Butler’s Reading Antigone: The Legacy of Antigone’s Defiance in the 21st Century

Albayrak G.

1st UTAD Conference: “Origins” , Ankara, Turkey, 14 - 16 September 2023

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Ankara
  • Country: Turkey
  • Ankara University Affiliated: Yes


Butler’s Reading Antigone: The Legacy of Antigone’s Defiance in the 21st Century

Written by Sophocles in 441 BC, Antigone follows Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus. After Oedipus is banished from Thebes, his sons Eteocles and Polynices are engaged in a civil war, dying fighting each other. The new ruler Creon orders that Eteocles be buried in honour and Polynices lie unburied. However, Antigone buries her brother and thus defies Creon’s edict. For that, Creon orders that Antigone be immured in a cave where she hangs herself. The multivalent meanings of the figure of Antigone have captivated thinkers such as Hegel, Lacan and Butler. Butler focuses on the character of Antigone, reclaims her revolutionary importance, emancipating it for a progressive approach to sexual politics in the 21st century. Antigone’s defiance causes her death, so Butler wonders what forms of kinship may have helped her to live. She questions whether psychoanalysis would have been different had it focused on Antigone “the postoedipal subject” rather than Oedipus. She wonders what forms of new kinship may be recognised if the incest taboo is reconsidered so that it does not make heterosexuality mandatory. Butler argues Antigone can be regarded as a model whereby society can embrace ideas of “radical kinship.” She relates Antigone’s assertiveness to the claims made by those whose relations are now seen as forms of improper kinship. Hence, this paper interrogates how the origins of ancient Greek tragedy can help us reconceive the queer forms of radical kinship in the 21st century.