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The Ethics of Marginality

The Ethics of Marginality: A New Approach to Gay Studies

John Champagne
Foreword by Donald E. Pease
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Ethics of Marginality
    Book Description:

    An original and timely critique which moves gay studies beyond both identity politics and the “rights” discourse, as it questions whose interests are served in an uncritical celebration of the Other. Champagne analyzes a number of recent films, including Paris is Burning, Urinal, and Marlon Riggs' 1989 video Tongues Untied, along with gay pornography. He uses the work of such critics as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Gayatri Spivak, as he establishes a ground-breaking and controversial new theoretical model for studies of the Other.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8621-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xx)
    Donald E. Pease

    As its title indicates, John Champagne’s project entails the deployment of a critical genealogy to dislodge the problematic of marginality from two sites—the carceral society and the field of academic disciplinary formations—wherein, as he argues, it concealed the bankruptcy of the “universalizing” discourse of liberal humanism (including its latest ascetic alibis on both sides of the political correctness controversy). By way of this displacement Champagne successfully realigns the problematic of marginality with poststructuralist themes—Derrida’s critique of the subject, Foucault’s critique of the carceral society, Spivak’s account of textuality—as well as the historically specific dilemmas of the...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xxiii-xlvi)

    In the months immediately following the April 1993 March on Washington, local and national media—gay and straight—featured a flurry of stories on the question of increased political rights for sexual/gender minorities. Over two days in June, two separate editorials in thePittsburgh Post Gazetteby avowed conservatives called for gay rights. James P. Pinkerton, in “Gays on the Right: Proposing a Marriage between Unlikely Allies,” urges conservatives to support the cause of gay marriages. He suggests that in light of a recent ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court that marriage is a right for same-sex couples, too, conservatives...

  6. Chapter 1 The Subject and/in Ideology
    (pp. 1-27)

    The critique of the subject has a history often associated with the names of Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, among others, all of whom attempted, in different ways, to interrupt a historical narrative of people’s sovereignty over their own intentions and desires, as well as the behaviors thought to follow necessarily from them.² For Freud and his followers, “the unconscious” names the force that undoes the apparently seamless fit between the subject’s expressed desires and consequent behaviors. This structure irreducibly divides the subject, rendering impossible all claims to sovereignty by insisting that what we call consciousness is always itself subject to...

  7. Chapter 2 Gay Pornography and Nonproductive Expenditure
    (pp. 28-56)

    In an essay written in the mid-1930s, the French renegade surrealist author and “pornographer” Georges Bataille divides human consumption into two parts: one part moves toward the conservation and continuation of life and human activity; the second part, “nonproductive expenditure,” moves toward loss, waste, and often violent pleasures.¹ Examples of nonproductive expenditure are luxury, mourning, spectacle, the arts, and so-called perverse sexual activity; in all of them, “the accent is placed on alossthat must be as great as possible in order for that activity to take on its true meaning.”²

    Because production is the basis of social homogeneity,...

  8. Chapter 3 “Anthropology—Unending Search for What Is Utterly Precious”: Race, Class, and Tongues Untied
    (pp. 57-87)

    At the 1990 meeting of OUT WRITE, a first-of-its-kind national conference of gay and lesbian writers, the African American poet and essayist Essex Hemphill spoke with several other writers on a plenary panel entitled “AIDS and the Responsibility of the Writer.” Hemphill’s talk was a draft of his introductory essay toBrother to Brother,an anthology of new writings by Black gay men.² Although the talk dealt with a number of different concerns, the part of the essay that struck me as most interesting at the time was his discussion of the photographs of the late Robert Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe’s name...

  9. Chapter 4 “I Just Wanna Be a Rich Somebody”: Experience, Common Sense, and Paris Is Burning
    (pp. 88-128)

    At a recent committee meeting in my department, the chair of the committee, a professor in a field other than my own, and one whom I had not yet met, began with the familiar gesture of suggesting that we introduce ourselves to him. For years, I have been uncomfortable with such gestures. In addition to the fact that they seem painfully artificial, they necessarily force me to confront my shyness, a shyness that I have struggled for some time to overcome, and that today still reveals itself in such awkward social situations—this despite several years of acting training deliberately...

  10. Chapter 5 Conclusion: On the Uses and Disadvantages of a History of the Other—An Untimely Meditation
    (pp. 129-168)

    In the second of his “untimely meditations,” Friedrich Nietzsche attempts to read the value of both the historical and the unhistorical for his time. According to Nietzsche, culture needs both historical and unhistorical elements if it is to survive, for, although history provides to every person and nation, “in accordance with its goals, energies and needs, a certain kind of knowledge of the past” (77), the unhistorical makes possible an act of forgetting that allows the present to rid itself of “a huge quantity of indigestible stones of knowledge” (78), “stones” that inhibit cultural development by fetishizing the past. The...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 169-208)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 209-214)
  13. Index
    (pp. 215-219)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 220-220)