Queer Angels of History (was RE: Butler....)

Paul Henry Rosenberg rad at gte.net
Thu Feb 11 20:30:00 PST 1999

Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:

> Catherine wrote to Steve:
> >>I don't see any material reason to believe that Foucault et al. really
> >>advanced these movements.
> >
> >It depends who you ask, but a great many 'non-academic' people highly
> >invested in changing the lives and contexts of gays and lesbians and other
> >groups kept on the outer by ideas about heterosexual normality have found
> >Foucault's own work and/or the work of people influenced by Foucault
> >exceptionally useful. The same appears also to have been true of Butler. I
> >am not sure on what grounds you are dismissing this.
> Any oppressed group wants to know its own history. Mastering history, it
> seeks to recover, master, and work through subjugated knowledge (how it
> came to be the object of oppression) and suppressed popular memories (how
> its forebears or predecessors lived, struggled, survived, and sometimes
> even won some victories). Foucault spoke very eloquently of how (and to
> whose benefit) popular memories of rebellions have been erased from history.
> The ruling class and its dominant ideology always seek to deny us our
> history and memories. Walter Benjamin's comments on the 'angel of history'
> are an urgent reminder, a warning even, that history is forever threatened
> to be 'disappeared' under capitalism, just as marxists and other leftists
> have been 'disappeared' so many times: "The true picture of the past flits
> by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant
> when it can be recognized and is never seen again." One of the most
> important duties of intellectuals on the Left is to help us see, to help us
> remember.
> There are, for instance, wonderful documentaries about Chile, directed by
> Patricio Guzman: _The Battle of Chile (Part I: The Insurrection of the
> Bourgeoisie and Part II: The Coup d'Etat)_ (1975); and _Chile, Obstinate
> Memory_ (1997).

We know that Stonewall, Harry Hay and Harvey Milk matter & that the knowledge of their acheivment is vital. But how Foucalt and Butler get in the door is another matter entirely.

Your wonderful commentary about Chile doesn't serve to make a case for them. In fact, I think it does the opposite. It's not difficult theory, but clarifying history that is most moving, motivating AND informing.

Heck, for that matter *Tales of the City* has probably done more than all of Foucault put together.

And *Angels In America*?

C'mon, lets get real about what reaches people.

-- Paul Rosenberg Reason and Democracy rad at gte.net

"Let's put the information BACK into the information age!"

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