- Purchase/rental options available:
In Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, Judith Butler calls for practices of long-distance solidarity where ethical bonds can emerge globally, across space and time. Such practices depend on what she calls a reversibility of proximity and distance, such that those suffering at a distance ("there and then") can be felt to be acutely close ("here and now"), thus demanding an ethical response. Put differently, we might say that what is at stake, for Butler, is our capacity to be present with those who are not de facto present to us in any immediate sense. Global assembly demands that we are co-present across geographical distance and cultural difference. But is this, we might ask, possible? What would it mean to be present together across spatiotemporal differences? This essay offers a critical examination of the very concept of presence implicitly operative in Butler's analysis, and reflects more broadly on the temporality of global assembly with reference to decolonial work on the concept of time. What would it mean for those of us who are socio-economically and geographically located at the "center" of time—in the present of colonial presence—to attempt to "reach out of" that present, to be co-present with those who are not? How is this not always already a gesture that reinforces colonial structures? How do the material conditions of "here" and "there" come to matter as we envision, with Butler, a global politics of embodied assembly?