Foucault’s problematizing of the nature and even the existence of sexuality and sex is itself problematic. It should perhaps be seen as an important if somewhat late moment in the modern project of re-defining, or at the very least rearranging the terms of human intimacies. In literature, there is, paradoxically, the anti-sexual polemic of D.H. Lawrence. Even more surprisingly, far from affirming the primacy of sex in human relations, psychoanalysis could be thought of as both questioning traditional assumptions about sexuality and proposing (à la Foucault) a new economy of bodily pleasures and of the relation between soma and psyche.

Leo Bersani is literary theorist and professor emeritus of French at the University of California, Berkeley. He also taught at Wellesley College and Rutgers University and was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992. Out of his numerous book publications, Homos (1995) and Is the Rectum a Grave?: And other Essays (2010) made him well known in the context of queer theory.

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An ICI Berlin event in collaboration with the Insitute for Queer Theory

The lecture is part of the Lecture Series Desire’s Multiplicity and Serendipity, a collaboration of the Institute of Queer Theory and the ICI Berlin. 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 Desire’s Multiplicity and Serendipity 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?

KV Bersani

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