"I didn't think it would turn out this way" is the secret epitaph of intimacy. To intimate is to communicate with the sparest of signs and gestures, and at its root intimacy has the quality of eloquence and brevity. But intimacy also involves an aspiration for a narrative about something shared, a story about both oneself and others that will turn out in a particular way. Usually, this story is set within zones of familiarity and comfort: friendship, the couple, and the family form, animated by expressive and emancipating kinds of love. Yet the inwardness of the intimate is met by a corresponding publicness. People consent to trust their desire for "a life" to institutions of intimacy; and it is hoped that the relations formed within those frames will turn out beautifully, lasting over the long duration, per-haps across generations.
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).
Will all the adulterers in the room please stand up? This means all you cheating wives and philandering husbands, past, present, and future. While adultery's paradigmatic form requires the context of a state-sanctioned marriage, any long-term public couple arrangement based on the assumption of sexual fidelity will do for our purposes: gay or straight, anywhere the commitment to monogamy reigns, adultery will provide its structural transgression, and you can commit it with any sex or gender your psyche can manage to organize its desire around (which may not always be the same one that shapes your public commitments).2 Those who have fantasized about it a lot, please rise also. So may those who have ever played supporting roles in the adultery melodrama: "other man"; "other woman"; suspicious spouse or marital detective (“I called your office at 3 and they said you'd left!”); or, least fun of all, the miserable cuckold or cuckoldess. Which, of course, you may be without—at least consciously—knowing you are. Feel free to take a second to mull this over, or just to make a quick call home: "Hi hon, just checking in!"
· 2. The point that adultery is a structural transgression of marriage is made by Tony Tanner in Adultery in the Novel: Contract and Transgression (Baltimore, 1979), pp. 3-11.
Laura Kipnis teaches in the department of radio, television, and film at Northwestern University. She is the author of Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America( 1996) and Ecstasy Unlimited: On Sex, Capital, Gender, and Aesthetics (1993).
My purpose in this paper is not to argue against the thought that intimacy is sometimes a matter of reciprocal self-expression and self-scrutiny, nor even to deny that self-expressive intimacy can be soothing, but rather to contend, first, that not all intimacies are affairs of the self and that, second, the fact that some intimacies are not affairs of the self is what makes people want them. To do this, I will tell a story about what I will call depersonalizing intimacies.
See also: Candace Vogler, The Moral of the Story
Candace Vogler is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago where she teaches philosophy and gender studies. She is currently at work on a book about practical rationality to be entitled Reason and Action.
The one thing that seems clear to me from reading Sex in America is that if one wants to generate new knowledge either about why the AIDS virus continues to spread or about American sexual practices more generally, then one has to supplement statistical analysis with some other kind of instrument, which will not reduce sexuality to sex acts. To so reduce sexuality is to strip it of both the cultural connotations and the personal fantasies that, even according to the sex surveyors, inform every experience of sexuality. To denude sexuality of these meanings, in turn, if only for the purposes of research, does not only impoverish the terms available to us for understanding our own sexuality; it also makes it impossible to understand why so many American youths continue to think of unprotected, penetrative sex as the only "real" sex, even though they know the risk of AIDS. Anyone who wants to help halt the pandemic of AIDS has to address these young people's fantasies—not just about sex but about all of the social issues upon which sexuality impinges.
Mary Poovey is professor of English and founding director of the Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge at New York University. Her books include The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen (1984), Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England (1988), Making a Social Body: British Cultural Formation, 1830-1864 (1995), and A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society (forthcoming).
In sum, then, 68ers deliberately invoked the horrors of the Holocaust to strengthen their case for sexual liberation, even as, precisely in so doing, they displayed singular insensitivity to the victims and survivors of those horrors. Whether there is anything poignant here, or whether this is just repugnant, is a question that remains open.
See also: Amit Pinchevski, The Audiovisual Unconscious: Media and Trauma in the Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies · Michael Rothberg, Between Auschwitz and Algeria: Multidirectional Memory and the Counterpublic Witness
Dagmar Herzog is associate professor of history at Michigan State University and the author of Intimacy and Exclusion: Religious Politics in Pre-Revolutionary Baden (1996). She is currently working on a sexual history of West Germany from the 1940s to the 1990s.
This is about the experience of stories, about how they layer, conjoin, and linger. The stories I'll speak of are both my own and those of Bosavi people who live in the rain forests of the Great Papuan Plateau, in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Some were first heard in the Bosavi region; others are an overlapping accumulation of later tellings and retellings. Biographically intertextual and intervocal, these stories are positioned in two distinct languages, in a variety of monologic and dialogic moods. They travel through twenty years of changing locations and through frequent shifts of speaker authority.
Of the intertwined strands of Bosavi stories and my own that I could explore, it is the stylized, coarse texture of male evocation that concerns me here. Listening to how some male voices across lifeworlds and locales perform their gendered intersubjectivities, I mean to question ways culture making is revealed in storied intimacies. Above all, I want to attend to momentary collisions of male voices, voices that are typically situated in radically distinct historical space-times, and to explore the ironies of those collisions, the spaces of what they absorb, deflect, and exchange about bodies and desires.
Steven Feld is professor of anthropology at New York University. He is the author of Sound and Sentiment (1990); Voices of the Rainforest (1991); with Charles Keil, Music Grooves (1994); and editor, with Keith Basso, of Senses of Place (1996).
"If you don't get it, Jody's gonna get it" was the advice given to me by a coworker at Bloomingdale's in 1981, the second stop in a series of terminal jobs I held during my first two years after college. His advice concerned a woman I was seeing at the time, who later became my wife. He thought she was nice and attractive and for that reason concluded that others, Jody in particular, would feel the same way about her. Though Jody was not an employee at Bloomingdale's, he nonetheless worked there.
Jody is always on the job, even if he is not gainfully employed. As many older people in black communities across the United States know, Jody is both a person and nonperson. He does not exist, but then again he is everywhere. Jody's principal characteristic is his ability to exist at the margins of others' love relationships, rather than at the center of a relationship of his own. He appears in the emotional and libidinal fissures that often exist between lovers, with promises to sate unfulfilled, unquenchable desires.
Michael Hanchard is associate professor of political science and African American studies at Northwestern University. He is the author of Orpheus and Power: The Movimento Negro of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil, 1945-1988 (1994) and editor of the forthcoming Racial Politics in Contemporary Brazil.
The notion of intimacy is connected to home; intimate means "inner-most," "pertaining to ... one's deepest nature," "very personal," "sexual."3 I will speak about something that might seem paradoxical—a diasporic intimacy that is not opposed to uprootedness and defamiliarization but constituted by it. In the late twentieth century millions of people find themselves displaced from their places of birth, living in voluntary or involuntary exile. Their intimate experiences occur against a foreign background, where they are aware of the unfamiliar stage set whether they like it or not. Immigrants to the United States, moreover, often bring with them different traditions of social interaction, often less individualistic than those they encounter in their new surroundings. In contemporary American pop psychology one is encouraged "not to be afraid of intimacy," with a presumption that intimate communication can and should be made in plain language. You'd have to feel at home to be intimate, "to say what you mean." Immigrants—and many alienated natives as well—can't help but dread this kind of plain language. To intimate also means "to communicate with a hint or other indirect sign; [to] imply subtly."4 Diasporic intimacy can be approached only through indirection and intimation, through stories and secrets. It is spoken in a foreign language that reveals the inadequacies of translation. Diasporic intimacy does not promise an unmediated emotional fusion but only a precarious affection-no less deep, while aware of its transience. In contrast to the utopian images of intimacy as transparency, authenticity, and ultimate belonging, diasporic intimacy is dystopian by definition; it is rooted in the suspicion of a single home. It thrives on unpredictable chance encounters, on hope for human understanding. Yet this hope is not utopian. Diasporic intimacy is not limited to the private sphere but reflects collective frameworks of memory that encapsulate even the most personal of dreams. It is haunted by images of home and homeland, yet it also discloses some of the furtive pleasures of exile.
· 3. American Heritage Dictionary, s. v. "intimate."
· 4. Ibid.
Svetlana Boym is professor of Slavic and comparative literature at Harvard University. She is the author of Common Places: Mythologies of Everyday Life in Russia (1994), Death in Quotation Marks: Cultural Myths of the Modern Poet (1991), and of the play and film The Woman Who Shot Lenin. She is currently working on a book on nostalgia.
Can a woman be the mother of a child with whom she has no genetic connection—as was the case for Johnson? Or does the genetic material provided by the egg and the sperm donated to create the child determine who its natural parent or parents are? When does a woman become a mother—while she is pregnant or after she has delivered a baby? What of the bodily experience of pregnancy? Does a woman's participation in pregnancy—her carrying the fetus in her uterus—have any bearing on determining who the "true" or "natural" mother is? In light of the choices made available by new reproductive technologies, can we sensibly argue, as was done in Anna J. v. Mark C., that genes and genes alone should be the determining factor in defining parental rights and relationships, or that custody disputes should be decided solely on the basis of the parental intent of the persons who supplied the genetic material? Who and what is a mother? Can a child, as Justice Joyce Kennard asked during the California Supreme Court hearing of Johnson v. Calvert, have two biological mothers?5
· 5. See Kennard's dissenting comments in Johnson v. Calvert, 19 Cal. Rptr.2d, 506-18 (Cal. 1993); cert. denied, 114 S.Ct 206 (1993).
Deborah R. Grayson is assistant professor in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is currently completing a book on black women, beauty, health, and culture and another on contemporary black women's health activism.
We are used to thinking about sexuality as a form of intimacy and subjectivity, and we have just demonstrated how limited that representation is. But the heteronormativity of U.S. culture is not something that can be easily rezoned or disavowed by individual acts of will, by a subversiveness imagined only as personal rather than as the basis of public-formation, nor even by the lyric moments that interrupt the hostile cultural narrative that we have been staging here. Remembering the utopian wish behind normal intimate life, we also want to remember that we aren't married to it.
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). Michael Warner is professor of English at Rutgers University. He is the author of The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America (1990), editor of Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory (1993), and has written for, among other publications, Village Voice, The Nation, and The Advocate. He is currently editing a volume to be called American Sermons.
Intimate photographs by Laura Letinsky, with a foreword by Joel Snyder.
Joel Snyder is professor and chair of the department of art history at the University of Chicago. He is a coeditor of Critical Inquiry and author of numerous essays on photography. Laura Letinsky is assistant professor on the Committee of Art and Design at the University of Chicago. She has exhibited her work at the Chicago Humanities Institute; Le Mois de la Photo, Quebec; the San Francisco Museum of Art; and White Columns Gallery, New York, among others.
In Western Europe and the United States, public anxieties about cultural diversity and national identity are often expressed at the tip of the clitoris. In the late 1990s, an economically depressed and politically terrorized France could not agree on the grounds for excluding from the nation the North African diaspora living there but could, at least initially, agree on the necessity of outlawing the "'genital mutilations"' some in this community inflict on its young girls.
See also: Nicholas Thomas, Kiss the Baby Goodbye: "Kowhaiwhai" and Aesthetics in Aotearoa New Zealand · Stanley Fish, Boutique Multiculturalism, or Why Liberals Are Incapable of Thinking about HateSpeech
Elizabeth A. Povinelli is associate professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Labor's Lot: The Power, History, and Culture of Aboriginal Action (1993). She is currently working on a study of Australian multiculturalism and indigenous sexuality and citizenship.
Apparently it's as a patient that I want to emerge. "Oh, I guess I'm sup-posed to call you my client, not my patient," Shannon said once, "but that's the way they taught us, back in graduate school—seems like too much trouble to change."
Besides, I like patient. It is true I can be very patient. And Shannon is like this too, so the word doesn't feel like placing me at a distance. Then, it seems a modest
word that makes no claim
to anything but—wanting
to be happier
and wanting, it's true, someone else to shoulder a lot of agency in the matter of my happiness.
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick is the Newman Ivey White Professor of English at Duke University. Her current writing projects include The Raw and the Frozen: Essays in Queer Performativity and Affect and A Dialogue on Love, from which the present essay is extracted.