Re: [Foucault-L] PRECISION Need reference: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

Hi Nate, hi Kevin
and hi everyone,

There are
several points I'd like to raise.

Nate :

I'm glad you
take what I said so seriously, but please, don't be mad at me : when I say
"haha", that surely means I'm joking.

Besides, I
wish that you had taken a closer look at what I was saying just after the introductive
passage that upset you! That wasn’t addressed to you directly, but there I was
claiming the idea you exposed as an answer/objection. I’m not going to play the
“quote-game”, but, please, let me quote one important passage that will close
the debate: “I'm pretty sure the meaning of Sedgwick's pseudo-statement is not
that people are closer through the sexual acts
they perform, but that they sometimes can feel closer through
the practices they have in common, or that we can also categorize them along
these axes (I'm thinking here of Sedgwick rhetorical exercise in the beginning
of Epistemology of the closet: there are a wide range of “sexual”
categories that we don’t think of, but that are still possible = as conceptually
valuable that the one we use).”. I think Sedgwick’s playing a sort of
wittgensteinian language game, proposing alternative categories which don’t
make sense to us but which are entirely consistent.

Moreover, we’re
talking here about sexual categorization. I entirely agree that sexual
categorization isn’t the right one over all possible categorization; I also
believe categorization isn’t the right way to address people. I believe in
auto-declaration, auto-definition and respect the way people consider
themselves, which should be the way we consider each other.

But sometimes
a theoretical vantage point remains blind to what’s going on in front of the
theorist’s eyes. I think that’s a shame. Butler’s article “Revisiting Bodies
and Pleasures” links some actual political issues with theoretical ambiguities
in Foucault’s “bodies and pleasures”, which are meant to provide resistance locus
against the “sex-desire” apparatus. How are we supposed to fight against sex
and desire? By fighting against them, what are we indeed fighting against? And
where are we fighting from, from which locus? I think the very formula “fight
against” leads to a dead end: it looks a lot like the big “No” which supports the
repressive hypothesis. Furthermore, I think one cannot tell everyone else what
he or she ought to do: some “queer theorists” urge people not to define
themselves as homo or heterosexuals, some “feminist theorists” urge people not
to define themselves as women or men, etc. And what if we want to, feel happy
with it, feel it’s an important part of our lives and personalities? I think
Sedgwick’s rhetorical exercise isn’t so rhetorical: there are some people
who actually think and feel their sexual acts, sexual feelings, sexual
orientation, sexual identity, gender, etc., are an important part of their
selves – or not.

Is the very definition
a violent and normative act? Butler raises this important point in her article:
to Butler, Foucault’s “bodies and pleasures” is an invitation to namelessness.
Let’s take it for granted, or for a
political orientation. I particularly like Butler’s vantage point on
theoretical programs: okay, she could put it, so what do we do now?


Thank you for
the foucaltian remark on behaviors. I wasn’t claiming the contrary. I am
talking about behaviors and practices as the human material upon which political
technologies and knowledge historically built their governmentality programs.
As far as the “sex-desire” apparatus is concerned, it consisted in linking acts
to behaviors to orientation to identities in a normative way. One doesn’t jump
from sexual acts to sexual identity: there are a wide range of elements linking
them to one another, through historical practices and knowledge. I then wish to
underlie that behaviors and practices remain a blind spot in the
act/identity debate. In The use of
pleasure, Foucault’s problematization is precisely about how people think
over their sexual conducts (“conduites”).

“The conducts”:
here is my methodological object, as far as I think it is a historical locus of knowledge/power/resistance.


Tiffany P.

> Date: Wed, 8 Feb 2012 00:26:34 -0800
> From: kevin.turner@xxxxxxxxx
> To: foucault-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: Re: [Foucault-L] PRECISION Need reference: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
> The reason I raised the point is that it seems to me that there is a danger of falling back into the notion that there is a space free from power which is knowledge, freedom, emancipation. The categories, classifications, descriptions etc., of human behaviour set up or described by Sedgwick, Butler, et al, are no less power/knowledge complexes than those established by the "establishment." They too form objects of knowledge and aim to induce forms of behaviour: the may be anti-programmatic programmes, but they are programmes nonetheless.
> Regards,
> Kevin
> p.s. Foucault analysed neither behaviour nor identity: 'It was a matter of analyzing, not behaviors or ideas, nor societies and their "ideologies," but the problematizations through which being offers itself to be, necessarily, thought - and the practices on the basis of which these problematizations are formed' (The Use of Pleasure: 11).
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: npr4@xxxxxxxxxxxx
> > Sent: Wed, 8 Feb 2012 08:53:09 +0100
> > To: foucault-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> > Subject: Re: [Foucault-L] PRECISION Need reference: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
> >
> > I agree with you entirely, Kevin. By "arbitrary" I intend only to say
> > that
> > they are not given by nature, but are instead the result of human
> > programs
> > and power (and that they could, therefore, be otherwise).
> > Nate
> >
> > On Wed, Feb 8, 2012 at 8:47 AM, Kevin Turner <kevin.turner@xxxxxxxxx>
> > wrote:
> >
> >> Hi Nathan, Tiffany, et al,
> >>
> >> I agree with the general thrust of Nathan’s argument, but would just add
> >> that we need to exercise caution in using the word ”arbitrary.” On one
> >> level, certainly, such categories, classifications, self-identifications
> >> are completely arbitrary: they are historical constructs that do not
> >> refer
> >> to essences and could thus be otherwise. However, on another level, and
> >> precisely because they are historical construct, they are anything but
> >> arbitrary since they emerged out of very specific programmes for
> >> governing
> >> individuals, groups, and populations. They are political technologies
> >> that
> >> form objects of knowledge and sites of intervention; they are also, of
> >> course, technologies of the self.
> >>
> >> Affably Yours,
> >> Kevin
> >>
> >>
> >>> -----Original Message-----
> >>> From: npr4@xxxxxxxxxxxx
> >>> Sent: Wed, 8 Feb 2012 10:07:34 +0530
> >>> To: foucault-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> >>> Subject: Re: [Foucault-L] PRECISION Need reference: Eve Kosofsky
> >>> Sedgwick
> >>>
> >>> On Wed, Feb 8, 2012 at 3:30 AM, Tiffany P.
> >>> <princeptiffany@xxxxxxxxxx>wrote:
> >>>
> >>>> To
> >>>> Nathaniel: I don't get what's wrong with your 3 propositions. I would
> >>>> even
> >>>> say
> >>>> I agree with all of them, I find these "categorizations" even more
> >>>> "natural" (meaning: intuitive) than the homo/hetero one. But maybe
> >>>> I'm too queer? Haha.
> >>>>
> >>>
> >>> Tiffany,
> >>>
> >>> Okay, so what do we mean by "more in common"? More in common **with
> >>> respect
> >>> to what**? More common with respect to sexual predilections? Yes,
> >>> certainly. But if that's all she's saying, she is hardly saying
> >>> anything
> >>> at
> >>> all. In fact it's a complete tautology.
> >>>
> >>> Look, there are an awful lot of ways for two people to be like and
> >>> unlike
> >>> each other, and I don't see how whether a person licks pussy or not
> >>> (for
> >>> example) should outweigh all the others. Straight men are interpellated
> >>> in
> >>> a vast number of ways that are totally different than the way women
> >>> are.
> >>> Sure, it is possible that one particular straight man who licks pussy
> >>> may
> >>> have more in common with a particular woman who does. But Sedgwick is
> >>> saying that the mere fact of licking pussy means they will necessarily
> >>> have
> >>> more in common. And this strikes me as utterly absurd.
> >>>
> >>> So I ask: is her theoretical position simply that the kind of sexual
> >>> acts
> >>> a
> >>> person likes to perform is categorically more important than any other
> >>> fact
> >>> about them? Is it more important than how they think about themselves?
> >>> How
> >>> they themselves feel about those acts? How their culture categorizes
> >>> them?
> >>>
> >>> Fine. Let that be her dogma. But I don't think there's any denying that
> >>> this is completely reductive. It's practically a paradigm case of
> >>> reductiveness. It not only reduces the whole of human existence to
> >>> behavior, but unlike the now discredited behaviorism (which at least
> >>> took
> >>> into account the whole range of behaviors) it reduces everything even
> >>> further: to one type of behavior (chosen by the theorist herself).
> >>>
> >>> Ryan, your interpretation of what Sedgwick/Butler had in mind sounds
> >>> much
> >>> more plausible to me. I am sure Sedgwick must not have meant the
> >>> statement
> >>> to be taken in a literal manner, but more as a provocation. I just
> >>> happen
> >>> to be one of those people who values clarity and precision of thought
> >>> and
> >>> writing. But to take up the more interesting angle you have suggested,
> >>> "because sexual acts cut across conventional sexual identities, they
> >>> reveal
> >>> the arbitrariness of those categories, and that erotic desire is not
> >>> just
> >>> about who you want but also about what you want to do," I would just
> >>> like
> >>> to add that the way we categorize sexual acts is just as arbitrary as
> >>> the
> >>> way we categorize sexual identities. So although I accept that it may
> >>> be
> >>> useful to pose the one against the other and see how they may conflict,
> >>> let
> >>> us not lose track of the fact that both involve arbitrary categories.
> >>> And
> >>> it seems to me that a more fruitful avenue would be to move away from
> >>> ethological categories to ones that relevant to the people themselves
> >>> (i.e.
> >>> the people whose identities and acts Sedgwick and those she argue
> >>> against
> >>> are categorizing).
> >>>
> >>> Cordially,
> >>> Nate
> >>> _______________________________________________
> >>> Foucault-L mailing list
> >>
> >> ____________________________________________________________
> >> Send any screenshot to your friends in seconds...
> >> Works in all emails, instant messengers, blogs, forums and social
> >> networks.
> >> TRY IM TOOLPACK at for
> >> FREE
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> Foucault-L mailing list
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Dr. Nathaniel
> > Roberts<>
> > Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
> > Herman-Föge-Weg 11
> > 37073 Göttingen
> > Germany
> > +49 (0) 551-4956-0
> > _______________________________________________
> > Foucault-L mailing list
> ____________________________________________________________
> FREE 3D MARINE AQUARIUM SCREENSAVER - Watch dolphins, sharks & orcas on your desktop!
> Check it out at
> _______________________________________________
> Foucault-L mailing list

  • Re: [Foucault-L] PRECISION Need reference: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
    • From: Nathaniel Roberts
  • Replies
    Re: [Foucault-L] PRECISION Need reference: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Kevin Turner
    Partial thread listing: