Playing with Categories
Day 7: More Meditations on Categorizations

Alert! Aboud! Middlesex!

The dream of a common language or no language at all is just that--
a dream, a fantasy that ultimately can do little to acknowledge and to legitimate
the hitherto repressed differences between and within sexual identities.

Thought is freedom in relation to what one does,
the motion by which one detaches oneself from it,
establishes it as an object, and reflects on it as a problem.


Drawing from a personal childhood experience...I hope to articulate gender positioning not just as a dichotomy between opposite sexes (male vs. female), but also within the same sex (female vs. female)....In creating a gender dichotomy that contrasts women to men, the possibility of neglecting the gendered activity existing within same biological sex groups develops.... I hope to promote the complexity of gender and biological sex as not just a binary opposition between male and female, but also that of female and female or male and male.--Kelsey, "Gender and Sexualities Paper # 1"

Michel Foucault

Diane Fuss

reviewing your postings
What to make of Foucault and Fuss?

Anne on context

What categories do each of us occupy?
What words do we use to describe ourselves?
What words do others use to describe us?
How do the categories "inside" differ from those "without"?

GoPhila CultureFiles--Mutter Museum

Is our occupation of categories willing or unwilling? "Natural" or imposed?
What do those categories (say, "learner" and "teacher") signify to us?
What do they look and sound like to each of us?
What categories matter most to us,
when we discuss our own identities and those of others?
How might we self-organize into a taxonomy that makes sense of those identities?

For help, go to Taxonomy--Wikipedia
Taxonomy Lab: The "Nuts and Bolts" of Taxonomy and Classification
Bloom's Taxonomy: A Classification of Levels of Intellectual Behavior

The Wagner Free Institute of Science

Brief exercise: split into groups of three to conduct a taxonomic exercise:
How many "kinds" do you constitute?
What are the grounds for your grouping?
(Identify any/all characteristics that seem important to you.)
Identify a table, or grid, or draw a tree...
...that places you in relation to one another.
What matters in the categories you make?
How do you construct them?

So...what have we learned?
For starters: categorization can begin

I. Foucault teaches us that the space of knowledge might be arranged differently than it is
his book is a study of the rules of formation, of categories, of discursive practices that we use to say we know something
what is the ground for our classifications? what table/ what grid? what coherence to our pigeonholes?
an analysis of the experience of imposing order/the conditions that make knowledge possible
that says, these are not the only possible or best ones
level of analysis is archeological; the positive unconscious
focused on practices in which we operate
c. 1850 the belief that language represented things was lost
throws out all our focus on the difference point of view makes
(Not a theory of the knowing subject!)
used the past to understand what is intolerable in the present
w/ aim of showing contingency/surpassability of history
attitude of permanent critique; persistent self-questiong
work to show that what is does not have to be what it is

two major themes:
great critical contribution:
best known for declaration of the death of man/death of the subject

dissolves anthropological model of identity and subjecthood
breaks down domination of fully self-reflexive, unified, rational subject, as a byproduct of discursive formations;
rejects coercive illusion of deep interiority, innermost truth
radically anti-subjectivist, anti-individualist
self only point of convergence for forces
2nd "big idea": all knowledge embedded in power relations
focused on subtle/diffuse maintainence of inequality/oppression
every exercise of power gives rise to resistence, opens space for possibility
freedom inseparable from power: refusal to submit necessary for continued exercise of power

From David Halperin's Saint=Foucault: Toward a Gay Hagiography:
Non-gays see Foucault as anti-emancipatory because he makes liberation seem antiquated
but gays who are targeted in the modern liberal state take him as inspiration for their practices of resistance
His project involves the analysis of limits imposed on us, an experiment/the possibility of going beyond those limits
it begins w/ liberation from the liberal ideal of freedom
Foucault argues that change can only take place through co-optation and assimilation,
that the aim of oppostional position is not liberation but resistance
he sees power as a relation, exercised (not a substance, possessed)
it is everywhere
progressive politics begins not w/ a vision of what should be
(such principles get in the way of participatory action)
but rather w/ a sense of what is intolerable in a given situation

Haperin develops 3 ideas (of interest to me):

II. What's all this have to do w/ Fuss?
her key idea is that identity is fundamentally relational:
we are defined by what we are NOT
Hegel's master/slave
also psychoanalytic:
Jacques Lacan
(1901-1981) French practictioner, theorist of psychoanalysis who
used structuralist linguistics to revise Freud's biological theory of the unconscious and of gender differentiation
Lacan focused on the entry of children into the "symbolic," into the signifiying system of language,
as a result of the break-up of the priordial unity with the mother.
His work focuses on "the lack" (language arises from the lack of the "real"),
on the the "mirror stage," on "object relations"

simply put: an awareness of self by contrast with an other
(old/white/Quaker/traveling American;
exchange student now! aware of what it means to be Mexican,
surrounded by those who are NOT, sees herself through the difference

helps articulate evolution of field of Gender Studies
during name change discussion, dean asked about students looking for woamen's studies;
will they recognize what they want on page called G&S?
can they move from the ghetto of the marginalized (women's history, psychology of women, etc.)
to the relational nature of the identity "woman"
can't talk about women w/out talking about men
(and, per Kelsey: can't talk about women w/out talking about other women)

this is Fuss:
naming any category of "inside" creates an 'outside"
any term dependent on what is exterior to it
danger: this dynamic becomes a structure of rigid/polar exclusion
in particular: fixed polarity of sexual terms
great irony: when homosexuality named/became closeted:
identification=explicit policing
recently it's "in to be out": valorize marginality
is that a tenable position? is it politically viable?
or does an outside always get created however "out" the inside?
(Stanley Fish on difference: "the remainder that escape the drawing of any line no matter how generous: irreducible")
inside and outside @ same time/disorganize these structures
naming/categorizing/analysis "interminable,'
identity a perpetual reinvention/revision
(Mark Lord: a shell game, not an entity)

the very roots of "hetero" (other) and "homo" (same) are opposites
Fuss says that the rigid polarities of the sexual terms we have hide a lack on the inside;
heterosexual policing of homosexualtiy: fear of w/in
out w/ two meanings; into presence, on outside
to out can be to valorize/idealize/romatnicize the marginal
reconsider "in" and "out" as "alongside"; distance/proximity
[which brings us back to Foucault!]

turn vocabulary inside out

(if time/probably not:) another exercise to end--
name yourself, what you are w/in:
"I am Anne and I am inside the classroom"
listen to woman on your right: name her and her outside on next round:
"She is Anne and she is outside the outside."

Reminder re: writing conferences
Heavy reading for Wednesday:
first 50 pp. of first of Foucault's 3 volumes on The History of Sexuality
20 pp. of book by historian Tom Laqueur on Making Sex (historian @ UCal, Berkeley, friend of Sharon Ullman, spoke here on burial practices); more recent book Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation

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