Speculation surrounds whether Judith Butler will remain at UC Berkeley

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Judith Butler, feminist, queer theorist and one of UC Berkeley’s most well-known professors, is considering a teaching position at Columbia University.

Butler is currently a visiting professor at Columbia for the spring 2012 and spring 2013 semesters, a post that has excited many at the Ivy League institution but has left UC Berkeley without one of its most sought-after thinkers.

The campus professor of rhetoric and comparative literature has remained vague about her plans, merely stating in an email that she will “see what happens” after her time is up as a visiting professor in New York.

Although Butler has not officially stated whether she will leave for good, there has been significant speculation that she might.

Jean Howard, chair of the Columbia English and Comparative Literature department, said in a November 2010 statement that “(w)e have every expectation that she will join this faculty full-time, but now she is just visiting.”

Butler refused to make a definitive statement about her future, saying that she is still a professor at UC Berkeley and will teach on campus in fall 2012.

“My deliberations in no way reflect on the comparative value of either institution, both of which are excellent,” Butler said in an email. “I am not looking for a better offer, and I’m not disillusioned with UC Berkeley.”

Butler did, however, hint that speculation over her departure might all be for naught.

“My sense is that this is not yet a story,” she said in the email. “And may well not become one!”

Butler is best known for her texts on feminism and queer theory, Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter, which have become highly influential philosophical texts since their publication in the early 1990s.

Sara Grossman covers research and ideas.