Teaching deconstructivist ideas surrounding sexual identities : productive risks and effective pedagogy

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Gremillion, Helen
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Conference Contribution - Oral Presentation
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Unitec courses
PGDip Counselling
Discourses of Social Practice
sexual identities
Foucault, Michel (1926-1984)
Derrida, Jacques (1930-2004)
Gremillion, H. (2015, December). Teaching deconstructivist ideas surrounding sexual identities: Productive risks and effective pedagogy. Paper presented at Sociological Association of Aotearoa New Zealand Annual Conference, Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand.
In this presentation, I explore the promises and risks associated with my approach to teaching content around the construction of sexual identities. Focus on two class exercises. Teaching contexts: one bachelor’s level course (Discourses of Social Practice), and a postgrad course (PGDip Counselling). To set up this material, I draw on Foucault’s writings (1978) on the invention of sexual identities in the ‘modern West’, in the 19th Century. The identities heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual not only about ‘sexual orientation’: also indicate ‘types’ of persons. Persons are categorized as if particular ‘kinds’ of sexual desire constitute different ‘essences’ of personhood. I also refer to Foucault’s concept of ‘dividing practices’ (1965), particularly around the binary of heterosexual/homosexual. I draw on Derrida (1997 [1967]) here as well: comparing the marked (stigmatised) and the unmarked (normalized) identities, and the ‘absent present’ of each in the other. For Foucault, marked identity terms entail more totalizing representations of identity than unmarked identity terms. I.e., ‘homosexuality’ is seen to define a person ‘more fully’ than ‘heterosexuality’ (classroom discussion: culturally dominant idea/assumption, a person who identifies as homosexual might be thought to be ‘always thinking about sex’). In this light, we consider the social interest in the ‘causes’ of homosexuality – but not of heterosexuality. When I teach, I point out that whether or not we can say that there are such causes, Foucault would ask us to deconstruct our interest in this issue. Uncovers social relations of power.
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