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Private Affairs

Private Affairs: Critical Ventures in the Culture of Social Relations

Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Private Affairs
    Book Description:

    In Private Affairs, Phillip Brian Harper explores the social and cultural significance of the private, proposing that, far from a universal right, privacy is limited by one's racial-and sexual-minority status. Ranging across cinema, literature, sculpture, and lived encounters-from Rodin's The Kiss to Jenny Livingston's Paris is Burning-Private Affairs demonstrates how the very concept of privacy creates personal and sociopolitical hierarchies in contemporary America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3892-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. 1 Private Affairs Race, Sex, Property, and Persons
    (pp. 1-32)

    I begin this inquiry into the social significances of privacy in what may seem an unlikely manner, by examining some recent critical commentary on modern European painting and sculpture. Specifically, I want to consider discussions of works by Auguste Rodin, Constantin Brancusi, and Gustav Klimt, who, for all their differences in choices of media and technique, share at least one title, which designates one or more of each one’s best-known works. I am referring, of course, toThe Kiss. Each artist’s rendition of “the kiss” is, to be sure, stylistically distinctive, but as the commonality of the title suggests, all...

  5. 2 ʺThe Subversive Edgeʺ Paris Is Burning, Social Critique, and the Limits of Subjective Agency
    (pp. 33-59)

    To judge from popular-press reviews that greeted its release, Jennie Livingston’s filmParis Is Burning(Off-White Productions, 1991) has left a significant number of its viewers pleasantly surprised. What surprises them is not only what was widely registered as Livingston’s intrepidness in venturing among the black and Latino habitués of Harlem’s drag-ball scene, which the film portrays,¹ but also—and more significantly—the activities of the film’s subjects themselves, particularly their precise replication (in the context of the balls’ regimented competitions) of the styles and behaviors of a range of social types recognizable from daily life, from mass-media projections, or...

  6. 3 Playing in the Dark Privacy, Public Sex, and the Erotics of the Cinema Venue
    (pp. 60-88)

    Public sex loomed large in the popular consciousness in late 1991, for in July of that year, Paul Reubens—“Pee-wee Herman” of television and movie fame—was arrested at a Sarasota, Florida, adult movie theater for allegedly masturbating in view of several undercover police officers, and the ensuing media coverage was widespread and intensive. Amidst the sensational clamor that characterized this coverage, two things impressed themselves upon me: the fundamental silliness of the charges; and the sense that, despite this, serious questions inhered in the relation the case posited among social regulation, conceptions of public space, and the form and...

  7. 4 Gay Male Identities, Personal Privacy, and Relations of Public Exchange Notes on Directions for Queer Critique
    (pp. 89-124)

    For quite a while now, I have strongly suspected that Andrew Sullivan and I inhabit entirely different worlds. For one thing, as the editor of theNew Republicthroughout the first half of this decade, Sullivan seemed comfortably situated within the Washington Beltway, in a realm of national-political discourse and journalistic policy debate for which I feel ill-suited by temperament and unfitted by training. Moreover, the principal testament to his evident ease in that context—his 1995 book,Virtually Normal: An Argument about Homosexuality—offered precious little that resonated either with my particular experiences of the homosexual “condition” or with...

  8. 5 ʺTake Me Homeʺ Location, Identity, Transnational Exchange
    (pp. 125-154)

    A funny thing happened across from Byzantium, the moderately upscale, vaguely nouvelle cuisinerie located on Toronto’s Church Street corridor, at which I enjoyed a leisurely dinner with my friend and colleague Ricardo Ortíz, during the Modern Language Association convention in December 1997. Earlier that same day I had delivered a paper in which I pondered the sociocultural significances of my exchange with a panhandler on a Manhattan sidewalk in the fall of 1996, shoehorning the presentation amid a welter of interviews with candidates for a faculty position in my home department.¹ Thus finished with the stereotypically hectic official portion of...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 155-158)

    In the week immediately following President Clinton’s August 17, 1998, address—far too soon to have accounted for the speech in its pages—theNew Yorkermagazine published a special issue devoted to the topic of private lives (Private Lives, The New Yorker24 and 31 August 1998). Featured in that issue’s edition of the regular “Talk of the Town” section was an entry facetiously logged under the “Silver Lining Dept.,” the ostensible object of which was to consider the reasons for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s advance in the popularity polls during the months when it was becoming increasingly clear that...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 159-168)
  11. Index
    (pp. 169-188)
    (pp. 189-190)