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Screening Intersex

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Abstract:

In his recent work exploring the censorship of images of the Iraq war, Mirzoeff has called for an addition to “the rights of man,” the right to see. To complement and supplement it, I argue, a corollary right of such active seeing must be acknowledged, the right to be seen. This is the “passive” form of the right whose name makes visible the “hidden” relation of such rights to the drive to see that has been at the heart of film theory, which has argued for centrality of voyeurism and exhibitionism to the film experience. The right to be seen is also a solution to what Fraser has termed “injustices of recognition,” and it informs the work of Laclau, Zizek, Balibar, and Butler on the universal and the particular—for the particular is what can be seen, while the universal, as abstract, remains invisible, whether as the unmarked, as critics of normativity have argued, or as an ideal to which no particular can finally do justice.

In my paper I explore rights, the universal and the particular, and recognition, in the context of the relatively new intersex activism and its proposed program of (universalizing) rights, including, most centrally, the right to sexual pleasure that requires a “re-vision” of bodies deemed monstrous because they failed to visually approximate sex norms or ideals, which often justified genital revision surgeries whose result was a loss of sexual sensation. What sorts of recognition are intersex activists demanding, and what universalisms are they practicing, in their insistence on a right to sexual pleasure that is inextricable from the right to be seen? How does such an addition complicate the unmarked universal even as it closes off the universal as justice that can never be realized? I address these questions through a consideration of how intersex has been becoming visible in the few visual media texts addressing it: Alexina (a film about the 19th c. French hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin, whose “case” was made famous by Foucault); educational television programs about intersex (including What Sex Am I? and Is It a Boy or a Girl?); Hermaphrodites Speak!, a documentary produced by intersex activist Cheryl Chase; and a recent episode of the television medical drama House, whose central enigmatic case was an intersexed woman ultimately diagnosed with complete androgen insensitivity.
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Association:
Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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http://www.theasa.net


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p244610_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Tyler, Carole-Anne. "Screening Intersex" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Oct 16, 2008 <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p244610_index.html>

APA Citation:

Tyler, C. , 2008-10-16 "Screening Intersex" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p244610_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: In his recent work exploring the censorship of images of the Iraq war, Mirzoeff has called for an addition to “the rights of man,” the right to see. To complement and supplement it, I argue, a corollary right of such active seeing must be acknowledged, the right to be seen. This is the “passive” form of the right whose name makes visible the “hidden” relation of such rights to the drive to see that has been at the heart of film theory, which has argued for centrality of voyeurism and exhibitionism to the film experience. The right to be seen is also a solution to what Fraser has termed “injustices of recognition,” and it informs the work of Laclau, Zizek, Balibar, and Butler on the universal and the particular—for the particular is what can be seen, while the universal, as abstract, remains invisible, whether as the unmarked, as critics of normativity have argued, or as an ideal to which no particular can finally do justice.

In my paper I explore rights, the universal and the particular, and recognition, in the context of the relatively new intersex activism and its proposed program of (universalizing) rights, including, most centrally, the right to sexual pleasure that requires a “re-vision” of bodies deemed monstrous because they failed to visually approximate sex norms or ideals, which often justified genital revision surgeries whose result was a loss of sexual sensation. What sorts of recognition are intersex activists demanding, and what universalisms are they practicing, in their insistence on a right to sexual pleasure that is inextricable from the right to be seen? How does such an addition complicate the unmarked universal even as it closes off the universal as justice that can never be realized? I address these questions through a consideration of how intersex has been becoming visible in the few visual media texts addressing it: Alexina (a film about the 19th c. French hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin, whose “case” was made famous by Foucault); educational television programs about intersex (including What Sex Am I? and Is It a Boy or a Girl?); Hermaphrodites Speak!, a documentary produced by intersex activist Cheryl Chase; and a recent episode of the television medical drama House, whose central enigmatic case was an intersexed woman ultimately diagnosed with complete androgen insensitivity.


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