An excerpt from ‘Dislocations’, introduction of the book ‘Dislocated Subject’ by Lorena Preta (Dislocated Subject, 2018, Mimesis International)
“A stamping ground for wild asses”
There are historical times where cultural paradigms and different behavior models seem to contrast, as if each represented a true alternative to the one preceding it, so marking a definitive and radical change. These different facets offered by reality may be considered as violent contrapositions of the preceding establishment, or on the other hand, it may be denied that they be representative of anything new and be considered only as contingent versions of the same phenomena; or still, they may be given a futuristic version, as of something still needing to evolve and that will be manifest in its true meaning, only in time.
In this way, there are alternative interpretations of events, which are seen as either sudden and catastrophic caesuras or on the contrary, as lines of continuity which blend the boundaries of civilizations, the ones into the others, across the constant redefinition of mobile frontiers. (1 )
Certainly what can be gathered is that every new establishment which makes its way into history is the product of tireless, social and individual destruction and transformation of the work preceding it.
This is a complex and dramatic process which constantly moves the boundaries of time and space between events and confuses the meanings we give them. As a result, we are occasionally driven to either including events in what is already existing or to refusing them; or otherwise still, to recovering them from the past and propelling them, without any processing, into the future, until we assemble completely new ones, eradicated and disconnected from any history or context.
Decompositions which appear to be arbitrary and disturbing or which provoke an inert indifference. One can occasionally feel pulled away from one’s own place of origin, dislocated elsewhere, without being able to recompose a sense of personal existence and of the history to which one belongs.
Yet within such a critical picture, it is worth remembering that it is by giving value to eccentricity, mobility, liminal distribution, that we are able to make our mental boundaries permeable and to confront alterity, in all its forms.
Is not the transference mechanism, to mention one of the pillars of psychoanalysis, a dislocation which allows us to place life experiences and temporal diachronies on an object, which cannot overlie past experiences and yet it is an access to sentiments and emotions which would otherwise remain unexpressed? A complex phenomenon which encloses much more valence in the psychoanalytic picture and has specific functions but which is the basis of every cognitive and affective experience.
We therefore need to consider more than one aspect of the dislocation phenomenon, a metaphor allowing us to draw the process, even physically. The main actor of this scene is without doubt the body. It is in relation to the body and its technological manipulations that we measure the most perturbing changes which today’s society offers us, in all countries of the world, albeit in different forms.
For many years already, our vision of the body and the procedures we have so far used to understand and describe it, have been upturned. This causes unsettlement and disorientation and often, as a reaction, we feel reassured by taking for granted and as already acquired, behaviors which on the contrary are entirely new and still need to be understood and analyzed, possibly with knowledge that guarantees us a sufficient complexity and practices that we know and belong to us. Psychoanalysis is one of these.
We could also say that the body is strongly on the scene because there is a tendency to place problems on it, which should rely on a psychic elaboration. This denounces an insufficiency of the symbolic function which is without doubt a characteristic of contemporary society. However, it is necessary to keep in mind that also thanks to psychoanalysis, precisely the progress of knowledge on the most primitive states of the mind and the precocious phases of development, together with the insight provided by the anthropological analysis of the various forms of bodily expression, intended as socially structured languages, has increasingly brought to consider the body as a bearer of a multiple and complex capacity of expression.
In this same direction go the neurobiological researches, when they do not strive to create mechanistic correspondences between the physical plane and the mental or psychic planes. They describe a plastic mind, in constant redefinition with respect to the phases of development and to the surrounding environment, which is able to organize highly diverse communicative modules. Therefore, we are now more able to take on the body in its complexity and to make it a “speaking” subject.
Yet the reasoning expressed by Foucault (2) on the new alliance which took place at the end of the XVIII century, between words and things, as a result of the possibility to observe the body scientifically, somehow contributed to overcoming the subject-object dichotomy. It helped to observe and speak of body and illness in a different way and appears now to be measured with fragmented and composite identities, whereby life experiences of the body prevail, rei ed or propelled in an increasingly distant and disembodied virtuality.
Once more the body runs the risk of being imagined more than seen, inserted in a “visionary space” where all attributions are possible.(3)
The desire or drive inhabiting it, find immediate realization on the plane of reality and drive up newly repainting, at least apparently so, biological pictures and historic characteristics which are already given, following individual or social drives.
Yet it is this same awareness which should induce us not to ignore the meanings deriving from the various psychological and social issues which the bodies propose. Precisely because we know that every gesture in reality introduces an expressive and communicative dimension, which is the product of dense interweaving between the individual and culture and which cannot be reduced to the need of satisfying a desire or exercising a personal right.
Psychic organizations of desire, transformed into socially applicable rights, are cultural expressions which may be either encouraged or repressed, from time to time, but it is precisely their historically determined character which should encourage to steer away from solutions that are obvious or dominated by prejudice.
Indeed we often see that even the most reckless issues, which come out as perturbing novelties on the scene, once they have completed their positive function of deconstructing the most rooted and undisputed customs, they then impose themselves as new unquestionable models.
On the other hand, the alterity inhabiting us in a substantial way, represents the aporìa around which, despite everything, we de ne and build our self and possibly, for this very reason, it should in some measure, remain unresolved. It would instead appear necessary to maintain the tension which characterizes, each time, the process of acknowledgment or expulsion of parts of the self which are negated or unexplored.
This same process would appear to count for the meeting with the foreignness of the external world. This may be applied, firstly, to all those changes which relate to sexuality. Can we find today a place for sexuality or as Vittorio Lingiardi says, “we do not have maps for these territories”? “Nowadays sexuality seems to be dislocated, more than marginalized”. Indeed, it is sexuality itself which is not only dislocated but also “dislocating”, always. This feature of sexuality, allows it to constantly unbalance the obviousness of visions which are shared socially.
Discussion on the origins of sexual behaviours, for a start homosexuality and the fact that we question its etiology, turns it into a pathology itself. Furthermore, it is considered either in its genetic component, or on the contrary, as totally relational and dependent on family dynamics. The boundaries are instead more undefined and fluid. The author invites us to keep a flexibility between the various positions, a tension allowing for “standing in the space”.
The analysis by Gohar Homayounpour, inserts itself into this debate contributing a height of observation and claiming to subvert the discussion on difference. The issue of transgender people, described in the situation of a country like Iran, where homosexuality is punished with prison, if not with death penalties, becomes the paradigm of how it is possible to solve in a de nite and denying way, the perturbation which accompanies the issue of transexuality.
Considered as a degeneration, the obstacle is overcome, inducing and encouraging transgender people to undergo surgery, in order to obtain the sex they desire and so reach a definition of gender which is final and stable. Through a documented series of statistics and interviews, Homayounpour brings us to consider how the indetermination of the sexual condition, may not be eluded with a drastic physical solution, which will apparently remove ambiguity but it must be borne and revived, allowing it to be enigmatic “towards an ethics of ambiguity”.
Many interferences appear between the desiring subjectivity, which suffers because it is perceived as dislocated, projected towards an alterity which is lived internally, as a presence which is more real than what the genetic body and cultural construction de ne, and the demand for conformity to traditional social conduct.
Yet, on the basis of this experience, we may ask how we can contribute to avoiding the risk of finding ourselves in a closed world, which finds meaning only for the single individual, where our personal experience, our personal inclination will ultimately reinforce a situation of isolation and where a detachment will continue, between the social and the individual imaginary with which we should indeed come to terms by accepting a two- way co-construction, between the individual and society.
Often we seem to find ourselves confronted with the need to claim identity, which expresses the unsustainability of the co-presence of alterity, firstly within the subject itself and ultimately colluding, as in a paradox, with that same aforementioned intolerance of society, for ambiguity, multiplicity and difference.
However, for the constitution itself of desire, the size of prohibition seems unavoidable, as we are reminded by Marcelo Vinãr. Yet how can we keep alive the interaction between what is prohibited, even if pertaining to the individuality of the subject and the claim for personal freedom of choice?
Phantasies on sexuality, familiar relationships and all that today seems to be on the scene in such a new way, have always been the basis of our psychic life, but before they seemed to refer mostly to the private side and not the public one. The “radical changes are not necessarily parallel (or in linear causality) with the internal experience”. Therefore we are left with a gap, a discrepancy between the present culture, the ways in which it manifests itself and the deep reality of the psyche.
It is necessary at this point, not to chase the present, acting hastily but to use psychoanalytic experience for “reestablishing a healthier equilibrium between the transitive (or explosive) times and the reflexive ones of the psychic experience”. In any event, the body we are talking about, is a body, as we often said, which is increasingly fragmented. Even on a literally physical plane, we can dismantle it and substitute its parts with both human and animal or mechanical pieces. These are life experiences which no longer refer to mythology or to our phantasmatic world but to our daily experience.
At the basis of these practices, we find however, a mythology which glorifies “partiality” and makes it an apparently adequate solution to the demands of time, but which sacrifices the contrasting idea of an “entirety”, where the deep need for integration is more acknowledged.
We live in the world of “pluriverse”, we surely cannot cancel the awareness of multi-dimensionality, both psychic and cultural, both geographic and geopolitical, in which we are immersed, but we must not for this reason sacrifice a complete vision of the living and of its surrounding environment, which aspires to the complexity of a whole, composed of numerous heterogeneities, yet without renouncing its coherence.
1 Silvia Ronchey, Chalk Lines, in Geographies of Psychoanalysis: Encounters between cultures in Teheran, ed. by Lorena Preta (Milan-Udine: Mimesis International, 2015).
2 Michel Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception (London, 1973).
3 Please see Lorena Preta, ‘Editoriale’, ‘Corpi e controcorpi’, Psiche, 1 (2003), Il Saggiatore, Milan.