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Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  717 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Frames of War begins where Butler’s Precarious Lives left off: on the idea that we cannot grieve for those lost lives that we never saw as lives to begin with. In this age of CNN-mediated war, the lives of those wretched populations of the earth—the refugees; the victims of unjust imprisonment and torture; the immigrants virtually enslaved by their starvation and legal dis ...more
Hardcover, 193 pages
Published May 19th 2009 by Verso (first published 2009)
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Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theory, 2016
She lost me a bit in the last chapter with all the talk about ego, psychoanalysis is just not my thing. But the rest of the book was super interesting. In true butler style it was incredibly detailed and well thought through, but luckily it was much more pleasant to read than bodies that matter.

Especially the chapters on photography (2) and the one about the neoliberal discourse of sexual liberation as the supposed meter of modernity (3) where cool and inspiring.

Because this book's subtitle is
Chapter 2 was a standout.
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I've never seen such bad academic writing before: deliberately obscure, befuddling and repetetive. Entire sentences came and went where I recognized the words separately, but still had no idea what the author was actually trying to convey. An example from page 13:

"Indeed, there ought to be recognition of precariousness as a shared condition of human life (indeed, as a condition that links human and non-human animals), but we ought not to think that the recognition of precariousness masters or ca
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
found the essays to be pretty repetitive at times, but still another absolute banger by JB
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Ugh. Tough one. Bigger picture: the book, from what I understand (as always, Butler lost me at times), calls, among other things, for a reconceptualization of the left united in opposing and resisting interventionist military action and violence. This is probably one of the more important philosophical projects of our time.

Today's mainstream 'centre-left' of Democrats/Labour/Social Democracy by and large support 'humanitarian or human rights based military interventions' 'R2P' etc. There is litt
Erdem Tasdelen
Apr 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Very well articulated as always, but quite repetitive. Didn't really make me think about anything I hadn't already thought about.
The two essays "Sexual Politics, Torture and Secular Time" and "Non-Thinking in the Name of the Normative" were great. The other ones aren't really necessary to read if you've already read Precarious Life.
Sep 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Butler argues from a we're all, that is, ALL, precarious beings. Recognition of the vulnerability of our lives is a great place to begin her protest against humans engaging in war. Fabulous book so far. More to write when I finish. ...more
Feb 22, 2016 rated it liked it

Each of these essays had been published previously. (Sometimes this makes a book less cohesive, or repetitive.) There are good ideas here, but unfortunately the academic jargon limits the number of readers who will find them accessible. A discussion of the Abu Ghraib photographs (as a locus of the homophobia of the U.S. military, Islam's shaming of homosexual acts, and viewable and re-viewable pornography) was highly readable, as was one on a Dutch policy that asked immigration applicants to loo
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory
I think Frames of War is a very important book that is definetely worth engaging with. It gives valuable insight into politics and its connection to aesthetics, with "Torture and Ethics of Photography: Thinking with Sontag" as the strongest chapter in my opinion. Sometimes the connection between the individual chapters is a little bit too forced (as some of the chapters had been published as articles before). However, I advise everyone interested in politics, ethics or the representation strateg ...more
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recentlyread
Wicked smart.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I took a bit of a break between two of the essays but this was a good book, just as good as Precarious Life and essentially the same topic.
Jessica Zu
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Typical dense prose ... but if she loosens it up, peppers them with relevant anecdotes, then the book will be 1000pages long ...
or she could leave thoughts undeveloped, as Barthes did, giving her writing an aphoristic quality, then that's not Butler any more.
What a dilemma!
Anyway, She is still my hero. the arch-deity in my pantheon XD
May 16, 2013 rated it liked it
All the ideas in this book are in Precarious Life, just not developed so well. These two books should have been one, more carefully developed, collection of essays.
Justiina Dahl
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Is rocking my hybrid PhD theoretical framework.
Rodney Likaku
Read a few comments below of people suggesting that this book is undigestable, convoluted, and written for a specific audience. Which could be certainly true, I guess when you are a professor you can get away with making references to people like Hegel and Hobbes under the presupposition that your readers know that you are speaking of sections from the leviathan and/or the master-slave dialect.

Two reservations on my part are that the entire construction of the book can do with some logical rest
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Frames of War was highly insightful, and Butler’s perspicacious observations and conclusions are necessary in today’s political and social climate. Her proposed notions of generalised precarity, grievability, and the need for critical discursions on the framing of norms provide tools for getting ourselves out of the impasse upon which current formulations of multiculturalism, identity, and liberalism have foundered. To be sure, Butler does not advocate for the disposal of these norms, but for th ...more
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
i love Judith Butler... sure, there are times when she name-drops/concept-drops and drops me, not being as amazingly well-read and damned-smart like she is, but she makes me think and reorganize myself and my approaches to just about everything... she makes me feel dumb, but in a nice way... she forces me to read more, to understand more, to wonder more, to question more... this book really takes aim at the US/West and its continual war on The Other... she poses the challenges: who matters? how ...more
Jun 03, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably works better as a companion piece to Precarious Life. These are collected essays grouped together with not one 'single' argument but general thoughts on war, so it can repetitive and it often touches on the same subjects in a similar way. I think it wouldn't be much of a problem if Butler didn't have such a thick writing style, which is not necessarily bad in itself, they like to be thorough in their wording to construct a very solid view on an extremely important matter. I enjoyed the ...more
Nawara Zantah
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It contains five essays inspired by contemporary war; they focus on cultural modes through an eclectic framing of violence. I like when Butler states how the viewer forms moral criticism in response to photography like for example in Abu Ghraib' photographs when the camera angle, the photographs' frames, and the presented subjects all suggest that photographers who captured the violent events were involved in its scene!
I totally agree that the impact of photography on the viewer takes place in
Margaret Robbins
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was very helpful to read in regards to increasing my theoretical understanding. In particular, I loved the chapters where she revisited some of Sontag's theories on the image, which I read in graduate school and appreciated. I thought the book got a bit repetitive at times, but overall, I found it a very important and interesting read. I think the frames of war theoretical understanding is important to have during our current political climate and the #metoo movement. ...more
sooo good, very thoughtful and probably perfect tho some chapters are more enthralling than others.
a follow-up to "precarious life"-- this book is "precarious life: applied" of sorts, examining what a framework of mutual constitution and shared precarity would mean when examining situations that entangle our daily lives.
Mar 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
I find the concept of grievable lives very interesting, which is why I started this book. Butler, however, makes the book unnecessarily difficult to read by trying to make it more 'academic'. I wish she did not do this because it is an important book/topic that more people should read! That being said, particularly chapter 2 stood out to me and I am happy I finished it. ...more
Mar 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: genos
i was interested as fuck but then i was bored as fuck
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dense, obviously, but piercingly intelligent and thought-provoking. I felt it started to unravel towards the end (or maybe it was my mind unravelling).
Eurethius Péllitièr
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Judith Butler's formulation of the conscious of war and conflict is brilliant ...more
Janice Feng
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Whose life is grievable?
Apr 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes. It took me more than two years to get through this book. I put it down after page 42 in 2012 because of its dense content and academic language. I am a fan of Judith Butler because she has some unique and thoughtful ways of looking at difficult questions. In this book of essays, (some of which she gave as lectures), she is looking at how we frame war and violence to justify it and give it meaning. She touches on how the media manipulates our emotions to reinforce or create our sentiments. T ...more
Antoine Dumas
Jan 04, 2016 rated it liked it

There’s no denying there’s some foundational concepts covered in the book. I’ve even applied some of them myself in other contexts. But to say that I understood or even recognized all the concepts in the book would be untrue. Because another thing there’s no denying: Judith Butler’s discourse style is a challenge to penetrate.

Now on the one hand there’s this:

"In terms of access and justice, using plain language is very important. It’s needed to allow the widest variety of people with dis
Joseph Sverker
2014: Judith Butler picks up some threads from Precarious Life when writing this book and views it almost as a sequel to it. This is a development of the thought of life as being precarious and vulnerable and the political and ethical consequences of that thought in relation to war and violence. Butler points out that it is the frames of war that decides how the war is being viewed in terms of justified or not justified. It is how the war is framed that then is of interest to Butler. So she trie ...more
Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?, is the second book (the first being Precarious Life) by the queer, feminist, and political philosopher, Judith Butler, which reckons with war, grief, mourning, and the human -- as well as Islamaphobia, racism, torture, and more: it is incredibly rich in its depth and breadth. But, in this text, in which she goes deeper into the aforementioned topics, she focuses more on the complex situation around Palestine, Israel, and the U.S. -- in which she raises imp ...more
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Judith Butler is an American post-structuralist and feminist philosopher who has contributed to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy and ethics. She is currently a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley.

Butler received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University in 1984, for a dissertation subsequently publi

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