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Week Six, McWhorter

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years ago

Week Six, LaDelle McWhorter, Bodies and Pleasures: Foucault and the Politics of Sexual Normalization 


Foucault's Impact and Views from the Site of Political Oppression (Introduction and Ch 1)         Hillary


  • On page 28, McWhorter says, “Whether Michel Foucault, the man who sat down one day and wrote those words, was queer or not, the voice I heard was queer.”  So, whether LaDelle McWhorter, the woman who sat down one day and wrote these words, was queer or not, do you hear a queer voice?
  • McWhorter acknowledges Foucault might have discouraged her from publishing something with so much autobiography included in it.  What do you think of McWhorter’s use of personal narrative?
  • Confession, McWhorter establishes, can function as a line of penetration serving panopticism.  On the flip side, closeting can function as a technology of the self that silences and thereby erases the Other.  In this sense, confession could be an illustration of agency and emancipation.  What do you make of confession as a tool for both oppression and liberation?

 In an aside, check out Note 12 to the Introduction.  Fun-ny!




Genealogical Diversions (CH 2)                                                          Kate


On page 49, McWhorter writes, "...not only is [Foucault's] genealogy epistemologically superior, but it is politically superior as well if you happen to hold certain fairly basic and common political precepts."  On what grounds does McWhorter argue that genealogy can be epistemologically superior, and that following Foucault doesn't lead to epistemological relativism? 





Why I Shouldn't Like Foucault   (CH 3)                                           Nathalie






Disorientation  (CH 4)                                                                     Hagit

In this chapter Ladelle McWhorter describes the failure of the different strategies for resisting an identity that is based on sexual desires and acts, and the surrender to sexual identity. What are the bases for the failures?

For her, this surrender leads and made possible by a more subtle interpretation of Foucault’s resistance, which centers on the rejection of desire and affirmation of bodies and pleasure.  How does her presentation of Foucault’s genealogy of desire assert the rejection of desire? On what basis?

After reading the next two chapters – is she successful in establishing through Foucault a political difference between the account given to desire and the accounts given to the body and to pleasure?





Natural Bodies (CH 5)                                                                     Evan


In this chapter, McWhorter combines personal experience with a look at the development of Cartesian dualism. Is the story that she tells about the birth of bodies (as part of the mind/body dualism) convincing? In what ways does it differ from others that we have read/discussed, and in what ways is the same?



How effective were McWhorter’s two examples (line-dancing and gardening) in evoking "counter-memories... that can serve as starting points for others" (162)? How do her observations about dirt and whiteness tie into her genealogy of her body? Do those descriptions play a different role than that of the description of Johnny and his mother (144-5)?



Self-Overcoming (CH 6)                                                                  Lisa


 What do you make of the examples of pleasurable activities in this chapter and their potential for increasing capacities without increasing docility?  Could just any activity be a source of pleasure in the sense that Foucault and McWhorter mean it here?  (And if not, by what criteria can we judge?)


What is "style," and does it satisfy you as a mode of opposition?


Counterattack and Inconclusion     (CH 7 and inconclusion)                              Kristin


1.  Through a close reading of Herculine Barbin, McWhorter illustrates the distinction between resistance and counterattack.  She seems to be suggesting that mere resistance can incite “normalizing theoreticians” to their work of normalization.  Do you agree with her argument that resistance in itself is not enough—and that something like “counterattack” is necessary to move beyond resistance?  How does counterattack overcome the pitfalls and dangers of “mere resistance”?     


2.  Is McWhorter’s conception of political action fundamentally different from that of Alcoff or Young?  How might they respond to her discussion of governmentality? 


3.  I view this work as something of an invitation to counterattack.  In addition, I find this deeply personal text to demand a deeply personal response.  So, I pose the question: How, in our situatedness, would we respond to McWhorter’s invitation?  











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