Beyond Healing: Theorizing Masochism as Queer Technique
Anna Ziering (Ph.D. Candidate, English, UConn)
with a response by Shiloh Whitney (Philosophy, Fordham)
Wednesday, November 3, 2021, 4:00pm. Homer Babbidge Library, 4-209.
The event will also be livestreamed with automated captioning.
Defined in 1886 as a “peculiar perversion of agency,” masochism is one of many pathologized sexual interests, activities, and identities that have begun to shift into the mainstream. This talk contextualizes masochism within histories of racial violence, imperialism, and sexology, and engages new cultural texts that employ these histories for purposes of healing, pleasure, comedy, and social justice. Moving from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs (1870) to the “Feminist Sex Wars” and the Fifty Shades phenomenon, the talk traces the cultural shift from seeing masochism as a pathology or symptom to understanding it as a technique for individual healing in a neoliberal context. The talk concludes with readings of Jeremy O. Harris’s Slave Play (2019) and Tina Horn’s SFSX (2020) for their illumination of masochism’s undertheorized potential as a queer world-building technique.
Anna Ziering is an English PhD candidate at the University of Connecticut, where she has completed graduate certificates in American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her teaching and research center on intersectional feminist questions of racial and gender justice in twentieth-century American literature and culture. Her writing, published in MELUS and The Black Scholar, has received the Susan Porter Benson Graduate Research Award (2020) and the Aetna Graduate Critical Writing Award (2017). This year, she is a UCHI Fellow, a PEO Public Scholar, and a recipient of the Wood/Raith Gender Identity Living Trust Fellowship. Her work has also been recognized by the American Association of University Women.
Shiloh Whitney is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University. Her current research is on emotional labor and affective injustice. Her research draws on Feminist Philosophy, 20th-century French thinkers such as Merleau-Ponty and Fanon, and Affect Theory to develop a critical phenomenology of affect and theorize uniquely affective forms of injustice. Her work can be found in journals such as Hypatia, Philosophy and Social Criticism, Chiasmi International, Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, Southern Journal of Philosophy, Journal of Speculative Philosophy, and PhaenEx. Look for her contribution in the Northwestern University Press edited collection 50 Concepts for a Critical Phenomenology and Philosophies of the South.
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