University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Rush to get Judith Butler seats: »We knew that there would be some interest, but this was a surprise«

All 470 seats for Judith Butler's guest lecture at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) were booked in just four days. A »quite unheard of« interest in what will be a theoretical, philosophical and political lecture, has come as a surprise to the organisers.

Theoretical thinkers don’t always draw the biggest audiences. But a humanities climate festival has now managed to do just that. A guest lecture at KUA South Campus at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) in May will be with a true philosophical heavyweight, the gender theorist Judith Butler.

People could no longer sign up if they wanted to reserve one of the places for the guest lecture after less than four days. There is actually only room for 320 people in the auditorium, but the extra interest has had the organisers taking an adjoining auditorium in use, where 150 participants will see the lecture on a live stream.

»We knew that there would be a lot of people interested, but it did come as a surprise to us that so many people wanted to hear the lecture,« says Mikkel Krause Frantzen, an associate professor in aesthetics and ecology at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies. He is one of the organisers, and he will, after the guest lecture, interview Butler.

He says the interest in a both theoretical and philosophically heavy lecture is »quite unheard of«.

»Think about the fact that it is a philosophical thinker that is known to be quite difficult to read. But at the same time it says something about how we are dealing with one of the biggest theorists within the humanities. This in terms of who is the most cited in the research, but also in terms of general interest.«


The CApE Festival: world care and climate crisis is organised by Mikkel Krause Frantzen and the research project OIKOS (Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, UCPH) with Ditte Alexandra Winther-Lindqvist (associate professor at the Danish School of Education (DPU), UNESCO CHAIR), Alfred Sköld (assistant professor in psychology, AAU) and the Centre for Applied Ecological Thinking (CApE) at the Faculty of Humanities, UCPH.


Theoretical earthquake

It was the book Gender Trouble from 1990 that originally solidified Butler’s position in academia. The philosophy about how gender is not something you have, but something you do has been widely disseminated since then.

»This whole perspective was like a kind of earthquake, not just within gender theory – but within theory in general. It was a completely new way of approaching the question of what it means to be human and to exercise one’s gender on the basis of a number of social norms,« Mikkel Krause Frantzen says.

Butler’s gender theory is not the focal point of the lecture. Instead the focus will be on Butler’s perspective on climate grief – something that Judith Butler has not previously treated quite as directly.

»In this way, the lecture is an invitation to Judith Butler to give their [Butler identifies as non-binary, ed.] perspective on a hugely important topic that they have not yet treated in depth. I imagine that they will base it on their theories on war, which contain many parallels to the issue of climate change,« says Mikkel Krause Frantzen and points out that one parallel is their consideration on how we react to loss in certain contexts.

»How do we grieve for ecological losses and who is the ‘we’ in this context? What is the difference between, say a Dane, observing the flooding in Pakistan with many losses, and being Pakistani and personally suffering from these losses?«

The guest lecture concludes the ‘CApE Festival: world care and climate crisis’, which will be a mixture of presentations, panel discussions and workshops with humanities perspectives on the climate crisis. The festival takes place 1-4 May.