Critical Belonging: Cohabitation, Plurality, and Critique in Butler's Parting Ways

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This article engages Judith Butler's Parting Ways as a way to rethink the relations between critique and belonging as two aspects of contemporary political subjectivities. I argue that for Butler critique is an action performed by corporeal subjects. As such, it depends on cohabitation being an ontological condition. Belonging, in the sense of sharing a place with others, assesses an affirmative stance - the commitment to safeguard the common conditions for a plurality of lives. The first part of the article regards Butler's theorization of cohabitation and plurality as a framework in which the corporeal and embodied relations with others who share a place serve as a condition for critique rather than its limit. I argue that Butler's Arendtian social ontology aims to offer a vision of political subjectivity that differs from contemporary forms of subjectivation. I further argue that in order to promote such vision of political subjectivity, a detailed description of cohabitation is required as a multi-layered affective and emotional relation with one's surroundings. The second part of the article focuses on how Butler performs in her text this alternative vision of political subjectivity that affirms pluralization as a normative principle. By studying Butler's account of her Jewishness as well as textual practices shaping the text, I argue that belonging can become a formative aspect of the critical subject through the acts of norms on one's body as well as by critical engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-41
Number of pages15
JournalRedescriptions: Political Thought, Conceptual History and Feminist Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the ISRAEL SCIENCE FOUNDATION (grant No. 2540/20).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s).


  • Belonging
  • Cohabitation
  • Corporeality
  • Critique
  • Judith Butler
  • Plurality


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