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Examined Life: Philosophy in the streets

“What’s at stake here is really rethinking the human as a site of interdependency,” says Judith Butler. She’s speaking near the end of Examined Life, Astra Taylor’s lively, compelling assembly of philosophers, each pondering in his or her way that very question: “What’s at stake here?” Each granted 10 minutes of interview with Taylor; Butler, best known for her work on gender, performativity, and ethics, shares hers with Sunaura Taylor, painter and disabilities activist. Their conversation begins with Butler’s question to Taylor, concerning her daily habit of “going for a walk.” She uses that phrasing, Taylor says, though she is in a wheelchair due to her affliction with the rare congenital disability Arthrogryposis, and with this the two begin to think through what it means to walk, to have access, to exist in a social environment.

Their questions and their conversation take them through streets in San Francisco, where Taylor lives, she says, because it is “the most accessible place in the world,” designed to meet the needs of the disabled in ways many cities have not yet considered. They move throughout their conversation, as do the other interview subjects in Taylor’s film, emphasizing the concept and activity of movement—of bodies, minds, and time. All the speakers make their ways through populated spaces, cameras tracking them through traffic, along sidewalks and airport corridors, striding through parks or, in the case of Michael Hardt, rowing a boat on a pond. Slavoj Žižek appears at a trash dump, where he wears an orange workman’s vest and holds forth on ideology against a backdrop of discarded refrigerators (“We need more alienation from our life world, as it were, our spontaneous nature; we should become more artificial”). Yet even as he appears isolated here, he is, of course, contemplating the waste of social life, the result of people living together, sharing experience and waste.

More info in: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/70928-examined-life-philosophy-is-in-the-streets/

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