As a field, the history of sexuality is often divided into Foucauldians and anti-Foucauldians. This essay, which reviews four recent contributions to the field, begins by showing that Michel Foucault's own methodology is ambiguous. Broad scholarly consensus rightly holds that Foucault took sexuality to be exclusively modern and its emergence, hence, to mark a sharp conceptual break with the past. Yet Foucault himself also traced successive “recodifications” of sexuality, offering a genealogy of practices that presupposed the continuity of sexuality with prior periods, from at least post-Tridentine confession to the present. In following his example, such distinguished and otherwise like-minded thinkers as Arnold Davidson and David Halperin differ remarkably in preferring one approach (whether conceptual rupture or genealogy) to the other. Yet, despite their internal differences, Foucault, Davidson, and Halperin as a group illustrate the continuing significance of a difficult, deliberate historiography to the history of sexuality. By way of conclusion, we gauge this significance by contrasting their approaches to that of Richard Sha, whose work on Romantic perversion rejects their historical claims while ignoring their methodological interventions.
Book Review|June 01 2011
Kevin Lamb, Patrick Singy; Perverse Perversion: How to Do the History of a Concept. GLQ 1 June 2011; 17 (2-3): 405–422. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-1163490
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