This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Elizabeth A. Povinelli
We’re tired of trees. We should stop believing in trees, roots, and radicals. They’ve made us suffer too much. . . . Thought is not arborescent, and the brain is not a rooted or ramiﬁed matter. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
hy does the recognition of peoples’ worth, of their human and civil rights, always seem to be hanging on the more or less fragile branches of a family tree? Why must we be held by these limbs? The two archives prompting this meditation are not new to me or to anyone else. Moreover, the social worlds and visions of these two archives are, geographically speaking, worlds apart. Stacks of land claim documents sit to the left of me. Some of these documents concern an Australian indigenous claim I am currently working on. Others compose the archives of claims already heard that I hope to use as a precedent for what I am trying to argue in the current case. All of them demand a diagram of a “local descent group.” That is what I am doing right now, drawing a genealogical diagram, a family tree, using now-standard icons for sex and sexual relationship: a diamond represents a man; a circle, a woman; an upside-down staple, sibling relations; a right-side-up staple, marriage; and a small perpendicular line between these two staples, heterosexual reproduction. The book I am currently reading, Family Values: Two Moms and Their Son, lies to the right of me. Family Values is a ﬁrst-person account of the radicalization
Public Culture 14(1): 215–238 Copyright © 2002 by Duke University Press
of a lesbian mother as she ﬁghts to adopt her partner’s son. The author, Phyllis Burke (1993: 6), ﬁgures lesbian motherhood in terms of a morbid chiasma: “Eight thousand gay men were prematurely dead in San Francisco by the time Jesse [Burke’s son] was two, and yet behind what was almost a shadowy membrane there was a lesbian baby boom. Lesbians were giving birth, adopting children, and building families with gay men” (see also Lewin 1993). As I read across these texts I remember a T-shirt that the Society for Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists (SOLGA) printed a few years ago. It schematically represents gay families with the same kinship iconography I am using in these land claims. When I ﬁnish Family Values, I plan to reread Querelle, Jean Genet’s (1974: 4) tale about a “sailor’s mortal ﬂesh,” about the sea, murder, and criminality, and about love against nature. The values in Querelle are hardly about the families gay men build. Whenever I read Genet I think of Alexandre Kojeve’s (1969: 6) carnal description of human desire: “Man ‘feeds’ on Desires as an animal feeds on real things. And the human I, realized by the active satisfaction of its human Desires, is as much a function of its ‘food’ as the body of an animal is of its food.” Clear differences separate the two family archives in which I am immersed. The family diagrams I am drafting for the land claim do not indicate the love, desire, affect, or intimacy that exist between indigenous persons reproductively related. Nor do they document nonsexual corporeal relations. There is no standard icon for “intimacy,” “desire,” or “love.” What makes these indigenous families felicitous in law is the principle of descent that regiments them (e.g., patrilineality, matrilineality). In contrast, Burke argues that true families and just nations are made by love—not by laws of adoption and descent or social, sexual, and gender status. Can Genet’s vision of a world of sailors take root in this queer kinship? What follows are notes on how we might examine the presuppositions and global circulations of what I call genealogical and intimacy grids, some suggestions about their connectivities and irreducibilities, and a few comments on the social worlds made possible and interrupted by their functionings. Why are these the grids that appear across such diverse social and geographical spaces in the public struggle for recognition? How are they distributed across different populations in such a way that I can make sense of the two archives staring at me today? How, in their seeming oppositionality, have they more effectively colonized social imaginaries and territorialized regional social worlds? This essay looks at how these grids have made possible not only the thinking of sex acts as legitimate social acts, but also the restricting and recirculating of the imagination of a counterethics of national and everyday life. The end of this exercise is not the essay itself. The larger goal is to understand: the presuppositions of global forms
function. The infamous state of nature: Charles Taylor (in this issue) points to the role Hugo Grotius and John Locke played in producing a disembedded individual by projecting the individual against a natural world stripped of all social encumbrances. descent. citizens of the world.of felicitous sexual activity. 217 . . and rank. the history of these presuppositions’ emergence. is the function that a speciﬁc characterization of nature played in disembedding the individuated human from his or her social role. in a set of genealogical intensions and extensions inside and outside Europe that accompanied the emergence of the individualized human and its polity. for reasons indicated below. Plakans 1984. Of particular importance to this essay. Macfarlane 1986). social. Genealogical Grids Notes on Gridlock From the perspective of their roots. I am interested in the alleyways of this progress narrative. and as a concept and practice it came to deﬁne emergent modern social orders. genealogical trees have been moving with Europeans for a very long time. and political rights and obligations. thought that people should not observe each other from the point of view of “something separate and detached” but as “Man . The size and characteristics of these European trees. Taylor. Instead. Habermas 1989: 15. Membership in an abstract human order. and as new market and civil forms displaced blood and rank as the deﬁning grid of power and sociality (Goody 1983.” made equal by being projected against “the vast commonwealth of nature. increasingly deﬁned civil. Habermas 1989. and the distribution of them across speciﬁc social groups. the European diaspora seemed increasingly bent on stranger-sociability. As opposed to the social solidarity premised on a genealogical grid. albeit in competing versions (Foucault 1980. have changed dramatically as marriage reforms progressed from the ﬁfteenth century onward. in this issue). for instance. inside Europe the genealogical grid 1. rather than in a family (aristocratic) grid. The causal history of this transformation is well rehearsed.” I am not so interested here in whether this abstract individual emerged from new forms of market circulation (“the trafﬁc in commodities and news”1) that broke down previous forms of social organization or from the migration of theoretical imaginings into broader social imaginings. The meaning and use of this conceptual move continued to echo in the eighteenth century. Humanity as a concept was slowly freed from the grip of familial kinship. and status. . Adam Smith (1976: 140–1). For instance. and how they may be legitimately planted.
Moreover. it is clear that citizenship continues to have a strong genealogical component in many nation-states (birth in the national body gives persons citizenship rights that then descend genealogically). and capital gains.. regrounded. though the linkage between family and cosmology is of a very different order from that experienced by Duncan in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. elaboration. For one thing. We could argue that. child welfare. Genealogy allows governments and social agencies to coordinate people across social practices (e. Questions about the internal dynamic of hierarchy within the new bourgeois family arose almost immediately. role. though a petite cosmology. Certainly. though the political relevance of family trees was narrowed and relocated. the regulatory ﬁelds of inheritance and welfare). Polity no longer unfolded out of the (ﬁctive) ranked afﬁliations of the people from the point of view of the sovereign family. the genealogical grid has become more vital and real to the political order. whether it is attacked or defended. The aristocratic genealogy was rich in distinctions of rank. In its reduced and dispersed form. many Christian fundamentalists believe the connection to be as tight. And. the genealogical grid now organizes democratic state dispensations like inheritance. The genealogical grid inherited by market society was only unevenly deracinated from social status and rearticulated to humanity.Public Culture did not simply disappear as a means of governmentality. parents and chil218 . a term intended to suggest equivalence. and dispersed. the genealogical grid that operates as the presupposition of national life is not the same grid that operated prior to the seventeenth century. But now everyone could have a little heritage of his or her own — diagrammed as a personal tree — a stake in some plot that tracked generationally. in being democratized. marriage. however. rather it was imaginatively reduced.g. as did questions about the grounds for building these new families. Here Jacques Le Goff’s (1989) discussion of the king’s body and Jürgen Habermas’s (1989) discussion of intimacy—“saturated and free interiority”—are crucial (see also Landes 1988 and Berlant 1997). the genealogical grid ceased to function as a broadcast model in which concentric circles of genealogical ranks and associations radiated from the apical crown. remember. and negotiation. and kinship that both ordered persons and allowed them multiple avenues for contestation. the genealogical grid also provides a mode of translation among them. Moreover. What forms of subordination should extend out of the reduced differences among men and women. And not only does it organize the distribution of material goods within each of these agencies. their social relevance was in fact democratized and dispersed into the life-world of ordinary people and the seams of homogenous national space-time (Anderson 1991).
eventually the state of nature was recollapsed into a genealogical grid through the mediating function of savage society. The savage slot. a sexual form. and a governmentality based on them were naturalized. Both of these worlds ramiﬁed into European conceptualizations of their own genealogical systems. In other words. love and affection. the state of nature was no longer empty. the social body. and sex? The emergence of democratic genealogies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and debates about what could serve as their legitimate foundations do not provide the history of the genealogical grid. When applied to so-called savage societies.dren? What could—and should—be the presuppositional grounds for forming these petite genealogies if not the social or religious status of the contracting members? Who should be included and excluded from the ranks of blood and money. The social organization projected into this new state of nature was soon said to be dependent on the relations of superiority and inferiority projected out of “the elementary fam- Figures 1 and 2 The king’s body. Though the state of nature was originally the empty backdrop against which seventeenth-century legal theorists abstracted persons from all social relations of superiority and inferiority. was identiﬁed as coterminous with nature. Dynamic transpositions between old regimes of genealogy and new regimes of citizenship occurred in colonial and European worlds. . Here we return to the complex and uneven deployment of the state of nature in Western social theory. nor even the interior history of Western elaborations of their own genealogical imagination. subjects of empire provided the site in which a family. as Michel-Rolph Trouillot (1991) has called it. property and inheritance.
.Figure 3 The imperial body.
to which must be added. brother and sister. a lawyer from New York. from which the degree of the relationship is reckoned. Lewis Henry Morgan. . that his right to those women was recognized as a matter of course. told him that he was furnished with temporary wives by the various tribes with whom he sojourned in his travels. G. and the languages quite different. Two histories need to be told in relation to these developments: one to examine the theoretical elaboration of human society as a divide between descriptive (real) and classiﬁcatory kinship societies and subsequent rewritings of the state of the state of nature. published an account of how colonial societies ordered and reproduced themselves. an inﬁnitely extendable collectivity of possible female sexual partners exists for male indigenous Australians not because indigenous groups lacked orderly social relations (“marriage classes”) but because the entire world was enclosed within them. grandmother. . the other to examine the dissemination of the genealogical grid with empire. Howitt’s slightly overheated reports. F. and that he could always ascertain whether they belonged to the division into which he could legally marry. which are those for husband and wife. before mentioned. Mr. father and mother. and Uralian families. and the resulting territorializations and reterritorializations of metropole and colony. . in such languages as possess them. and to whom the relationship itself returns” (10). and son and daughter.” Many pages might be ﬁlled with similar testimony. and grandson and granddaugh- Notes on Gridlock Figure 4 The totemic body.ily” (Radcliffe-Brown 1965). grandfather. Morgan began with the already deracinated ego: “Around every person there is a circle or group of kindred of which such person is the centre. the Ego. Let me sketch the contours of these two histories. So Fison and Howitt famously described the endless horizon of kinship and marriage in savage epistemology.” On the one hand were descriptive systems. Bridgman’s native servant.” This system recognized only the “primary terms of relationship . W. There were “but two radically distinct forms of consanguinity. who had travelled far and wide throughout Australia. (Fison and Howitt 1991: 53–54) In Lorimer Fison and A. “though the places were 1000 miles apart. such as “the Aryan. Kant’s question of governance (How should we be governed once detached from the tutelage of social rank?) developed an imperial form: How are societies functionally held together and reproduced without the formal structures of government? In 1871. Semitic.
are distinct. Morgan lectures. . .Public Culture ter. . The comparative study of kinship was revitalized and made the foundation of the emergent science of anthropology. . It thus confounds relationships.” On the other hand were the classiﬁcatory systems of consanguinity. Rendered into its reduced modern and democratic form. American Indian. under the descriptive system. when. and enlarges the signiﬁcation both of the primary and secondary terms beyond their seemingly appropriate sense” (12). in 1910. Indeed the draft opening chapter of Systems of Consanguinity referred to family relationship existing in nature independently of human creation” (1992: 16. Rivers announced new procedures for collecting and analyzing data that allowed the scientiﬁc study of man to move beyond conjectural history. Rivers recommended the genealogical method to the emergent anthropological community on the basis of its simplicity and the minimal impact local systems of meaning would make on the collection of social data. and reducing consanguinei to great classes by a series of apparently arbitrary generalizations. such as the Turanian. R. . [applied] the same terms to all the members of the same class. . Rivers announced a major methodological breakthrough in the study of “savage” societies. Each relationship is thus made independent and distinct from every other. Marilyn Strathern noted that Morgan’s vision was critical to the collapse of the state of nature into the state of colonial societies: “Morgan conceived the contrast as between those closer to and more distant from nature. the British psychologist W. Shortly after returning from a collaborative study of the Torres Strait Islanders off northeast Australia. In her 1989 Lewis H. see also Fortes 1969 and Kuper 1988). H. the genealogical grid’s utility to social science was clear. which. A couple of assumptions about human beings Figures 5 and 6 The genealogical body. and Malayan families. These rejected “descriptive phrase in every instance. the structural body. .
that between parent and child. and that between the husband and wife as parents of the same child or children. that between children of the same parents (siblings). status.” a structure presupposing the same two principles: sex difference and heterosexual reproduction. Radcliffe-Brown posited that genealogy (kinship and afﬁnity) provided the structural principle out of which a social system unfolded. and duty.(sex difference and heterosexual reproduction). in which he is husband and father. were built. husband and wife. child. 2. . Thus a childless couple fell off the genealogical grid for Radcliffe-Brown—just as they sometimes do in contemporary land claim practices in Australia. These two principles provided the minimal dual pairs out of which all other social differences. stretched as far as the British Empire. Notes on Gridlock 223 . and the Americas provided clear demonstrations of the social elaborations of the “elementary family. and complete pedigrees can be obtained when the terms are limited to the following: father.2 The comparative reach. Rivers (1910: 1) writes: The ﬁrst point to be attended to is that. Radcliffe-Brown. as Rivers’s student. genealogical relations. such as rank. A.e. What was initially a research method soon became a full-ﬂedged social theory. operated. the territorial possibilities of this new demographic method. . owing to the great difference between the systems of relationship of savage and civilised peoples. i. they have attached to them certain rights and duties. and was reproduced. In any given society a certain number of these relationships are recognised for social purposes. spreading out indeﬁnitely. where consanguineous ancestors who did not reproduce are often left off the genealogies. mother. for lack of any better term. or certain distinctive modes of behavior. When a man marries and has children he now belongs to a second elementary family. R. assumptions that could be claimed to be the universal preconditions of human life. Australia. provided just enough structure for the maximal comparison among societies. Both principles had to be in play for a family to exist as such. for clarity’s sake. This interlocking of elementary families creates a network of what I call. A person is born or adopted into a family in which he or she is son or daughter and brother or sister. (Radcliffe-Brown 1965: 51–52) All the great and small societies of Africa. Harking back to Morgan. . The existence of the elementary family creates three special kinds of social relationship. it is desirable to use as few terms denoting kinship as possible. transformed a tool for generating social data into a theory of the generative structure of social systems.
marked by the advent of the ﬁrst rule of exchange. and wife-givers and -takers. Kinship systems were not projections out of the elementary family or the sovereign ego. we need an analysis of how the genealogical grid was inlaid into and diversiﬁed by the life-worlds of colonial subjects. The French schools argued with the British over generality and comparison (see. Indeed. seemingly decapitating the sovereign subject from the logic of kinship.Public Culture In The Elementary Structures of Kinship (1969). and lines of ﬂight emerged. building careers was one of the means by which the genealogical imaginary was elaborated and spread. or transition. More social forms and relations fell off the grid or were recast as mere by-products of its logic. Lévi-Strauss transformed the possibility of associating the human being and natural being (“the state of nature”) by arguing that the human existed not prior to but alongside kinship. Homosexuality. Leach 1966: 2). Humanity and kinship. This rule of rules is. Strathern 1992. of course. insofar as scholars struggled to characterize the essential properties that determined the applicability of the genealogical grid. Claude Lévi-Strauss goes one step further. The Australian Parliament and courts 224 . Here we can return to the ﬁrst of the two cases prompting my reﬂections in this essay. Indeed. Of course. which exists in all men. and wife swapping were immediately transformed into solutions to the seeming scarcity of women. Collier and Yanagisako 1987). ﬁrst announced in a negative form: the prohibition of incest. polyandry. for instance. possibilities. they cast the grid itself into the background. All the land claim documents I am shufﬂing through contain a description of the genealogical principles by which Australian indigenous persons are recruited into the “local descent group” said to own the land. this short overview simpliﬁes the more complicated history of genealogy theory in the social sciences. a generation of scholars argued heatedly whether kinship was a cultural category or whether it reﬂected a human universal — each proposition controversial in some way or another (Schneider 1968. parent and child. emerged as such in the transformation. man and woman. but out of a deeper structural semantics of restricted exchange. Alongside this analysis of the theoretical intensions and extensions within the Western academy.” which “always makes the number of available women seem insufﬁcient” (38). dependent on another: a “deep polygamous tendency. With every new argument. dedicated to Lewis H. And in the United States. Morgan. And. culture and nature. New discursive contours. Schefﬂer 2001. the interior complexity of the genealogical grid intensiﬁed. as the atom of kinship and the very nature of culture emerged as the dialectic of binary exchanges that constituted I and thou.
originally the only model of descent recognized as traditional by land commissioners and many anthropologists. What.. Putting aside this problem for now. to forage. Culture is conceived as an incrustation on the parent-child link. that the Parliament has endeavored to recognize by its deﬁnition of traditional Aboriginal owner with its three elements: family ties to land. The words local. and ritual. affect. In paragraph 89 of his 1982 report on the Finniss River Land Claim. they have to be considered.e. see also Sutton 1998). patrilineal with one-step matriﬁliation. Of course. It is also generally understood that the relationships deﬁned by these parent-child links provide the presuppositional grounds for a number of other social relations. religious ties. and Notes on Gridlock Figure 7 The linguistic body. Over the course of twenty-six years of land claim hearings. it is a lesson in the power of generative grammar. Indeed. . itself an analogical extension of the family tree. and economic rights. presuppositions ground the self-evident social fact of the parent-child link is not typically discussed (that is. such as property. arguing in paragraph 92 of the 1985 Timber Creek Land Claim report that “it is [the] religious bond with the world . we ﬁnd an impressive variety of principles of descent that indigenous people and anthropologists have presented to the courts as local principles of social recruitment. . They simply demand descent. if any. Michael Maurice.demand that indigenous people present some principle of descent as the grounds for a successful land claim. typically understood as “a relationship deﬁned by connection to an ancestor (or ancestors) through a culturally recognized sequence of parent-child links” (Keesing 1975: 148. matrilineal with one-step patriﬁliation.” Recognizing the local meanings of the local descent group. Diversity in the content of the genealogical grammar is supported and sanctiﬁed by one inﬂuential strand of legal interpretation. rarely does anyone query the universal application of the parent-child connection). i. descent. Recognition has an implicit command structure. sanctiﬁed descent. Based on nothing more than two assumptions—sex difference and heterosexual reproduction — anthropologists have introduced a range of descent models beyond the patrilineal clan. the tree has grown many branches: cognatic. that is. making the meaning of “local descent group” local did not relieve locals from the demand that they give these terms meaning. of family. .” not on anthropological theory or debate. ambilineal. Toohey J. The third land commissioner. They do not demand any speciﬁc principle of descent. and group should be considered ordinary English words rather than anthropological terms. stated that the land commissioner should base an understanding of recruitment into a local descent group “on a principle of descent deemed relevant by the claimants.
But land claims were not the ﬁrst forum in which the genealogical imaginary was localized. and to reclaim lands once owned. a type that was dissociated from the universal by queer forms of kinship. As Marilyn Strathern (1992) has noted. they were also the bureaucratic means by which administrators could coordinate colonial subjects. its open rather than closed structure. the very nature of political administrative and scholarly practice. and arguing about the difference between Western forms of genealogy and local practices of corporeality wove genealogical and nongenealogical modes of social organization ﬁrmly into the fabric of the possible (see also the exchange between Blowes and Secretary in Povinelli 1999). such as the desire to live and be recognized as being worthy. the law of recognition demonstrates the delicate processes by which local identities are constituted and mediated and the extraordinary delicacy with which local protocols for building and sustaining communities are displaced (see also Povinelli. To be sure. Before the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 was passed. to have personal and social value. And. a back draft was felt in the metropole. Insofar as colonial political and scholarly communities took advantage of differences the colony afforded to advance their own projects. For instance. most kinship theorists distinguish between descriptive (“real”) and classiﬁcatory kinship — from the nineteenth century onward. in the case of scholarly regimes. But the European heterosexual family became more explicitly theorized and politically elaborated as the core institution of the 226 . And. The fulﬁllment of these large and small desires depends on the ability of indigenous people to produce a “descent group” recognizable as such by lawyers. and anthropologists. the conversation between ethnographer and subject often teetered between real and ﬁctive dialogical partners. not only were genealogical relations the presuppositional grounds for address. Something else happened when Morgan projected European-based genealogical grids onto the empire. They were simply a type of genealogical system.Public Culture of family ties and the principles upon which they are constructed is one of the key means by which the genealogical grid is inlaid locally. in press). the discursive protocols of asking. testing. European forms of kinship and afﬁnity could no longer be taken as singular or natural. Recognition connects the genealogical grid to simple human desires. other social practices like welfare and child care addressed colonial subjects through the genealogical imaginary and demanded a response in kind. land commissioners. And insofar as they do. provided colonial subjects room to maneuver. True. Nevertheless. administrative debates over social policy provided an opening through which subject populations could present countervisions of their social worlds.
practices and relations that fall off the genealogical grid receive very little attention in court hearings because they. Indeed. Ginsburg and Rapp 1995). the French have grounded their arguments in LéviStraussian and Lacanian models of the linkage between the family. Although members of Australian courts and Parliament do not grant nongenealogical-based corporeal potencies a formative function in the making of indigenous social worlds. nature. proximity. affect. But discussions about new reproductive technologies and kinship would do equally well (Franklin and Ragoné 1998. Intimacy Grids Notes on Gridlock Though saturated with intimations of the intimate sanctity that Aboriginal families share with their country. Families We Choose (Fassin 2001. and culture. Indeed. but this proliferation seems only to elaborate and more thoroughly disperse the genealogical grid. neither Maurice’s commentaries nor those of any other land commissioner has concluded that the indigenous family is the result of anything more than an (un)conscious calculus of social inclusion and exclusion undertaken by indigenous people factoring their local principles of heterorelationality (kinship.nation-state even while the genealogical surface of that family was being diversiﬁed. and their children). The Aboriginal family recognized by the Australian Parliament and courts as the basis of indigenous property is a typological projection of classic British structural-functional accounts of “kinship societies. or spirituality. as does Kath Weston’s ethnography. Weston 1991). context. so thoroughly has it reterritorialized modern social life. afﬁnity. like the nonreproductive ancestor. Love does not make an indigenous family qua traditional family according to the Australian Parliament and the courts. The formative function of intimacy in state-based property negotiations reappears when we shift our focus 227 . kinship and afﬁnal relations proliferate. are thematized as irrelevant to the task at hand. In these new technologies. As Fassin relates. The richness of indigenous social imaginations and practices arising out of local notions of the proximities and potencies of various bodies are not relevant to the state imaginaries informing material redistribution schemes. his wife. nor do local notions of corporeality. they nevertheless assume that social life depends on the exchange of intimate forms of recognition.” The organization of social life is based on ever more elaborate extensions out of the elementary family (a man. place. we can hardly call kinship and afﬁliation a theory anymore. and descent). Eric Fassin’s recent discussion of debates in France and the United States over the adoption of children by homosexual couples exempliﬁes this point.
tolerance. of course. Painfully aware of the fact that the law did not acknowledge her ties to the child she loved and helped raise like any other “natural” parent. In the public sphere of newspapers. for instance. public. State. The intimate recognition I am talking about here is not between an I and a Thou but between their abstracted plural counterparts: We-the-People distended from ourselves in being alienated from the best version of ourselves by You-the-Other. (The signiﬁcance of the We-Them form is suggested by Benveniste 1971. and government reportage. a central debate within U. talk shows.S.) 228 . and understanding. hinges together family and nation through an argument about the value of intimate recognition. At this level we see the rhetoric of recognition moving across juridical and public genres. Family Values.3 The constitutive character of intimate love in the formation of true families and just nations is. intimacy. Rather. of a 3. The court’s resistance to her request was a powerful blow to her ability to quietly endure the treatment lesbians and gays receive in mainstream society.Public Culture away from what the courts recognize as the basis of an indigenous social order and toward what they presume is the basis of a just national order. who had formerly been unnerved by the militant stance of gay activist groups like Queer Nation. The limbs holding Burke and her family are the unexpected extensions of an army of love(rs). ﬁlling the public sphere with calls for mutuality in cultural love. now found their riotous tactics and “in your face” attitude a source of strength. The dust jacket thematizes the story of Family Values as the threat posed to the nation by the denial of the fundamental role human love plays in family-formation (parent and child). No matter that one of the major distinguishing features of modern intimacy is an expectation of a blurring of choice and compulsion in the context of love. and personal worth of a family should be based on the intimate recognition that occurs between two people. it is said that love makes families elemental(ly). Burke began adoption proceedings to win recognition as Jesse’s second legal mother. Inspired by her love for and pride in her family. the mode of address is oriented to the assumed and entailed We-the-People who beseech one another to incorporate or expel the nonperson plural They-the-Other. Note however that even this mode of address is ﬁctional. The Australian case seems turned on its head: in mainstream America. We hear that the Australian nation is threatened by the interruption of mutual displays of cultural worth. the Other is typically not addressed. on the choice to love and the love that circulates through this choice. gay politics. The polemic is fairly clear. Burke.
There between the spines that signal the space of the book we ﬁnd the soft pornographic interior of Lieutenant Seblon’s languid stroll over Querelle’s “muscles. And yet Genet insists that Seblon is not “in the book.S. but only when he enters me and then lets me stretch out on my side across his thighs. and the Black Panther movement and. Indeed. Love makes a family. “I shall not know peace until he makes love to me. the PLO. Reproduced throughout it are the private journal entries that Lieutenant Seblon of the Vengeur keeps on Georges Querelle. Genet is well known in France for his support of the Algerian revolution. which Genet refers to as a book within the book. for Genet. and the fall back onto the self. A void created through the self-executing exercises of sexuality — this was the pure vision of Genet’s sexuality. more generally. Le Sueur 2001).dynamic among self-risk and self-elaboration. And laws that stiﬂe the natural connection between love and family by restricting reproductive technologies (with adoption as a legal reproductive technology) are therefore perverse and antidemocratic. as a “book of prayers” and “meditations” on Querelle. But Genet is careful to distinguish Seblon’s mood from that of 229 Notes on Gridlock . or even a boatload of sailors. Genet’s goal never was “to gain entrance into your houses. political discussions by the ﬂood of discourse about whether it takes Adam and Eve to make a family or whether it just takes a little love. Family Values could easily be described as part of a conservative bent in American gaylesbian politics.” This claim is odd because we are reading selections from Seblon’s journal. Still. Moreover. the book does not capture the rich jargons. They just do not add up. his teeth. the act of love was not for self-recognition or for a pure relay of recognition with an other but for selfevacuation and self-murder through the murder of an other. These journal entries ache with the desire for intimacy. love thematizes and indicates the affective site where choice and compulsion are blurred. and antiracist politics (Sartre 1964. your factories. though it refers to gays and lesbians. but to violate them”—and to help children violate them. Family Values and countless other public pronouncements in the United States make a similar argument. No surprise that it is difﬁcult to produce a community out of Genet’s work. Genet’s vision sometimes seems completely washed out of contemporary U. dialects. antimilitary. his guessedat genitals” (11). his anticolonial. your laws and holy sacraments. personal transcendence. Still. the protagonist of the book. holding me the way the dead Jesus is held in a pietà” (1974: 275). Indeed. White 1994. his rounded parts. Of course. and speech genres characterizing contemporary gay and lesbian social life (much less the modern novel and some modern [auto]biographies). The self-professed pied piper of criminality. Genet offers a welcome alternative. Intimacy is not absent in Querelle.
“While the other characters are incapable of lyricism which we are using in order to recreate them more vividly within you. and personal sexual intimacy in particular. the psychological interest increased in the dual relation to both one’s self and the other: self-observation entered a union partly curious. to usury. And. but of hinging it onto emergent humanist narratives of the citizen/ subject (the I) and his or her relationship to We-the-People. As a result. or religious contracts was delegitimated? And one of the answers was: intimate recognition. What do I feel toward you? How do 230 . To assert a bond of love was to assert simultaneously a rejection of social utility. Intimacy. by the lyric genre. one of the questions that arose was: What could. rank. opposed to interested attachment. “From the beginning. Intimate love was the phrase used to refer to and entail the feelings associated with a person’s worth based solely on his or her capacities and qualities as a human being. These experiments in subjectivity make speciﬁc narrative demands on the personal and national subject. addressed to another person. not of doing away with genealogy. has come to be characterized by a form of pronominalized interiority. what could be wrong with that? Why does Genet write Seblon into Querelle only to deny him? As we know. and religion. Intimacy came to mark a particular movement and elaboration of the deracinated ego in relation to a deracinated other.Public Culture the other characters. Seblon’s lyricism. simultaneously. They provided a means. These were the experiments with the subjectivity discovered in the close relationships of the conjugal family” (Habermas 1989: 49). be the presuppositional foundations for forming petite genealogies once marriage on the basis of social. and should. to use. love absorbed the semantics of intimacy and stood as if on its own. economic. What do I feel toward you? In other words. As numerous people have noted. We know some aspects of the form that modern intimacy demands. by the I that emerges in the asking of the question. The diary became the letter addressed to the sender. in many ways. nationalism absorbed the structures of this recognition: We-the-People emerged as a transposition and lifting-up (Aufhebung) of the dialectic of the intimate I and thou. Habermas pivoted the rise of modern forms of the public sphere on the development and circulation of new forms of textually mediated intimate address. Eventually. Lieutenant Seblon himself is solely responsible for what ﬂows from his pen” (23). partly sympathetic with the emotional stirrings of the other I. the I who asks. These experiments with subjectivity arose in the period when the grounds for building genealogy were detached from social status. the intimate interiority is characterized by a second-order critical reﬂexivity. exempliﬁed. and the ﬁrst-person narrative became a conversation with one’s self.
Along with being a form of orientation and attachment. Who am I? the I is constituted. This original contract created binding obligations by virtue of the preexisting principle that promises ought to be kept. Does the original marriage contract create binding obligations between the two persons. and as desire that man is formed and revealed to himself and others as a (human) I — the I that is essentially different from. Consent must now be continually re-theatricalized in the form of the franchise. and thus challenge the basis of social coherence. We see an interesting parallel in Catholic and Protestant approaches to the marriage contract. and differentiates its desires. setting government according to its clock and justifying revolution when that timing is thrown off. and radically opposed to. Taylor notes that Grotius and Locke disagreed about the temporality of consent in the governance of man. as the I that reﬂects. Grotius understood political authority to be legitimate insofar as it was consented to by individuals. it is in. This I and its labor with an other provide the micropragmatic architecture out of which Wethe-People and other mass subjects unfold.4 Indeed. by. In other words. but a continuing right to agree to taxation” (Taylor. “when” is another. Who am I in relation to you?— this question and its cognates lift up a reﬂexive ego in the act of asking and stitch it into the world of others.I desire you? contours the intimate interior. the non-(human) I — then the intimate interior I is built on top of that. According to Taylor. without nationality and without recognition? “Where” is one way of asking the question. “Consent is not just an original agreement to set up government. in this issue). 231 . or must they continually reafﬁrm their commitment? How does an approach to marriage that necessitates a continual consent as opposed to a “done deal” change the orientation of the I in relation to itself and the other? Isn’t the demand for a continual inspection of the intimate Notes on Gridlock 4. What are the changing stakes of my answer in relation to my social bonds? Understanding the temporality of the intimate subject moves us away from intimacy and toward what we might describe as the temporality of modern sexual contract and consent. crucial aspects of the intimate subject emerge when we examine the changing temporalities of asking. It is Locke who changed the temporal rhythm of consent. The question is a performative in the strict sense. Where would the I be without this intimate form of reﬂexivity? Where would we be? At sea — cast adrift. If. In the act of asking. intimacy is the dialectic of this self-elaboration. according to Alexandre Kojeve (1969: 4). discerns. the I of the modern self has become so closely associated with this particular narrative form that challenges to intimacy seriously threaten the modes of attachment the subject has to herself and others. Who am I in relation to you and what do I feel? And when we ask.
calmly. these scholars follow their subjects into rich worlds of sexual imaginings and new corporeal economies. it does seem clear that the intimacy grid is unevenly distributed across global populations. distributions of accountabilities. This diasporic and transnational turn aspires to displace the history of sexuality by engaging its colonial and postcolonial scenes of circulation and inscription. but as waves that anesthetize the curious self or as positions that annul the possibilities that these emotional stirrings will move into human relationality. as a relay of recognition. And. Insofar as they share this orientation. Genet’s love betrayed its usury. increasing or decreasing portfolios? No matter how we answer these questions. where new political. To do this it is helpful to return to Genet’s stance toward intimate recognition before we enter the postcolony. when Querelle symbolically executes himself for his murderous 232 . He was free to leave his body. Thus when Querelle approaches his friend Vic to kill him after Vic has helped him smuggle opium off the ship: “No longer was any part of Querelle present within his body. there was no one. social. With one hand. impossible. and economic worlds are imagined and where the practices of world-building are elaborated. the intimate interiority? And how does the I of intimate love change (or not) in the light cast from the new temporalities ﬁgured within derivative contracts? Are some people called upon to re-contract to their commitments in a different way? Do some people conceptualize their intimacies as premised on a series of conditions. he opened the folding knife he had in the pocket of his peacoat” (Genet 1974: 59). in a way that was quite different from that of eighteenth. Stirrings resonate throughout Querelle. rather than resulting from. but to understand the conditions of their intelligibility as human worlds within a larger liberal diaspora in which such intelligibility is increasingly demanded. . We must therefore follow the migration of intimacy with the European diaspora. It was empty. devisaged the face. however.and nineteenth-century Europe and of many in the contemporary gaylesbian movement. and made intimacy. desubjectiﬁcation.Public Culture contract one of the technologies producing. The object. . It is clear that Genet was experimenting with subjectivity or. . more precisely. But queer national and diasporic studies of sexuality share many common orientations. The recent diasporic and transnational turn in queer studies has contested the history of sexuality as written in the West. that audacious scaffolding for his balls. Some scholars have already begun to track this history of sexual diaspora. Both forms of queer studies turn away from the catalog of sex acts and identities toward a view of counternormative sex publics as a condition and site. His was an experiment in an unnatural love that emptied the body. Their weight and beauty he knew. is not simply to enumerate the variety of gaylesbian worlds. Facing Vic.
He turned his head slightly. “In a vague way [Querelle] felt grateful toward Norbert for protecting him. that is. and despair. Of course. This conﬂict remains. if Genet was experimenting with desubjectiﬁcation.crime by allowing Norbert (the owner of the bar where Querelle will sell his drugs) to fuck him. I am surprised reading Burke’s autobiography. Genet’s experiment with desubjectiﬁcation was made possible by the success of the earlier bourgeois experiment with intimate recognition. stench. And yet. what is the outcome of this experiment? To what would the social refer if the relay of recognition between you and me were cut. the position of their act enables the momentary desire for a facial relation but bars its consummation. in thus covering him. the true grounds for the union between persons. this conﬂict between intimate love and instrumental marriage was unequally fought. Gone is the sublimation of I and Thou into We-the-Couple or We-the-People. after all. A sense of some degree of affection for his executioner occurred to him. This nonrelational ethics allows Genet to be radi233 Notes on Gridlock . Leo Bersani has argued quite deﬁnitely that Genet forecloses the possibility of a humanist answer to these questions. but he couldn’t even manage to see his face” (75). What comes of sailors (de)facing thusly? In other words. Kojeve’s carnal construction of desire no longer seems an appropriate partner for Genet. or so Genet might say. if entre nous were blocked by the practices of sex? These are questions that numerous readers of Genet and his legacy have asked. categories. He argues that Genet refuses “cultural relationality” in order to imagine “a form of revolt that has no relation whatsoever to the laws. And no one is homesick. and despite his anxiety. virile lassitude. Habermas is surely right that “the jeopardy into which the idea of the community of love was thereby put. in the European diaspora that Genet addressed. hoping. and a necessary basis for a community of people. pungent with odors. For instance. destroy” (Bersani 1995: 152). up to our day. in the desubjectifying rituals of sailors. that Norbert might kiss him on the mouth. his lyrical. and shot through with the cynical subjectivity of love (see also Williamson 1991). for intimate love soon became the tender of the democratic marriage contract. Thus. It is less syrupy than I expected. Seblon’s stylization of love. occupied the literature (and not only the literature) as the conﬂict between marriage for love and marriage for reason. Two men having sex. for economic or social considerations” (Habermas 1989: 47). These de-facializations enrich the social in a way that is different from the Hegelian ﬁght for recognition. No one is home in this unnatural sex. and values it would contest and. Love of persons and love of country are the twin contracts of modernity that sailors circumnavigate. It is a richness of bogs. ideally. is indeed the backdrop Genet wishes to bypass if not surpass.
sexuality. There some people are foreclosed from entering the human realm in order that a nation can be made more human(e). in legal precedents pertaining to traditional forms of tenure. To be sure. Michael Warner. in one of its ideal forms. but in the context of indigenous Australia — where life chances are closely tied to state aid — indigenous persons must in fact dehumanize themselves into pure genealogy to gain the recognition of courts. Candace Vogler has characterized certain modern styles of sex as seeking depersonalized intimacy. And so tightly has the narrative I of intimacy become associated with the human and humanity that to be without it is to risk being dehumanized and subject to all the harms of the dehumanizing practices of modernity. religion. Remembering the lesson from Genet that to be human is to engage in practices of intimate recognition. Berlant 1998). stranger intimacy. Indeed. intimate love makes a family 234 . When we supplement these forms of intimacy emerging in the United States with emergent styles and stylizations outside its hegemony. It is in this light that we return to our earlier discussion of state forms of recognition of indigenous social organization. indigenous persons are recognized as organizing their sexualities or socialities not on the basis of intimate recognition but rather on the basis of social status — kinship. Western recognition of the worth of other cultures within the nation and among nations was meant. critical utopian intimacy (Vogler 1998. and recognition in the shadow of the postcolony. Ashis Nandy (1983) has discussed with great insight the shattering of the intimate self in this colonial relation. And we see a vague glimmer of the dispersion of intimacy surrounding us.Public Culture cally alone. and absolutely distinguishes him from “the tame demand for recognition on the part of our own gay community” (161). Lauren Berlant. We might conclude by noting that the gay families Burke promotes do not escape these binds. this time focusing on the dehumanizing gesture embedded within it. Warner. in this issue. Genet and Bersani are not the only persons experimenting with or beyond intimacy. The double bind in which persons are placed multiplies. let us return to the postcolony. What wonder that we now know that all people have feelings. The dispersion of the intimacy grid is especially apparent when we examine historical linkages among intimacy. to repair these distensions. What irony then that state recognition of traditional forms of indigenous social organization works by acknowledging the humanity of indigenous social organization (the local descent group) even as it evacuates the prima facie indices of that humanity: intimacy (Habermas 1989: 47). They just approach them from another angle. economic utility. we see the edge of contemporary theoretical and social experimentation. It might not be the intent of legislators within the liberal Australian state. Remember.
N. As soon as the thought crossed her mind. Thus. She was alone. Coral Gables. Problems in general linguistics. Povinelli is a professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Committee on the History of Culture at the University of Chicago. Sociality seems unthinkable not only without one or the other of these two grids. It is Genet who pulls apart the intimate and genealogical plot. but love must still culminate in a family. she felt deeply ashamed. Madame Lysiane no longer felt what fencing masters call the hunger of the rapier. Benveniste. Elizabeth A. “They is singing. References Anderson. Rev. Intimacy. Critical Inquiry 24: 281–88. struggling against each other in the empty horizon of the Universal. Something more — and less — interesting is happening. Lauren. Then. Fla. 1991. She is coeditor (with George Chauncey) of a special issue of GLQ titled Thinking Sexuality Transnationally (1999) and the author of The Cunning of Reason: Indigenous Alterity and Australian Multiculturalism (in press). even as both have been dispersed in and by colonial and postcolonial worlds. in the end. 235 . but without them working as twin pairs.human. ———.: University of Miami Press. Both genealogy and intimacy have emerged as semiautonomous foundations for legitimating sex acts and other forms of corporeal sociality. a social group that adheres. by creating narrative spaces in which intimacy and the subjective I separate and in which love refuses to build into the grammar of genealogy.: Duke University Press. The queen of America goes to Washington City: Essays on sex and citizenship. 1998. a domestic or communal plot. Emile. translated by Mary Elizabeth Meek. Durham.” Looking at Querelle. in her own inimitable grammar. Benedict.C. Nor was it replaced by intimacy as a new form of association and attachment. twisting. numbly. 1971. Madame Lysiane saw her own words written out in front of her. ed. London: Verso. 1997. Imagined communities: Reﬂections on the origin and spread of nationalism. (Genet 1974: 276) Coda Notes on Gridlock The genealogical imaginary did not die when the sovereign’s head tumbled. intertwined. Berlant.
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