The ungrievable gather sometimes in public insurgencies of grief, which is why in so many countries it is difficult to distinguish the funeral from the demonstration. (Butler zoizb)
The limit on what can be remembered is enforced in the present through what can be said and what can be heard - the limits of the audible and the sensible that constitute the public sphere. (Butler 2011)
There is a moment that Judith Butler several times alludes to in illustration of how she thinks about sensate democracy (see Butler 2012a: 14; and Butler in Butler and Spivak 2007: 59-63). Illegal immigrants to the US, gathered in 2006 to protest at their precarious and unliveable situation, start singing the national anthem of the United States in Spanish; and in the middle of this comes the line ‘somos iguales’, we are equal. The affirmation of equality of the stateless within the nation, and the performance of song in Spanish, transgress the boundaries of what it is thinkable for the nation to be. President George W. Bush declared in response that the national anthem of the USA cannot be sung in Spanish. But for all the power of his sovereign declaration, he does not ‘make the anthem less sing-able’; indeed, what he responds to here is ‘already out of his control’ (Butler in Butler and Spivak 2007: 60-9).
Enacted as performative contradiction, the singing is demanding a move beyond the present legal articulation of rights, pressing against both sovereign and public understandings of what can and cannot ‘be’ (Butler in Butler and Spivak 2007: 69). A freedom is asserted that is without prior legitimation, and an equality performed that concerns, Butler tells us, ‘a state of the social that takes form in discourse and other modes of articulation, including song’ (Butler in Butler and Spivak 2007: 65). The right to rights so claimed sets up the problem of the ‘we’ of democracy, and the entitlement to protection the nation-state confers, as a perpetually and critically open question. Singing as a plural act, merging voices that remain different, ruptures the mono-lingualism of the nation, putting in motion the task of translation (Butler in Butler and Spivak 2007: 61).