In his book The Experience of Freedom, Jean-Luc Nancy describes experience as the site of a perilous freedom: “an experience is an attempt executed without reserve, given over to the peril of its own lack of foundation and security in this ‘object’ of which it is not the subject but instead the passion” (20). Experience is what a subject ‘has’ as a response to the forces of capital, technology, and the discursive practices that produce the body as an object in a field of forces that perpetually inform the subject’s feeling and orientation to the world. Experience is both inside and outside the body, a perilous journey that both confirms and undermines the foundations of subjectivity.
The articles in this issue of Transformations examine contemporary experience as the effect of technologies of mediation and representation, as well as lifestyle exchanges that flow into and out of everyday life. There are edge experiences and centre experiences. Simply put, edge experiences dismantle centred subjectivity and the categories of subjectification that identify subjects in their subordination to discourse; centre experiences confirm the identity of subjects to discourse. Both edge and centre experiences involve the empowerment and disempowerment of subjects as living beings, and define limit potentials for life as it might be lived.
Agnes Bosanquet examines the experience of an “oceanic feeling” or sense of the sublime where one’s sense of subjectivity is dissolved in certain extreme experiences such as underwater diving. Through a careful tracing of the “transcendental sensible” in the work of Luce Irigaray and other European philosophers and feminist theorists, Bosenquet establishes position from which to examine the oceanic experience as sexualised overflowing. Buck Rosenberg’s article discusses modern forms of consumption and lifestyle through an analysis of IKEA furniture and the culture surrounding it. He proposes that IKEA belongs to an aesthetics of everyday life in which vast numbers of people participate, as opposed to an elite aesthetics of good taste. In particular he draws out the consequences of the DIY culture presently dominant in mainstream Western cultures, and how this changes the space of domesticity into a modern/postmodern consumer-based function. Through detailed ethnographic study, Terry Evans’ article examines masculine penetration in sexual experience, especially in male to male relationships. Julie Dare’s article looks at the issue of “cyberharrassment” on the internet. In particular, it examines the case of email stalking against an Australian academic that took place in the early 2000s, and draws out the legal implications of this. It suggests that there are extensive legal difficulties in policing this kind of behaviour because of the global nature of internet exchange. The article by Farida Tilbury, Yann Toussaint and Annette Davis looks at liminal spaces inhabited by the Hazara refugees from Afghanistan who have settled in rural Western Australia. Using the social theorist Victor Turner’s key concept of liminality, the article examines art works created by the Hazara refugees as expressions of their liminality.
Warwick Mules and Grayson Cooke
Luce Irigaray’s Sensible Transcendental: Becoming Divine in the Body
This paper explores the transformative possibilities of everyday life experiences through Luce Irigaray’s call to become divine women (and men). The paradoxical construction of the sensible transcendental is Irigaray’s attempt to imagine a divinity that would be an “inscription in the flesh” (An Ethics of Sexual Difference 147). The paper considers an alternative language for such an understanding, including Romain Rolland’s oceanic feeling and Catherine Clement’s syncope, both of which locate a sense of a beyond in everyday experience. In contrast to previous readings of Irigaray’s divine, which have focussed on the subjectivity offered by the sensible transcendental, I argue that the divine is primarily a passage of becoming and transformation that can be understood as operating intersubjectively. How might we experience such a becoming? The paper offers the examples of free diving, reading and writing to demonstrate an embodied divinity.
Buck Clifford Rosenberg
Scandinavian Dreams: DIY, Democratisation and IKEA
This article seeks to examine the viability of using IKEA as a metaphor to discuss recent socio-cultural trends within consumer society. Through an analysis of IKEA’s business practice of “democratic design”—which refers to the production of elite modernist furnishings for a mass culture—the article explores the blurring of formerly distinct class cultures related to the consumption of elite modernist-design and mass-cultural furnishings. It situates this discussion within the wider framework of cultural democratisation. The article also examines the self-assembly nature of IKEA’s furniture to highlight specific cultural trends. The self-assembly furniture is considered in light of wider trends towards privatisation and individualisation. In addition, it focuses upon the role of self-assembly as part of DIY home culture, which is simultaneously classified as a mode of “productive leisure.” Finally, the article examines the constitutive role of self-assembly and DIY in the production of the self.
This paper explores the sexual penetration of the heterosexually identifying male body as transformative experience in terms of masculine subjectivity. It draws from the work of Eve Sedgwick and other queer theorists who have argued that gender, sexuality and desire are constituted through multiple social discourses and that by pushing the limits of taken for granted binarisms such as the hetero/homosexual definition new meanings and subjectivities become possible. Football as a masculine and masculinising practice is presented as containing homosexual subtexts that allude to possibilities of desire. Interview transcripts from heterosexually identifying men who have sex with men are also provided to illustrate the transformative power of the experience of being sexually penetrated. The conclusion from this work is that what separates heterosexuality from homosexuality is not desire but is homophobia understood as the fear of being constituted as homosexual within hegemonic masculine discourses in which homosexuality is culturally excluded.
Cyberharassment and Online Defamation: a Default Form of Regulations?
The notion of freedom of expression is a fundamental principle of democratic societies, and perhaps nowhere is this more clearly articulated and defended than on the Internet. Developed upon laissez-faire principles that characterised the American frontier, the Internet has become strongly identified with a particularly liberal interpretation of free speech rights. However, studies into computer-mediated communication ( CMC ) suggest the promotion of liberal free speech rights has contributed to a contemporary Internet culture that both facilitates and accepts as ‘normal’ an adversarial style of interaction, that has the potential to degenerate into abuse and online defamation. In such situations the right to freedom of expression for some individuals may be severely compromised. This is illustrated in the case study Cullen v White, which explores the impact of a sustained and malicious campaign of online harassment and defamation on both an individual, and more laterally the electronic public sphere. This case study highlights the danger this more insidious form of ‘regulation’ poses to free speech rights and a healthy electronic public sphere, and draws parallels between the impact of online harassment and defamation, and the oft-quoted dangers posed to freedom of expression by opportunistic defamation law suits designed to ‘chill’ speech.
F Tilbury, Y Toussaint and A Davis
Drawing on Turner: Liminal engagements between artists, advocates and refugees in regional Western Australia
Early in 2005 a collection of art works by members of the community of the “Great Southern” region of Western Australia was displayed in an art exhibition entitled “Liminal”. This paper explores the process of the development of the concept of liminality for the exhibition, with a particular focus on the ways in which members of a local Afghan Hazara community and members of the mainstream community, who advocate on their behalf, were encouraged to participate. It returns to the original anthropological concept of liminality, as developed by Victor Turner, to help understand the artists’ framing of the connection between them and the Afghan asylum seekers as characters who are in some ways ‘liminal,’ on the margins of the mainstream. Using the case study of the art exhibition as an example, we argue for a core/periphery dynamism which produces a creative potential within rural communities, enabling them to challenge the norms of mainstream Australia.