In 2011, when Judith Butler delivered the lecture series that would become Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, the speech act theorist joined other critical scholars attempting to work through the dark cloud of neoliberal fatigue settling over the humanities. “Identitarian ontologies” had become only more entrenched in the age of terror (68), any potential alternatives seeming destined for “discursive appropriation” by the insidious vocabulary of late biopolitical capitalism (14). Fatigued, but not yet resigned, Notes sets out “to rethink the speech act” (18), not to discover something else to say or some other way to say it but instead to take seriously what Butler (1997) described more than a decade ago as “the blindspot of speech, that which acts in excess of what is said” (11). Enter the assembly, public appearances of disproportionately injured bodies that express rather than speak the demand for shared...

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