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David Halperin: What is Sex for?

Nov 5,19:30

Does sex have any erotic purpose? The greatest philosophers of classical antiquity said no. Halperin examines one of their arguments, which offers a serious challenge to modern interpretations of love, including but not limited to psychoanalytic interpretations, that understand love in sexual terms and that view all erotic desire as an expression of sexuality. He also considers some contemporary gay male writing, which he reads as a singular effort to work through the confusions and the anguish that the modern sexualization of erotic desire has bequeathed to us.

David Halperin is W. H. Auden Distinguished University Professor of the History and Theory of Sexuality at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and currently a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. He is an American theorist in the fields of sexuality studies, queer theory, and lesbian/gay history and the cofounder of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. His publications include How to Be Gay (2012), How to Do the History of Homosexuality (2002), and Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography (1995).

This lecture is in collaboration with the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

Flyer (PDF)

Time: Wednesday, 5 November 2014, 19:30
Venue: ICI Berlin
In English


Desire’s Multiplicity and Serendipity
Desire, wandering about and forming assemblages, might be accompanied by serendipity or mate with jouissance or the power of the erotic, even as it fails to reach its presumed aim. Instead of running on a single track, we take desire to be functioning in a multiple manner. We call on desire’s serendipity to grasp its illogical, contingent modes as a figure of fortunate errans. The lecture series looks for queer reconceptualizations of desire, its cultural articulations and lived realities. The key question is how to get from the critique of desire as a hierarchizing and normalizing force to the heterotopias of desire. What would it mean to understand or experience desire as opening up to alterity, undermining its own involvement in structural inequalities and normative violence?

The Lecture Series Desire’s Multiplicity and Serendipity is a cooperation between the Institute for Queer Theory and the ICI Berlin.


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