restricted access 2.2: Muscular Multiculturalism
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provocation, the general topics are sexuality and power. Of particular interest to me is how these two items relate to one another within the anguished psychic performances of white heterosexual men. While masculinity studies has more recently come to the fore, sexuality and power have, of course, been a longer-standing focus of scholarly inquiry.1 And if one thing in general might be concluded about the academic fixation on subjectivity , it is that identity studies works best when it resists facile or reductive conclusions about the matter of desire (e.g., as manifestations of illusion, false consciousness , determined by economy, as an index of psychological repression, etc.). The vast attention to intimacy has produced some of the best of this nonreductive kind of work in cultural studies and, better still, in its more sophisticated cousin, queer studies. Both modes of inquiry have tried to lead a way through the gleaming shears of so much 1990s theory. They have tried to negotiate a way through, on one side, the presence of domination within every thought and gesture; and on the other side, an individual’s capacity for resistance and agency, the sticky tenacity of democratic hope and potential. With that double bind front and center, then, the “love” mentioned in my epigraph might indeed best be approached in epigrammatic terms. Like epigraphs more generally, the term here should allude to ways the expected and the unfamiliar switch places and combine. I want, in other words, to take the question of desire outside the formulaic rules that treat it within the context of this or that mode of repression. Instead, what follows tries to increase and diversify those rules, precisely as a way to critique them. My objective is to specify the changing habits of affection between men, overturning, not creating, the expectations for what I called above the wholeness that never quite arrives. So before the scholarly fascination with gender, sexuality, and desire scurries back into the shadows of more sober times, let me introduce the following set of questions: given the imagined coming of a U.S. white minority, what about love, the myriad prohibitions and phantasmagoria wrapped up in racialized libidinal attraction ? In Part One of this book, the general question ran as follows: in the wake of multiracial state recognition, and beyond the formal opposition of a black/white racial binary, whither the public sphere? In Part Two, I want to invert that initial line of thought and ask this: beyond the previous civil rights–based racial geometries already examined, what similarly inassimilable pressures may be weighing in on the psyche of (white) American men? Using the case of the 2000 U.S. census, I have argued that the presumption to speak from a place of identity in general, that is, in a public or consensualnormative way, has paradoxically tended to displace the Enlightenment subject in the very name of civil society. The effect of this displacement, I further suggested , was a collective social arrangement whose principle of unity now strains O F C O M M U N I S M A N D C A S T R A T I O N 76 the legal notions of individual rights. In short, the liberal left and conservative right have exchanged discourse and reversed. Radical-progressive thinkers wanting to move beyond that partnership are beset with what I called a politics of misrecognition, the struggle en masse for a body politic not yet named. Such a thesis was not proposed to reinvent the common doxa of postmodern excess. It was not my intention to celebrate fragmented subjectivity for the sake of an anything-goes form of pluralism (though one could say that the multitude is, indeed, ontologically empty). Rather, my interest in identity’s apparent social dissolution was offered to signal the welcome disjointing of an ill-begotten partnership between the triumphs of neoliberalism (its victories—recall debates over multiracial civil rights—hiding precisely in its losses) and a renewed understanding of race. This interest in what I just called identity’s social dissolution is where the second central question of this book becomes important. Beyond the critique of racial self-recognition already offered, what might be said about related political dramas that are attached to affection and intimacy? What might be said when new-sprung libidinal economies and heretofore implausible object choices begin to emerge in predictable ways? What happens when these object choices manifest themselves not (or not only) in specific boundary transgressions , but...


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Subject Headings

  • Heterosexual men -- United States -- Psychology.
  • Education, Higher -- Political aspects -- United States.
  • Education, Higher -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Whites -- Race identity -- United States.
  • United States -- Race relations.
  • Men, White -- United States -- Psychology.
  • National characteristics, American.
  • United States -- Census, 2000.
  • Multiculturalism -- United States.
  • Group identity -- Political aspects -- United States.
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