Why is academic freedom important?
JB: Academic freedom is the protection that faculty have against administrative or state intervention in our research activities, the curricula for our courses, and our academic point of view. … Of course, we can, and ought to be, challenged when our work demonstrates prejudice, bias, or consequential blind-spots. But that has to happen through conversation and public dialogue. If it is imposed by a university authority, then that authority is augmented, and we expand the power of the administration to control what we teach. What happens if the administration becomes a fascist one? Or what if it decides to ban feminist perspectives from the classroom? If we give that power away, we suffer its consequences.
If not gender quotas, how should we work to achieve greater gender equality in our universities?
JB: Quotas are a short-cut, and they cannot achieve the social justice goal. Social justice is achieved through freedom, and any concept of social justice that denies freedom denies justice itself. We know this from the struggle against censorship. Equality and Freedom are equally important: freedom without equality is unjust; but so too is equality without freedom. Let us hold in mind that complexity as we proceed.
Judith Butler provides strong support for my position on three issues. She too believes 1) that university teachers should not be required to teach specific texts; 2) reading lists should not be ruled by gender quotas; and 3) how courses are taught at a university should be decided by the teacher responsible, in accordance with professional standards, and not be dictated by outsiders. None of these three requirements are currently met at the Department of Political Science at Lund University.
Judith and I are in complete agreement. If you think I’m mistaken you will from now on have to tussle with the two of us.