Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book reviews for philosophy majors | Do we characterize certain people as victims of violence?

When I speak in classrooms for career days or about being a reporter, I usually get asked what I studied in college, which in my case was philosophy (as an undergrad). As a philosophy major, I always have trouble explaining what that means, particularly to middle school students. I say things like "thinking about thinking" and "we try to ask and understand the big questions, like what is meaning? how do we prove existence? what is moral?" But that doesn't always engage them and I'm loathe to go any deeper than that, because I wasn't brought in to discuss philosophy. Also, as is my tendency, I usually end my description with a joke about it not being ancient Greece and thus the job market isn't very good for philosophers.

But after reading this review of Judith Butler's book Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? I think I'll have a better answer to give. In short, the review in Utne says ... Philosopher and Utne Visionary Judith Butler argues that we think of certain people as natural victims of violence. (That was the Tweet about the review.)

FROM THE REVIEW: Judith Butler’s trenchant and brilliant book is all about this kind of “frame,” an image or a discussion that allows us to think of certain people as natural victims of violence. Her work suggests that by defining people as residents of war zones, we have, so to speak, zoned them for war. We don’t grieve their deaths, and the call for nonviolence is shouted down because we haven’t recognized their lives as fully livable.

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