Judith Butler Withdraws from Centre Pompidou Lectures Over Hamas Statements

American gender theorist and philosopher Judith Butler has withdrawn from a series of talks at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, following criticisms for their comments on the October 7 attacks. In a statement first published by the Art Newspaper, Butler said that their presence on the program will be “a distraction from the important work that will be presented by artists and intellectuals at these events.”

Butler’s statement continues, “As a result, I have decided not to participate formally in the events but have urged all the guests to take part as planned. This is my own choice based on my own judgment about what is best under these circumstances, and I am confident that the program will be truly excellent and encourage the public to attend.”

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Butler, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and member of the American association Jewish Voice for Peace, was accused of antisemitism over statements they made at a video-recorded lecture outside Paris on March 3. At the event, hosted by the French YouTube program Paroles d’Honneur, Butler said the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, while “terrible,” was “not a terror attack or an antisemitic act,” but rather an “uprising” and an “act of armed resistance.”

Speaking later to the French news website Mediapart, Butler explained that their statements aimed to “analyze” Hamas’s attack “as political tactics” and did not mean they “[support] Hamas or [glorify] their atrocities.” The Paris city council previously canceled one of Butler’s talks on Palestine in December. Two more lectures centered on the power of mourning amid political conflict were pulled from programming at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris last month.

Butler was invited by the Centre Pompidou, a complex of cultural institutions that includes France’s National Museum of Modern Art, to be its “intellectual in residence.” The special series was first slated to run from September 14, 2023 through January 25, 2024. However, it was postponed due to a three-month strike of unionized staff at the institution that caused frequent closures. The strike ended in January with a contract agreement with between the employees and Pompidou leadership.

The Pompidou’s “intellectual season” was rescheduled for April 24–28, with more details of the program forthcoming.

ARTnews has reached out to the Centre Pompidou for comment.

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