Queer Ascesis and the Invention of New Games

  • Jonathan KempEmail author
Part of the Queer Studies and Education book series (QSTED)


The promotion of marriage as the definition or pinnacle of intimacy inevitably diminishes the value—both social and epistemological—of other forms of intimacy, such as friendship. Marriage, as a legal contract, administers population: a form of what Foucault called biopower and a discourse deployed to contain and manage society. As such, gay marriage, as well as a victory of equality, is also a victory of conformity, of biopower. It consolidates, by extending, the framework of the status quo, assimilating one of the biggest threats to heteronormativity: same-sex love. At the same time, given that most successful marriages are, on a deep level, friendships, gay marriage also affirms queer friendship. But it does so within the rubric of the status quo, and as such is an expression of the mind-set that marriage is the most significant relationship into which two people—regardless of gender and sexual orientation—can enter. Is gay marriage a foreclosing of homosexuality’s radical potential to alter the relational map of contemporary society? Has our equality come through a conformity that shuts down alternative modes of being and relating as queers? This chapter engages with Foucault’s thoughts on friendship and askesis in relation to these questions, before turning to the notion of queer pedagogy. Foucault takes as his primary example of queer askesis the relationship between two men of radically different ages and asks what code would allow them to communicate? Perhaps queer pedagogy holds the answer.


Friendship Gay marriage Queer 


  1. Bersani, L. (1995). Homos. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bersani, L. (2011). Shame on you. In J. Halley & A. Parker (Eds.), After sex? On writing since queer theory (pp. 91–109). Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Britzman, D. (1995). Is there a queer pedagogy? Or, stop reading straight. Educational Theory, 45, 151–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Conrad, R. (Ed.). (2010). Against equality: Queer critiques of gay marriage. Lewiston: Against Equality Publishing Collective.Google Scholar
  5. Cooper, M. (2017). Family values: Between neoliberalism and the new social conservatism. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  6. D’Emilio, J. (1993). Capitalism and gay identity. In H. Abelove, M. A. Barale, & D. M. Halperin (Eds.), The lesbian and gay studies reader (pp. 467–476). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Davidson, A. I. (2003). Ethics as ascetics. In G. Gutting (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to Foucault (2nd ed., pp. 123–143). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Dean, T. (2009). Unlimited intimacy: Reflections on the subculture of barebacking. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dustan, G. (1996). Dans ma chambre. Paris: P.O.L.Google Scholar
  10. Foucault, M. (1988 [1986]). The history of sexuality, volume 3: The care of the self (R. Hurley, Trans.). New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  11. Foucault, M. (1990 [1978]). The history of sexuality: An introduction (R. Hurley, Trans.). New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  12. Foucault, M. (1990 [1985]). The history of sexuality, volume 2: The use of pleasure (R. Hurley, Trans.). New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  13. Foucault, M. (1994) [1974]. Prisons et asiles dans le mécanisme du pouvoir. In D. Defert & F. Ewald (Eds.), Dits et Ecrits, 11 (C. O’Farrell, Trans., pp. 523–524). Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  14. Foucault, M. (1996). Friendship as a way of life. In S. Lotringer (Ed.), Foucault live: Collected interviews, 1961–1984 (pp. 308–312). New York: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  15. Foucault, M. (1997a). What is enlightenment? In S. Lotringer (Ed.), The politics of truth (L. Hochroth & C. Porter, Trans.). New York: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  16. Foucault, M. (1997b). Sexual choice, sexual act (J. O’Higgins, Trans.). In P. Rabinow (Ed.), Michel Foucault: Ethics, Subjectivity and truth (pp. 141–156). New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  17. Halperin, D. (1995). Saint Foucault: Towards a gay hagiography. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Haver, W. (1996). The body of this death: Historicity and sociality in the time of AIDS. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Haver, W. (1997). Queer research: Or, how to practice invention to the brink of intelligibility. In S. Golding (Ed.), The eight technologies of otherness (pp. 277–292). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Huffer, L. (2009). Mad for Foucault: Rethinking the foundations of queer theory. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Nair, Y. (2010). Who’s illegal now? Immigration, marriage, and the violence of inclusion. In R. Conrad (Ed.), Against equality: Queer critiques of gay marriage (pp. 51–58). Lewiston: Against Equality Publishing Collective.Google Scholar
  22. O’Leary, T. (2002). Foucault and the art of ethics. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  23. Papantonopoulou, S. (2012). Straightness must be destroyed. In C. B. Daring, J. Rogue, D. Shannon, & A. Volcano (Eds.), Queering anarchism: Addressing and undressing power and desire. Oakland: A. K. Press.Google Scholar
  24. Roach, T. (2012). Friendship as a way of life: Foucault, AIDS, and the politics of shared estrangement. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  25. Rubin, G. (1991). The Catacombs: A temple of the butthole. In M. Thompson (Ed.), Leatherfolk: Radical sex, people, politics and practice (pp. 119–141). New York: Alyson Publications.Google Scholar
  26. Sawicki, J. (2005). Queering Foucault and the subject of feminism. In G. Gutting (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to Foucault (2nd ed., pp. 379–400). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Warner, M. (1999). The trouble with normal: Sex, politics, and the ethics of queer life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Middlesex UniversityLondonUK

Personalised recommendations