. . . . . . . Supervalent Thought


Feminism and the Institutions of Intimacy

Yesterday Corey Robin wrote a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education called “The Erotic Professor,” and in it he positively mentions a piece of mine called “Feminism and the Institutions of Intimacy.” Quite a few people have written me to find it:  here it is.  I don’t especially think that Corey, whom I respect deeply, has fully captured the problem of clarifying what it means to be professionally responsible in the scene of attachment that can grow from close collaboration between people working together in institutions, especially when the attachments grow from projects of knowledge where talking things through might change not just ideas, but forms of life.  I could go on about this–but I basically agree with his critique of the self-regard blazoned by people who think their own responses and attachments to students are and should be indexical for all transferential relations.  What strikes me is both that attachment styles vary a lot (some students want to be known as biographical persons; some want close intellectual work not to include information about their lifeworld; some want intellectual work to be less close and more casual, and so on.). But the ambition to have a personally saturating mutual intimacy between feminist/queer students and teachers is what my 1997 article argues against, anyway, as it considers how the couple form model of teacher-student relation reproduces inequality under current conditions of precarity.

I would write about the institutional and economic contingencies of the historical present differently now.  For another time.  Meanwhile, the two pdfs below are from xeroxes made 21 years apart, which I find funny.

Berlant feminism institutions intimacy

Berlant new xerox of feminism and the institutions of intimacy



The Predator and the Jokester
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“Pop!” from jakelikesonions.com

Al Franken has said he’ll resign.  If so, he will be gone from the Senate not because he was a vicious predator but because there was a bad chemical reaction between his sexual immaturity, his just “having fun” with women’s bodies, and this moment of improvisatory boundary-drawing that likens the jokester to the predator. What’s going on?

Lots of people are worrying about this.  Some are using the language of the “witch hunt,” which is a term people use when they feel women coming after men as though the worst guy is the typical one. Some queers are reviving the language of the “moral panic,” in fear that this moment justifies and amplifies erotophobia, an already pervasive hatred of sex that ends up harming women, LGBTQ-identified people—anyone whose sexuality or body or appetites have been historically disparaged by the state, the hygienic bourgeoisie and the religious.

Everyone has appetites: yet many people think their own aversion to sex or ways of managing desire are evidence of moral virtue. Nowhere is this more evident than in how they process the casual pleasures. Continue reading