stop masturbating in public

I attended (3.01) Abstract Social Identities and Chaotic Everyday Practices on a recommendation from the Gin and Tonic Man. It was great. Bülent Somay was the last presenter and he cracked open the semiotic space, inspiring a passionate debate. I think it was Alisa Lebow who challenged him, wondering if he’d made “the same mistake as Lacan [by] giving priority to the penis because of its proximity to the father.” I give him credit, even though he didn’t seem to grasp the question about or quality of essentialization in the ways he referenced and thereby reified the outdated sexist conceptualization.
I’ll probably get myself into trouble here (ahem), as much of the specific information today was new to me. I’ll paraphrase to the best of my ability and hope someone will correct any errors or misconceptions.


Bülent explained, in response to Alisa’s question, that (a long time ago) there was “a shift from the complex female body” as the symbol of fertility to the “calligraphy of one” which becomes equated or otherwise associated with the penis. I didn’t catch the name of the person behind me who asked the follow-up question about essentialization, but he mentioned something about subversion – then we got interrupted by someone else who explained that the penis was big in the 1960s and/but on the Lacanian trajectory it became less important in the 70s. Well and good – Bülent said something similar, that the penis is becoming less important now than it was historically – but this is 2006! Men! Practice a little inhibition, would you?
Another person described the emphasis as “a critique, not a mistake,” and offered that Lacan had moved to a more formalist position of sexual difference … a move that aligned him “to think the feminine” with French feminists.
I give Bülent credit though; we spoke just a moment afterwards and he agreed that the question is precisely how to move out of/away from such discourse. He said he’s waiting for the women to come up with (a) ways and he’ll follow. Do you think he’ll really “follow” so easily?! 🙂
Besides this juicy debate, his distinction between identities and positionalities is awesome. Useful and productive. It is a framework that makes sense of many things. Condelezza Rice is quite the exemplar.
My notes from Göksun Yazici, Ferhat Kentel and Ugur Kömecoglu are a bit sketchy. I arrived after Göksun began (along with a hundred other people who came after me; I thought Bülent might implode with annoyance at the squeeky door!), it took me a bit to catch on to her topic. Once I realized I thought – Oh no! She’s talking about me! I had a very weird feeling about it since I had just written the previous post about public performances and affectivity (and – although I haven’t written it up yet, my own presentation – the performance of it! – is still fresh in my mind too). Talk about being caught up in a discursive flow! We also chatted for a few minutes afterwards and she assured me that I’m probably (!) not as bad as the psychogenesis literature she interrogated with its incredible interpellative ordering (as in command).
Ferhat posed the state as the center of all identities (identity formations?) and dealt with nationalistic discourses as well as discourses of fear. I needed some schematics to place all his concepts in relation to each other, but was intrigued by several points: the difference between “tactics” and “gestures;” the ways that tactics become strategies (blogging like this, according to Göksun – based on my very brief self-description of it – is a tactic); distinctions between “levels of practice” and “levels of strategy;” and the notion that after all the exclusions (for various reasons of nationalistic, religious, and fear-based discourses), only a very few people are “left inside” our own personal spheres of contact/safety. His overall point had to do with the juxtaposition of public and private spaces, and how the public is only a zone of surveillance and discipline to which everyone responds. He then suggested that even as individuals are subjected to the discourses and disciplines of public spaces they (we?!) also turn these discourses and disciplines to our own uses. Now, he pulls a fast one and argues that some of these uses are subversions, that they are part of continuous unfoldings of moments which eventually, inevitably lead to something else. What else? Maybe a psychogenetic genius with psi powers can predict. 🙂
Finally, Ugur’s presentation intrigued me because I had mentioned my experience of eye contact with pedestrians here in Istanbul. I wrote about that as part of my self-interrogation concerning whether I was participating in an orientalizing discourse about Istanbul sparked by Derek Bryce’s presentation on Day 1. Randomly, I met him in person on the boat trip and told him what I’d been thinking about. It seems possible that the very act of my blogging might constitute such an orientalization – turning Istanbul into “no place” except the space where definitions of East vs West are created. (I’m not too happy if that’s the case but this is the price of learning in a public space.)

One thought on “stop masturbating in public”

  1. I’ve been corrected. It was Basak who queried Bulent, and wouldn’t you know they have a long (familiar) history already? 🙂 There have been a spate of spirited conversations off-blog throughout the evening. 🙂
    No resolution.

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