Comments on: The intellectual value of being wrong http://www.historiann.com/2011/06/07/the-intellectual-value-of-being-wrong/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sat, 20 Sep 2014 07:56:15 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Comrade PhysioProf http://www.historiann.com/2011/06/07/the-intellectual-value-of-being-wrong/comment-page-1/#comment-836331 Sat, 11 Jun 2011 13:46:17 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=15482#comment-836331

I think history might be slightly different from the sciences (but maybe not) in that not all historians believe there was an objective past that can be found, but rather multiple pasts, reflecting the multiple subjectivities within each era.

Well there is certainly a fact of the matter concerning actual events that did or didn’t occur and actions by individuals that were or were not performed. From a causality standpoint, however, I can see how you might conclude that there is no fact of the matter concerning *why* certain things happened.

]]>
By: Dr. Crazy http://www.historiann.com/2011/06/07/the-intellectual-value-of-being-wrong/comment-page-1/#comment-835385 Wed, 08 Jun 2011 18:05:01 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=15482#comment-835385 FA – That’s a helpful clarification for the non-historians among us :) (Also for the people whose periods of specialty in lit are post-1900)

]]>
By: Feminist Avatar http://www.historiann.com/2011/06/07/the-intellectual-value-of-being-wrong/comment-page-1/#comment-835323 Wed, 08 Jun 2011 14:59:53 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=15482#comment-835323 I was being a bit reductionist; but a lot of discussion in 18thC history at least is around the idea of the ‘invention’ of ‘modern sexuality’ (not sexuality per se), which is intrinsically tied to modern ideas of gender, a different biological system (a move from the humoral to nervous system of biology); and other categories of identity tied to an innate and individuated selfhood. And people immediately before this change are often seen to be worried less about sexual identities than sexual acts- so sodomy is a sin that can be committed by anybody (or at least any man), but is not an act associated with a particular identity category (gay). Women were viewed to have larger sexual appetites than men, but this was not because they signified as ‘straight’ or whatever (if there is an identity category here, it seems to be gender). And, this distinction between ‘acts’ and ‘identities’ was the line in sexuality studies for a while, and was popularised in the sort of mainstream history of sexuality. And can kind of be seen in how some modern churches cope with homosexuality- it is the act not the identity that is the sin, so its not a sin to be gay, but it is a sin to have same-sex sex.

Now, identities are coming back into play in early modern history as we worry about whether, for example, people could be sodomites (ie an identity character of a group of ‘deviants’ who commit sodomy, but not necessarily equivalent to modern homosexuality); or in Mazo Karras’ work around the idea that certain women were defined by their sexual behaviour (prostitutes).

]]>
By: Dr. Crazy http://www.historiann.com/2011/06/07/the-intellectual-value-of-being-wrong/comment-page-1/#comment-835295 Wed, 08 Jun 2011 13:25:23 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=15482#comment-835295 Ok, I have to pop in to say that Foucault doesn’t say that there is no such thing as sexual identity before 1700. What he says is that our modern idea of “sexuality” doesn’t exist. For Foucault, the notion that a sexuality is something we have has to do with the emergence of modern subjectivity, and it is linked to what he calls a scientia sexualis, or “science of sexuality” in which our sexuality is something that is “diagnosed” through medical (and medicalizing) discourses. Prior to the 18th c., sexual identity was organized, for Foucault, around the discourses of ars erotica, or the art of eros (think things like the kama sutra) and rather than “diagnosing” a sexuality that is essential to a person, Foucault says, the discourse of sexual identity was one of being “educated” into a sexual identity, with a master who instructs the acolyte in the “arts” of sex. (Foucault does only talk about this on like 3 pages of the History of Sexuality v. I, but it is there.)

Now, whether one agrees with Foucault’s labeling of those discourses or describing of them, it’s important to note that he goes out of his way to critique the idea that anybody “invented” sexuality (or, for that matter, sex). That’s kind of the whole point of his theory of the repressive hypothesis.

]]>
By: Feminist Avatar http://www.historiann.com/2011/06/07/the-intellectual-value-of-being-wrong/comment-page-1/#comment-835273 Wed, 08 Jun 2011 12:07:30 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=15482#comment-835273 Ooh, yes it was Mazo Karras that I was obliquely referring to there…

]]>
By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2011/06/07/the-intellectual-value-of-being-wrong/comment-page-1/#comment-835255 Wed, 08 Jun 2011 11:17:02 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=15482#comment-835255 Feminist Avatar: I think you’re right about the Foucaultian “invention” of modern sexualities, but I don’t think many of the people who object to “lesbian” nuns are Foucaultians at all! (My field is not known for its theoretical chops, IOW.) I really like Ruth Mazo Karras’s article in the Journal of Women’s History in 1999, “Prostitution as Sexual Identity in Medieval Europe,” in which she challenges the idea that there’s no such thing as sexual identities before 1700. It’s a very smart critique of the Foucault pronouncement, and an invitation for people working in earlier periods to think about the history of sexuality in their eras.

And, like Digger, I was ROTFLMAO with Rustonite’s “We’re modern now, put on pants!” formulation. I will totes steal that for teaching.

Thanks for all of your comments–unfortunately, I won’t be talking about lesbian Ursulines in the paper I’m giving, and the paper I will give is not nearly so interesting or daring as all that! The panel is about Native women’s history, and I’m talking about women’s leadership in the creation of Native Catholic communities, and many of my fellow panelists were pioneers in making these arguments.

]]>
By: Feminist Avatar http://www.historiann.com/2011/06/07/the-intellectual-value-of-being-wrong/comment-page-1/#comment-835217 Wed, 08 Jun 2011 08:32:34 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=15482#comment-835217 I think history might be slightly different from the sciences (but maybe not) in that not all historians believe there was an objective past that can be found, but rather multiple pasts, reflecting the multiple subjectivities within each era. Plus, there are even historians, who see history as knowledge-making for the present/future, so that the truth of the past is, if not irrelevant, then less significant than the role of difference in the past in pushing us to think differently about the present/ to ‘think outside the box’/ to create new arts and culture (so we are using historical sources in many ways as inspiration in creating something new, like an artist, rather than engaging with past societies to find out about them). So, there is a whole section of the discipline for whom being wrong is just not the point, because you can’t be in art.

And, while I wouldn’t say Bennett would quite see herself in the realm of making art; I imagine (not knowing her irl) she would see herself as somebody who is using the past to talk to contemporary problems and to rethink the present, as much as to understand the past.

Changing topics- I think the disconcert with ‘lesbian’ comes from the Foucault/ Trumbach tradition of the ‘invention’ of modern sexual categories (straight as well as gay) in the 18thC, and a concern that such categories cannot be transferred backwards (unlike other categories which might have changed in meaning but were not ‘invented’). AND the political significance for the gay rights movement on this ‘invention’- in that it was used to challenge the idea that homosexuality has always been wrong/ taboo. Now, not everybody thinks Foucault/ Trumbach are right on the ‘invention’ idea, so such people may well argue there are lesbians in the past in a modernish sense (if not holding quite the same connotations, i.e. like there were women in the past and present). But, I think for Bennett, it’s about women-centred communities, which revolve around women and their intimate lives (and so asks us to think about women in relation to other women), rather than a world where their lives were defined by their relationships to men (and to some extent ‘patriarchy’ as performed in worlds where men dominated). What is perhaps most (or perhaps not at all surprising) is the resistance we have to the idea of female-centred communities in the past (perhaps apart from nuns, who are nicely locked away). Tis all about the men.

]]>
By: Janice http://www.historiann.com/2011/06/07/the-intellectual-value-of-being-wrong/comment-page-1/#comment-835055 Wed, 08 Jun 2011 01:30:34 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=15482#comment-835055 If you’re not willing to risk being wrong in a conference paper, you’re going to be rudely awakened when you are accused of being wrong in a peer review. Plus, it’s fun to try new things, push the limits and see where you can get some new insights by moving beyond your comfort zone. Especially when you can actually talk to real live people who do stuff somewhat related to what you do.

Isn’t a conference the best place to “try things out” and ask for feedback? That is, if people attend your session and actually have something to say about your paper. (Yes, there have been conference presentations I’ve been part of where the audience and the panel were pretty much equal in number.)

Looking forward to the conference where I get to try something new and hopefully garner some helpful feedback. Also, drinks on Friday!

]]>
By: Comrade PhysioProf http://www.historiann.com/2011/06/07/the-intellectual-value-of-being-wrong/comment-page-1/#comment-835054 Wed, 08 Jun 2011 01:23:35 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=15482#comment-835054 Scientific theories of the natural world are almost always wrong, in the sense that they are always incomplete and there are always details that later require revision. I would assume that historical theories are the same.

]]>
By: Rachel http://www.historiann.com/2011/06/07/the-intellectual-value-of-being-wrong/comment-page-1/#comment-835026 Tue, 07 Jun 2011 23:31:17 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=15482#comment-835026 I really like the idea of conference papers as play. It’s a much better approach then trimming an idea to its bare bones only to have people be all “what about [insert pet idea here]” If it’s set up as “I’m going to describe X and toy with interpretations A, B, and C” there’s a lot more room — and a hell of lot more fun — for interesting exchanges about your thinking.

]]>