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Eulogies to Kazuko Takemura (5): Judith Butler

2012.09.16 Sun

To honor the memory of the late Kazuko Takemura, a feminist famous for her activism as well as introducing theorists such as Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek, Gayatri Chaktravorty Spivak and Trinh T. Minh-ha to Japan, WAN is posting a series of eulogies delivered by her fellow activists and scholars both from Japan and overseas.

I am honored to offer a few words in memory and in celebration of my friend, Kazuko Takemura. It is with great sadness that I begin to write these words, but I must also confess: the thought of Kazuko brings a smile to me. Of course, she was an extraordinary intellectual: daring, sharp, careful, and imaginative. But she was also generous and playful, and had a sense of mischief about her life, her writing and her relations with others. It is this mischief that comes before my mind when I say her name or think about her, as I do quite often, as I am sure we all do, during this time when we must learn to live without her living presence. As you know, Kazuko Takemura was a brilliant translator, which meant that by translating works into Japanese, she connected whole worlds with one another that were not quite connected in that way before. She brought my work, the work of Slavoj Zizek, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Trinh T. Minh-ha into Japanese, but she also changed what the work is, and what the work might mean. In this way, she opened a future for our work and for our lives that they would not otherwise have. As a translator, she connected worlds, but she also provided new life for work that existed elsewhere, and she found a way to remake the language of Japanese in new ways. She took risks, and she always had that mischievous look in her eye when she did so. She did not shy away from difficulty, including difficult writing and thinking: she was interested in it, and she entered it fearlessly. She was a translator, but she had her own work. And that work that was hers concerned the topics of post-feminism, violence and sexuality, trans-pacific intertextualities, biopolitics, the relation between the human and the inhuman, film studies, and gender. These were fearless endeavors. But in her translations and in her own work, she was trying to bring modes of thought together, speaking and writing about what could not easily be spoken or written. She built worlds. She crossed worlds, and she was committed to the slow, patient, and thoughtful task about how to develop a new form of thinking, one that acknowledged violence and countered its force, one that probed the aggressive strands in sexual life and opposed lethal forms of political violence. In her gentle and probing way, she asked us to live and think at the most fundamental levels, where all the questions are at once simple and difficult: how shall I love? What do I desire? Where is violence in the life of desire? How do we think gender without making it fixed? And how do we live in a region and a world with a violent history and yet move beyond that legacy and counter its pull? What hope is there to be found in the imagination, in theory as imagination? How do we live, and how do we die? We have lost her, but her questions remain, and they are ours. Just as she remains with us, in us, a constant thought, a beacon of light, and a smile of mischief.

Note: This message was originally read at the Kazuko Takemura memorial ceremony held in Tokyo on March 11, 2012. The sender of this message has agreed to have it uploaded here honoring Kazuko’s memory.

Posted by Aya Kitamura


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