March 24 2015
10 – 13 hrs.

Ciudad de México
Biblioteca Vasconcelos

Gender performativity, precarity and sexual citizenship.

For this Mesa “gender performativity, precarity and sexual citizenship”, Judith Butler and Leticia Sabsay came for the first time to Mexico City.

We were interested in contextualizing gender performativity and its articulation with sexual citizenship from a pigmentocratic contexts.  We are interested in how speech acts like “gay” or “queer”, which its power is in its citation and iterability , work in a different cultural context and language?

How is subjectivation constituted through gender performativity, and sexual citizenship in a pigmentocratic context? How does subject intelligibility work in a sociocultural pigmentocratic society?

How is it different and similar to be “gay”, to perform the speech act “I’m gay” or “I’m queer” in Latin America than Anglo North America? What are the cultural tensions of translating these terms and speech acts?

Indeed, gender is a site of agency and resistance. Thus, how to then exercise this resistance in a pigmentocratic system, where precarity is lived most by those with darker skin tones/lower economical social positions?

In understanding the tensions and impasses, in cultural translations, how can we think of solidarity between Latin America than Anglo North America? Where is our power to object together the State (United States)?

You can watch the discussion in our videoclips here


Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley, where she served as Founding Director . She received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1984 on the French Reception of Hegel. She is the author of Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France (Columbia University Press, 1987), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge, 1990), Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (Routledge, 1993), The Psychic Life of Power: Theories of Subjection (Stanford University Press, 1997), Excitable Speech (Routledge, 1997), Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (Columbia University Press, 2000), Precarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning (2004); Undoing Gender (2004), Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging (with Gayatri Spivak in 2008), Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?(2009), and Is Critique Secular? (co-written with Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, and Saba Mahmood, 2009). Her most recent books include: Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (2012) and Dispossessions: The Performative in the Political (2013), co-authored with Athena Athanasiou, and Sois Mon Corps (2011), co-authored with Catherine Malabou.

Leticia Sabsay is Fellow in Gender and Cultural Studies, London School of Economics, since September 2014. Prior to this, she held a lectureship at the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London, and was a research associate at the Department of Politics and International Studies, The Open University, appointed to the European Research Council Project, Oecumene Citizenship after Orientalism. Previous to her experience in the UK, she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Freie Universitat of Berlin (Germany), and was a lecturer at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina). Her work interrogates the entanglement between sexuality, subjectivity and the political as processes of cultural translation, both across disciplines and transnational contexts. Throughout her career, Leticia also developed an enduring interest in theories of performativity and discourse, which led her to publish extensively on Judith’s Butler work. This perspective has been central to her current research on the deployment of contemporary imaginaries of sexual freedom and justice in popular culture and political discourse.  Her most recent publications include: Queering the Politics of Global Sexual Rights? Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 13(1): 80-90 (2013). The Emergence of the Other Sexual Citizen. Orientalism and the Modernisation of Sexuality. Citizenship Studies, 16(5/6): 605-623 (2012). and On some paradoxes of sexual citizenship (Sobre algunas paradojas de la ciudadanía sexual), Latin American Journal Debates & Combates, 3: 137-162.

Consult the archive Mesa 01

Suggested readings:

  • Butler, J. (2015). Performativity, precarity and sexual politics, Revista de Antropologia Iberoamericana, 4 (3): i-xiii
  • Butler, J. (2013). Dispossession: The Performative in the Political, coauthored with Athena Athanasiou. Polity Press.
  • Butler, J. (2009).Critique, Dissent, Disciplinarity. Critical Inquiry, 35 (4):773-795.
  • Butler, J. (2007). El género en disputa. Paidos. [1990]. Available on line here.
  • Sabsay, L. (2013). Queering the Politics of Global Sexual Rights? Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 13(1): 80-90.
  • Sabsay, L. (2014). ‘The promise of citizenship: autonomy and abject choices’, Open Democracy, 24 March. Available on line here.
  • Sabsay, L. (2013). Queer Dilemmas: Orientalism and Liberal Citizenship. In dialogue with Leticia Sabsay (Dilemas Queer: Orientalism y Ciudadanías Liberales. Un diálogo con L. Sabsay), Iconos Revista Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO-Ecuador), 47: 103-118.
  • Sabsay, L. (2011). Fronteras Sexuales. Espacio Urbano, Cuerpos y Ciudadanía. Buenos Aires: Paidós.
  • Vargas, S. (2014). Saliendo del closet: ¿gay, maricón o queer? La memoria y el deseo. Estudios gay y queer en México. PUEG. UNAM. Available on line here.


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Collaborations Mesa 01

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Logistics Team: Abigail Dávalos, Beatriz Garduño, Mariana Flores, and Nelly Pineda.

Thank you:

José Esparza, Fernando Mesta, Jessica Berlanga, Julien Salabelle, Irmgard Emmelhainz, Gabriela Jáuregui, Michel Fidler, Susana Richter, Natalia Comel, Cuauhtémoc Medina, Cristina Paoli, Abeyamí Ortega, Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo y Mecky Reuss.