“Considering the System of Life/ Sexuality and Power”

18 November, 2008 HANEDA Masashi, ICHINOKAWA Yasutaka, NAITO Mariko, Secularization, Religion, State

On November 7, UTCP held a workshop titled “Considering the System of Life/ Sexuality and Power”.

Since society is based on the system of reproduction, life, which is inseparably related to the matter of sexuality, is connected to the problem of power. This workshop aimed at revisiting the system of life/sexuality and power of the nation-state by examining some examples taken from societies in different areas and periods. We had the following three presentations:

Ms. Emi Goto (UTCP/JSPS) “For Whom Does the Veil Work?: Changes in Religious Discourses in Contemporary Egypt.” Ms. Goto compared some discourses on the topic of the women’s veil made by Islamic preachers in contemporary Egypt and focused on a new idea developed by Amr Khalid. She argued that the veil, which had been what men forced women to wear, becomes in Amr Khalid’s sermons what women choose to wear in order to show their faith to God.

Professor, Dr. Saeko Kimura (Tsuda College) “Literature as Apocrypha: from the Perspective of the Configuration of Sexuality in the Court Society in Medieval Japan.” Prof. Kimura argued that one could observe practices of queering in the configuration of sexuality within medieval court society in Japan. She also observed that Fujiwara regency politics could be defined as “politics without sovereign”, a hypothesis that could bring us to rethink Foucault’s model of power, which is described as a transition from sovereign power in pre-modern times to biopower in the modern nation state.

Professor, Dr. Toshihito Kayano (Tsuda College) “Between Biopower and Nation State: Foucault’s Theory on Racism.” Prof. Kayano examined Michael Foucault’s theory on the relationship of life/ sexuality and power in terms of the emergence of the modern nation state. He argued that according to Foucault biopower is utilized in the production of the notion of sexuality. He also noted that Foucault developed the idea that when the two different powers, sovereign power and biopower, work together, racism appears as an important issue to the nation state, where power works at the level of species and race.

After the three presentations, we enjoyed an active discussion led by Professor, Dr. Yasutaka Ichinokawa (University of Tokyo) as a discussant. The dialogue centered on the concept of power, specifically the issues of whose power is delivered and how it is practiced. The concept of “subject”, who is supposed to exercise the power, was also thoroughly examined. Prof. Ichinokawa also introduced Magnus Hirschfeld’s theories to discuss further the relationship of the concept of sexuality and its historical context.

(Mariko Naito)

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