Reading Butler as a Dialectical Thinker: Juxtaposing Butler with Adorno

The GSSR announces the second in our new series of seminars addressed both to doctoral students and academic staff. The seminars aim to bring together students and established researchers working in the same field, thus promoting closer interaction and future collaboration between them.

During the seminars doctoral students present for discussion well-advanced research projects, with experienced scholars from various academic centres in Poland and abroad invited to take the role of commentators.

The seminars take place on the Zoom platform and are open to all.

This next seminar is scheduled for March 3rd  at 13:00 Warsaw time (CET) with Philip Højme presenting the topic, “Reading Butler as a Dialectical Thinker: Juxtaposing Butler with Adorno”.

Join Zoom Meeting

  • Meeting ID: 827 5929 3189
  • Passcode: 928468

Further seminars are planned for March 16th at 15:00, and March 30th at 16:00.


13:00  Murat Kök – Chair of the seminar – Welcome address

13:05  Adam Lipszyc – Subject and Dialectics in Late Modern Philosophy – Introductory remarks

13:10  Philip Højme – Reading Butler as a Dialectical Thinker: Juxtaposing Butler with Adorno

13:40  Marcel Stoetzler (Bangor University, UK) – Commentator

13:55  Discussion

14:45  Closing remarks




In Gender Trouble (1999[1990]) Butler echoes a ‘Derridian’ critique of dialectics which reproaches it for being ‘phallogocentric’. The first part of my presentation aims to show how this criticism is at odds with Butler’s earlier engagement with dialectics in Subjects of Desire (2012[1987]). To show this, I rely on both Stoetzler’s (2005) suggestion of reading Butler retrochronological, and on an earlier proposition made by Hull (1997) of reading Butler as a dialectically inclined thinker as a corrective measure of Butler’s ‘implicit’ linguistic idealism (that everything is language). The second part of the presentation then seeks to locate a hidden dialectical kernel within Butler’s writings, as a way to correct Butler’s ‘linguistic idealism’ by redialectalizing Butler’s anti-dialectical stance. This correction plays a central role in my presentation as it is a remedy of Butler’s criticism of dialectical idealism which reverts to linguistic idealism. To provide textual examples of this, I will devote a substantial portion of my time to elaborating Butler’s changing interpretation of Foucault in Subjects of Desire and Gender Trouble. The last part of the presentation is devoted to both a specific critique of Hull’s (mis)treatment of Butler and various contemplations on the relationship between Butler’s and Adorno’s criticisms of idealism. Contemplations which, at present, constitute the horizon of my argument.


  • Adorno, T, W. 1990[1966]. Negative Dialectics. trans. E.B. Ashton. Routledge.
  • Butler, J. 1999[1990]. Gender Trouble. Routledge.
  • Butler, J. 2012[1987]. Subjects of Desire. Columbia University Press.
  • Hull, C. L. 1997. ‘The Need in Thinking Materiality in Theodor W. Adorno and Judith Butler’. Radical Philosophy, no. 84: 22–35.
  • Stoetzler, M. 2005. ‘Subject Trouble Judith Butler and Dialectics’. Philosophy and Social Criticism, no. 31: 343–68.
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