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Private Affairs: Critical Ventures in the Culture of Social by Phillip Harper

By Phillip Harper

In inner most Affairs, Phillip Brian Harper explores the social and cultural value of the personal, presenting that, faraway from a common correct, privateness is restricted by means of one's racial-and sexual-minority prestige. Ranging throughout cinema, literature, sculpture, and lived encounters-from Rodin's The Kiss to Jenny Livingston's Paris is Burning-Private Affairs demonstrates how the very inspiration of privateness creates own and sociopolitical hierarchies in modern the US.

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Additional info for Private Affairs: Critical Ventures in the Culture of Social Relations (Sexual Cultures Series)

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Photo courtesy of Photofest. 10 Both Iola’s and Pinky’s experiences illustrate the degree to which sexual exploitation of black women by white men in the United States can be characterized as the man’s merely exercising his rights with respect to his own private concern, represented in the person of the woman, whose availability for sexual use—which is effectively 18 P R I VAT E A F F A I R S identical with her racial affiliation—is a matter of public knowledge. This arrangement, while it may cause any amount of discomfort in certain individual citizens, does not, I daresay, produce among social conservatives the great degree of anxiety that we usually consider to be engendered by miscegenation; but then, I would not characterize this type of relation as miscegenational for the purposes of my dis­ cussion here.

What impresses me most strongly every time I read this passage, however, is the degree to which it sounds like 20 P R I VAT E A F F A I R S a post-Stonewall assertion about the “private” nature of gay or lesbian identification. Indeed, it seems to me that if we analytically exploit this associative link between the political significances of minority racial and sexual identities—keeping in mind the fundamentally eco­ nomic character of the concerns we have already considered—we may discover that antimiscegenation sentiment and homophobia (or at any rate, institutionalized versions of them prevalent in the United States) derive their impetus largely from a common organizing prin­ ciple: the sanctity of the private realm as a means for controlling the flow of economic capital.

It is easy enough to identify the constituent factors in the reputed subversiveness of ball culture. Jim Farber’s own formulation makes it quite clear that it is the demonstration of the “mutability of iden­ tity”—effected in particular through ball contestants’ achievement of Realness—that provides the requisite “edge” to the culture’s sociopo­ litical significance. According to John Howell, that demonstration in­ evitably raises the questions: “[W]hat is authentic in social roles? Who does our culture reward and who does it exclude, and how dif­ ferent are they?

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