‘The Function of Autonomy’: Félix Guattari and New Revolutionary Prospects
Guattari and International Social Movements: France, Italy, Brazil
Anti-Oedipus had immediate effects on French social movements. Among these was the beginning of what was then called the ‘gay liberation movement.’ In France, the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action (FHAR) was among the first organisations to demand social equality for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. In addition, the group had a conscious anti-capitalist political perspective. The group’s founder, Guy Hocquenghem, took inspiration from Anti-Oedipus. The desire to overcome the bourgeois family, and to reveal it as bound to other forms of social authoritarianism, inspired a practical and theoretical rejection of heteronormativity (to apply a later term produced by queer theory). Guattari helped to organise and publish the FHAR’s first public pronouncements, as well as arranging support from Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, and others. This led to political repression of the publication as well as legal action against Guattari himself, who was fined for his ‘affront to public decency.’ Guattari publicly defended himself and the right to expression of the FHAR, in a landmark case for French gays and lesbians. Guattari was also among the first French intellectuals to defend the rights of transgender people in France and abroad. In his defense of the FHAR, Guattari said:This is, in fact, more about transsexuality than homosexuality: at issue is the definition of what sexuality would be in a society freed from capitalist exploitation and the alienation it engenders on all levels of social organisation. From this perspective, the struggle for the liberty of homosexuality becomes an integral part of the struggle for social liberation.
Guattari’s social commitment on this matter cleaved with his philosophy. In his writings with Deleuze, Guattari described a process of ‘becoming-woman’ that could alter the potential of one’s own body. This concept could include concrete transgender experience, as well as conceptual, imaginative innovations that may not involve an individual permanently transitioning from one gender to another. He saw such practices as politically valuable, because they free desire (in thought and action) from the constraints put on it by the capitalist order. A new vision of solidarity, beyond fixed, identity, is at stake here; rising from a struggle to change the way the body and mind has been conditioned by an alienated society. Guattari met with organisations that defended transgender people outside France; these included the Gay Group of Bahia, in Brazil. These practical gestures of solidarity and experiences of new social struggles enriched his understanding of global potential for collective reshaping of desire.
Despite their novelty of expression, the FHAR did not have a good understanding of the particular oppression of women and lesbians in capitalist society. As a result, in 1971 a separate group, the Goines Rouges (Red Dykes) split off. Their most famous figure, Monique Wittig, drew from the work of Deleuze and Guattari in order to dissolve sexual difference itself; she paraphrased their emphasis on singularity to contend that there are “as many sexes as individuals.” In this reading, Deleuze and Guattari’s position could be martialed in favour of a feminist strategy of gender abolition. However, others have subsequently received their work differently. Rosi Braidotti and Elizabeth Grosz believe that their emphasis on embodiment over representation is compatible with a contemporary approach to sexual difference that acknowledges the excess and contingency of sexed bodies. This draws in part from the reception of their ideas by feminists in Italy.
Anti-Oedipus and Guattari in particular were extraordinarily influential for the Italian left of the 1970s. Anti-Oedipus was translated into Italian in 1975, where a social crisis was taking place. With a high degree of unemployment, government austerity measures, and widespread dissatisfaction with the economic and political order, many young people sought out a revolutionary path. As François Dosse writes, a ‘series of far-left Italian currents found a new language in the theses of Deleuze and Guattari, notably in Anti-Oedipus […] and the notion of ‘desiring machines.’’ In September of 1977, Guattari appeared at a great colloquium in Bologna, comprised of people who organised and acted for politics beyond the official left. These included feminists, gay and lesbian groups, as well as workers’ organisation. As Guattari’s friend, the painter Gérard Fromanger, recalled:This was the first time that we had seen a demonstration of twenty thousand young women shouting and making the ‘pussy’ sign with their hands. It was so beautiful! That was the first time we saw that it was possible! Women Power!
Guattari was regarded as a leading figure in this movement. He became friends with another radical philosopher, Antonio Negri. By 1978, the situation in Italy had become violent; the revolutionary movement had split between a terrorist wing, the Red Brigades, and forces based in more mass-oriented politics (like Autonomia Operaia, Negri’s group). The state was able to take the violence of the terrorist groups as a pretext to repress the movement as whole. The Italian state prosecuted Negri and held him responsible for the Red Brigades, in a famous and protracted episode of persecution. Guattari himself attempted to defend Negri and others.
In addition, Guattari drew on his own fame and reputation in the Italian scene in order to dissuade young militants from adopting terrorist tactics. Guattari became concerned that solidarity was becoming eroded by particularism, and that struggles in Europe were no longer communicating with one another. In a later discussion, he cites the case of a feminist group that split from Lotta Continua, one of the Italian revolutionary organisations. While the new feminist group made a number of theoretical and practical contributions, the splitting into smaller groups and the inability of them to communicate with one another was very detrimental to the Italian struggle. He tried to overcome this sectarianism in subsequent activities.
http://salvage.zone/online-exclusive/th ... prospects/
American Dream » Wed Feb 07, 2018 1:52 pm wrote:Transition and Abolition: Notes on Marxism and Trans Politics
Jules Joanne Gleeson July 19, 2017
The Hard Limits of Institutional Reformism
Despite her outstanding achievement as an influential thinker, Serano’s political priorities are set with hard limits which directly follow from her social analysis. Serano’s activism, while highly successful in its own terms, demonstrates of her ideological commitments to reform of capitalist society, and its existing institutions.
Serano has made a tireless effort to delegitimize the transphobic analysis of sexologists Ray Blanchard and Michael Bailey, more recently advanced by popular science writer Alice Dreger.18 Her blog features a proliferation of articles written personally, and a continual cataloguing of research done from an informed viewpoint on trans women. For years she has particularly targeted the foremost practitioner of “reparative” (conversion) therapy, Canadian psychologist Kenneth Zucker. Zucker’s “reparative” approach was a holdover from openly homophobic therapies of the past, pioneered by Joseph Nicolosi (founder of NARTH). Nicolosi’s techniques were used unsuccessfully by psychiatrists in an effort to repress homosexual desire in adult men, while Zucker encouraged parents to refuse their children affection on the grounds of “inappropriate” gendered behavior. Understandably, ending the use of “reparative” practices on transgender children has been a consistent focus for activism by trans women, sometimes supported by other LGBT activists.
Between Serano’s writings and the efforts of local activists across many years, conversion practices were outlawed in Toronto in 2015, and Zucker’s Child Youth and Family Gender Identity Clinic was closed in December of the same year. This can only be seen as a victory for Serano, as well as a clear sign of progress in reducing the harm done to gender variant children by the medical profession. Triumphs of this kind should of course be celebrated, on the rare occasions they do occur. But an ending regulatory violence enacted from generation to generation would require a revolutionary movement.
Serano’s activism political activity hinges on agitating for reform. This aim of discrediting actively destructive practices is not to be dismissed out of hand. Targeting the medical establishment has a long history in LGBT activism, from the direct action campaigns which saw homosexuality declassified as a mental illness to the (on-going) efforts by ACT UP to confront pharmaceutical company profiteering from STI medications, and slow peddling of HIV research.
The focus of Serano and other trans activists on improving the prospects of children passing through the care of medical institutions is reminiscent of intersex activism, with similar predicaments. Intersex activism remains focused primarily on the goal of ending the commonplace “corrective” surgery performed arbitrarily on infants and children born with “ambiguous” genitals. (Today termed Intersex Genital Mutilation.)19 On an international level, intersex activists have achieved remarkable breakthroughs in ensuring the EU and UN classify Intersex Genital Mutilation as torture, and a violation of “basic rights,” yet these medical practices remain widespread across the world (outlawed altogether only in Malta).20 It’s also unclear how effective any ban would be at actually preventing IGM surgeries. A worrying point of comparison is Indonesia, where legislation against Female Genital Mutilation (installed in the face of international pressure) did very little to end the widespread practice of childhood clitoral cutting. (Today the majority of these surgeries are performed by trained medical professionals, as with male circumcisions).21 Whether or not the legislation outlawing the practice is formally repealed, in Indonesia it has already become de facto void. Clearly state power and NGO complexes are unreliable allies, at best.
The “decentralized” nature of this medicalized violence demonstrates the pervasive nature of gender demarcation, and how undoing its harm extends well beyond defeating the state, passing the correct laws, or reforming the professions. For as long as gendered violence is performed through professional bodies and medical institutions, disputing their legitimacy (not simply drawing on it) will remain a practical priority.
Even in the case of official bodies radically transforming their approaches towards transgender and intersex children, intergenerational abuse will remain widespread. The bulk of gender-based neglect and violence during parenting will never be overseen by a medical professional. If the medical establishment halts conversion efforts, private “camps” run by amateur gender enforcers will remain available throughout the US for parents intent on curbing their children’s “deviant” behavior. Abuse arises not only from the instruction of the remaining psychiatric conversionists, but from the institution of the family itself. Gender substantiating violence is often performed by mothers fulfilling their unpaid obligations as the foremost reproducers of society across generations.22
Heterosexual families are prone to trying to recreate themselves in their own image. While Zucker doubtless encouraged some parents who otherwise would have proven more tolerant to mistreat their children through denying them affection, primarily his patients were introduced to him by parents hoping that their progeny’s supposedly deviant behavior could be made to desist. “Reparative” therapy certainly formalized and encouraged parental behavior which occurs irrespective of intervention from the medical profession. Even the most radical transformation of formally constituted institutions will serve a limited role in ending gender oppression, since much formative-developmental violence occurs through informal or “loose” organizations: families, peer groups, romantic relationships, and other social environments which make up the everyday; and inevitably also workplaces.
More at: https://www.viewpointmag.com/2017/07/19 ... -politics/