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  • Prof: Now, I don't think it's ever

  • happened to me before-- although it might have but I

  • can't recall its having happened--

  • that I found myself lecturing on a person who had lectured

  • yesterday here at Yale, but that's what happened in

  • this case.

  • You read--let's just call it--the facetious article on the

  • lecture in The Daily News this morning.

  • Some of you may actually have been in attendance.

  • I unfortunately could not be, but as it happened I ran into

  • her later in the evening and talked to some of her colleagues

  • about what she'd said, so I do have a certain sense of

  • what went on.

  • In any case, as to what went on,

  • I'm going to be talking today about the slipperiest

  • intellectual phenomenon in her essay having to do with what she

  • calls "psychic excess,"

  • the charge or excess from the unconscious which in some

  • measure unsettles even that which can be performed.

  • We perform identity, we perform our subjectivity,

  • we perform gender in all the ways that we'll be discussing in

  • this lecture, but beyond what we can

  • perform there is "sexuality,"

  • which I'm going to be turning to in a minute.

  • This has something to do with the authentic realm of the

  • unconscious from which it emerges.

  • What Butler did in her lecture yesterday was to return to the

  • psychoanalytic aspect of the essay that you read for today,

  • emphasizing particularly the work of Lacan's disciple,

  • Jean Laplanche, and developing the ways in

  • which sexuality is something that belongs in a dimension that

  • exceeds and is less accessible than those more coded concepts

  • that we think of as gender or as identity in general.

  • So conveniently enough, for those of you who did attend

  • her lecture yesterday, in many ways she really did

  • return to the issues that concerned her at the period of

  • her career when she wrote Gender Trouble and when

  • she wrote the essay that you've read for today.

  • All right.

  • Now I do want to begin with what ought to be an innocent

  • question.

  • Surely we're entitled to an answer to this question,

  • and the question is: what is sexuality?

  • Now of course you may be given pause--

  • especially if you've got an ear fine-tuned to jargon--

  • you may be given pause by the very word

  • "sexuality," which is obviously relatively

  • recent in the language.

  • People didn't used to talk about sexuality.

  • They talked about sex, which seems somehow more

  • straightforward, but "sexuality"

  • is a term which is not only pervasive in cultural thought

  • but also has a certain privilege among other ways of describing

  • that aspect of our lives.

  • In other words, there is something authentic,

  • as I've already begun to suggest, about our sexuality,

  • something more authentic about that than the sorts of aspects

  • of ourselves that we can and do perform.

  • That's Butler's argument, and it's an interesting

  • starting point, but it's not yet,

  • or perhaps not at all, an answer to the question,

  • "What is sexuality?"

  • Now for Foucault sexuality is arguably something like desired

  • and experienced bodily pleasure, but the problem in Foucault is

  • that this pleasure is always orchestrated by a set of factors

  • that surround it, a very complicated set of

  • factors which is articulated perhaps best on page 1634 in his

  • text, the lower right-hand column.

  • He's talking about the difference between and the

  • interaction between what he calls the "deployment of

  • alliance" and the "deployment

  • of"-- our word--"sexuality."

  • I want to read this passage and then comment on it briefly:

  • "In a word [and it's of course not in a word;

  • it's in several words], the deployment of alliance is

  • attuned to a homeostasis of the social body..."

  • The deployment of alliance is the way in which,

  • in a given culture, the nuclear reproductive unit

  • is defined, typically as the

  • "family," but the family in itself

  • changes in its nature and its structure.

  • The way in which the family is viewed,

  • the sorts of activities that are supposed to take place and

  • not take place in the family-- because Foucault lays a certain

  • amount of stress on incest and the atmospheric threat of

  • incest-- the sorts of things that go on

  • in the family and are surrounded by certain kinds of discourse

  • conveying knowledge-- and we'll come back to the

  • latter part of that sentence-- all have to do with the

  • deployment of alliance.

  • On the other hand, the deployment of sexuality we

  • understand as the way in which whatever this thing is that

  • we're trying to define is talked about--

  • and therefore not by any state apparatus or actual legal system

  • necessarily-- but nevertheless simply by the

  • prevalence and force of various sorts of knowledge police.

  • Okay.

  • To continue the passage: In a word, the deployment of

  • alliance is attuned to a homeostasis [or a

  • regularization; that's what he means by

  • "homeostasis"] of the social body,

  • which it has the function of maintaining;

  • whence its privileged link with the law [that is to say,

  • the law tells us all sorts of things about the family--

  • including whether or not there can be gay marriage,

  • just incidentally: I'll come back to that in a

  • minute]; whence too the fact that the

  • important phase for it is "reproduction."

  • The deployment of sexuality has its reason for being,

  • not in reproducing itself, but in proliferating,

  • innovating, annexing, creating, and penetrating

  • bodies in an increasingly detailed way,

  • and in controlling populations in an increasingly comprehensive

  • way.

  • What he's saying is, among other things,

  • that a deployment of sexuality, which isn't necessarily a bad

  • thing-- these deployments aren't meant

  • somehow or another to be terroristic regimes--

  • a deployment of sexuality, which for example favored forms

  • of sexuality such as birth control or homosexuality,

  • would certainly be a means of controlling reproduction.

  • Just in that degree, the deployment of sexuality

  • could be seen as subtly or not so subtly at odds with the

  • deployment of alliance, alliance which is all for the

  • purpose of reproduction or at least takes as its primary sign,

  • as Foucault suggests, the importance,

  • the centrality, to a given culture--

  • or sociobiological system, if you wil--

  • of reproduction.

  • These are the ways in which the deployment of alliance and the

  • deployment of sexuality converge, don't converge,

  • and conflict with each other.

  • But in all of these ways, we keep seeing this concept of

  • sexuality; but, as I say,

  • it continues to be somewhat elusive what precisely it is.

  • Just to bracket that for the moment, let me make another

  • comment or two on the concepts in the passage that I have just

  • read.

  • Let's say once and for all at the outset that the central idea

  • in Foucault's text, the idea which he continues to

  • develop throughout the three volumes on the history of

  • sexuality-- the central idea is this idea

  • of "power" as something other than that

  • which is enforced through legal, policing or state apparatus

  • means.

  • This is power which is enforced as a circulation or distribution

  • of knowledge, which is discursive in nature,

  • and which enforces its norms for all of us,

  • for better or for worse--because discourse can

  • release and can constitute sites of resistance as well as

  • oppress-- which, for better or worse,

  • circulates among us ideas that are in a certain sense governing

  • ideas about whatever it is that's in question,

  • in this case, obviously, sexuality.

  • Foucault calls this, sometimes hyphenating it,

  • "power-knowledge."

  • This is absolutely the central idea in late Foucault.

  • I introduced it, you remember,

  • last time in talking about Said.

  • I come back to it now as that which really governs--

  • and guides you through--the whole text of Foucault:

  • the distinction between power as it's traditionally understood

  • as authoritative-- as sort of top- down,

  • coming from above, imposed on us by law,

  • by the police, by whatever establishment of

  • that kind there might be-- the distinction between power

  • of that kind and power which is simply the way in which

  • knowledge-- and knowledge is not,

  • by the way, necessarily a good word,

  • it's not necessarily knowledge of the truth--

  • the way in which knowledge circulates and imposes its

  • effects on us, our behavior,

  • the way