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Judith Butler and equality of death

iskierka's picture

While I understand the point Butler was trying to make, that everyone dies at some point and that we are all equal through that (I can't help but think of Gavroche from Les Miserables: "Here's the thing about equality - everyone's equal when they're dead!"), I'm not entirely sure I agree. We constantly try to quantify the weight of a death based on proximity, how they died, how old or young they were. We may all be equal once we are dead, but death in itself is hardly an equalizing platform. Determining any level of sensitivity is to turn death into something measurable and quantifiable, something affected by gender and race and class. While, in theory, Butler should be correct in that death should be the one thing that makes every human equal and should be the basis for relationships, death is soiled by contexts and legacies that do inevitably lead us to question the value placed on certain deaths over others.


ari_hall's picture

I agree and i wish there was

I agree and i wish there was a "like" button on here so that i could like this post and the comment. I am really only reiterating what has already been said but not all deaths are valued similarly and therefore death becomes this thing that is not really equalizing. And the point about religion is also very important, if not all people see death as "the end". I appreciate Butler's concept, but it could be expanded.

sschurtz's picture

The Great Equalizer

I think that this is a really good point. I do think that death is the great equalizer in that it is something we all experience and it’s where we all are heading (not to be morbid).  But death is not equal or the same for all people. We definitely care about the deaths of some more than others and the way that people die differs greatly. There are more factors to dying than just death itself. I had an issue with the fact that she did not address religion. We may all die but for many people that are religious it is not a true death in the sense that there is a belief in life after death. It’s hard to make mourning and death an equalizer if people don’t agree that death is the end.  

I wonder what other elements of life we all experience or are the rest that we think of actually elements of normative time. We are born and we die. Those are the two bookends to life. We all have a mother and a father (even if they are not present in our lives).  But there are not many experiences that every person has and can relate to.