This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
A Foucauldian Analysis of Homosexuality
Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario
Abstract The present research paper approaches homosexuality from a Foucauldian perspective. Foucault’s place and standing in a postmodern historical and cultural context will be explained.The paper outlines how homosexuality has been historically constructed and socially constituted. How sexuality became understood as a particular form of discourse, that is as a science, will be explored particularly with regard to the strategic use of confession as a producer of knowledge. I will present how homosexuality, as a medicalized, ontological identity was implanted in bodies and an entire pathological population was created.To reverse an excessive medicalized discourse of homosexuality, Foucault’s prescription of moving to the care of self and predicating sexuality on the pleasure of bodies as opposed to scientiﬁc or clinical ideology will be discussed. Such critical analysis facilitates new imaginative spaces that can enable educators to engage in meaningful and informed dialogue around the various discourses surrounding homosexuality in a postmodern historical and cultural context. Keywords: Foucault, discourse, confession, homosexuality, medicalization, subjectivity
In the last twenty-ﬁve years, public attitudes towards homosexuality have changed dramatically. In 1987, the last vestiges of homosexuality as a psychopathology under the diagnostic category of ‘ego-dystonic homosexuality’ in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was formally removed (Fox, 1988). The DSM is the clinical guidebook used by mental health professionals for assigning diagnostic labels to various psychiatric pathologies. It is publicly available and regularly updated as a consequence of emerging research. It is currently in its fourth edition with the ﬁfth due out in May of 2012 (American Psychiatric Association, 2009). In the United States, a Gallup poll conducted on 29 May 2007 found that 57 percent of respondents felt that homosexuality should be sanctioned as an alternative public lifestyle; up from the 34 percent in 1982 (Gallup, 2007). On 20 July 2005 Bill C-38, The Civil Marriage Act, received royal assent making Canada the fourth country in the world to grant legal access to marriage for same sex couples (Library of Parliament, 2005). Notwithstanding signiﬁcant shifts in public attitudes towards homosexuality, opposition to its public expression is still being manifested. Mark Hall, a Grade 12 student in a publicly funded Catholic school, opted to attend the high school prom with his
© 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
Netherlands. and the prison system. In the North Vancouver School District a play featuring a kiss between a lesbian couple was censored. ontological identity was implanted in bodies and an entire pathological population was created. is situated in the midst of a social and political paradox. Foucault’s prescription of moving to the care of self and predicating sexuality on bodies and pleasures as opposed to scientiﬁc or clinical ideology will conclude the analysis. The question is how did we arrive at such a situation and what can be done about it? In this paper. psychiatry. as far as homosexuality is concerned. At the same time that homosexuality is being widely accepted and condoned in the area of mental health and in many of the western nation’s public institutions of marriage (Canada. The curriculum was met by opposition from parents who did not want their children exposed to diversity education in sexuality. as a medicalized. To redress some of the problems that have occurred as a result of an excessive medicalized discourse. Recently. Beginning in the second volume of The History of Sexuality. Foucault and the Postmodern Context Foucault died in 1984 but even before his death he was highly acclaimed and received public prominence for his critical studies of medicine. Sweden. 2004). Foucault focuses on © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . Belgium. the province of Alberta introduced curriculum to educate students about sexual diversity. it is simultaneously being marginalized as a contaminant that has the potential to corrupt young minds. In addition to his inﬂuence on cultural theory. psychiatry and disciplinary practices furnished him with the necessary tools needed to trace the formation of knowledge regarding sexuality in The History of Sexuality. Norway. 2002). Foucault’s research on medicine. The school board prohibited them from attending for the putative reason that their public relationship conﬂicts with Catholic values. The provincial government responded to their concerns by passing Bill 44. homosexuality as social. 1988) historical and critical analysis as outlined in his voluminous History of Sexuality. cultural and political discourse is interrogated by appeal to Foucault’s (1990a. the entire Western European cultural context. Mark Hall requested an injunction from the Ontario Court to permit him to attend and was successful (Ontario Superior Court of Justice.2 George Drazenovich boyfriend. Spain and South Africa). Contemporary social issues related to homosexuality needs to be understood within the broader historical and cultural context of Western society. 1990b. Clearly there are multiple problems and issues related to interpretations of sexuality and their permitted expression within society that is being reﬂected in schools. Parents objected to the lesbian kiss and it was subsequently cut from the production although a heterosexual kiss along with depictions of violence remained (Gatchalian. I will present how homosexuality. Further. an amendment to the Alberta Human Rights Act which permits parents to withdraw their children from classrooms where subjects of sexual orientation might be discussed (Legislative Assembly of Alberta. I will outline how Western civilization created a ‘science of sexuality’ intended to produce and manufacture discourses on sexuality. Foucault has also had a signiﬁcant impact on education. the last of his critical studies before his death. 2009). Drawing on Foucault’s research. I turn to the so-called repressive sexual culture of the 18th and 19th century and critique it.
p. the positions and viewpoints from © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . Discourse is about the production of language and practices by particular systems that produce existential meanings which then shape our individual lives. discusses Foucault’s support of personal autonomy as the basis of a liberal education in his research. politics. the almost ritualistic invocation of Foucault’s name by academics in cultural theory has had the affect of reducing his thought to a small set of slogans and jargon which makes a fresh and direct reading of Foucault indispensable (p. Sexuality as Discourse As a historical matter. Peters and Besley (2007) explore the implications of subjectivity for education in Subjectivity and Truth: Foucault. Indeed. Foucault is a useful guide in exploring questions and problems in a postmodern historical context. and viewing even religion and art in social terms. Consequently.A Foucauldian Analysis of Homosexuality 3 questions of how the self has been constituted. Postmodern refers to critical anti-Modernist thought that emerged after World War II. Postmodernity is typiﬁed as a mistrust of grand systems that can explain every phenomenon. According to Pappe (2003). Postmodernity had its genesis in the literary community as a method of critique but quickly spread from there to include philosophical approaches which tend to emphasize subjectivity. p. the present research paper draws primarily on Foucault’s direct research in the area of sexuality as outlined in The History of Sexuality. Its thought is basically a social philosophy. Smart. 1988. to discover who does the speaking. Foucault is regarded in the scholarly community as one of the leading lights of what is sometimes referred to as the postmodern ‘school’ (Hoy. the Enlightenment witnessed and heralded sweeping social change. sexuality as a political. 37–38. Discourses are social. concerned with social ends. before modern. they are observed in terms of the elements of knowledge and power inherent in them. Foucault suggests that in the Western world. philosophy and religion. for example. and the culture of self. In recent times it has found expression in philosophers and historians such as Foucault. 452). 94). starting from social premises. education. Some researchers in education have taken up these Foucauldian themes. Olssen (2005). medical and judicial discourse accelerated in the 18th and 19th centuries. political and cultural arrangements of ideas and concepts through which the world as we know it is communicated and constructed. The Enlightenment is broadly co-extensive with the 18th and 19th century. denotes the idea that the historical or cultural context being described is after the modern period. It is also characterized by a strong emphasis on rationalism and empiricism. The preﬁx post. The term discourse has a speciﬁc meaning in Foucault’s method and plays a major role in analyzing homosexuality in a Foucauldian manner. The term modern is a common historical periodization which refers to the era of the Enlightenment. unlike earlier periods which affected particular aspects of life or certain classes of the population. As Foucault clearly outlines at the beginning of his ﬁrst volume in The History of Sexuality. The term postmodern is a historical and intellectual designation used to delineate a different horizon out of which our culture in the Western world began to conceive of science. plurality and difference. As Halperin (1998) notes. 2000. the primary issue with respect to sexuality is to account for the fact that it is spoken about.
denials and censorship the central constitutive element of sexuality. in the public domain it was restricted to the parents’ bedroom and even there shrouded in duty and obligation. When one bypasses the repressive hypothesis. and the practices associated with them. At issue. The sexual repression hypothesis is a common theme in popular imagination. impose and maintain them. sexuality was allocated to a regime of silence and taboo as reﬂected in puritan social etiquette. 11). are situated in particular historical and social contexts. and rigid attitudes toward sexuality. in patterns for general behavior. in institutions. the channels it takes. Foucault locates contemporary sexual discourses as rapidly developing and multiplying in the 18th and 19th centuries during the so-called sexually repressive Victorian era. The sexual repression hypothesis is illustrated in the popular jocular phrase attributed to a close friend of Queen Victoria whose advice to the queen on how to conduct herself on her wedding night was ‘close your eyes and think of England’ (Partridge. They are embodied in technical processes. 200) Foucault (1972) describes discursive practices as ‘a body of anonymous. or masked (Foucault. Foucault is not trying to describe what sexuality is but to specify what it does and how it works in discursive practice (p. at once. sexuality has been subject to mechanisms of everincreasing incitements to discourse. The Victorian era is generally historicized as lasting between the years 1825 and 1920. the way in which sex is ‘put into discourse’.The term ‘incitement to discourse’ refers to a myriad © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . 117). always determined in time and space that have deﬁned a given period’ (p. His method is to locate the forms of power. As Halperin (1998) notes. 110). roughly co-terminus with the life of Queen Victoria in England. prudish. a historical survey clearly reveals that far from undergoing a process of restriction. in forms of transmission and diffusion. p. By opposing the repressive hypothesis in his historical analysis. and the discourses it permeates in order to reach individual modes of behaviour (Foucault. p. according to Foucault is the overall ‘discursive fact’. 1986. 75). 12). As Foucault (1980) explains: Discursive practices are not simply ways of producing discourse. The sexual repression hypothesis has been imprinted on our mind through a variety of images in literature. p. movies and stories caricaturing the Victorian era as being mired in hypocritical. While Victorian society may have permitted ribald expression of sexuality in brothels and mental institutions. (p. historical rules. What he is arguing is that it is a mistake to analyze the history of sexuality by making the prohibitions. and pedagogical forms which. The basic thrust of the repression hypothesis is that as a result of the inﬂuence of Victorian society in the Western world in the mid-19th century. Foucault is not claiming that sex has not been prohibited. 1990a. 1990a. Foucault’s History of Sexuality will be a difﬁcult book to read if one expects to uncover Foucault’s ‘theory’ of sexuality. The Repressive Hypothesis One of the most provocative preludes to Foucault’s analysis in The History of Sexuality is his direct opposition to the sexual repression hypothesis. Discourses.4 George Drazenovich which they speak and the institutions which prompt people to speak about it. barred.
The primary method for developing a science of sexuality has been confession. one’s sins. and in the most solemn rites. education. in pleasure and in pain. (p. However. thinking it would be impossible to tell to anyone else. We are dealing less with a discourse on sex than with a multiplicity of discourses produced by a whole series of mechanisms operating in different institutions. one’s thoughts and desires. medicine. and love relations. it is driven from its hiding place in the soul or extracted from the body. one’s educators. It may well be that we talk about sex more than anything else . and that what is essential always eludes us. Surely no other type of society has ever accumulated and in such a relatively short period of time—a similar quantity of discourses concerned with sex. [we think] that we conceal from ourselves the blinding evidence. those one loves. the things people write books about. of sexuality. Indeed. One confesses in public and in private. and psychiatric associations. to be counterintuitive. in the most ordinary affairs of everyday life. When it is not spontaneous or dictated by some internal imperative. since the Middle Ages confession remains the main rituals and the most valued technique we rely on for producing truth which is the mainstay of science. to one’s parents. a hallmark of Western culture is that we are the only civilization that has approached sex by developing a science (as opposed to an art) of sexuality which has enabled us to constrain. one confesses one’s crimes. whatever is most difﬁcult to tell. Foucault locates cultural incitement to discourse as rapidly accelerating and multiplying in the 19th century and emphatically not being repressed or silenced. 1990a. one’s illnesses and troubles. in this case sex. or science. one’s doctor.. The incitement to discourse was accomplished through the development or utilization of a variety of institutions such as schools.. political.A Foucauldian Analysis of Homosexuality 5 of heterogenous social. p. (Foucault. The Science of Sexuality (Scientia Sexualis) According to Foucault. with the greatest precision. As Foucault (1990a) explains: (Confession) plays a part in justice. it begs the question of how such a process occurred and unfolded in the ﬁrst place? To answer the foregoing. classify and categorize it. and cultural forces that agitated for increased knowledge and control of a particular area of life. at ﬁrst. clinics. the confession is wrung from a person by violence or threat. I explore how the apparent sexual repression is actually symptomatic of a driving desire on the part of Western civilization to arrive at a truth. 33) Opposing the sexual repression hypothesis may appear. one admits to oneself. Foucault famously describes the development of how the West developed a discourse of sexuality through the development of a scientia sexualis. if we grant Foucault his dissent from the sexual repression hypothesis. one goes about telling. These institutions having both the knowledge and the power to enact them began multiplying discourses as they emerged. One confesses—or is forced to confess. family relationships. so that we must always start out again in search of it. 59) © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia .
p. 63). lasting roughly between 1560 and 1648. Bloch (2001) notes that theologians wishing to establish norms and guidelines for everything affecting sexuality made a complete enumeration of all sexual acts and giving a solution for all possible cases founded the science of casuistry which later achieved such phenomenal growth (p. The psychodynamic structure of confession is constituted in such a fashion that paradoxically power is not exercised in the one who speaks but in the one who listens. however . Sade (1966) takes up the confessional injunction writing that ‘your narrations must be decorated with the most numerous and searching details. Stepping back historically and analyzing the process of confession reveals that it is a ritual that unfolds within an inverse power relationship. Our Western world has hardly been gripped in a pervasive censorship. It has undergone a considerable transformation. 21). the precise way and extent to which we may judge how the passion you describe relates to human manners and man’s [sic] character is determined by your willingness to disguise no circumstance (Sade. at the expense of all other types of sins became paramount (Foucault. The salient point. 111). The confession was. similar themes surface. words. and still remains the general standard governing the true discourse on sex. the Catholic manuals that followed from the Lateran Council particularly during the Counter-Reformation period. when medicine and psychiatry fully developed it as a science beginning in the 19th century. there has been a sustained incitement to discourse concerning sex almost to the exclusion of any other kind of human activity.. delinquent and experts (p. Foucault argues.6 George Drazenovich Foucault’s historical analysis reveals that since the time of the Fourth Lateran council in 1215 when the Roman Catholic church imposed once-yearly confession as a standard to be applied across the Western church.. 1990a. 1966. 271 as cited in Foucault. Foucault (1990a) argues. 19). students and educators. functional and mental pathology arising from incomplete or ‘unnatural’ sexual practices such as homosexuality. right up to present day psychology. patients and psychiatrists. Sex remains the privileged theme of confession. Medicine classiﬁed all forms © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . it has been employed in a whole series of relationships: children and parents. The Medicalization of Confession Medicine created an entire organic. it spread. It became solidiﬁed. As Foucault (1990a) notes. p. Moving from the Christian pastorals of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation period which is periodized historically as lasting approximately between 1500 to 1600 to the salacious literature of Marquis de Sade writing in France in 1785. enjoined the penitent to examine all thoughts. it gradually lost its ritualistic and exclusive localization. For example. As a result of the listening that occurred over the period of many centuries an archive of knowledge concerning sex was gradually constituted. p. 23). the West has been involved in an ever-multiplying incitement to discourse through the speciﬁc mechanisms of confession which has taken many different forms. 1990a. and movements across the body. On the contrary. is that people in the Western world have been drawn for at least the last three hundred years to confess everything concerning their sex (p.The confession of the ‘sins of the ﬂesh’.
The privileged theme of sex remained but the discourse shaping it changed completely. This meant that sex would derive its meaning from medical interventions. that we no longer perceive it as the effect of a power that constrains us. and recollection memories. Sex was not only taboo and difﬁcult to discuss but the mechanisms of it escaped observation from even the subject. Through the principle of latency intrinsic to sexuality. 1990a. is so deeply ingrained in us. demands to surface (Foucault. Foucault (1990a. Foucault’s contribution to liberation accomplished through unmasking and undermining disguised and evident forms of domination which is embedded in scientiﬁc © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . Through the medicalization of the effects of confession. Through the postulate of a general and diffuse causality. It was placed not under sin. 1990b. the principle of latency allowed clinicians to link accelerated and subtle confessional techniques to their analytic practice to exact by force a truth not even known by the individual. it had to pass through a confessional type of relationship to be scientiﬁcally validated. In order for truth to be produced. incorporated them into the notions of developmental and instinctual disturbances and undertook to manage them (Foucault.The effects of confession were recodiﬁed as a therapeutic operation. psychiatry and even law. The ritual of confession shifted from the religious sphere and began to function within the norms of a newly developed scientiﬁc method. lesbian and transgendered community as an emblem of empowerment? Few could deny that coming out serves no psychological purpose for many people or that it hasn’t contributed to changes in public attitudes. 65) outlines precisely how confession thus began to be constituted in medical forms through a conﬂuence of ﬁve factors. 5. 3.A Foucauldian Analysis of Homosexuality 7 of sex. 4. It caused individuals to see themselves as subjects of a sexuality which was accessible to diverse ﬁelds of knowledge and linked to a system of rules and constraints (Foucault. Indeed the very term ‘sexuality’ itself did not appear until the 19th century and accompanied developments in diverse ﬁelds of knowledge such as medicine. The obligation to confess is now relayed through so many different points. 1990a. All of these procedures were means of reinscribing the structure of confession into a scientiﬁcally acceptable practice. 60). standardized questionnaires. Consequently. Through the method of interpretation. A clinical codiﬁcation of the inducement to speak. 2. 41). Confession was combined with personal history. p. These ﬁve factors were: 1. A Foucauldian analysis of homosexuality is in no way intended to displace such efforts and movements. Developments in the discursive practices of medicine. The one who listened was not only consoling but had the power to decipher its meaning and constitute a discourse of scientiﬁc truth based on their interpretive schema. p. Having a plethora of information about sex derived from interviews and questions. so lodged in our secret nature. or moral transgression but was placed under the rule of the normal or the pathological. psychiatry and law regarding sexuality changed the way in which individuals were led to assign meaning to their conduct. An objection could be raised at this point. p. 4). Isn’t confession a liberating and emancipating process? Hasn’t ‘coming out’ been celebrated and encouraged by many in the gay. It seems to us that sexual truth. clinicians could (and in fact did) impute to almost any physical or psychological disturbance a sexual etiology. p.
or the Christian church inasmuch as it acted in a precisely and speciﬁcally pastoral way. became uniquely situated as a power structure that inﬂuenced how social organizations such as psychiatry. quite foreign to ancient culture—that each individual. Foucault (2007) writes. but it was also by means of this category that a resistance movement. the politics of truth. involves a process of critique which is closely allied to the notion of enlightenment. Well. I believe. Critique would essentially insure the desubjugation of the subject in the context of what we could call. Civil society applied the Christian pastoral’s practice of governing to questions of how to govern children. p. ‘It was also not a given that desire. according to Kant (2007). had to be governed and had to let himself [sic] be governed. 2007. Foucault argues. “gay liberation” was born’ (p. Critique and Emancipation A particular style of governance. involves openminded criticisms of the laws or conventions of the state (p. Foucault (1990a) explains the dual role that a critical analysis of discourses concerning sexuality can provide writing. Liberation. Foucault (2007) begins his reﬂections based on a brief article by Immanuel Kant originally published in 1784. 43) While the foregoing concept of governing was initially limited to monastic life and restricted to small spiritual groups. medicalized discourses of sexuality. it expanded in the 15th and 16th centuries from its religious centre to secular society. Foucault (2007) explains: [The] Christian pastoral. © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . Foucault (2007) observes that. developed this idea—singular and. it reinforces it. 44). In a published series of interviews and lectures entitled The Politics of Truth. as Feder (2009) writes. whatever his [sic] age or status. in a word. 134). The force of medicalized discourses of homosexuality can be blunted through critique. The public use of reason. ‘Discourse transmits and produces power. ‘In Foucault’s own work of course. 47) Extending this notion of governmentality and critique to 19th century. and historical context. 101). inspired by the medieval Roman Church. from the beginning to the end of his [sic] life and in his [sic] every action. that of reﬂected intractability. “the homosexual” is the exemplary model of how a category of identity can be deployed to “deﬁne and subject” individuals. Critique is an essential element for the emancipation and enlightenment of people within society. And if governmentalization is indeed this movement through which individuals are subjugated in the reality of a social practice through mechanisms of power that adhere to a truth. well. (p. 36). within the aforementioned social. then! I will say that critique is the movement by which the subject gives himself the right to question truth on its effects of power and question power on its discourses of truth. The critical attitude can be located.8 George Drazenovich knowledge. (p. for Foucault. Understanding Foucault’s critical approach is integral to appreciating his analysis of homosexuality. and even how to govern one’s own body and mind (Foucault. it also undermines and exposes it. then!: critique will be the art of voluntary insubordination. Indeed. political. education and even law exerted their inﬂuence. renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it’ (p. how to govern the poor and beggars.
at least in the human sciences.. 1990a. Foucault discusses a very important development that arose in the 19th century which had an impact on creating the discursive sexual category of the homosexual. Placing persons and populations under a medical mandate .A Foucauldian Analysis of Homosexuality 9 concupiscence and individuals’ sexual behavior had to actually be articulated one upon the other in a system of knowledge and normality called sexuality’ (p. and thereby elaborating more subtle and insidious means of social control (p. exposes them to scrutiny. As Halperin (1998) observes. as a particular form of knowledge (a science). The process of differentiating speciﬁc populations becomes integral to advancing social science knowledge. p. . or even with a people. psychiatric. to segregate. The formerly peripheral sexuality of mad men and women. p. (p. 1990a. Truth. 98). but with a population with its speciﬁc phenomena and variables (Foucault. to locate persons and groups under one system of authority and to divide them from those placed under another. 62). but rather show how sex is subordinate to sexuality as discourse (Foucault. from sex as a human activity. previously scarcely noticed. not by punishing deviations from what was interpreted as natural but by constructing new species of individuals. began to be categorized and interpreted in terms of their sexuality. these strategies took the form of establishing norms of self-regulations. to documentation and to descriptions in medical terms. Foucault (1990a) writes: We must not forget that the psychological. discovering and implanting perversions. the discourses)—that have shaped our perceptions of sex as an activity. Institutions and bodies of science begin to perceive that they are not dealing simply with subjects. Sexuality is the name given to a particular historical construction.. Populations largely inchoate before the 19th century begin to appear and be placed under systems of quieter but stricter constraints of natural or unnatural. this is precisely what occurred with homosexuality.We must not therefore interpret the history of sexuality to how sex operates in practice. The Homosexual Population It is important to appreciate that what is constitutive in sexuality is the social and political action that divides sexuality. medical category of homosexuality was constituted from the moment it was characterized— Westphal’s famous article of 1870 on ‘contrary sexual sensations’ can stand as © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . criminals. However. One of the major constructions that arose in the 18th century is the creation of the concept of population. and the sensuality of those who did not like the opposite sex came under scrutiny. arises out of the institutional and organizational conditions which gather humans together and seek to act upon them in order to produce certain end. 157). Rose (1994) writes: To differentiate is also to classify..e. It is this action—namely the conceptual constructions propagated by particular institutions (i. Against this cultural background the newly developed medical category of the homosexual came into existence. It is here that one can discover the conditions for the emergence of ‘positive’ knowledge of the human individual . 25). 58) In the 19th century an entire population of people..
a certain way of inverting the masculine and feminine in oneself. Ulrich believed that homosexuality was an inborn trait and posited the existence of a third sex to explain it. 43) Westphal was inﬂuenced by Ulrich (1994) who in 1864 was the ﬁrst to come up with a scientiﬁc theory of homosexuality. relationships. The French novelist Proust and the German short story writer Mann framed their desires as upperclass neurosis and decadence. and community (p. Contrary Sexual Feeling. Irrespective of the intent of Ulrich and Westphal. 15). Ulrich’s writings. Homosexuality was implanted in bodies to provide a principle of scientiﬁc intelligibility which could be managed under a psychiatric mandate. Foucault articulates how sexuality as a discourse was implanted in bodies to create not only a new medical category of homosexual but also an identity. gave rise to the paradigm of sexual inversion which became the dominant scientiﬁc paradigm which structured most 19th-century theories of homosexuality (Terry. Thus males who were attracted to the same sex had a male body but their psyche was inverted as female. a hermaphrodism of the soul. and those who dared publicly discuss their homosexuality. intensifying areas. The sodomite had been a temporary aberration. individuals were subject to strategies of containment. Foucault highlights Westphals’ (1870) publication in German. 44). Foucault (1990a) writes that discourses on sexuality such as those developed by Westphal set about contacting bodies. ‘These instances of self-interrogation are often embedded in psychiatric case histories and statistical surveys which allow the historian to watch the complex interplay between authorities and homosexuals as both attempted to make sense of diverse and culturally minoritized forms of desire’ (p. The pathologization of homosexuality and the creation of a homosexual population created a dynamic in which individuals began a process of self-interrogation by accounting themselves as an anomaly and then seeking help in the very system that created it. The Russian novelists Gogol and Tolstoy endured psychological torment because of their efforts to suppress their desires. 1999. p. (p. as emblematic of the way in which homosexuality began to be discretely categorized and implanted in bodies. an inverted nature. a third sex. the homosexual was now a species. As Terry (1999) writes. The effects of self-interrogation by individuals experiencing same sex desire was evidenced in the sphere of 19th-century art and culture. Walton (2009) interprets strategies of containment as reducing concepts of homosexuality to genitally focussed pleasure to the exclusion of other dimensions of identity such as family. such as the English 19th century author and playwright Oscar Wilde. 2009). the ultimate effect of medicalizing and making homosexuality a species was that it made homosexuality analytically visible as a pathology. risked and endured imprisonment (Gay Studies. The Riddle of the Man-Manly Love. Homosexuality appeared as one of the forms of sexuality when it was transposed from the practice of sodomy onto a kind of interior androgyny. an anomaly. 217). © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . electrifying surfaces. Ulrich believed that sexual attraction to men was fundamentally female in nature. 43). Through the creation of homosexual populations. caressing them with its eyes.10 George Drazenovich its date of birth—less by a type of sexual relationship than by a certain quality of sexual sensibility. dramatizing troubled moments wrapping the sexual body in its embrace (p.
Homosexuality became essentialized as a medically and psychologically grounded ontological identity. It is important to note that Foucault’s objective in the History of Sexuality is a tactical reversal of the various mechanisms of sexuality of the last 500 years. a case history and a childhood . It remained all of that and more. of exacting the truest of confession from a shadow. As Foucault (1990a) writes: The 19th century homosexual became a person. A kind of homosexual identity existed but it was formed by different kinds of historically contingent discursive strategies (Halperin. Interestingly. Foucault (1990a) concludes his ﬁrst volume of The History of Sexuality writing: Moreover. in a different economy of bodies and pleasures. p. and assumes a new importance in deﬁning the modern self (p. p. were able to subject us to that austere monarchy of sex. 1998. . It was consubstantial with him.. 96). It was everywhere present in him .. Nothing that went into his composition was unaffected by his sexuality. (p. 43) Halperin persuasively argues that it is a common misreading of Foucault to assert that no kind of homosexual identity existed prior to the 19th century. so that the we became dedicated to the endless task of forcing its secret. however the kinaidos is not someone who has a different sexual orientation from other men or who belongs to another species. 159) Foucault’s focus on bodies and pleasure involves a critical analysis of how the individual constructs oneself as a subject. perhaps. an economy which will feature bodies and pleasure instead of such familiar and overworked entities as sexuality (Halperin... 1998. 101). less habitual sin than a singular nature. a past.A Foucauldian Analysis of Homosexuality Homosexuality as Identity 11 Halperin (1998) agrees that sexuality takes on new social and individual functions. As an example of a different kind of homosexuality existing prior to the 19th century. rather he is someone who represents what every man would be like if they sacriﬁced their male gender identity and succumbed to their bodily appetites (Halperin. The kinaidos was a scare-image that warned men of the possibility that they could lose their masculine gender status by engaging in homosexual acts. Foucault suggests that the best strategy for reversing the current discursive mechanisms of sexuality is by displacing it with a different economy altogether. With homosexuality medicalized in the 19th century. and the power that sustains its organization. (p. p. 1998. Halperin draws on the research of Winkler (1990) who discussed the concept of the kinaidos in ancient Mediterranean society. it no longer was solely understood as a transgression from a moral code or a forbidden act. 104). In a series of lectures entitled The Hermeneutics of the © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . we need to consider the possibility that one day. Thus it is not so much homosexuality per se that Foucault is suggesting emerged in the 19th century but a particular kind of identity that was unique and far more essentialised in terms of how the homosexual individual constructed their identity and themselves as subjects of a totalizing sexuality as a result of the discursive practices of the 19th century. . 94). people will no longer quite understand how the ruses of sexuality.
Foucault.. As Halperin (1998) writes. To make one’s life into an oeuvre means to make one’s very life into an art. the ethical formation of the person as subject. on the one hand. dispositions.. The Cartesian approach requaliﬁed the classic Socratic injunction to ‘know thyself’ by discrediting from the ﬁeld of modern philosophical thought the ancient Greek principle of the care of the self. with resistance. The objective of raising the general question of the formation of self and directing it to ancient Greek culture is that ancient Greek culture linked sexuality not to confession but to what might be called the arts of existence. styles. a desire for radical ethical change. to turn in on oneself. on the other’ (p. and forms of subjectivity. particularly as it pertains to sexuality. to offer service to oneself.12 George Drazenovich Subject. has naught else to do but to attend to himself. carefully explores what is meant by the care of the self. All these injunctions to exalt oneself. 133). in his grasp and for himself. 14). today. and to make their life into an oeuvre that carries certain aesthetic values and meets certain stylistic criteria’ (p. It is the © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia .The cultivation of the self was characterized by the fact that the art of existence is dominated by the principle that says one must take care of oneself. Or else they sound to us like a somewhat melancholy and sad expression of the withdrawal of the individual who is unable to hold on to and keep ﬁrmly before his eyes. Foucault turns to ancient Greek conceptions of the self (Feder. 12) Foucault (2001) places the blame for this shift to what he refers to as the ‘Cartesian moment’ (p. faced with the disintegration of this collective morality. 2009. to change themselves in their singular being. Rather than relying on Enlightenment notions of the subject. Foucault on the Care of the Self A Foucauldian approach to homosexuality involves researching how different historical cultures fashioned different sorts of links between sexual acts and forms of identity. 109). Foucault modiﬁes his work focussing on how individuals (re)constitute themselves as subjects. gender presentations. and sexual tastes. the assertion-challenge of a ﬁxed aesthetic and individual stage. but also seek to transform themselves. a sort of moral dandysism. ‘We need to ﬁnd ways of asking how different historical cultures fashioned different sorts of links between sexual acts. p. as subject is a major Foucauldian theme. To accomplish this process the Greeks focussed on the cultivation of the self. The formation. and who. While the purpose of the ﬁrst volume of The History of Sexuality is to outline how sexuality as discourse is tied to a particular time. Foucault (2001) outlines the emphasis given to the subject in ancient Greek thought and notes how predicating ethical conduct and morality on subjectivity is met. sound to our ears rather like—what? Like a sort of challenge and deﬁance. characters. a collective morality . or care of the self. and system of knowledge. (p. place. Foucault (1990b) explains the art of existence as ‘those intentional and voluntary actions by which individuals not only set themselves rules of conduct. to devote oneself to oneself. In the second and third volumes of The History of Sexuality. therefore. in sum the care of the self. 10). the second and third volumes of The History of Sexuality are concerned with the arts of existence.
as a 19th century development. they had nothing resembling those long lists of possible acts. and to describe the vast family of prohibited gestures. Nor was their anything resembling the concern—which was so characteristic of the question of . conversions of looking.. For the ancient Greeks the ‘use of pleasures’ (chresis aphrodision) was formulated around four axes of experience... (p. permitted. In The Hermeneutics of the Subject. between how sexual pleasure (aphrodisia) was interpreted in ancient Greek culture and how sexuality. which are. 43). either in their theoretical reﬂection or in their practical thinking. What seemed to be the object of reﬂection for the Greeks in matters of sexual © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . did not possess our concept or discourse of sexuality. for the subject’s very being. p.. As Foucault (1990b) deﬁnes it: ‘The aphrodisia are the acts. ascetic exercises. The classical Greek concept of sexuality was formed around the notion of the aphrodisia. etc. the relation to one’s wife. 32). In any case. no table that served to deﬁne was licit. As Foucault (1990b) writes: (The) Greeks had not evinced. Foucault (2001) emphatically underscores that the concept of the care for the self does not lead to the constitution of oneself as an object of analysis. . or in the works of psychopathology. the relation to boys. and organizes its practice (Foucault. Neither classiﬁcation nor decipherment. (p. and experiences. or of drawing up an inventory of its elements. or normal. presides over its development. the relation to one’s body. which may be puriﬁcations. sexuality—for discovering the insidious presence of a power of undetermined limits .. renunciations. 40). a very insistent concern for deﬁning precisely what they meant by aphrodisia -whether it was a question of determining the nature of the thing designated. the manual of confession.A Foucauldian Analysis of Homosexuality 13 principle of the care of the self that established the self’s necessity. Aphrodisia Ancient Greek culture. 38) At issue was not extracting by confessional techniques various sexual acts and then formulating a discourse of sexuality comprised of rules and constraints intended to universalize norms and laws to impose on scientiﬁcally and politically created populations. such as one ﬁnds later in the penitential books. practices. however. the price paid for access to the truth. There is a marked difference. We will call ‘spirituality’ then the set of these researches. 222). Foucault (2001) interprets the ancient Greek construction of the self to what we might refer to today as a spiritual process. is interpreted in ours. 1988. decipherment. not for knowledge but for the subject. p. 1990b. 15) Ancient Greek culture organized themes of sexuality around the concept of the aphrodisia which was interpreted as a spiritual force capable of transforming the subject. and the relation to truth (Foucault. gestures and contact that produce certain forms of pleasure’ (p. These differences had considerable importance in how one understood and cared for oneself as subject of sexual desire. of delimiting its scope. unlike our own. modiﬁcations of existence. and reﬂection (p.
There was no differentiation between homosexual or heterosexual orientations. The mode of becoming a subject lay in the wisdom by which one allowed oneself to be shaped by the spiritual force of the aphrodisia. p. pathological or normal. While there were a few precepts related to moderation and self control which applied more broadly to all areas of life. it was rather the nature of the force with which one is transported by the aphrodisia (Foucault 1990b. In classical Greek thought. However. p. Against the backdrop of ancient Greek culture Foucault rhetorically asks that given the prevalence of accepted homosexual practice. 188)? His reply is afﬁrmative if by bisexual one means that a Greek could simultaneously be enamoured of a boy or a girl. p. The ethical domain was not. As Foucault (1996) says: If identity becomes the problem of sexual existence. what made it possible to desire a man or a woman was simply the appetite that nature had implanted in one’s heart for beautiful human beings. and if people think they have to ‘uncover’ their ‘own identity’ and that their own identity has to become the law. the code of their existence. then it could be said that the individual fulﬁlled oneself as an ‘ethical subject by shaping a precisely measured conduct that was plainly visible to all and deserving to be long remembered’ (Foucault. There was only the force of the aphrodisia which involved not only sexual desire but also the mode of relationship between the self. To their way of thinking. When one was able to care for the self. Sexual conduct was in that sense subjectively determined. constituted by making sexuality into a deviancy or species. that a married man could have male lover. the difference between their understanding and ours is that they did not recognize within these different sexual movements two kinds of sexual orientation. it has to be an identity to our unique © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . other people and beauty. p. they will turn back to a kind of ethics very close to the old heterosexual virility. if the perennial question they ask is ‘Does this thing conform to my identity?’ then. 91). were the Greeks bisexual (Foucault. 1990b. the principle. which was itself determined by the status one had inherited and the purposes one had chosen (Foucault.14 George Drazenovich conduct was not the act itself. Conclusion One of the major contributions of Foucault to the area of homosexuality is his critique of it as population and identity. two different or competing drives. such that one’s very life was transformed into an oeuvre. however. 1990b. There was no one single overall system of sexuality that imposed itself on all people in the same way and classiﬁed acts in terms of their being natural or natural. 60). We can talk of bisexuality thinking of the free choice they allowed themselves but bisexuality in no way related to tendencies or opposition between sexual desires. standards of sexual morality were always tailored to one’s way of life. 188). 1990b. sexual ‘orientation’). or forms of desire (i.e. nor by cohering to universal legislation determining permitted and forbidden acts (Foucault 1990b. 43). I think. 91). p. whatever their sex might be (Foucault. If we are asked to relate to the question of identity. 1990b. that it was common for a male to change to a preference for women later in his life. being a sexual subject was conceptualized in an ethical domain. p.
is not really about homosexuality as an identity that needs to be afﬁrmed. rather they must be relationships of differentiation. from entire discourses on sexuality from the Christian pastorals of the later medieval period to the medicalizing discourses of psychiatry. It seems © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . of creation. The Western world is now living in an age that emphasizes plurality. Kelly (2008) observes: Foucault argues that it is not the proliferation of identities that leads to sexual liberation but. In cultures like our own. of innovation. Instead. to just be sexual. codes of behaviour and forms of subjectivation (p. the separation of acts and feelings from those identities. rather than to attach those behaviors to larger cultural meanings. feel. 30). relationships. less importance is placed on systems of codes and rules of behaviour. In other words. Explaining queer studies and its approach to homosexuality as an identity. A Foucauldian analysis of homosexuality. 1) A clue to the presence of social and cultural tensions outlined in the introduction is due to the presence of a tectonic shift occurring in our culture as we move beyond on many of the modern period’s assumptions and discursive practices of governmentality in every sphere of educational and political culture. Foucault’s and the entire postmodern turn to the subject is one of the preferred means to assist in the development of liberated. The challenge for educators is to educate for adaptation to a world without universal categories. The turn to the subject. celebrated or denigrated. The postmodern turn is not as radical as it appears. thought and perceived very differently. (p. networks. The last 500 years have seen a morality composed of codes of behaviour. Foucault’s mining of ancient Greek culture is a useful way to begin to discuss and think about sexuality absent facile moralizing and division of sexual practices into natural and unnatural or creating separate sexual orientations. Every morality. is an appropriate and necessary pedagogical shift that educators need to consider. and cultural and political practices. with boundaries that need to be constantly negotiated and renegotiated. and act. 1990b. the emphasis is on the forms of relations with the self. methods and techniques by which one works them out. Foucault favors using one’s desires to create new pleasures. and subjectivity. and indeed historically have. is comprised of two elements. But the relationships we have to have with ourselves are not ones of identity. rejected. and self-responsible adults. Western pedagogy surrounding sexuality needs to reﬂect this changing reality. rather. an entire specialty of cultural studies called queer theory has emerged as a distinct approach to sexuality. it will be liberatory to simply desire. and the ancient Greek emphasis on the care of the self. 385) 15 In education today. the exercises which one makes oneself into an object to be known and on the practices that enable one to transform their own being (Foucault. p. It is important that educators understand that the turn to the subject does not mean ethical neutrality and amorality. with emphasis on subjectivity. in the end then. Instead of claiming an identity for one’s desires and acts. Foucault’s second and third volumes demonstrate how we can. Queer studies is heavily inﬂuenced by Foucault and his History of Sexuality.A Foucauldian Analysis of Homosexuality selves. 29). changed. Foucault (1990b) notes. (p.
I. identities. and K. Pantheon). Marshall. Foucault. Hocchroth & C. Hurley. Lotringer. Foucault Live: Collected Interviews. ed. Hoy. is absolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reﬂecting at all (p. Xtra!West. (2009) A Review: Margaret A.. (Los Angeles. G. (Original work published in 1933. 29 May.. pp. D. Palgrave Macmillan). (1988) Proceedings of the American Psychological Association. Foucault.org/pi/lgbc/policy/ diagnoses. Volume 2. R. (2001) Anthropological Studies on the Strange Sexual Practises of All Races and All Ages (Honolulu. (1990b) The History of Sexuality: The Use of Pleasure. Foucault.com/poll/27694/tolerance-gay-rights-highwater-mark. in the knower’s straying aﬁeld of himself? There are times in life when the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks. trans. McLaren [Review of the book: Feminism. Volume 1. Semiotext(e)). J. Retrieved from: http://www. postmodern challenges (London. in: J. in: S. (2007) The Politics of Truth. and the history of sexuality.gallup. Gallup.. Gay Studies (2009) Gay Studies—The Medicalized. Gordon. 8).) Foucault. Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–77 (New York. K.aspx Gatchalian.jrank. Vintage Books). Hurley. p. Lotringer (ed. for the year 1987: Minutes of the Annual meeting of the Council of Representatives. Vintage Books).asp Bloch.apa. (2001) The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collége de France. (New York. 17. Representations.psych.) Foucault. Retrieved from: http://science. Vintage Books). E. C.html Halperin. Porter. R. (Original work published in 1984. M. M. (1996) Sex.) Foucault. pp. R. Foucault Studies. Foucault. Gros. Industrialized Nation-state. Mepham. M. The change that was wrought in Foucault (1990b) as he chronicled it in the second volume of The History of Sexuality can be one that educators and students alike can also share as they analyze sexuality through a Foucauldian lens. CA: Semiotext(e)). 1981–82. L. (1988) The History of Sexuality: The Care of The Self. Arac (ed. Hurley. E. pp.16 George Drazenovich appropriate that the last word in a Foucauldian analysis of homosexuality should belong to Foucault himself. 63. 187. and perceive differently than one sees. Retrieved from: http://www. ed.) Feder.. After all. (1998) Forgetting Foucault: Acts. ed. Volume 3. trans. Retrieved from: http:// www. 1961–1984 (New York. Burchell. p. R. 6. 43. 508–531. (2004) School Censors Same-sex Kiss: Handsworth play takes out kiss but leaves in rape. (1990a) The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. (New York. 93–120. M. D.htm Gallup (2007) Tolerance for Gay Rights at High-Water Mark. References American Psychiatric Association (2009) DSM-V The Future Manual. 131–135. Harper Colophon Books). (1988) Foucault: Modern or postmodern?. American Psychologist. © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . S. L. M. (1972) The Archeology of Knowledge (New York.) Foucault. (Original work published in 1978.. Foucault.) Fox. (Original work published in 1985. (Original work published in 1997.). trans. Power and the Politics of Identity. and Embodied Subjectivity]. M. F. (New York. University Press of the Paciﬁc).). trans. (1980) Power/Knowledge.. trans.org/pages/9441/Gay-Studies-Medicalized-Industrialized-NationState. Rutgers University Press).org/dsmv.. 5 April. in: C. what would be the value of the passion for knowledge if it resulted only in a certain amount of knowledgeableness and not. in one way or another and to the extent possible. M. Incorporated. (Original work published in 1986. trans. C. After Foucault: Humanistic knowledge. (New York. M. Spoer.
M. (2009) Eating Cake:The paradox of sexuality as a counter-diversity discourse. Retrieved from:http://www2. (2007) Subjectivity and Truth: Foucault. (Newbury Park. M. Routledge).ca/gender/Article_n348. Peter Lang).virginia. pp. Hocchroth & C. Accessed 20 July 2009. & Besley. 211–222. Blackwell). J.ca / Sites / LOP/LegislativeSummaries/Bills_ls. (New York. Terry. September 14) Bill C-38: The Civil Marriage Act. Citizenship. University of Chicago Press). 365–387. E. NY. D. I. in: M. Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankeiten.com. Porter. samesexmarriage .assembly. Retrieved from http://docs. CA: Semiotext(e)). Accessed 20 July 2009. (2000) Postmodern Social Theory. Retrieved from: http:// etext. Berlin.google.pdf. (1994) The Riddle of the Man-Manly Love. medicine and the body (New York.gc..asp?Parl=38&Ses=1 &ls=c38. (Los Angeles. Rose. in: S. Powers. Ontario Superior Court of Justice (2002) Hall (Litigation guardian of) v. and homosexuality in modern society (Chicago. medicine. Peters. SAGE Publications). trans. ed. S. O’Brien (ed. Olssen. (1990) The Constraints of Desire:The anthropology of sex and gender in ancient Greece (New York. (Original Work published in 178) Smart. Steinberg (ed. Educational Philosophy and Theory. 1784). Routledge). Encyclopedia of Gender and Society. Ulrich. Jones & R. (Original work published in 1997.ca/bills/2009/pdf/bill-044. in: B. 37:3. M. History and the Present. pdf + Hall + v + Powers + Ontario+superior+court+of+justice&hl=en. N. Lotringer.).). and the culture of self (New York. Accessed 20 July 2009. Pappe. 2. R. Prometheus Books).ab. © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . L. C. Diversity and Multiculturalism:A reader (NewYork. J. Winkler. in J. 02-CV-227705CM3. Reassessing Foucault: Power. (2005) Foucault. ca / docs / MacKinnon _ Hall . Library of Parliament (2005. Wainhouse & R. and Multiculturalism Amendment Act.).html Legislative Assembly of Alberta (2009) Bill 44. (1999) An American Obsession: Science. Human Rights. pp. lakeheadu. G.parl. T. Retrieved from: http://www. 29–37.edu/cgi-local/DHI/dhi. CA. pp. Porter (eds).com/gview?a=v&q=cache:aGI5KAllrkJ : www .) Walton.ezproxy. trans. (Amherst. Grover Press). Seaver.cgi?id=dv2-10 Partridge. The Blackwell Companion to Social Theory 2nd edn. (Original work published in 1864. A. (Oxford. Lombardi-Nash. in: C. (1870) Die Conträre Sexualempﬁndung. H. trans. B. (1966) The 120 Days of Sodom. 47–480. R. education. Educational Research and the Issue of Autonomy. (2003) ‘Enlightenment’ in Dictionary of the History of Ideas. A. vol. K. (1986) A Dictionary of Catch Phrases (London. de Sade. Routledge). Retrieved from: http://sage-ereference. Court File No. S.A Foucauldian Analysis of Homosexuality 17 Kant. Turner (ed.) Kelly. Foucault (2007) The Politics of Truth. pp. C. Westphal. A. Peter Lang Publishing). (2008) Queer Studies. (1994) Medicine. (2007) Was ist Aufklärung (Original work published in September 30.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.