About 70 protest UC Berkeley professor Judith Butler’s conference in Brazil

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Judith Butler, a campus comparative literature professor and prominent gender theorist, helped organize a conference Tuesday in São Paulo, Brazil, that drew a crowd of protesters and counterprotesters.

The conference, titled “The Ends of Democracy,” hosted scholars to hold discussions on the challenges, forms and future of democracy. A crowd of both right-wing protesters and counterprotesters gathered outside the venue and remained for about two hours, according to Butler.

The counter protestors were numbered at about 130 and were protecting the conference, Butler said, whereas there were about 70 right-wing protesters. Videos of the protest captured conservative protesters burning an effigy of Judith Butler and shouting, “Queimem a bruxa!”, Portuguese for “Burn the witch!”

Butler said there were many misunderstandings concerning the event, such as the topic of the conference. She added that protesters incorrectly thought Butler was a speaker, when in reality, she was an organizer. Protests began as a call to cancel Butler’s participation as a speaker and according to Butler, the protesters involved incorrectly believed the conference would be about gender.

“They assumed that I was bringing … gender-based content to the conference, but that’s not what I was doing here,” Butler said.

Butler also called the burning of the effigy “injurious” and “upsetting.” She added that she’s “pretty freaked out” about having an effigy of her burned given her Jewish identity.

When discussing the political climate of Brazil, both Butler and Mariana Kuhn de Oliveira, a visiting doctoral philosophy student and researcher from Brazil, referenced conservative groups’ recent criticism of certain art exhibitions. One of these exhibitions, which was related to sexuality, was in fact shut down before its scheduled close.

“The people who oppose me believe gender is a ‘diabolical ideology,’” Butler said. “Much of the support on the right is based on strong traditional values, anti-feminist, anti-(LGBTQ+).”

Butler said the video posted on social media exaggerated the incident, and the protests did not succeed in disrupting the conference. She added that the conference had the “full support” of the host institution, SESC Pompeia.

“It was really productive,” Butler said. “It’s too bad that this scandal has retracted from the conference.”

Contact Cade Johnson at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @cadejohnson98.

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  • Kiko Arquer Thomé

    Sorry, world. We, brazilians, are doing what is possible to make people aware, but the religious fundamentalists are strong. The school education, here, is devalued after parliamentary coup.
    Religious intolerants are taking power and dominating the masses. But… we will win. #resistencia #somosaresistencia

    • Raphael Schmidt

      Lie. You´re lying. We are tired of the intolerance of the left; of the corruption that the left has transformed our country; of the lie that is this gender identity; of the danger of exposing our children to such madness; we Brazilians (conservatives, atheists, all) can no longer endure the tricks of the extreme left and their will to destroy the whole West and its values.

      • Kiko Arquer Thomé

        “intolerance of the left”
        “corruption that the left”
        “lie that is this gender identity”
        “exposing our children”
        “such madness”
        “conservatives, atheists, all”
        “extreme left”
        “West and its values”

        Ok, than.

        The Turning Point (Fritjof Capra) will be good 4 u

        See u

        • Raphael Schmidt

          Nothing in physics leads to Eastern mysticism. His discoveries are nothing more than statements about nature. To say, as he does, that the uninterrupted interaction between fundamental particles leads to the conclusion that the world is all connected is to propagandize the obvious, just as it is evident that we are dust from the stars or that we must study natural cycles to understand life on earth. Or, still, that all living beings form a network. There is nothing modern about it, much less contradictory about Christianity. These connections are not magical: they are physical.

          The “new” interpretations proposed by him require an external, unscientific, but ideological component. In this case, a repudiation of Christianity and a false notion of harmony between Eastern pantheistic doctrines, gnosis and a hundred other philosophies. Physics, as true science, has no means of making spiritual affirmations as New Age adherents want. Although they eventually recognize this, they maliciously use scientific facts to try to support their ideas. In fact, it is precisely there that they become very dangerous.

          New Era is Bullshit.

          • Kiko Arquer Thomé

            Thank you for your opinion. Fritjof Capra’s Systemic Vision is important because it also shows periods of great rupture in ideals. Generalizations like: it’s the communists’ fault, capitalist idiots, the moral values of the family, and so on, need to be rethought in the “light of knowledge and empathy”. Fundamentalism is dangerous (as I said in the first text) because it attacks “the act of thinking”, the debate, in the face of the rupture we’re living on.
            About The Turning Point. In my opinion, Capra maintains a good focus on physics “science”. Even in 2012, I remembered him, because the Particle Accelerator proved the existence of “energy”, which reinforces the theory of that everything is connected. Many other physicists and philosophers reinforce the network design, breaking the Cartesian concept. I think the cartesian concept, newtonian, is very important but is outdated.
            Again thank you for your comment.

  • Thais Linhares

    <3 you, Butler. Hope you could return. Here in Brazil we are in fact afraid of those fanatics!
    Here is the country where homosexuals are killed, women raped and corrupts control the economy.

    • Raphael Schmidt

      Homosexuals are also victims of other homosexuals (the fault is the insecurity that the left brought to this country); the women are kidnapped, because the country lives a chaos left by the left; and the corrupt command that country THANKS LEFT of Lula, PT and others. Brazil can not stand the EXTREME-LEFT !! And our country will not have a socialist flag!

  • Tekyo Pantzov

    I cannot believe what a gullible dope Judith Butler is. She claims to be a clever intellectual, but she is is a proud member of Jewish Voice for Peace, which is a sort of Al Qaeda fan club.
    Jewish Voice for Peace positively VENERATES genocidal ideation when directed at Jews. http://islamophiliawatch.blogspot.com/2013/09/jewish-voice-for-peaceful-doubletalk.html
    When I first read their twaddle I simply COULD NOT BELIEVE that anyone could take their crazy talk seriously. Then I discovered that Judith Butler is a member of that group that embodies such mercenary phoniness.
    I wonder if they get paid by the same Sowdy charity that financed the terrorist attack in Bali in 2002 that killed 300 Australians. Al Haramein, it was called. “The Two Holy Places”, meaning Mecca and Medina, the cities where Mohammed committed his crimes and hatched his crackpot ideas.
    What really made me sad was learning that Noam Chomsky, whom I greatly admire, is also a member of Jewish Voice for Peace.
    But I can tell that even if Chomsky knows that he is dealing with an Al Qaeda proxy, he doesn’t care. I have observed at close quarters Chomsky’s attitude toward the facts as we know them, and “tactical” is the most charitable description I can think of for his approach to the facts.

    • Tekyo Pantzov

      But I hasten to add that I fully support Professor Butler’s right to speak and I severely condemn the hate speech that was addressed to her.
      Moreover I think Americans are only hazily aware that Brazil is being taken over by right-wing evangelicals, who are shamelessly oppressing other religions, especially Afro-Brazilian religions like Umbanda.
      It is time for American leftists to stop contemplating their navels and fight conservative evangelical Christianity (among others) not only in the USA, but worldwide.

      • Luiz Cardoso

        Pantzov, SOB

        • Tekyo Pantzov

          Sounds of Brazil?

  • Ryan Carl Impink

    Brazilians actually showing intelligence!

  • Arafat

    “In her book of late 2012, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (Columbia UP), Judith Butler arguably plagiarizes Edward Said, whom she reveres as a heroic figure, while badly misquoting–tendentiously twisting their priceless legacies–both Primo Levi and Emmanuel Levinas in ways that are deeply offensive, contrary to the central meaning and value of their work. What’s it all about?

    Although she denies being a spokesperson or leader of anything, few who have been following recent discussions concerning the BDS (Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions) movement for restrictions aimed against Israeli academics on American college campuses would fail to recognize her name as one of its prime symbols. And it is in this case precisely the symbolic power of a name (since her books are unreadable for most non-specialists) that is at issue. Butler lends credibility to an otherwise quirky, retrograde, and at least sometimes anti-Semitic push to reject Israel’s very right to exist in any conceivable two-state solution whatsoever to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (BDSers would prefer to liberate all of Palestine, “from the river to the sea”), because of her intellectual cache as one of today’s leading, trend-setting cultural “theorists.” The tribe of theorists, by the way, are supposed to be, like the extinct race of philosophers before them, lovers of wisdom–souls so drawn to the truth that they’re willing to run risks for it. Such at least is their reputation among the impressionable; when they aren’t, by contrast, being dismissed by cynics (like the philosophers before them) for pretensions to mere radical chic. Or worse.”

    • Tekyo Pantzov

      Here we go again, “anti-Semitic”. Whether BDS is anti-Semitic or not depends on your definition of anti-Semitism. Defenders of BDS concoct a definition of anti-Semitism that exonerates BDS from the charge of anti-Semitism. So what?
      Why this obscene eagerness to talk dirty, accuse people of genocide, anti-Semitism, racism and terrorism at the drop of a hat?
      Genocide and terrorism are legal terms whose meanings change from country to country. Instead of hurling invective at their foes, people should engage in matter-of- fact discussion of actual historic events as they developed.
      It is the actual events that must be studied, instead of reciting political slogans.

  • Oakley

    I sure hope that they’re able to protect him

    • Arafat

      I think him is a her. An evil her.

  • Oakley

    “She added that she’s “pretty freaked out” about having an effigy of her burned given her Jewish identity.”

    Well that’s mighty rich. Judith gives plenty of comfort to the enemies of Jews

    • Dan Spitzer

      Judith Butler should have every right to organize and/or speak at any conference she might wish. But it is a small masterpiece of irony that she believes she is being attacked because of her Jewish “identity.” That is to say that Butler has supported efforts to ban Israeli academics from campuses and she has incessantly savaged anyone who has anything positive to say about the world’s sole Jewish State.

      In sum, they don’t come any more hypocritical than Judith Butler.

      • Oakley

        Exactly.
        And what would be the only country to welcome her if she finds herself needing a place of refuge?

      • Tekyo Pantzov

        Oh, quit harping on the hypocrisy theme. It reminds me of wingnuts hyperventilating about Al Gore’s supposedly gargantuan carbon footprint.
        It is best to concentrate on the issues. Catty remarks do not encourage substantive discussion. They merely create animosity.

  • lspanker

    Why do I suspect that we’re not hearing an accurate description of both sides of the issue?

    • Tekyo Pantzov

      Something’s going on, but you don’t know what it is.
      Do you, Mr. Jones?
      — Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man

    • BerkeleyMews

      The only tolerated view is the view from Berkeley. The rest of the world needs to fall in line.

    • Thais Linhares

      I saw. The description is correct.