judith butler@newschool

So in Friday, Judith Butler came to speak at Eugene Lang and it was PACKED. Crazily so. It got to the point that they decided to move the lecture to Tishman, and the walls were crawling with people. People sitting on the aisles, standing along the sides and even the 2nd floor circus level was opened to accommodate the huge crowd. It’s really refreshing to see such a huge turnout, especially with all the cost-cutting going on in humanities dept.

But the real meat of this was her lecture, which was a paper sexual difference and heterosexuality through same-sex parenting. It was really dense – at that point, I wish I brought a recorder since I couldn’t scribble fast enough to capture everything.

The key idea starts off being:

Sexual difference is transmitted unconsciously, with women as the receptacle and heterosexuality as the social form.

She examines this by breaking it down – first with traditional psychoanalysis; the “crime” of sexual and murderous, a transmission of an earlier time (this, I don’t buy into) as well as references of anti-Oedipus. What is interesting is that this earlier transmissions (quote Mitchell: “we are still all universally conceived by one mother and begotten by one father”) is that they become “hauntings” on kinship, which means what what we really have to do is rethink what it means to have kin and be kin-of, and how that alters generations.

I found that part of the lecture most interesting, because that questions seems most relevant from a D&T perspective as well. That with the rise of same-sex parenting, comes a reconfiguration of kinship – that the sexual drama or family drama (instigated by adolescence and modelling fantasy) is more important than the queer alliance i.e. (same sex parenting producing a homosexual child). There’s also the question of sexual orientation vs sexual identity, which she concludes as incommenciable, because what is desirable is not the orientation but the desire itself. (paraphasing, the notes here are a bit shoddy)

She brought up this hilarious story about a pair of dads with 1 daughter, and she asked them “Dads, would you hate me if I’m not lesbian?” And they replied: “If you’re lesbian, then we both like same sex pairings. If you’re hetrosexual, then we both like men. So whatever you want to be, we will always be like you.”

Which brings to the point about object-choice, and the dilemma of object choice in same-sex parenting. Traditionally in psychoanalysis, object-choice is the modelling of a parent in terms of sexual orientation and fantasy i.e. sons who are “mommy’s boy” or daughters who grow up modelling their ‘ideal guy’ to their father. In the case of same sex parenting however, modelling can come in several forms i.e earlier example with the 2 fathers and 1 daughter. Interestingly, Butler contends that the child being heterosexual is closer to modelling than being homosexual, as family kinship over shared object is closer than any form of queer alliance.

Then she moved on to the problem on transmission – the complications when one cannot define what has been transmitted or not; where because of its unconscious nature, one is never certain whether the transmission has arrived or is even dicipherable. One of my favourite quotes of this evening was (surprisingly) by Derrida:

Is the form that it arrives in, the form when it was sent?

[tbc tomorrow]

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