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Sexuality and the Other: Asymmetries of power in erotic fantasies and sexual encounters in the 20th century

Freitag, 10. Juni
09:15 bis 10:45 Uhr
Raum 3077

In his La volonté de savoir (1976) Foucault described sexuality as a central mechanism through which power operates. The discourse on sexuality, especially in its medical form, created an immediate access to the bodies and desires through the creation of 'perverted' or 'abnormal' sexualities – categories that got internalized and became crucial for the process of subjectivization. As a number of studies from the realm of postcolonial and new imperial history have shown, the 'racial Other(s)' became an equally important point of reference as the 'pathological' as a consequence of colonial encounters – and both categories have been constructed in close relation to one another in the course of the 19th century. The workings of the technologies of sexuality in the colonies as well as the role of the imperial discourse of racial difference for Western sexuality have been analyzed considerably less for the 20th century – although it can be assumed that the conflated processes of sexing and racializing non-Western bodies and cultures has outlived the formal end of colonial rule.

Starting with the premise that the process of Othering in the sense of dissociation from the allegedly inferior is always accompanied by a fascination and desire for it – accounting for the ambivalence of colonial fantasies of the erotic Other –, this panel seeks to trace different modes of power: On one hand, we intend to analyze the power exercised in Western representations of the Others and their sexuality, which can be described as forms of epistemic violence (with regard to their complete disregard of non-Western voices). On the other hand, the panel will address cases of actual social interactions by looking at sexual encounters under conditions of asymmetrical power relations in (neo)colonial settings. We will seek to understand the role factors like a capitalist-imperial world order and intersecting "vectors of power" (Butler) like race, class, gender, and sexuality played in the transcultural interactions under study, be they textual or personal. This intersectional approach allows us to capture the complexities and multiple layers of power in these encounters. By taking into account a wide range of localities and a long-term perspective, the panel hopes to shed light on the continuities and ruptures in the sexing of the 'racial' Other in the course of the 20th century.

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Tagungsorganisation: Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Geschichte und Historische Institute der Universität Lausanne | Kontakt