With the election of Donald Trump, a number of voices cried that ‘identity politics’ was to blame. Identity politics – supposedly the preserve of those other than white, male or heterosexual (as though these were not identities) – was supposedly “the” problem. A sense of victimhood wasn’t far away: Simon Jenkins, writing in The Guardian, was quick to respond. “In America, as in Europe, older, white men are the only group that liberals can abuse and exclude with impunity”, he proclaimed. “In choosing “pale, stale males” (PSMs) for ritual contempt, identity politics has found a target … Were someone such as I to take offence, demand redress or “protected space”, I would be bidden to shut up, get a life and not be so sensitive”. And yet, the sense of ‘persecuted white / heterosexual / male’ didn’t just appear after the US election. In the first seminar for the Gender, Sexuality & Violence Research Network, we will discuss the way patriarchy and militarism has historically employed the “wounded martyr” image as justification for acts of violence and shows of “strength”. Reflecting on Judith Butler’s Precarious Life (2004), we will consider how specific moments of wounding – 9/11, the failure of the War on Terror, the failure of the neoliberal order (recession, wage stagnation, labour precarisation) – produced a response of anger, feelings of victimhood, and a desire for a performance of masculine (military) strength: Donald Trump. How is this trajectory rooted in the idea of the political itself, in what Wendy Brown has called “the historical relationship between constructions of manhood and constructions of politics”? What psychoanalytic investments might there be in fantasies of “taking back control”? How might we think through and respond to recent political events as feminists, pacifists, and queer studies scholars in 2017?
The discussion will be initiated by short papers from Dr Fintan Walsh (Birkbeck, University of London) and the Research Network’s committee members.
Open to all. Refreshments will be provided.
- Wendy Brown, ‘Introduction’, Manhood and Politics: A Feminist Reading of Political Theory (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1988), pp.1-21.
- Judith Butler, ‘Violence, Mourning, Politics’, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London and New York: Verso, 2004), pp.19-49. http://www.wkv-stuttgart.de/uploads/media/butler-judith-precarious-life.pdf
- Fintan Walsh, ‘Introduction: Performing Male Trouble’, Male Trouble: Masculinity and the Performance of Crisis (London: Palgrave, 2010), pp.1-35.
- Jacqueline Rose, ‘Donald Trump’s victory is a disaster for modern masculinity’, The Guardian (Published 15/11/2016, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/15/trump-disaster-modern-masculinity-sexual-nostalgian-oppressive-men-women).
- Ulf Mellström, ‘In the time of masculinist political revival’, in NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies, 11:3 (2016), pp.135-138. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/18902138.2016.1224536
- Christian Salmon & Judith Butler, ‘Trump, Fascism and the Construction of ‘The People’: An Interview with Judith Butler’, Verso Blog (Published 29/12/2016, http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3025-trump-fascism-and-the-construction-of-the-people-an-interview-with-judith-butler).
- Kaja Silverman, Male Subjectivity at the Margins (New York and London: Routledge, 1992).
- Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies, Volume I: Women, Floods, Bodies, History, Stephen Conway trans. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987).
- Rebecca Solnit, ‘From Lying to Leering’, The London Review of Books, Vol. 39, No. 2 (January 2017), pp.3-7. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n02/rebecca-solnit/from-lying-to-leering
- Kristin Du Mez, ‘Donald Trump and Militant Evangelical Masculinity’, Religion & Politics (Published 17/1/2017, http://religionandpolitics.org/2017/01/17/donald-trump-and-militant-evangelical-masculinity).
- Laurie Penny, ‘No, identity politics is not to blame for the failures of the left’, The New Statesman (Published 30/11/2016, http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2016/11/no-identity-politics-not-blame-failures-left).
- Mark Lilla, ‘The End of Identity Liberalism’, The New York Times (Published 18/11/2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html).
- Katherine Franke, ‘Making White Supremacy Acceptable. Again.’, Los Angeles Review of Books (Published 21/11/2016, http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/essays/making-white-supremacy-respectable).
Image: Martin Rowson, 2016.