Sylvia Wynter’s Decolonial Rejoinder to Judith Butler’s Ethics of Vulnerability

Symposium 22 (2):158-177 (2018)
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Judith Butler argues for collective liberatory action grounded in ontological vulnerability. Yet descriptive social ontology alone provides neither normative ethical prescriptions nor direction for political action. I believe Butler tries to overcome this gap by appealing to equality as an ethical ideal. In this article, I reconstruct how equality operates in her transition from ontological vulnerability to prescriptive commitments. Then, turning to Sylvia Wynter, I argue Butler's uncritical use of equality constrains the radical direction of her liberatory goals—firstly because it cannot mitigate the coloniality of Being, and secondly because she figures the locus of critique as an anonymous and equally vulnerable body at the limits of the recognizably human. I conclude with Wynter's demand for liberatory critique to arise out of specific decolonial locations of rupture from our historically situated, oppressive, and overrepresented genre of being human

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Tiffany Tsantsoulas
California State University, Bakersfield


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