The Function of the Father in the East and the West

  • Bülent Somay
Part of the Studies in the Psychosocial Series book series (STIP)


In applying Butler’s concept of performance to the Orient/Occident dualism, we have established that in order for a performative to function, there has to be a pre-existing difference to build the performative(s) upon. This difference, however, does not need to be one of domination per se, but assumes the character of one during an era of historical transformation, in the construction of a new order and a corresponding narrative of power, which, working retroactively, makes the performative and the relation of domination embedded in it seem natural, essential and eternal. Before going any further, then, we must first address the actual historical difference between the Orient and the Occident which serves as the material and ideological basis of the performative ‘either (Occident)/or (Orient)’ dualism generated and expanded by the Western Enlightenment thought from the 18th century to the present.


Ancient Civilisation Western Counterpart Slave Labour Male Domination Oedipus Complex 
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  1. 11.
    Critics of Western conceptions of sexuality sometimes travel too far to the other end and share in the fantasy that Oriental sexuality is essentially different from and preferable to the Western one: Foucault’s distinction between ars erotica and scientia sexualis, for example, although sound enough on the analytical level, sometimes portrays an overly Utopian view of Oriental sexuality, thus falling in the same trap of fantasy he was militating against. See, for instance, Leon Antonio Rocha, ‘Scientia Sexualis Versus Ars Erotica: Foucault, van Gulik, Needham’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Vol. 42, 2011, pp. 328–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 14.
    It is interesting to note that the story of the ‘passage’ to the democratic regime in Athens as told by Aeschylus in Oresteia, coincides with the story of the construction of the male-dominant order. Athena establishes the Aeropagos to save Orestes, who killed his mother, from the fury of the Erinyes, avengers for matricide. Erinyes submit to the authority this newly constructed court, and in the final vote, Athena tips the balance in favour of Orestes, proclaiming that in killing his mother Klytaemnestra, Orestes has rightfully avenged his father, Agamemnon, whom Klytaemnestra had killed: Athena. Born, and beholden to no mother, I With undivided heart prefer the man In all save wedlock. I am for the sire Wholly, and will not overprize her death, Who slew the lord and guardian of her home. (The Oresteia of Aeschylus. Tr. George. C. W. Warr, London: George Allen, 1900; pp. 736–740) In a single stroke, mariticide (killing the husband) becomes the capital crime, while matricide, considered the most heinous crime until then, is pushed into the secondary place. As a result, Erinyes, ancient goddesses of female vengeance, are retired into obscurity.Google Scholar
  3. A very detailed argument on this coincidence of ‘democracy’ and male domination can be found in George D. Thomson’s Aeschylus and Athens, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1946.Google Scholar
  4. 16.
    See The Book of Dede Korkut, ed. Geoffrey Lewis, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974. The Book of Dede Korkut is constructed in the form of a frame tale, containing 12 legends of the Oghuz Turks or the Turkomans (of which ‘Dirse Han Oğlu Boğaç Han’ is the first), dating from the 8th to the 14th centuries AD, and taking its present form in the 15th.Google Scholar
  5. 20.
    See, for instance, John M. Ross, ‘Oedipus Revisited: Laius and the “Laius complex”’, The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, Vol. 37, 1982, pp. 169–200; orGoogle Scholar
  6. Claude Le Guen, ‘The Formation of the Transference: Or the Laius Complex in the Armchair’, The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 55(4), 1974, pp. 505–512.Google Scholar
  7. 26.
    It is Karl Wittfogel who first suggested that the Stalinist regime in the USSR was a direct continuation of ‘Oriental despotism’ in Russia. See his Oriental Despotism, and especially, ‘The Marxist View of Russian Society and Revolution’, World Politics, Vol. 12(4) July, 1960, pp. 487–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Bülent Somay 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bülent Somay
    • 1
  1. 1.Istanbul Bilgi UniversityTurkey

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