HOMOSEXUALS AMASESQUALS (2016)
Rebecca Ladida, with Kim Maurice
Bits of research background, because at times it helps me understand how the world comes to be. In "Scientia Sexualis", part III of his History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault explores the development of the scientific study of sex, the western pretense to unearth the "truth" of sex. He argues that this scientia sexualis has repeatedly been used for political purposes, in the name of "public hygiene" for example, to support state racism. By the 19th century, the "truth" of sexuality was being readily explored both through confession and scientific enquiry. "Homosexual" is a term that stemmed from this 19th century "scientia sexualis", the birth of a scientific discourse on human sexuality. Through excessive repetition, "HOMOSEXUALS AMASESQUALS" points to that history as well as to a ready-made posture/response (astonishment) in the face of this word which was born out of a the desire to identify homosexuality as a thing/pathology) by self-proclaimed authorities on human sexuality, one that felt the need for a word that would serve encyclopedias of sexual perversions, one that would construct a norm by hammering down its deviations, one that was first developed on misogynists, homophobic and racist grounds. While we have largely reappropriated the term "HOMO(S)", the word continue to carry a very sketchy history which is apparently not acknowledged by most "official languages" still using it (from school to government to sexology handbooks).
Imagine if that never happened, if the world was just a happy polysexual/pansexual place - where coming out was obsolete and where we could be talking about other things. Judith Butler invites us to look at the ritualized repetition by which norms produce and stabilize not only the effects of gender and sexuality but the materiality of sex. Performativity as citationality is Butler’s way of wording the process of reiteration (citations of words, gestures, etc.). “Performativity is […] not a singular ‘act’, for it is always a reiteration of a norm or set of norms, and to the extent that it requires an act-like status in the present, it conceals or dissimulates the conventions of which it is a repetition”. Accounting for the historicity of performativity means understanding the dynamics of norms and identities (subjectivation) through the repetition or citation of norms and the instability and difference – be they extremely subtle – that is inevitably produced in the process. Butler is interested in the conditions of embodiment in that it is through such process that the performative constitution of identity –including the culturally marked body – the materialization of sex as well as the gendering of the body – occurs.
Embodiment is defined as a manner of doing, dramatizing and reproducing a historical situation. If Butler’s theory aims at understanding the process through which gender and sex materialize – how performativity works –, she insists from the start on the transformative power inherent to that very process: the potential difference in repetition. By making visible this grotesque repetition, we hope to make space to question the way words informs who we think we are and what possibilities lay before us. Oh and HOMOSEXUALS AMASESQUALS was made by two franco speaking montrealers juggling with bilingualism and the intricate meanings attached to different declinations of the word.