18 April 2016

Psychoanalytic thought #003

Alenka Zupančič discussing sexual difference and ontology in an interview with Ran­dall Terada titled 'Sex, ontology, subjectivity' (2015), sourced from Mariborchan:

'The sexes are not two in any mean­ing­ful way. Sexu­al­ity does not fall into two parts; it does not con­sti­tute a one. It is stuck between “no longer one” and “not yet two (or more).” I would say that it revolves around the fact that “the other sex doesn’t exist” (and this is to say that the dif­fer­ence is not onto­lo­giz­able), yet there is more than one (which is also to say, “more than mul­tiple ones”).

[...] my claim is, fur­ther, that if we simply replace two with a mul­ti­pli­city (and claim that there are more than two sexes), we do not get out of this same logic of onto­lo­giz­a­tion. We affirm that there are many sexes, and miss the very onto­lo­gical impasse involved in sexu­al­ity. [...] It is not simply that we think onto­logy can­not begin with One (this point is not very con­tro­ver­sial), it is that we also think it can­not begin simply with “mul­ti­pli­city,” con­ceived as a kind of ori­ginal neut­ral­ity. This is the real core of this debate. I believe the altern­at­ive between One and the mul­tiple is a wrong altern­at­ive.

[...] the basic idea is this: onto­logy begins, not with One and not with mul­ti­pli­city, but with a “minus One” (Lacan talks of l’un en moins in Sem­inar XX). Mul­ti­pli­city is already a con­sequence of this para­dox­ical minus One, which is not, but struc­tures the field of what is. In this sense mul­ti­pli­city is never simply neut­ral, but biased by that ori­ginal neg­at­iv­ity, and hence ant­ag­on­istic. The way this struc­tur­ing neg­at­iv­ity (or onto­lo­gical impossib­il­ity as insep­ar­able from onto­logy) exists in the world is in the form of an impossible two, that is, in the form of sexual dif­fer­ence which can­not be onto­lo­gized, pos­ited in terms of dif­fer­ence between two beings, two onto­lo­gical entit­ies.

Sexual dif­fer­ence in the strictly Lacanian sense of the term is the way in which the minus One, as neg­at­iv­ity struc­tur­ing the realm of being, gets to be for­mu­lated within this very being as its point of para­dox­ical impossib­il­ity. My point is not: there are only two sexes, but rather: there is only the split, the ant­ag­on­ism. Ant­ag­on­ism is not simply ant­ag­on­ism between two things, but also, and more fun­da­ment­ally, what struc­tures the field in which these things appear.

You men­tioned Slavoj [Žižek]’s example from Levi-Strauss’s Struc­tural Anthro­po­logy, which is also a per­fect example of this dif­fi­cult, counter-intu­it­ive point accord­ing to which ant­ag­on­ism some­how pre­cedes the (two) sides of the ant­ag­on­ism. If the two vil­lage groups draw two com­pletely dif­fer­ent maps of the vil­lage, the answer is not to take a heli­copter ride and try to look from above at how the vil­lage looks “object­ively.” The point is, as Sla­voj said, to recog­nize that the two per­cep­tions of the ground plan are simply two mutu­ally exclus­ive endeav­ours to cope with this trau­matic ant­ag­on­ism, and they rep­res­ent an attempt by each group to heal this “wound” via the impos­i­tion of a bal­anced sym­bolic struc­ture cap­tured in their respect­ive ground plans.

Sim­il­arly, the nar­rat­ives about what is “mas­cu­line” and what is “fem­in­ine” are pre­cisely attempts at cop­ing with this kind of trau­matic ant­ag­on­ism by sta­ging it as a dif­fer­ence between two kinds of being. Which is why it is not enough to dis­miss “mas­culin­ity” and “fem­in­in­ity” as sym­bolic con­struc­tions (which they cer­tainly are), but one also has to recog­nize the real (the ant­ag­on­ism) that pro­pels, motiv­ates these con­struc­tions.'


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