'Another Man is an Other': Impersonal Narcissism, Male Homosexuality, Perversion

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The concept of impersonal narcissism Bersani and Phillips envisage and advocate in ‘Intimacies’ has a long history, not least in Bersani's attempt to rethink male homosexuality as ‘homo-ness’, alongside his even longer-lasting project of reconceptualising some of the fundamentals of psychoanalytic thought. Tracing these developments in Bersani's thought, this article seeks to align them with a much-maligned and prone to misuse concept, taken from a very different psychoanalytic vocabulary, namely Lacanian perversion. Elaborating a notion of perversion that can confidently be traced in Lacan's teachings but that, at the same time, veers resolutely away from the facile condemnations of perversion in much ‘orthodox’ accounts indebted to Lacan, and which have significantly contributed to the all-out rejection of psychoanalysis within the dominant currents of queer theory, I aim to bring Lacan's pervert and Bersani's impersonal narcissist together, rehabilitating the concept of perversion as supremely useful and salutary. Thanks to the alignment between a seemingly – but only superficially – homophobic Lacan, and the core of Bersani's ideas around impersonal narcissism as inseparable from a narrower conception of male homosexuality, the goal of this article is to help us understand the ineluctable relation between the transgression of a sexual norm and the generation of that very norm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)991-1011
Number of pages21
Issue number6
Early online date11 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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