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Number 1: Spring 2008

Interpellation and Intensity: Thinking Homosexuality with Psychoanalysis

Philip Derbyshire

Homosexuality and psychoanalysis have engaged in a sequence of missed encounters, in part because psychoanalysis tendentially aims at a totalising theory of the subject, a tendency that Freud is constantly disavowing, thereby testifying to the strength of the desire (Freud 1913). But this may have to do with the surface on which the approach occurs. An account that rather promiscuously mixes Adorno and Foucault might see psychoanalysis as the discourse (and practice, under the ambivalent sign of therapy) that emerges where a certain social process fails. To put it another way, it emerges where a certain relation between the individual and the social, the body and meaning is both necessary and impossible. I refer to this as intensity and interpellation, that is, the experience of the body and the forms of social address to that body, which could be seen as the material instantiations of particular and universal. At one level neurosis is just another name for the insistence of a demand for coherence and the repeated failure of that demand’s satisfaction. Psychoanalysis is the recognition of this repetition and failure and its discourse is the attempt to name and suture the gap. Or to put it in quasi-Žižekian terms, psychoanalysis is the recognition that the universal and the particular are only unified by their non-coincidence. What is important in psychoanalysis is not so much its ‘positive’ content (its transformation into a positive psychology, or a quasi-medical support for a particular form of normalisation) as its perpetual, testifying openness to the ‘negative’, non-identity of subject and other and their antagonistic relationship. Looked at from this point of view, the positive content of psychoanalysis is the conceptual mapping of the historical forms that such a non-coincidence takes.

For Deleuze and Guattari this recognition by psychoanalysis of non-identity becomes a struggle to overcome it. Psychoanalysis discovers Oedipalisation, that is, the attempt to reterritorialise, to bring into bounded fixity, what has become a continuous process of deterritorialisation under capitalism. This, for them, is Freud’s achievement, his recognition of Oedipus as the imposition of a triangular meaning on desire. In discovering Oedipus, Freud comes to endorse it, and explanation corrals desire: or to revert to Adorno, the particular of a contingent desire is subordinated to the universal which explains and dominates it. Positive psychoanalysis disavows what its very existence signals: its explanations are testimony to the anxiety generated by its own central discovery.