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Really Bad Infinities: Queer's Honour and the Pornographic Life
William Haver Online Publication Date: 01 October 1999 To cite this Article: Haver, William (1999) 'Really Bad Infinities: Queer's Honour and the Pornographic Life', Parallax, 5:4, 9 — 21 To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/135346499249371 URL:

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our nitude. and death itself have become essentially moral failings rather than misfortunes. albeit thoroughly stupid. for whom the outside environment means death. for we have seen technical advice pertinent to our pleasures pressed into the service of a thoroughly authoritarian. in what we call our being. our future scenario is assured: that of the child in the glass bubble.htm parallax 9 . let us return to Stengers and Gille. disability. we. no. that the fact of our embodiment is the fact of our utter nontranscendence. including not only verbal admonition but an entire range of material and institutional practices. have learned the hard way (there being no easy way) the existential irrelevance of both hope and despair. that so-called safer sex is not a state of being. of AIDS (with the full force of the partitive: we belong to AIDS as its ownmost). perhaps. safer sex discourse. put under observation. an essay as remarkable for its prescience as for its rigour. 9–21 Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 Really Bad In nities: Queer’s Honour and the Pornographic Life William Haver In ‘Body Fluids’. And we have had to live the future scenario of which Stengers and Gille warned us in 1985. more. that of the obsessional struggle against all unmonitored contact as potentially the source of We have learned. that there never is. that the pandemic is interminable. 1999. nor can be a place of safety. we have /JNLS/par. has been.htm http://www. vol. to be lectured to. absolutely nothing has happened to deprive their question and their warning of their cogency. So. 4. 5. bearing in mind the continued pertinence of their question. and will be.parallax.taylorandfrancis.2 and that we can therefore no longer think of the future as the restoration of a putatively uncontaminated past. we have learned that the fact that we both are and possess bodies means that our bodies are our unavoidable exposure to danger. and that latex is no guarantee of immortality. for example. and converted? In that case.1 Much has happened in the fourteen years since Stengers’s and Gille’s essay rst appeared. moralism. that we /JNLS/par. They wonder how we might understand the ‘role’ of this ‘advance parallax ISSN 1353-464 5 print/ISSN 1460-700 X online Ñ 1999 Taylor & Francis Ltd http://www. Isabelle Stengers and Didier Gille ask in the context of what we have come to know as safer sex discourse in the AIDS pandemic: What will we say to those who ignore advice and continue to make contacts known to be at risk? Will we treat them as irresponsible. some of us. Indeed.tandf. has become an essential part of an entire scienti c medical technology of social control such that all illness.

5 and to that extent is excluded from participation in the abstract rationality that de nes the possibility of the polis. . because the utter fool. the one who in his life or in his death. . as the happening. and concomitantly acknowledge that neither in Freud nor in Lacan is the death drive simply an explanation. they refuse any attempt to gure this advance guard as one that must choose between sacri ce and cowardice. Living beings. more adequate interpretation of that gure. the subversive insistence of this question of those who agree to expose their body to danger . does not want to serve as any model. It is not our place to de ne these exigencies. producers and consumers of body uids. Which may. and undoubtedly with a certain reading of Kant in mind. and so cannot be shared. Most importantly. bios apolaustikos. down through the ages. would emphasize that the utter fool is at least in part not susceptible to the seductions of reason. rather. I want to think about that engagement as an engagement with the political as such. the limit of a rationality proper to more than psychoanalysis. than an object for interpretation and understanding (which is not to suggest that the utter fool somehow mysteriously evades all interpretation.3 Rather. what a body is. we would have to inquire rst of all into the curious status of a drive that is no longer unconscious. but also exceeds it. understandings. What I want to do in considering the gure of the utter fool is not to oÚ er a better. something more. or crowning glory for the risks he takes is the simple recognition of the exigencies that drive him. medal. for example but among many others. in the fulguration and simultaneity – the eclat – of the unapprehendable ´ Haver 10 . they say. They tell us and remind us what we are – in this case. but who accepts grave risks in the name of something that de nes his uniqueness. for pleasure or from passion. but simply to engage what of the utter fool would remain in the exhaustion of every possible interpretation). Further. I want to think about the ways in which the utter fool is something other. this ‘‘something. if ever it was. be true – or true enough. in danger of life. renders homage to what of life is consecrated to pleasure.Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 guard’ of the pandemic.’’ But we can recognize. are of course possible. and rationalizations. an interpretation and understanding that would thereby displace other interpretations. not only of this passage but of the heroic utter fool. in fact. in his and/or her most fundamental existential comportment. Aristotelians and Kantians. But they also refuse to consider the advance guard collectively as a gure of an essentially military heroism. The hero whose only reward. but only recognized by others.What these heroes can teach us is in nitely more precious than the self-denial or unconscious of recorded heroes: they explore in their esh. The psychoanalytically inclined might be tempted to say that the utter fool has surrendered to the seductions of the death drive. the gure is that of the utter fool. But were we to pursue such a psychoanalytic inquiry. They refuse rst of all a moralist and functionalist reading in which the subjective position of this advance guard would be abstracted into an objective service to a collective good. but precisely an explanation that marks the limit of the interpretative and explanatory possibilities of psychoanalysis.4 Various interpretations. what it can and cannot tolerate.

the notebooks of Gary Fisher. in classrooms. an existential attention to. but which seems to me unavoidable if we are to resist the seductions of our contemporary culture of political despair. an engagement that is dangerous for every politics. what is. in Jean-Luc Nancy’s phrase. There is. Queer’s honour. and what is always already subsumed within intelligibility. indeed. An empiricism? Undoubtedly. Queer’s honour is a comportment. we are. the unrepentant faggot in Diamanda Galas’s Plague Mass. in alleys. in bedrooms and. Finally. Before I try to elaborate this thought of queer’s honour. of course. in multiple feminist traditions that insist upon the speci city of material bodies (and here the essentialist/constructivist debate is quite irrelevant). in backrooms. an attention. The utter fool may be a gure of queer’s honour. let me emphasize that these gures are in principle innumerable and essentially anonymous. think of names to attach to this gure. epistemological.Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 now. an empiricism quite other than the empiricisms of academic philosophy which nd their objects already constituted. but also interrupt those inquiries. So I want to say that in the gure of the utter fool Stengers and Gille have given us one among innumerable and for the most part anonymous gures of what I want to call ‘queer’s honour’. and no less. ‘touch touches touching. as such. the ‘I’ that emerges in Ron Palmer’s poems or in Jean Genet’s ctions. it is a seeing irreducible to looking. it is the perversity of the singularity at stake when. the ‘pseudopodia of sexuality’. and so on and so forth. astonishingly. but above all in all those whom we have encountered (which also means: all those utter fools we are) – whether for a minute or a lifetime. but he and/or she is not thereby a type or model. his Empedocles). I want to think about that engagement as a possibility by which we might engage the sexual and erotic pleasures that at once provoke ‘gay and lesbian studies’ or ‘queer theory’. Precisely because the names we can attach to this gure of the utter fool are in nite and various (and in nitely various). perhaps. the Scott ´ O’Hara of Autopornography . as Foucault says somewhere. something essential to any thought of queer’s honour. within which the political as such appears. and bookstores: even. sex shops. which have collectively constituted nothing so much as a forgetting and transcendence of queer pleasures. no matter – under bridges. For our problem today is not so much to choose between this or that politics as it is to make the political happen. many of Samuel R. and baths. in the gure of the utter fool. and passions as they enrapture bodies irreducible to the subjectivity that is nonetheless theirs: it is neither political. and gyms. their categories given. in The Motion of Light in Water). bars. in parks.’ when the word withdraws from signi cation – or parallax 11 . they (a ‘they’ that is also a ‘we’) bespeak in their/our singularity an essential anonymity. aÚ ects. but a diÝ cult empiricism impossible to codify. consists in this: an unmotivated existential comportment toward. For example: Gregg Araki’s Luke in The Living End. formal and informal. in the gure of David Wojnarowicz in all the work signed by one David Wojnarowicz. in the populace of Cyril Collard’s Les nuits fauves. Patient Zero in John Greyson’s Zero Patience. dungeons. unsurpassable. that is something quite other than interpretation. in gures as diverse and ultimately perverse as Lacan’s Antigone (and even. the utter fool is on no queen’s Birthday List of honours. in abandoned warehouses. In this respect. then. We can. Delany’s characters in The Mad Man (but also. a hearing irreducible to listening. nor moral subjects who know the unbearable sweetness of the fuck.

not every cock is a phallus. I do not think they symbolize anything’. The perversity of queer’s honour lies in the rigour and discipline of its comportment toward and undivided attention to what remains as the supplement of every apprehension. of the aÚ ects and passions that provoke its attention and comportment altogether. porn is what in representation exceeds representation. the unsublatable contingency and historicity of what is. in grief over death. Which is to say that porn oÚ ers itself as the surplus of representation. Fassbinder’s Querelle is no more merely a visualization of Genet than Genet’s Querelle is merely a script for Fassbinder. erotic art – both in and in spite of its crudities. nor even because of. and if we miss that fact. and it is precisely in that untranslatability that the erotic happens. the hardest and most honourable of all disciplines. Neither. which is to say: for the pleasure of the thing. however psychological.6 Queer’s honour is thus a comportment toward. that in itself and as itself. does not. A fetish is a fetish only in its singularity (which does not preclude either its anonymity or a certain promiscuity). meaning. as the Buddhists would say.7 Porn (or erotic art) is not a substitute for sexual pleasure. After all. If the fetish signi es. an attention to. It consists in an absolute delity to the fetish. to think more than it conceives. and bad politics. Fassbinder’s Querelle and Genet’s Querelle do not translate each other. for the sake of transcendence. albeit succinctly. it is what in the visual image or in the word can be neither transcended nor translated. it is an astonished aÝ rmation of what is as its contingency and historicity. This is not to say that porn cannot be interpreted or criticized. Queer’s honour is constituted in a loyalty to the contingent. oÚ er itself to a subject as an object for interpretation. This unmotivated comportment and attention. and sense. There is neither symbol nor metaphor in Genet. but oÚ ers itself as sexual pleasure. Why invoke porn? Because porn – or. of a life that does not give up on the bios apolaustikos that is the surplus of political and epistemological subjectivity. however phenomenological. it produces a pleasure that is no metaphor. the fragmentary. for the fetish is a signi er without a signi ed. Genet himself made the point. any attention to that fetish can only be unmotivated: one attends to the fetish for the sake of nothing but that attention. the empirical. or mere intelligibility. as such.Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 when body uids no longer bear the glad tidings of intersubjective recognition. therefore. but as the nitude they most assuredly. I have just spoken of the discipline and rigour of the pornographic life. on what of life is consecrated to pleasure. queer’s honour is an aÝ rmation of the perverse pleasures and the bundle. meaning. a comportment that are strictly speaking unmotivated. an attention. in Funeral Rites: ‘Flowers amaze me because of the glamour with which I invest them in grave matters and. as porn. their nitude. if you shy at the term. by which I mean a life irreducible to biography. its capacity to see more than it looks at. but signi es nothing but its signi ance. not in spite or. life insofar as it does not give up. is the discipline that the fetish imposes. The Haver 12 . insofar as it does so. to hear more than it listens to. are. but that it is not to the gaze of a political or epistemological subject that it oÚ ers itself. stupidities. What is speci cally pornographic about porn is that it oÚ ers itself as in itself sexually pleasurable. does it oÚ er itself simply as a phenomenological or psychological technology for the achievement of pleasure. Thus. after all. its address is not to a subject’s gaze. but to the body’s capacity for pleasure. This is the discipline and honour of the pornographic life. not every breast is a good object. we miss entirely the intense eroticism of Genet’s texts. more radically. particularly.

one might parallax 13 . we necessarily make up the rules as we go. but that by virtue of our inescapable historicity (our groundlessness). irreducible to knowledge or its possibility. with two quali cations. after all. It is not simply that ‘you are what you do’. a meditation on the aporias of knowing. Pornographically speaking. And. Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 Does the pornographic life. as if a pornographic aesthetics of existence were a mere alternative. Thus.pornographic life is life insofar as it is attentive to those possibilities. but the Way itself. let me reiterate. Art’s work is an existential comportment that in its very happening acknowledges that what is at issue is not a surface that presumptively conceals the depth of being’s being. Art’s work is only coincidentally concerned with the production of the works of art that are its curiously irrelevant residue. but remains ˜ steadfast in its attention to the material manifold in its sensuous sensuality and to the chaos of the aÚ ects and passions. to appreciation and judgment: no sex appreciation courses here. eating. It is not that there are no rules. This queer aesthetics of existence. how to die: without this pornographic aesthetics of existence – and the testimony of innumerable PLWAs bears witness to the fact – there is literally no life to lose. or conceptualization. an aesthetics of existence that is a relation to what is without relation. there is no life. but the surface that is being’s most profound depth. and even less can there be a model of a queer Heldenleben . this art’s work that is at the same time an aesthetics of disappearance. consequent. art’s work is no transcendence. is hard work. ‘the meticulous dimensions of life lived thoroughly by those in the process of losing it’. as if you had a choice in the matter. a lesson in how to disappear. Outside of this pornographic aesthetics of existence.8 The pornographic life.9 Art’s work is the art of disappearance. that what is at stake in queer’s honour or a pornographic aesthetics of existence is not a matter of an escape from abstraction. still. political or epistemological subjectivities. existential engagement [which does not exclude thinking] with what conceptuality and its attendant subjectivities can only imagine as their inessential surplus. therefore never becomes what is sometimes called a work of art. sex (not excluding the technical disciplines of ascetic abstinence) is neither a form nor a way of life and of dying. belongs to art’s work. bespeak an aesthetics of existence? Yes. and fucking – the work of nontranscendence. that such an aesthetics of existence not be confused with any narrative that proceeds from perception as contemplation through phenomenological consciousness (which bears with it at least the possibility of knowing). neither is it a matter simply of a propaedeutic humiliation. Second. but that without that doing. life insofar as it is lived pornographically. but – like breathing. we all knew this once upon a time. rather. and it does not tell that story because it refuses (such is its honour. as Aaron Shurin puts it. quali cation: such an aesthetics of existence cannot be codi ed. it is a matter of an active. but we have been humiliated. (Parenthetically.) Granted that there can be no preemptive rule for a pornographic aesthetics of existence. you will remember that the life lived pornographically is among the most rigourous of disciplines: pleasure. a relation of non-relation. and not for the last time this afternoon. into abstraction. by safer sex discourse among much else. you could not be. Rather. such is its discipline) to redeem aisthesis in aesthetics. First. A pornographic aesthetics of existence never tells that story. if you recall your last heavy cruise.

a certain recognition. we need techniques for unlearning the uency of speech and of silence in what passes for communication. of thinking as something other than the production and administration of concepts. for unlearning every possible phenomenology. here is the necessity for the reinvention of language and of silence.10 Haver 14 . we need techniques for unlearning the concept’s putative mastery of the world. It might be that art. or perhaps the technique of the ground itself. here. Here is the necessity for the reinvention of the multiple improbable possibilities of bodies (as Stengers and Gille said. then. utter fools ‘explore in their esh. Jean-Luc Nancy puts it like this a propos what he calls the arts (what I am trying to think as ` art’s work): Technique is the obsolescence of the origin and the end: the exposition to a lack of ground and foundation. is nothing other than the seconddegree exposition of technique itself. for part of the trip. This is why there is not ¨ ‘technique’ but ‘techniques’ and why the plural here bears the ‘essence’ itself. among innumerable others – as well as whoever is willing to assist in one’s eldwork. or that which ends up presenting itself as its only ‘suÝ cient reason’. of course. or a twelve-step programme – and that precisely because they constitute a non-instrumental technology. And one could do worse. every possible psychology (even as the passage to the obscene is necessarily. a ve-year plan. that being is the most improbable of possibilities. that is to say. than consult the technical manuals of Pat Cali a or Jim Prezwalski.Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 ask: what would it take to live the pornographic life? What are the techniques that would consecrate that life to pleasure? How do we learn a seeing that is something more than the gaze. we need techniques for unlearning the virtuosities of quotidian corporeal comportment. But what I have in mind for this talk is. To come to this ontological stammering. necessarily inarticulate. You undoubtedly know these techniques. of course. at once phenomenological and psychological). in the sensuous sensuality of the senses. How to produce the ground that does not produce itself: that would be the question of art. a recipe. First. let me insist that the pornographic life begins and sustains itself in. at the same time extends and recovers this Grundlosigkeit or Abgrundigkeit. experiencing itself as radically insuÝ cient and as a devastation of the ground. Technique extends a withdrawal of the ‘ground’. Technique as such. of language in the sheer improbability of communication and of silence as something other than punctuation or hiatus. we already know. yet once again but always for the rst time. a hearing that is something more than a listening. how do we learn to make touch touch touching? In a sense. we need techniques for unlearning subjectivity’s sovereignty. what it can and cannot tolerate’). the arts. what a body is. and that would be its plurality of origin. perhaps less interesting. for pleasure or from passion. but much must be unlearned in order to come to our senses. the ‘natural’. is the necessity for the reinvention. and as. sorry to say. much worse. in the common sense of the word. techniques that collectively perhaps never amount to an ars erotica. and the origin. a certain ontological stammering. and the most visible part of our history consists in this extension.

that pair of tit-clamps. sucking and the vanilla fuck for that matter – confront conceptual thought ( let us use its nickname: philosophy) with its impossibility. it is the boredom of nothing-to-do. renders homage to the singularity of things that is an impossibility for what we nickname philosophy. a technique of blindfolds. something that makes of a cherished pair of tit-clamps more than merely one pair among an entire array. fetish is the name we give to that engagement irreducible to its concept. as I say. and refers to nothing save itself: orgasms happen. least of all concepts of individuality or subjectivity. proves to be neither instrumental nor exceptional. through the multiple proliferation of its techniques. because. the kiss. and which cannot be recuperated for philosophy in any aporetics. whatever. in the singularity that exceeds its mere particularity and which thereby resists subsumption absolutely (not by virtue of its unmarked purity as a logical subject but because it is nothing but the material surfeit of predicates). be they sensory or ideal. Second series of examples. virtually insensible restraints. this pair of tit-clamps. this dildo. this dildo. This boredom is one of an in nite narcissism (that is. a being-alone-with-oneself in which one loses even the rare ed but nonetheless reassuring companionability of any autoaÚ ectivity. or at least a congeries of instrumental techniques. readers of Patrick Suskind’s Perfume might recall JeanBaptiste Grenouille’s seven years in the cave. So the fetish as such. and it has no telos outside itself. tit-clamps. In other words. the enunciation. tats and pierces. ear plugs. now. this whip. a narcissism rigorously pursued to its logical apotheosis). A few examples. even the caress. too. there is no outside of that play (as if being antedated its constitution). pain. And the engagement with singularity can only happen here. whatever function it may or may not perform in psychic economies. renders unavoidable the impossible presence of the ‘here. at once unavoidable and impossible for consciousness insofar as it serves the concept. bear a certain charge that makes of this whip. It is an end in itself. and the well-heated dungeon. what might have seemed to be a method.Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 So. once art’s work has been put into play (and it has always already been put into play). an attention deprived of its objects. The technique of this boredom is that of a sensory deprivation as nearly perfect as possible. Which is to say that art’s work – including techniques as various as fetishization. dildos. something other than the expression of the qualities that subsume one pair of tit-clamps within the universal category of tit-clamps. The rst of which might be called an exercise in boredom. but the ‘boredom’ of empty time rather than of the repetitive task. a ¨ solitude beyond solitude. Consider your respective collections of whips. the art’s work of a pornographic aesthetics of existence.11 If your own experience does not serve parallax 15 . whatever else it may or may not be. Among the array will perhaps be some few that. a phenomenologico-psychological transport from ordinary daily life to an essentially exceptional jouissance. bondage. tats and pierces fetishize the esh. Non-instrumental. something other than a particular example of its kind or universal category. So. but they are not the end of art’s work. cunnilingus. now’ (I have good reason for not saying ‘the here and now’: wait for it) that is necessarily. by virtue of their speci c histories and associations. or class of tit-clamps. is a fetish. porn. set. for getting from point A to point B. even if those histories and associations are entirely ctive. unexceptional. something that makes of a treasured whip more than a whip or expression of whipness.

the fact of relationality altogether – that is. unavoidable in the extremity of pain. A slogan. now is nothing but pure aÚ ect. In this respect. the possibility that the relation between sadist and masochist. now. consciousness without subject. it does not feel. no less reductive than any other: the ontological is the political. In this absolute solitude of the here. it does not thereby imply simply a dialectic between being and nothing. and in that transgression exceeds every phenomenology or psychology. to borrow Blanchot’s vocabulary. nothing-but its ‘ownmost’ non-relationality. power. top and bottom. now. I do not want to say these analyses are necessarily ‘wrong’. and it is in this non-relationality that sadist and masochist. Their relation is. now. is constitutive of sociality. Whether or not all pain is incommensurable. the relation to the singularity that is the withoutrelation. esh in the plenitude of the pain that supplants every possible ontology is utter singularity. master and slave alike. Haver 16 . pain articulates the nontranscendence that nite esh. but is. the relation that nonrelation is (or. is. however rare it may seem. for the non-relation of singularity. Although this revelation changes both nothing and everything simultaneously. this is what is impossible for philosophy. Elaine Scarry provided a telling account of such a desubjecti cation (and therefore the ‘unmaking of the world’) in her wellknown study of The Body in Pain. A phenomenological subjective temporality – inner time consciousness – gives way to a nothing-but here. it is because it is the revelation of the political as such. it is not merely another ‘I’. constitutive ´ of sociality altogether). pain exceeds the phenomenological or psychological self. the relation of the diÚerend. pain is all the existence there is.1 2 In the extremity of pain. its non-relationality. but the ‘this’ simpliciter . The ‘I’ in pain is something other than any possible phenomenological or psychological I. all the world there is. nor the ‘this’ of ‘this thing’. pain. Finally. the consciousness of the simple but astonishing fact of consciousness. as such. analysis of the relation between sadist and masochist. there and beyond. Nor. do not exist. for it neither precedes nor survives its happening. a kind of ‘simple’ or ‘elemental’ ek-stasis. but I do want to say they stop far short of their most radical possibility – which is. accede to the unspeakable sovereignty of solitude. not a relation at all. and whether or not pain is ‘manageable’. master and slave. the relation to what is without relation. past and future. as a relation to the singularity of pain (and bondage). master and slave. Beyond a certain determinate but undetermined limit. top and bottom. it is in no case exceptional. What is at stake here is not a matter of this or that politics. is. Entirely other than a subject. but altogether other. to cop Lyotard’s vocabulary. Although she analyzed such an ‘I’ as merely exceptional. it can be redeemed by no intersubjective relation. If the relation of non-relation. there is no guarantee that this constitutes in itself a good or progressive politics.Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 you here. there is only (and it is this ‘only’ that is literally impossible to think) the this – not the ‘this’ of ‘this or that’. to my mind. bondage and pain must be considered to be the extreme articulations of solitude’s singularity. most assuredly including the pleasures of pain. As such. Here. for what is at stake is the possibility of any politics whatsoever. however. is this revelation of the political the revelation of a ground. top and bottom. or at least phenomenological. Here. Virtually every discussion of SM I have seen insists upon a psychological. any of the SM manuals currently on oÚ er will tell you that this empty time is in fact the dissolution of temporality altogether.

it is also the case – and many of Foucault’s readers rather conveniently forget this – that this revelation is at the same time the revelation of the absolute contingency. but it is symptomatic that on the one hand. then. because. and passion rather than ‘the body’ as the habitation of the homunculus or a picture of the ego.1 3 Lacan continues with a reference to architecture. and sovereign solitude. it is a concept of what essentially evades conceptuality altogether. The point would be irrelevant were it not that the spatial metaphor. In the course of his considerations of das Ding. One does not need to be all that experienced in the arts of pain and bondage to recognize that the positions of sadist and masochist. And some of those we call ‘philosophers’ have been attentive to this thought of place. bondage. for example. which cannot but reduce place to an abstract point in space. Now this thought of place. even less might we wonder. in this sense. master and slave. Cindy Patton. ‘place’ is not in-the-world. Lacan remarks that pain articulates a certain unavoidability: ‘[W]e should perhaps conceive of pain as a eld which. pain’s autoaÚ ectivity. place is the surplus of the Kantian a priori of space and time. If this implies the ubiquity of power (because power is constitutive of quiddity as such). opens precisely onto that limit where a living being has no possibility of escape’. aÚ ect. the esh is bound to its pleasure because it is bound to (rather than for) death. place is not a location or point such as could be determined according to one or another cartography or geography. Place ultimately designates nothing-but the consciousness of consciousness. queer studies have become so thoroughly desexualized. and ‘gay and lesbian studies’ and ‘queer theory’ in particular. and it is precisely this consequent unjusti ability of power that liberal political philosophy occludes. it is bound to its singularity. In the ecstatic jouissance of pain. Place. is not a place-in-space. is esh. what is bound to place. that gay. a consideration that itself is not without its pertinence to our present inquiry. and any relation whatever. has been a 1926 essay on ‘Place’ by Nishida Kitaro. Delany has continued parallax 17 . ‘Here. lesbian. Baroque architecture in particular. There are queer honourable exceptions. Casey recuperates the question for the history of philosophy. now.Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 subtends each. Casey has devoted two large volumes Å to the question. then. never resolves itself into a concept. Samuel R.1 5 More recently. that is to say. has come to dominate much of cultural studies in general. but pain’s consciousness that there is pain. In pain and in bondage. perhaps even in certain forms of more or less theatrical thralldom. In place. top and bottom. Edward S. in the realm of existence. Most important for my own attempts to think about place. No wonder. to the extent that it is a concept. and hence negotiability . however. urges us to return to the obscene for what is our only possible inspiration. at the utter irrelevance of most safer sex discourse. for example. it is what remains in the aftermath of the sensuous and sensual subtraction of those abstractions. and that on the other. a thought of what at once provokes and interrupts thought. immobility is what binds one to place (hence the erotics of cruci xion14 ). he produces a phenomenology of the suburbs. of course. Place neither transcends nor supplants the Kantian a priori (which can only speak of the ‘here and now’). every. as a kind of tortured immobility. the point is that pain is simply an extreme form of bondage. this’ is place. then.1 6 Abstraction and phenomenology are the two dead ends that every attempt to think about place must avoid. are entirely and essentially unstable. of power. It is not ‘my’ consciousness of a body’s ownmost pain.

now. but also the relation that is that nonrelation – belongs to the techniques of pornographic sovereignty. Command is the silence of speech. Without this impossible thought of place – as here. in fact the very event of untranslatability. place exists only insofar as ´ it happens and only in its happening. thus. Victorian do so in The Mad Man. and. again. in fact if not in principle. an alley. Ricco maintains. But this withdrawal of the word from signi cation. What is most important in all of this is Ricco’s insistent argument that place is only ever a takingplace (references to Mallarme may be taken as read here). comports himself and/or herself in an essential reserve that amounts to an ontological reticence. John Paul Ricco has written a stunning consideration of place in his recent doctoral dissertation. queer’s honour resides entirely in this holding-fast to the esh. this essential silence of the enunciation as such. And this silence that at once establishes and preserves a distance. nor does it survive its happening. and cruising and ‘public sex’. Yet thereby silence is not merely non-communication. now’s in their anonymous singularities that. A third and nal example of the techniques of the pornographic life. there is something ´ curiously and essentially silent in the command. ‘there is no such thing as queer space’. the articulation of an unsurpassable diÚerend. from drill sargeants. for instance. ´ A command. architecture. but the communication of non-communication: as the communication of non-communication. place is neither a ground for what is called an event. nor does it speak to reason. for your sovereignty resides entirely in that very reserve. our experience as well as technical manuals counsel. the very happening of signi ance. is silence because it is undecipherable (were it not. a diÚ erence. or your speech as comportment. The sovereign master. in suggesting that all that is is at your pleasure and ceases to be in the absence of that pleasure. You can hear a command. The gure of this queer happening is neither the expanse of a putatively ‘public’ plaza. the superego. registers. are the irreducible surplus of abstract cartographic location. it is untranslatable. the word withdraws from signi cation. is precisely the indeterminate place where the comportment of the esh Haver 18 . the noncommunication of what is without relation. whether from big Os or little Os. in command. including installation art. rather. Ricco undertakes to think of place through multiple.17 Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 Taking his clue from Deleuze’s reading of Leibniz and Rajchman’s reading of Deleuze. in suggesting that your power is. Command neither comes from reason. apparently discrete. like the Law itself in Tokugawa Japan. if it has its gures. or even God herself. A park. In command. but you can never listen to it. Thought must hold fast to this impossibility if it is to be pornographic. Do not allow your comportment. Thus. this – there can be no thought of the essential mortality and therefore pleasure of esh. are queer only in the queer sexual happenings that happen. for the purposes of my present argument most importantly. daddies. nor the volume of a museum’s white cube. or signi es only the fact of signi cation. silence – that is. speech’s ownmost silence. All of which is to say that. they are gures of the labyrinth and the hallway. an example that bears immediately upon our work in the so-called humanities and social sciences. pornographic silence itself is an enunciation. Command does not belong to conversation and inaugurates no dialogic intersubjectivity. the question of why God commands Abraham to sacri ce Isaac would not be as essentially silly as it is). articulates a diÚerend. an empty warehouse. it is to be obeyed but never known. a promiscuous congeries of ‘here. to reveal itself completely. illimitable.

metaphor. Here. his ‘I’. literary critics. as the silence that envelops every utterance. insofar as it can be thought. the non-communication that shrouds every communication. I have not put this strongly enough. as historians. But the point is not merely to think about that surplus. I have what I hope is a rather more discom ting claim to make: that Jean Genet – not ‘Jean Genet’ in scare quotes as gure. cultural critics. here. It is not the case that once upon a time there was a man named Jean Genet who took up art’s work as one of the ways of a life. social scientists. nor do I intend to argue that his meaning is perfectly intelligible to all (or any) of his readers. parallax 19 . deliria. God knows he told us this often enough. trope. the very obscenity of the Luder. it must be thought as an inexhaustible surplus of signi cation. that we have not heard what is manifestly being said. and so on by and as which autobiography exceeds the grasp of biography. students of gay and lesbian lives and cultures. authorial or narrative voice. we have been such good interpreters (and Genet has fared quite spectacularly well in this respect). Period. from Freud through Santner. I do not mean to suggest that Genet always knows with a perfect congruency what he is saying. where the ‘I’ is something essentially other than the sign of subjectivity’s possibility. this. it must be thought. Now the question that I mean to leave with you is this: why can’t we do that? Why can’t we. but we have listened to him so carefully. now. cum. unavoidable. In saying this. and very much more interesting. I made the claim that there is no metaphor. throughout his ve major novels. exists only in the art’s work of what are called his fantasies. no Jean Genet. whatever. Earlier. esh.Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 and the possibility of language must be continually reinvented. rather. that Daniel Paul Schreber was God’s own whore. shit. apart from that pornographic engagement. but Jean Genet as a man of skin. actant or subject position. bones. and rather a large number of others. Of course. Genet is one of many possible guides. queer theorists. the bundle of the aÚ ects. philosophers. and they cannot entertain this possibility of reading precisely because for them reading is nothing-but interpretation). Freud. but the very stuÚ of life. Jean Genet (this time stripped of the comfortable irony of scare quotes) existed in and as that art’s work that was the life. indeed could not possibly. can countenance is the possibility that Schreber was right. in Genet. spit. but queer’s honour demands that we also call it love. symbol. Rather. In Schreber. we must at least acknowledge (but can’t we do better than mere acknowledgment?) that this writing – literally. this withdrawal of the word from signi cation into the essential silence of the enunciation cannot simply be construed as a lack in and of language (an aporia). but to engage it. blood. there was. exist apart from his engagement with what of the word withdraws from signi cation. business this. and all the rest of it – did not. we call this ontological stammering psychosis (but what none of Schreber’s interpreters and diagnosticians. in Genet we call it art. passions. and so insistently does he do this that the point is obvious. Rather. a hermeneutic horizon. as in Schreber. there could be. in its supplementarity. this pornography – is not a second-order pursuit. no symbolism. constantly. let me try again. or as merely a limit of language. A risky. now. is the place of an ontological stammering where being itself (as if being were possessed of an ‘itself ’) stutters. with language become fetish. Here. is where pornography emerges as the surplus of representation. engage art’s work? Why can’t we do something quite other. When he tells us that his rst person pronoun.

Notes 1 Isabelle Stengers and Didier Gille. we assume without questioning. the Critique of Judgment. in Isabelle Stengers. and epistemological protocols do nothing but reinforce this assumption – that our job is to produce better interpretations and explanations of the world (or at least of bits and pieces of the world). Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis: BobbsMerrill. ‘Body Fluids’. But. Stone Butch Å Å Å Blues. why would we ever want to know ‘more’ about. ‘Why Are There Several Arts and Not Just One? (Conversation on the Plurality . 2 Aaron Shurin. now. the colloquial can be just as existentially boring as any jargon. its pleasures and possibilities. 5 Aristotle. I. these questions do not concern the presumptive division between the academic and the extra-academic. Nicomachean Ethics. my dears. at best. Unbound: A Book of AIDS (Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press. that intellectual work is nothingbut the production of knowledge or. 1095b. knowledge about the production of knowledge. a simple oversight. and fascinations. that we do not yet have a truly and profoundly pornographic reading of the Critique of Judgment.237. Paul Foss. Why are we content to live and work according to a motto that reads: dare to be dull? How is it that ‘gay and lesbian studies’ and ‘queer theory’ have become almost entirely sexless? Why are we afraid of the aestheticization of the political (as if the putatively anaesthetic forms of politics with which we are aÞ icted have made us such a wonderful world)? Three caveats. by and large. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. without an absolute devotion to the esh. trans. 5. and thank you. now.Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 than what I have done this afternoon? There is a less polite way of asking this question: why are we so fucking boring? And. a sexier engagement. ch. make no mistake about it. 6 Jean-Luc Nancy. or Pompes funebres.237-38. p. that we stand a chance of hearing the voice of the utter fools we ourselves are. preoccupations. 1997). is this the hoary question of relevance. the Shobogenzo . Haver 20 3 See Immanuel Kant. Power and Invention: Situating Science. I have a perhaps recidivist fondness and respect for such solitary devotions. Bk. First. institutional. or have a ‘better’ explanation of the Tao te ching. I do not mean to suggest that our work is without its passionate occupations. 1997). indeed. 4 Stengers and Gille. a text that almost cries out for such a reading? In asking these questions. trans. whatever importance that question most certainly has in some respects. third. for example? Surely a more profound ` engagement. Finally. Critique of Practical Reason. or yet one more – really boring – phenomenology of ourselves. Nor. we are. this is the only chance we have to make the political happen. there is nothing gay or lesbian about our studies. this. beyond a certain epistemophilia. it is no less certainly itself quite irrelevant to my question. these questions are not addressed only to those of us who devote our lives and energies to arcana of interest to maybe ve or six other like-minded scholars. We assume – and our disciplinary. Fuck well. my dears. precisely because it is in that attention. Second. Paul Bains. trans. without acknowledging even the possibility of a questioning. I am saying that without the queer’s honour of an attention to here. p. is possible.30. I am not calling for yet one more sociology of knowledge. Is it an accident. What I do mean to say is that. 1956). nothing queer about our theory. that devotion alone. or that these are somehow worthless. here. pp.

60. Å Å Å Abe Yoshishige et al.) 2nd ed. John E. in Victoria Harwood et al. (Tokyo: Iwanami. 1996). 1997). 15 Nishida Kitaro. pp. pp. in art history. Fatal Advice: How Safe-Sex Education Went Wrong (Durham: Duke University Press. 7 Jean Genet. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. 16 Edward S. Bernard Frechtman. trans. 11 ¨ Patrick Suskind. (ed. 8 See Sue Golding. ‘Fag-O-Sites: Minor Architecture and Geopolitics of Queer Everyday Life’. 17 Cindy Patton.D. (NY: Knopf. vol. 1997. published in one ` volume with Journal du voleur and Querelle de Brest (Paris: Gallimard. 1996) .) (NY: Norton. 1992). pp. p. 1993). 4. Ph. 1986). William Haver is an Associate Professor of History and Comparative Literature.(eds. 9 Shurin. 1966-68) . 12 Elaine Scarry. 14 See Christopher Fynsk. 1994).26. trans. as Funeral Rites (NY: Grove. in Nishida Kitaro zenshu. Delany. The Mad Man (NY: Masquerade. p.Downloaded By: [University College London] At: 22:15 30 June 2008 of Worlds)’.. (ed.1-39. (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1993). e-mail address: whaver@binghamton. Pompes funebres. p.166.). University of Chicago.. John Paul Ricco. author of The Body of This Death: Historicity and Sociality in the Time of AIDS (Stanford University parallax 21 . ‘What remains at a cruci xion: Nietzsche/Bacon’. ‘Basho’. and The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History (Berkeley: University of California Press. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959-1960. The Eight Technologies of Otherness (London: Routledge. Getting Back Into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press.37. p. ‘Sexual Manners’. Binghamton University. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (NY: Oxford. Casey.). Woods. p. Jacques-Alain Miller (ed. pp. diss. Samuel R.208-289. trans. in The Muses. in Sue Golding. 1996). 13 Jacques Lacan. 1997). Peggy Kamuf. 1985). trans.79-104. Pleasure Principles: Politics.689.80-89. 1993). 10 Nancy. Sexuality and Ethics (London: Routledge. Dennis Porter. 1969) .

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