‘Foucault-er SniNgartOtto’.[Foucault’s ‘History of Sexuality’, Kolkata: Sur, Chiranjib ed.Alochanachakra Collection-XI, pp.33-56, 1998 .RN. 69543/87
After briefly introducing the Foucault’s History of Sexuality in three parts for Bengali readers, the author of this paper, did three things: [a] he translated ‘sexuality as srngara [one kind of primitive ‘rasa’ in Indian rasasastra or aesthetics] in reference to absolute law, confessions, care of self as well as about act-pleasure-desire embedded in the concept of sex; [b] he alleged that Foucault deployed Orientalist gaze when he discussed Eastern construct of sexuality; [c] he elaborated the last chapter of the first volume of the History of Sexuality by engaging the modern Bangla verses. Foucault said, ‘On the one hand, the societies – and they are numerous: China, Japan, India, Rome, the Arabo-Moslem societies – which endowed themselves with an ars erotica. In the erotic art, truth is drawn from pleasure itself, understood as a practice and accumulated as experience; pleasure is not considered in relation to an absolute law of the permitted and the forbidden, nor by reference to a criterion of utility, but first and foremost in relation to itself;’ (1978/90:57) The author did not think that at least in (the politico-administrative and metaphysical totality called) India, none could generalize like this. There is no absolute ars erotica as such which is drawn from pleasure only without any reference to absolute law. Foucault is constructing an oriental space that is merged only in erotica without any violent (penetration of) science! It is, in fact, a softer version of old oriental discourse. It is almost saying like, ‘We (white) have science and you (blacks) have arts.’ Foucault differentiates between two spaces: science and arts; Foucault did not find anything positive when he said that Western civilization possesses only science: ‘On the face of it at least, our civilization possesses no ars erotica. In return, it is undoubtedly, the only civilization to practice a scientia sexualis; or rather, the only civilization to have developed over the centuries procedures for telling the truth of sex which are geared a form of knowledge-power strictly opposed to the art of initiations and the masterful secret;’. (ibid, 58)
In case of meta-geopolitical entity called India also, the author deployed the same statement by erasing the words with single quote: “the ‘only’ civilization to have developed over the centuries procedures for telling the truth of sex which are geared a form of knowledge-power strictly ‘not’ opposed to the art of initiations and the masterful secret.’ The author had put the ‘only’ and ‘not’ under erasure, because western civilization is not ‘only’ civilization who developed such a thing and furthermore, there is [no] dividing line between art and science in each and every space and time. Eastern societies also have the procedures of telling the truth of ‘sex’ (in the sense of Foucault) and techniques of self care in Easterners own way in their literature, architecture, and in sastras like Kamasutra and Yoga darsana or in numerous treatises on sexual management (especially in smriti, tantra and agamsastras). Did Foucault have the knowledge of Eeasterners’ way of telling the truth of sex through kala and vidya (cf. Bandyopadhyay, 2000. Abstract Id. 015251) before commenting on ‘our’ domain? Did he know how did ‘we’ categorize ‘our’ domain of knowledge(s)? How dare he taxonomize a vast world of China, Japan, India, Rome, and the Arabo-Moslem societies apparently without knowing anything about it? Furthermore, he found traces of ars erotica in the white space: scientia sexualis versus ars erotica, no doubt. But it should be noted that the ars erotica did not disappear altogether from Western civilization; nor has it always been absent from the movement by which one sought to produce a science of sexuality.” (ibid: 70) Western civilization possesses both these two and Eastern societies have only one. Foucault himself is constructing a grandnarrative and he is keeping up the art-science dividing practice without any hesitation.
It must also be noted here that Foucault rectified himself in an interview. When the interviewer questioned him regarding the difference between western science of sexuality and oriental ars erotica, Foucault said, ‘One of the numerous points where I was wrong in that book was what I said about this ars erotica. I should have opposed our science of sex to a contrasting practice of our own culture.’ (Rabinow, 1984: 347-48). He then should give the title of the book as ‘The Western History of Western Sexuality’. India is not at all a homogenous space and Foucault did not know the vast plurality of concepts, attitudes regarding sex(-uality) of the people(s) living within this geopolitical area. And that does not necessarily also tally with those components/attributes of sexuality given by Foucault. [ cf. abstract Id. 2016682]
Note: Downloadable document is in Bengali
Number of Pages in PDF File: 13
Keywords: sringar, rasasastra, sex and sexuality, act-pleasure-desire, dispotif
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