Peter Rehberg received his PhD from New York University in Germanic Languages and Literatures. His thesis (Lachen Lesen. Zur Komik der Moderne bei Kafka, 2007) approaches the question of laughter in Kafka as a textual phenomenon through the lens of literary theory and psychoanalysis. After graduating from NYU, he worked predominantly in the fields of queer theory, popular culture, and media studies. He has taught and researched at several universities in the US and Germany (Cornell, Northwestern, Brown, and Bonn). In addition to his academic work, he also published three novels (Play, Fag Love, Boymen), worked as an editor for queer magazines, and is a regular contributor to the weekly Der Freitag, where he writes on gender and US politics. He was DAAD Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin from 2011 to 2016. He currently works at Berlin’s Schwules Museum as Head of Collections and Archives.

In 2016/17, during his time at the ICI Berlin, Peter Rehberg finished a book-length study entitled Hipster Porn: Queer Masculinities, Affective Sexualities, and New Media, published in 2018, which looks at contemporary queer fanzines in the context of online pornography as a rearticulation of masculinity, desire, and queer sociality. These theoretical, cultural, and political concerns also serve as points of departure for his next project on queerness and migration, which looks at both European and Arab masculinities as sites where politics, culture, and religion operate as restrictive forces. It seeks to open a dialogue between the analysis of contemporary masculinities as manifestations of symbolic and violent struggles and, following Jean-Luc Nancy and John Paul Ricco, an ontological understanding of sexuality beyond representation.

Queering the Spectacle of the Arab Migrant:
Intersectionality, Identity, and Community

ICI Affiliated Project 2017-18

The ‘Arab migrant’ has evolved into a key figure determining much of public discourse and media representation in Europe today, yet its discursive construction responds to a rather heterogeneous set of economic and political conflicts. What alternative forms of subjectivity and sociality are possible within the European political landscape that would not simply repeat the destructive dynamics of this symbolic site? An answer to this question requires an analysis of the aftermaths of the so-called ‘refugee-crisis’, a deconstruction of the image of the ‘Arab man’ as it is circulating within a mediated public, and a turn towards the ethical as distinct from the political.

While intersectional approaches struggle to establish a critical perspective that can negotiate questions of racism, class, sexism, and homophobia, the contradictory figure of the male ‘Arab migrant’ remains overdetermined by Orientalist discourses, yet must also be seen in light of more recent critiques of Edward Saïd’s critique of Orientalism.

While the excessive visual economy of digital culture contributes to the ideological power of the representation of ‘the Arab man’, the images thus brought into circulation can never be fully controlled. A problem that paves the way for a rethinking of a social dimension beyond the imaginary – a rethinking that brings together psychoanalysis, queer theory, and French philosophy. Jean-Luc Nancy’s writings on sexuality, nakedness and being-with, in particular, allow for a conception of the subject beyond a mere intersectionality of social forces, not in order to de-politicize the analysis of the social, but to develop a new politics that can account for an ontologically grounded ethics.

Queering the Spectacle seeks to extend the debate on migration, gender, and sexuality towards an understanding of ethics incommensurable with the phantasms of the subject and the social that have such violent effects on current political cultures in order to reimagine the possibility of a different form of community.