UCSB Feminist Studies Sex Love and Romance the Politics of Desirability Paper Answer this two question in 600 words with the article down there 1. How do

UCSB Feminist Studies Sex Love and Romance the Politics of Desirability Paper Answer this two question in 600 words with the article down there

1. How do the selected readings use “intimacy” to challenge our ideas about private/public life?

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2. How does Fatima Jamal and Caleb Luna prompt us to think about the relationship between power and desire?

Fatima Jamal’s New Documentary Celebrates Being Fat, Black, and Trans: https://www.them.us/story/jamal-lewis-new-documentary-celebrates-being-fat-black-and-trans

Treating My Friends Like Lovers: The Politics of Desirability

March 17, 2018 by Caleb Luna Leave a Comment

https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/how-to-be-fat-caleb-luna-sub/ Intimacy: A Special Issue
Author(s): Lauren Berlant
Source: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 24, No. 2, Intimacy (Winter, 1998), pp. 281-288
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
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Intimacy: A Special Issue
Lauren Berlant
“I didn’t think it would turn out this way” is the secret epitaph of intima
To intimate is to communicate with the sparest of signs and gestures,
at its root intimacy has the quality of eloquence and brevity. But intim
also involves an aspiration for a narrative about something shared, a s
about both oneself and others that will turn out in a particular way. U
ally, this story is set within zones of familiarity and comfort: friend
the couple, and the family form, animated by expressive and emancip
ing kinds of love. Yet the inwardness of the intimate is met by a cor
sponding publicness. People consent to trust their desire for “a life”
institutions of intimacy; and it is hoped that the relations formed wi
those frames will turn out beautifully, lasting over the long duration, per
haps across generations.
This view of “a life” that unfolds intact within the intimate sph
represses, of course, another fact about it: the unavoidable troubles,
distractions and disruptions that make things turn out in unpredict
scenarios. Romance and friendship inevitably meet the instabilities of
uality, money, expectation, and exhaustion, producing, at the extre
moral dramas of estrangement and betrayal, along with terrible spe
tacles of neglect and violence even where desire, perhaps, endures. S
the early twentieth century these strong ambivalences within the inti
sphere have been recorded by proliferating forms of therapeutic pub
ity. At present, in the U.S., therapy saturates the scene of intimacy, f
Critical Inquiry 24 (Winter 1998)
? 1998 by The University of Chicago. 0093-1896/98/2402-0001$02.00. All rights reserved.
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282 Lauren Berlant Intimacy: A Special Issue
psychoanalysis and twelve-step groups to girl talk, talk shows, and other
witnessing genres.
Jurisprudence has also taken on a therapeutic function in this domain, notably as it radically recasts interpretations of responsibility in
cases of marital and child abuse. But it is sexual harassment that remains
the most controversial of these changes. The emergence of sexual harassment law as a remedy for the unwanted sexualization of institutional
spaces starkly marks the amnesia around which desire’s optimism and its
ruthlessness converge. Again and again, we see how hard it is to adjudicate the norms of a public world when it is also an intimate one, especially
where the mixed-up instrumental and affective relations of collegiality
are concerned.
These relations between desire and therapy, which have become internal to the modern, mass-mediated sense of intimacy, tell us something
else about it: intimacy builds worlds; it creates spaces and usurps places
meant for other kinds of relation. Its potential failure to stabilize closeness always haunts its persistent activity, making the very attachments
deemed to buttress “a life” seem in a state of constant if latent vulnerabil-
ity. Even from this small cluster of examples and scenes it becomes clear
that virtually no one knows how to do intimacy; that everyone feels expert
about it (at least about other people’s disasters); and that mass fascination
with the aggression, incoherence, vulnerability, and ambivalence at the
scene of desire somehow escalates the demand for the traditional promise
of intimate happiness to be fulfilled in everyone’s everyday life.
The intensities of these multiple domains indeed designate intimacy
as a special issue. This number of Critical Inquiry takes on as a problem
how to articulate the ways the utopian, optimism-sustaining versions of
intimacy meet the normative practices, fantasies, institutions, and ideologies that organize people’s worlds. The essays gathered here, whose cases
traverse many disciplines and domains, vary widely in the critical and
rhetorical registers in which they represent the continuities and discontinuities within the intimate field, looking at their particular impacts on
the categorization of experience and subjectivity. They seek to understand the pedagogies that encourage people to identify having a life with
having an intimate life. They track the processes by which intimate lives
absorb and repel the rhetorics, laws, ethics, and ideologies of the hegemonic public sphere, but also personalize the effects of the public sphere
Lauren Berlant, a coeditor of Critical Inquiry, teaches English at the
University of Chicago. She is the author of The Queen of America Goes to
Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship (1997) and The Anatomy of National Fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia, and Everyday Life (1991).
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Critical Inquiry Winter 1998 283
and reproduce a fantasy that private life is the real in contrast to collective
life: the surreal, the elsewhere, the fallen, the irrelevant. How can we
think about the ways attachments make people public, producing transpersonal identities and subjectivities, when those attachments come from
within spaces as varied as those of domestic intimacy, state policy, and
mass-mediated experiences of intensely disruptive crises? And what have
these formative encounters to do with the effects of other, less institution-
alized events, which might take place on the street, on the phone, in fantasy, at work, but rarely register as anything but residue? Intimacy names
the enigma of this range of attachments, and more; and it poses a question of scale that links the instability of individual lives to the trajectories
of the collective.
A related aim of this reframing of intimacy is thus to engage and
disable a prevalent U.S. discourse on the proper relation between public
and private, spaces traditionally associated with the gendered division of
labor. These categories are considered by many scholars to be archaic
formations, legacies of a Victorian fantasy that the world can be divided
into a controllable space (the private-affective) and an uncontrollable one
(the public-instrumental). Fantasy, however, may underdescribe the continuing attraction of the attachment to this division because the discourse
world described by the public and the private has, historically, organized
and justified other legally and conventionally based forms of social division (male and female, work and family, colonizer and colonized, friend
and lover, hetero and homo, “unmarked” personhood versus racial-, ethnic-, and class-marked identities). A simple boundary can reverberate and
make the world intelligible; the taken-for-grantedness of spatial taxonomies like public and private makes this cluster of taxonomic associations
into facts within ordinary subjectivity as well. This chain of disassociations
provides one way of conceiving why so many institutions not usually associated with feeling can be read as institutions of intimacy.
There is a history to the advent of intimacy as a public mode of identification and self-development, to which I can allude only briefly here.
Jtirgen Habermas has argued that the bourgeois idea of a public sphere
relied on the emergence of a mode of critical public discourse that formulated and represented a public’s interests within civil society against the
state.’ The development of critical publicness depended on the expansion of class-mixed semiformal institutions like the salon and the caf6,
circulating print media, and industrial capitalism; the notion of the democratic public sphere thus made collective intimacy a public and social
ideal, one of fundamental political interest. Without it the public’s role as
critic could not be established.
1. See Jitrgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry
into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, Mass., 1989).
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284 Lauren Berlant Intimacy: A Special Issue
Persons were to be prepared for their critical social function in what
Habermas calls the intimate spheres of domesticity, where they would
learn (say, from novels and newspapers) to experience their internal lives
theatrically, as though oriented toward an audience. This is to say that
liberal society was founded on the migration of intimacy expectations
between the public and the domestic. But if the emergence and expansion of institutions that generated an intimacy in which people participated actively were seen to be crucial to the democratic polity, institutions
that produced collective experience, like cinema and other entertainment forms, came to mix the critical demands of democratic culture
with the desire for entertainment taken for pleasure. Since the nonrational and noninstitutionally indexed aspects of the intimate had been
(theoretically) banished from legitimate democratic publicness, pleasureknowledge creates problems for the notional rationality with which collective critical consciousness is supposed to proceed. This development,
along with the expansion of minoritized publics that resist or are denied
universalist collective intimacy expectations, has much complicated
the possibility of (and even the ethics of the desire for) a general masscritical public sphere deemed to be culturally and politically intimate with
For intimacy refers to more than that which takes place within the
purview of institutions, the state, and an ideal of publicness. What if we
saw it emerge from much more mobile processes of attachment? While
the fantasies associated with intimacy usually end up occupying the space
of convention, in practice the drive toward it is a kind of wild thing that
is not necessarily organized that way, or any way.3 It can be portable, unat-
tached to a concrete space: a drive that creates spaces around it through
practices. The kinds of connections that impact on people, and on which
they depend for living (if not “a life”), do not always respect the predictable forms: nations and citizens, churches and the faithful, workers at
work, writers and readers, memorizers of songs, people who walk dogs
or swim at the same time each day, fetishists and their objects, teachers
and students, serial lovers, sports lovers, listeners to voices who explain
things manageably (on the radio, at conferences, on television screens,
2. See Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an Analysis
of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere, trans. Peter Labanyl, Jamie Daniel, and Assenka
Oksiloff (Minneapolis, 1993). See also Miriam Hansen, forward to Negt and Kluge, Public
Sphere and Experience, pp. ix-xli and Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film
(Cambridge, Mass., 1991). For a powerful meditation on the contradiction between the
unconscious drive toward omnipotence and the project of democracy, see Joel Whitebook,
Perversion and Utopia: A Study in Psychoanalysis and Critical Theory (Cambridge, Mass., 1995).
3. Foucault’s work on recognizing the multiplicity of relations engendered at every
moment by sexuality has been central to this project. See, for example, Michel Foucault,
“Friendship as a Way of Life” and “Sex, Power, and the Politics of Identity,” in Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York, 1997), pp. 135-40, 163-73.
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Critical Inquiry Winter 1998 285
on line, in therapy), fans and celebrities-I (or you) could go on.4 These
spaces are produced relationally; people and/in institutions can return
repeatedly to them and produce something, though frequently not history
in its ordinary, memorable, or valorized sense, and not always “something” of positive value.5
Intimacy seen in this spreading way does generate an aesthetic, an
aesthetic of attachment, but no inevitable forms or feelings are attached
to it.6 This is where normative ideologies come in, when certain “expres-
sive” relations are promoted across public and private domains-love,
community, patriotism-while other relations, motivated, say, by the “appetites,” are discredited or simply neglected. Contradictory desires mark
the intimacy of daily life: people want to be both overwhelmed and omnipotent, caring and aggressive, known and incognito. These polar ener-
gies get played out in the intimate zones of everyday life and can be
recognized in psychoanalysis, yet mainly they are seen not as intimacy but
as a danger to it. Likewise, desires for intimacy that bypass the couple or
the life narrative it generates have no alternative plots, let alone few laws
and stable spaces of culture in which to clarify and to cultivate them.
What happens to the energy of attachment when it has no designated
place?7′ To the glances, gestures, encounters, collaborations, or fantasies
that have no canon? As with minor literatures, minor intimacies have
been forced to develop aesthetics of the extreme to push these spaces
into being by way of small and grand gestures;8 the wish for normalcy
everywhere heard these days, voiced by minoritized subjects, often expresses a wish not to have to push so hard in order to have “a life.” To
4. Many of these thoughts about the circulation of intimacy through stories and encounters that have impact emerged in conversations with Katie Stewart. See Kathleen Stewart, A Space on the Side of the Road: Cultural Poetics in an “Other”America (Princeton, N.J., 1996).
5. On the transformational possibilities of the something that holds a place open for
unforeseen changes, see Lauren Berlant, “’68, or Something,” Critical Inquiry 21 (Fall 1994):
124-55. For more on some official and popular contexts of contemporary U.S. intimacy
politics, see Berlant, The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship
(Durham, N.C., 1997) and “Feminism and the Institutions of Intimacy,” in The Politics of
Research, ed. E. Ann Kaplan and George Levine (New Brunswick, N.J., 1997), pp. 143-61.
6. I have learned to think about the antiformalist tendencies of the intimate from
reading Jacqueline Rose, whose work since Sexuality in the Field of Vision (London, 1986) has
explored the uneven circulation of desire through language in many domains-cinema,
sexuality, psychoanalysis, literature, family, and nations. She shows how the linguistic instability in which fantasy is couched leads to an inevitable failure to stabilize desire in identity,
a countervailing desire by dominating structures to disavow or demonize that instability,
and, nonetheless, the ongoing career of desire that pushes apart the very frames that organize it. See especially Rose, The Haunting of Sylvia Plath (Cambridge, Mass., 1991) and States
of Fantasy (New York, 1996).
7. For an elaborate answer to this question, see Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “A Poem Is
Being Written,” Tendencies (Durham, 1993), pp. 177-214.
8. See Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, “What Is a Minor Literature?” trans. Dana
Polan, in Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures, ed. Russell Ferguson et al.
(Cambridge, Mass., 1990), pp. 59-69. See also Berlant, “’68, or Something.”
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286 Lauren Berlant Intimacy: A Special Issue
live as if threatening contexts are merely elsewhere might well neutralize
the ghostly image of one’s own social negativity; and the constant energy
of public self-protectiveness can be sublimated into personal relations of
passion, care, and good intention.9 There are good reasons for this aspiration. Domestic privacy can feel like a controllable space, a world of potential unconflictedness (even for five minutes a day): a world built for
you. It may seem of a manageable scale and pacing; at best, it makes
visible the effects of one’s agency, consciousness, and intention. This leads
to another reason the couple form and its spinoffs so effectively siphon
off critical thought about the personal and the political: to refuse the
maturational narrative of “a life” would require a confrontation with another idea, that social forces and problems of living that seem not about
the private “you” are, nonetheless, central to the shape of your story.’0
I learned to think about these questions in the contexts of feminist/
queer pedagogy; and how many times have I asked my own students to
explain why, when there are so many people, only one plot counts as
“life” (first comes love, then … )? Those who don’t or can’t find their way
in that story-the queers, the single, the something else-can become so
easily unimaginable, even often to themselves. Yet it is hard not to see
lying about everywhere the detritus and the amputations that come from
attempts to fit into the fold; meanwhile, a lot of world-building energy
atrophies. Rethinking intimacy calls out not only for redescription but
for transformative analyses of the rhetorical and material conditions that
enable hegemonic fantasies to thrive in the minds and on the bodies of
subjects while, at the same time, attachments are developing that might
redirect the different routes taken by history and biography. To rethink
intimacy is to appraise how we have been and how we live and how we
might imagine lives that make more sense than the ones so many are
For intimacy only rarely makes sense of things. People talk about the
desire for it and the fear of it, but is the “it” simply commitment? In its
instantiation as desire, it destabilizes the very things that institutions of
intimacy are created to stabilize; and people are constantly surprised
about this. This basic disavowal is supported by the centrality of intimation to intimacy. Conventionally, in its expression through language, intimacy relies heavily on the shifting registers of unspoken ambivalence. It
is interfered with by metadiscourse (relationship talk) and prefers the
calm of internal pressure, the taken-for-grantedness of the feeling that
9. For a strong reading of the ways “the extimate” (the rejected, projected out but
never fully lost objects of self-identity) can take on narrative shape and intensity, see Joan
Copjec, Read My Desire: Lacan against the Historicists (Cambridge, Mass., 1995), pp. 117-39.
10. For a mode of social theory that rhetorically and analytically links the possibility
of concrete justice to a radical understanding of the ways people are politically (dis)possessed by stories, see Patricia J. Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law Profes-
sor (Cambridge, Mass., 1991).
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