Can the Subaltern Confess?

Notes–just some passages of interest–from the following book chapter:

Casarino, Cesare. “Can the Subaltern Confess? Pasolini, Gramsci, Foucault, and the Deployment of Sexuality.” The Rhetoric of Sincerity. By Ernst Van. Alphen, Mieke Bal, and C. E. Smith. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2009. 121-43. Print.

These passages resonate with me somewhere between my interests in the socialization of sexuality and issues of authorship and sincerity. I’m still working out how, but maybe putting these pulled quotes in close proximity to one another will show some themes.

  • Casarino suggests that “sincerity is the standard both of itself and of insincerity” (121). That is, one cannot define insincerity without first defining sincerity.
  • He also posits that there are three types of sincerity – sincerity, insincerity, and real sincerity (meaning it exists in an encounter with the real) (122).
  • Casarino surveys “the nexus of relations binding confession, sexuality, and subalternity–a nexus that, as I will try to show, presupposes a definition of sincerity as production of truth” (122).
  • Casarino looks at Pier Paolo Pasolini’s documentary Love Meetings (based in Italy), Foucault’s review of that film, Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, and Antonio Bramsci’s essay “The Southern Question” (again, in relation to Italy). The documentary consists of Pasolini questioning people he meets in public places about sexuality, often answering for them when they hesitate. Casarino notes that Pasolini “want(s) to extract the ‘logical’ truth from the interviewees, but that, in reality, one will have to settle for less, namely, ‘at least psychological truth,’ or in other words, at least a part if not the whole” (125-126). The subjects of Love Meetings were subaltern–“Either Southerners or children, or both” (127-8).
  • The documentary is non-confessional because it is not used “in orer to reveal–either in words or in bodies–that hidden truth of sex which is hidden by necessity and by definition. He uses it, rather, in order to plunge into that gaping abyss between words and bodies which opens up as soon as the physical presence, tactile behavior, bodily movements, facial expressions, or affective registers of the interviewees express a truth that can neither be hidden nor be revealed, a truth that can neither be affirmed nor be denied from the standpoint of confession” (127).
  • Casarino says, The History of Sexuality “turns confession into nothing short of an infectious pandemic” (130).
  • “For laughter, of course, is often one of the most powerful weapons available to subalterns of all sorts” (141).
  • “It is almost as if Pasolini is trying to convince the poor children of the Southern slums that he is much more like them than like those two boring old farts. It is almost as if he is attempting to strike a secret alliance with those subaltern subjects as well as to disavow any allegiance with the pontificating adult representatives of the intellectual bourgeoisie” (142-3)
  • “The former (the children) do not really care what words they speak, and hence their bodies can enact and display a sublime inaptitude to confess. This inaptitude points to other pleasures, other sincerities, and other truths–and puts them all beyond our reach” (143). (this is the conclusion of the essay)

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