By Jean-Luc Nancy
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Butterfly, but takes into consideration something of its formal and conceptual complexity. Scripted by the Chinese-American playwright David Henry Hwang from his own Broadway play (1988), but with significant changes that make it in every way Cronenberg’s film, M. Butterfly is based on the 1986 trial for treason of a former French diplomat and his Chinese lover of many years, a former star of the Beijing opera. This trial became famous not because of the gravity of the treason, which was negligible, but as a gender scandal, because the Frenchman appeared to be unaware of the fact that his lover was a man (the French judges could not believe such an equivocation possible).
From his point of view, in the perspective of an effective history, Foucault was right; the thirty or so years since his book was written have more than proved that. And yet, what do we make of the resurgence of interest in Freud and neo-Freudian psychoanalysis since the 1990s, and particularly in the context of postcolonial theory and the reconceptualization of racialsexual-gendered identity? 3 The Stubborn Drive 41 It is not inconceivable that these questions seek reframing through a Freudian lens, since they are also motivated by political opposition to contemporary forms of racism.
These, however, become the focus of the subsequent volumes of Foucault’s history. 9 In other words, the moment Foucault brings into focus the figure of the subject, he redefines sexuality as ‘a historically singular experience’ in modern Western society that caused individuals ‘to recognize themselves as subjects of this sexuality’ (UP, 4). While he does not employ terms such as the drive or the unconscious, still there is a subject, perhaps even a self, who is at once recipient, agent and enunciator of those technologies and techniques that construct individuals as sexual subjects; and in order ‘to understand how the modern individual could experience himself as a subject of a “sexuality”, it was essential first to determine how, for centuries, Western man had been brought to recognize himself as a subject of desire’ (UP, 5–6).