Books that Changed Humanity | Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity

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Books that Changed Humanity is an initiative of the Humanities Research Centre, based at the Australian National University. The HRC invites experts to introduce and lead discussion of major texts from a variety of cultural traditions, all of which have informed the way we understand ourselves both individually and collectively as human beings.

Join us as Associate Professor Fiona Jenkins (School of Philosophy, ANU) introduces and discusses Judith Butler's influential work Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.


The character and possibilities of gender, as it is lived today, would perhaps not be quite what they are without the publication in 1990 of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble. Its highly influential thesis that gender is performative, intends to relax the coercive hold of gender norms, enabling more ‘liveable’ life - life that ‘breathes more freely’ as it unfolds in a shared and public world.

That thesis now applies in a new and complex situation. On the one hand, the hold of certain gender norms has been loosened, if far from undone, in these intervening years. Indeed, the expanded visibility of life outside traditional heterosexual forms is now emblematic of a type of national progress for which marriage equality has become a sign. Yet, the disturbing prevalence today of ‘gender wars’ that threaten to turn back the clock on feminist and queer activism, scholarship and their spaces of fragile liveability, invite pause. This lecture follows two tracks Butler takes within and out of Gender Trouble in order to propose the larger political vision necessary to maintain such gains as have been made.


All members of the public are welcome to come, listen, and share their thoughts about this great work of literature.



Fiona Jenkins is Associate Professor in the School of Philosophy at the Australian National University. Her current research covers two projects, one on Judith Butler, which focuses on questions of political legitimacy, violence and non-violence, in post-national frameworks; the other on gender equity and ideas of ‘excellence’ in academic disciplines. She teaches on contemporary French philosophy, on Nietzsche, on film, and on radical democratic theory. Following a DPhil at Balliol, Oxford, she spent two years teaching at Essex University, taking up a post-doc at Sydney University in 1997 and moving to ANU in 2002. She has also been the Convenor of the ANU Gender Institute, 2013-15.

Date & time

Fri 02 Nov 2018, 5.30–7pm


Theatrette, Sir Roland Wilson Building


Dr Fiona Jenkins (School of Philosophy, ANU)


Humanities Research Centre
+61 2 6125 4357


Updated:  1 November 2018/Responsible Officer:  Head, Centre/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications