Graduate Conference organized by the French Department of the
Graduate Center, CUNY : 365, 5th Ave, New York, NY, 10034, USA.
Date: April 11, 2014.
The concept of transgression has emerged, primarily, within the field of ethnology and anthropology in order to formalize unusual or extreme experiences (like sacrifices, for example) – experiences in which the norms of a given society (or community) are lifted, debunked or turned upside down (under certain conditions). With thinkers such as Marcel Mauss, Roger Caillois, or Georges Bataille, the concept of transgression became, then, a powerful tool to think, in a new way (with and against the psychoanalytical discourse), the conflictual relations between the collective (and its sets of norms) and the individual (with its need to express repressed energy). Later, with a thinker like Foucault, the concept of transgression became the very core of a new kind of dialectic (and writing) – a dialectic that would not be subordinate to the idea of a repressed energy, or more generally, to the idea of negativity. On the contrary, transgression, for Foucault, became the name of a new ontology based on a critical and historical approach to norms. Finally, within the field of gender and queer studies, transgression seems to have become the subtext on which the idea of “subversive performativity” has built its own discourse–a discourse that is, at the same time, highly critical towards transgression (for being the ultimate and paradoxical legitimation of the heterosexual matrix) and deeply influenced by it (especially when it comes to proposing a new model of subjectivity that could go beyond the Hegelian model of recognition).
The aim of this conference is to explore the notion of transgression, its becoming, its limits, and its possible future within the field of queer and feminist studies as a possible source of agency. In what sense could transgression be said to have introduced a revolution inside language and thinking? Under which conditions does transgression become a set of regressive gestures that can’t be taken as a “positive” transgression? In what sense can transgression be seen as the point of departure for what queer studies has called “performativity,” and more importantly, “subversive performativity” (which would be a performance that is conscious of the artificial nature of what is being performed)?
Conference organized by Frédéric-Charles Baitinger, Allison Faris, Thomas Muzart, Antoinette Williams-Tutt with support from the Henri Peyre French Institute and the Doctoral Students’ Council (DSC)
* Image: Jean Cocteau, Orphée, 1950.