Bringing Ourselves to Grief

Political Theory 40 (4):409-436 (2012)
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Abstract

Within political theory there has been a recent surge of interest in the themes of loss, grief, and mourning. In this paper i address questions about the politics of mourning through a critical engagement of the work of Judith Butler. I argue that Butler's work remains tethered to an account of melancholic subjectivity derived from her early reading of Freud. These investments in melancholia compromise Butler's recent ethico-political interventions by obscuring the ambivalence of political engagements and the possibilities of achieving and sustaining non-dogmatic identities. To overcome this impasse I argue for an alternative framing of mourning by turning to the psychoanalytic theory of Melanie Klein. An account of mourning that leans upon Klein's work cashes in on the ethical and political promises that are immanent yet unrealized in Butler's recent work while providing a new orientation for mourning in, and for, democratic politics

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