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The Body, Sexuality and Precarity Author(s): Gaia Giuliani Source: Feminist Review, No.

87, Italian Feminisms (2007), pp. 113-121 Published by: Palgrave Macmillan Journals Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30140805 . Accessed: 26/07/2013 03:38
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87

the body, sexuality precarity


Gaia Giuliani

and

abstract
The focus group held in Bologna on 2 October2005 revolvedaround the relationships between 'body', 'sexuality' and 'precarity',whichare concepts at the heart of the reflections and political agenda of the feminist and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Queer (GLBTQ)movementsin Italy. Transgender

keywords
body; sexuality; precarity;identity;desire

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introduction
a debateon a topicalissuebetween theparticipants Thediscussion beganwith toolto explain able to act as an interpretative fora common element thesearch In light intoa shared different and to regroup struggle. opinions personal reality element in the post-modern of finding sucha connecting of the difficulty era, issue of precarity. This precarity what emergedwas the controversial and life - which is experienced ofaffections nature as theprecarious understood in and was men, lesbians, women, presented persons, transgender gays todayby sometimes It was of the focus the different presented group. ways by participants and of contemporary characteristic and an unavoidable as a newelement public inthe livesof specific as a constant individuals, private space, and sometimes and at the rootof the suchas gaysand transgender sexuality people.Body movements and feminist and Gay,Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer(GLBTQ) ofprecarity, while inthiscontext ofthe 1970s- assumenewmeanings remaining The idea of precarious of forms of subjectivity. centralelements (or queer) thatits has comesucha long sexualorientation) way identity (regarding gender, and (supposed) political inconsistency extrememarketability versatility, at the same time. enthusiasm and perplexity generate to thedebateon the linked Theconcept of precarious has beendirectly identity rise to new procreation of 'different institutionalization orientations', giving with all the ofthefamily as an institution, and thetransformation technologies in The discussion the focus doubtsand opportunities thiscan generate. internal of the Italiandebate on thesetopicsand to the liveliness groupborewitness movement within thefeminist some of the most significant positions highlighted movement. and the GLBTQ

what does 'common' mean?


Thereflection on the word as was emphasized is a common, byMonicaBaroni, reflection on 'whatlanguage we speakamongst whatwe say to each ourselves, whatwe can rejectand extract from the language whatwe can transmit, other, insteadof continuing to produce abstract ideas and theories which alienateus from oftheselastfew theexperience'. Ifthecommon denotes a years experience to work 'in in the with each a or general tendency specific', person placed group institution that governs theirownidentity or (in termsof sexual orientation to lookforwhatcan materially be the base for gender),it is nownecessary renewed sharing. inthematerial Inthe 1970s, which thebody sensewas a concept around common and were built. for the the If, analyses practices preceding generation, place and feminist of reflection practicewas the body,today the fragmentation and consequent 'need for security' that precarity withit leads to a brings
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the body, and precarity sexuality

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ofthatsame body'.'Today, it seemsobvious to me',maintained 're-significance Cristian has been'a linguistic and political shift one from Lo lacono,thatthere on expropriation-re-appropriation - which centred is why our typeof discussion liberation movements aimedto re-appropriate which was to something presumed have been violated,expropriated, to another of discussion. oppressed type [and] the bodyseemsto Today[...] we no longer speak of re-appropriation have vanished: we nowspeak of it as if it weresome sortof neutral piece of skin.Animportant external is the size in of the terms of its fact,however, body and meaning: we are at a stage where, unlike the 1970s,the bodyhas security becomea place of real meaning, to series of interventions a subject [from to which serve it to which is notcollective but piercing tattooing] give meaning and individual. Theneedfor andtheresponse to the self-made, singular security of existence itself these processes of bodily modification precarity go through which invade the minds of individuals in the world's richnations.' totally living to Porpora there is a new 'ofcentrality ofthe Marcasciano, Today, according type I have the that the continues be a to of body: feeling body producer needs thatit is stillthe starting butno longer the (desires, diseases), or rather point destination. Letmeclarify that:from the 1970sonwards, thebody has become a for and social but whereas at the it place personal experimentation, beginning - it was re-appropriated was above all personal as people beganto become with it- nowit is more a placeofsocial,objective andnotsubjective acquainted in The which to out and businesses, experimentation. place try speculations markets'. Ifthe bodyis no longer or the place on (only)the subjectof re-appropriation which to laythe foundations of one's ownself-determination, forthe certainty and symbolic and has beenreduced to being one's ownmaterial (re-)production what our in the 'starting then is to the and not common lives, objective point', sense? yetsufficiently 'subjective' we stillhave in common 'What is precarity', LauraFantone maintained, 'except into a political that it can no longer be translated easily language.If,in the was translated with its brief intoa long-term 1970s,the body project, precarity forthecollective to develop and fragmented timefactors makesit difficult any at all'. project in which fora common the horizon becomesa synonym condition, Precarity and redrawn: a lives are defined however, horizon, rarely continually very people's of and 'project' becauseit is, inthewords becomes 'an enlightening experience' we to that 'like the which are so close the Marcasciano: eyes eyelashes Porpora which we don'texperience beenwith us forever, is why can't see them. They've condition'. themas an objective a concept linked with a condition is, indeed, that,as it is essentially Precarity entered our politicallanguageonlya fewdecades ago. In specific modernity,
Gaia Giuliani

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ofcontemporariness, as it is an essential characteristic ofpost-modernity, terms the livesof the so-called southof the it does not limit itself just to shaping - suchas, forexample, intheWest orofthemore world women, marginal groups to the case but as the which used be or group Sconvegno GLBTQs prostitutes, accustomed to the mainstream worker reminded us, 'it managedto involve socialset-up'.Inthatsense,thisis andthewhole Fordist surrounding production at contemporary western the aspect that 'draws people together'.Looking to Eleonora of the pointof view precarity, societiesfrom Cirant, according existence, possible analogies emergebetweenvariousformsof precarious 'in the experiences of going that are inscribed that of immigrants including and new consumer out new identities ties, trying elsewhere, breaking family of this same condition, added Sexyshock, models'.Thenthereare elements if referenced transform from a simpleconditio which, precarity subjectively, and languages. intoa possiblearea forcreating newexperiences communis

identity sui generis


In whatsense can we Butwhatdoes 'precarious mean specifically? identity' Ifthe sense of precarity as a precarious todaydefine gender identity identity? inthe thatcovers the concept of the body(in terms of gender) seemsmirrored of we of sexual and the definition sexual should not orientation, identity concept of the preceding but rather of an properly speak of an 'explosion' categories incessantshifting between crisesand temporary moreor less consolidation, substantial or instrumental, within thosesame categories. to Daniela According in a discussion about the of not back Danna, 'suggesting mobility identity, falling can be important intocategories butcannotrefute a preceding categorisation. Let me explain:for me, sexual identification, the definition of the sexual of the person orientation and own has become less opposite important my only of strong aftera moment identification. if youcan't achievegreater flexibility theproblem of harmonization between and homosexuality is not heterosexuality resolved'. at whathappensin the changefrom Female-to-Male Justlook,forexample, as Eleonora 'a newM is not being a passage in which, Cirant (FTM), stressed, is being recreated [...] invented,but a macho model of masculinity themodel recreated is still theold one'. Porpora Marcasciano paradoxically being is opposed to thisinterpretation, thatinthechange from Fto M,'there is stating a basic need here,[...] a need to be "men" in the specific sense. Thishas created a greatdeal of argument, and especially suchas including byfeminists, inthecase ofthereconstruction ofthephallus. for the"penis"(which is Looking notlooking forthe phallus),is the landing a recovered destination and a point, thatthejourney to orarrival at a change from F to M, [...] I don'tthink hybrid. if thereis an arrival, has restored the structure to the state in which it was
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is handed to us'. Ontheother Cirant stresses thatwhatremains hand,Eleonora thatinthechange crux should intheF ortheM,but 'thepolitical notbe so much inthe"to", inthepolitical awareness ofthetransformation in itself. And today in use thisawareness doesn'texistinthe changeover as it doesn't exist the just of biotechnologies'. concurs: to the On this aspect, Porpora Marcasciano 'the peoplewhoturned the changeover do not Movimento IdentitaTransgender (MIT)and completed the experience to have been completed. return because theyconsider [...] of it is absent. the process is concluded butoften the awareness Scientifically, the but concerns This absence does not involve onlytranssexuals everyone: is we live and then leave no trace of ourselves. that Returning general perception has any to the discussion on the body[...] it seemsthatthe bodyno longer outandthatthebody has been thatlifeis a lifewhich has beenemptied weight, out'. because it has beenemptied made lighter - unaware 'Thebodyis weightless was takenup bySexyshock: Thisdiscussion to another. Theperception from one precarious evenwhen it is passing identity orbytheState whatis askedofthebody which unites us concerns bybio-politics roleto and foremost, a performing and the market and thatis thatit has, first how and know situations, play.Thebodyhas to be inseveralplaces and several the to perform exactly identity requested'. the bodyremains Andyet even as it lives its precarious strongly identity, are one of the and 'situated'.As Eleonora showed, 'Physicality sexuality Cirant to identity. can be madeto giveform areas where an attempt [...] privileged and Contexts are situated. or whether always Bodies, subjects light heavy, always in the waybodies are variations exist,[even if] thereis a rangeof extreme to hyper That'swhy we movefrom livedand represented. invisibility perceived, and exaltation'. to instrumentation from visibility, negation identities contactwith In the case of sexualpractices, (particularly precarious what demonstrates such as both of for sexes), prostitution, persons transgender or be individuals to of as thetendency defined Marcasciano polysexual Porpora of'precarious' hand,suchforms sexuality ('polisessuat').Ontheother polysexed because the individuals remain non-disclosed them, they practicing by generally sense. For to common and therefore 'abnormal' are considered unacceptable has all to see, precarity clearfor whomaketheir those,however, homosexuality Lo as has beenstressed forthem, condition: becomean inevitable byCristian individual of each natural become a that has is an element part lacono,precarity exclusion andthematerial timesbycultural inmodern marked lifestory, stigma In this sense, 'the homosexual of social reproduction. from the mechanics and more for the contemporary a sort of 'precedent' condition' represents as Sexyshock condition. notes,such a Today,however, precarious generalized of infreedom 'on theone handbya sortof expansion is accompanied condition
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which leads to greater social acceptability ofqueeridentity [...] and expression of marginalisation of newforms which link on the other, old bythe emergence linked to thedrawing and new forms forms ofdiscrimination GLBTQs up of against schematic diagrams of identitiesfor which continual changeoverand is notaccepted'. indetermination

precarious families
and the multiplicity of on sexual precarity, The discussion experimentation to debate whole issue back the Italian emotional has taken the on experiences of the family. the PACS'and the analysis of the concept

1 Recently in Italy, a huge number of Lo laconomaintained that'ourcurrent is to support maximum bills have been Cristian challenge presented to in which lifeis created,emotions and the area of Parliament by diversification in the forms of the The struggle overTRA2 shouldhave made clear just howcrucialthe members growth. Democratic Left - family, theemotions and biological ties. One party and the is thathas to be solved problem Communist of the thingswe have to focus on is that love, care and protection are Refoundation party the recognition and genetic investment each one makesinothers'. for ofthebiological independent of de facto couples, The family but as an both heterosexual was not created as a place of emotional sentiment, and homosexual. The or post-industrial economic nucleus. Andtoday,nowthat'industrial capitalism public debate on this issue is needsthetraditional nuclear [...] thebackward-looking [...] no longer family, commonly known in ofthedismantling Italy as the 'debate defence ofthismodelis related to thecurrent circumstances PACS' (Patti civili and the reorganization of the social state. Today'scapitalism wouldnot only on di solidarietd/Civil itfosters and begsforit.And we Partnership model, enthusiastically accepta flexible family Agreements), are are obliged to work with and structures which categories regulatory already echoing the legal adopted in - which dominated of power does notmeanabolishing them tout formula bythespectre France. 2 TRA (or PMA) is an acronym for the Italian 'Tecniche di Riproduzione Assistita'(Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)). In March 2002, a draft law was presented to the (lower What is indebateis notso much therealization thatthere are so many forms of Camera house). The draft written by a emotional ties and parenthood, butthe regulatory conjugalliving, aspect that was small Committee of thesenew forms While the idea thateach process of regularizingthe Commission for require. sharing Social Affairs and forms of co-habitation a the discussion model, imparts during positions swung aimed to regulate between thosewhosupport from thefixed heterosexual model ART. In April 2002, moving patriarchal the Movement of to a largely model and thosewhospeakoftheabandonment toutcourt of Women organized plural the conceptof family. The associationbetween and affection is not many events family (meetings, discounted. to abandonthe term as is Laura petitions, open LilianaEllenais inclined 'family', letters, etc.) to Fantone: 'It is a common based on thefirst feminist thatthe express their heritage analyses nuclear is notwhat be calledthe "normal butrather that collective

court'.

Lo lacono:'Sexualprecarity is positive ifit is not Cristian Sexyshock agreedwith or if rather it is that of that allows the regulated, segment mobility passagefrom theworld ofestablished norms and normalisation to theworld ofthesurprise. In a precarious and mobile environment likethis, to people youcan meetand relate with different desires from yours'.

family
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disagreement at the attack on selfdetermination contained in the draft law (n.47). Between 11 and 12 June of the same year, the draft law was again discussed in the lower house. Despite the many demonstrations in front of the Parliament, by the end of the first day, Article 1 of the law and some other amendments were approved. Basically, the law recognized the rights of the embryo, but it cancelled any right to be born; it allowed women access to ART only when there were no other available methods to solve their infertility. Only married and not homosexual couples are entitled to access the treatment. Finally, on 12 June, the longdebated Article 4 of the law was approved by the lower house, forbidding access to heterologous techniques. On 6 July, the 6th collectives, groups, individuals and associations of concerned people participated in a demonstration in Rome, but the law was finally approved in 2004 (Law N. 40/ 2004). In January 2005, the call for a referendum to revoke this law was accepted, but it failed.

which with inwhich thepatriarchal model combines with urbanisation, developed total responsibility forreproductive care. In thatsensethisterm women's is, in Daniela Dannacontinued on the same theme:'In the public itself, terrifying'. these new emotions to be is misleading debate, claiming [...]. It is a family ifthere to be used only are children'. concept the same family is 'the cause of the processof social If,says MonicaBaroni, howcan claiming of the various emotional ties as 'new precarity', recognition families' be a revolutionary It is the rather it process? opposite: 'ties people down to thetraditional models of the practising of emotion'. And arethoselikeDanielaDannawhosee inthelegalrecognition ofthe yetthere of emotion variousforms an important to reassess as an opportunity rights and therefore a 'generaland universal' 'individual', prerogative, againstthose whoperceive as 'differentiated': a right that disregards 'the orientation rights and gender of citizens'. (whether male,femaleor intermediate) identity Thefactremains, as is underlined thatsocialtransformations Cirant, byEleonora must be accompanied transformations and vice and thefactthat versa, bylegal thisis notthecase in Italy inthearea of newemotional ties but todaynotonly also regarding non-traditional forms ofprocreation is probably thereason for the the contemporary debate on the family and on various forms of state in which finds itself. relationships For MonicaBaroniwhat EleonoraCirant described cannot be the basis for the as the discussion on of 'common' forms 'emotions' or procreation rebuilding is only 'thesymptom and cause of individuals towards the private turning space of the public space'. In line withEleonoraCirant, and the abandonment herself thus:'if the fact of having takenboththe battle Sexyshock expressed intothe public arenahas horrified thosepeople againstLawn. 40 and the PACS whostillsawthem as private matters ofpushing [...] to thepoint public opinion of decreed the like towardsthe backward the state, by ideology security us is the which draws traditional [...] perhaps, then, challenge together family, alloweach ofus to liveoutourownplan, indeed thesearch formodalities which that might be'. whatever

desires
tiedto the norms oftraditional Thatthe response to the (positive) depreciation oftheway of one'sowndesires, is the legitimization received idea ofthefamily for cannot at all be taken out their own lives, granted. peoplemap For Monica Baroni 'thesloganused bySexyshock "Theonly lawis one of desire", inrecent thesynthesis ofthepathfollowed decades. I've represents byfeminism the fullconvergence cometo the conclusion thatthatslogan[...] exemplifies
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of consumption in sucha way between the idea of desireand thatof the offer Thisdoes not meanthat we have to becomeproductive. that all movements but it ratifies the which I personally of essentiality, return to a position abhor, with we will with that market and on the complicity need to reflect everything criticise'. 'is notthesameas factor' as a political And theidea of'desire Sexyshock yetfor desire.Forthisto stick,it mustbe the of individual somespurious attestation mediation. awareness and collective result of interpersonal [...] Andit cannot remain a sortof constituent ifnotas a strategy: it should, be regulated rather, and always active process whichnever manages to be an untouchable right". "constituent factor thathas it is a political Onthe other hand,desireis notequal to itself: in or 'In the these last 30 so. its own years temporal meaning radically changed has transformation of desire',LilianaEllenastressed, 'a substantial conception desire was the was thediscovery of desire, beennoted:inthe'70s, thequestion the horizon is name of the game and we all had to speak about it. Today, has become field which is the battlefield and this different: desire a completely and is inhabited by potentially transgressive subjectsbut also bythe market consumption'. that[desire]is for Eleonora Cirant granted agrees.Forher'It is takentoo much in itself it is could as be the norm and which subversive; conservative; just easily if how then desire is a it is to understand individual battlefield, necessary why and collective desiresdisplaceand remove the connection between and private public'. Ontheother can in no waybe of desire, counters hand,the concept Sexyshock, on the of it is rather more inthe lineofan superimposed possession something: that of desiring, whichis liberating in itself.'[Therefore] it is experience, to work on the meanings of desireand on their them limits, necessary shifting continuously'. Communica(ItalianFRCommittee), (Gender Participants: Sconvegno Sexyshock tionLaboratory), LauraFantone Gaia Giuliani (ItalianFRCommittee), (ItalianFR LilianaEllena (scholarin Gender Marcasciano Committee), Studies),Porpora MonicaBaroni (scholarin Cultural Movement), Studies), (Transgender Identity Cristian Lo lacono (gay activist and Ph.D.at the University of Turin), Daniela Danna (scholarin the Department of Social and Political Studiesof the State of Milan) and Eleonora Cirant (feministactivist, Centre of University Documentation of the National FemaleUnion).

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Dr Gaia Giuliani is a scholarof Colonial and Postcolonial Studiesat the Dept. PoliticaIstituzioni of Bologna. She is a member of the Storiaof the University editorial boardof the first ItalianReview on Cultural Studiesand collaborates withtwo Italianjournals on the history of political in which she has thought, and several book reviews. She also collaborates with Italian the published essays on themes and issues related to and Liberazione, newspaper, gender, sexuality, queertheories.
doi:10.1057/palgrave.fr.9400364

author biography

Gaia Giuliani

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