Department of European Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology
Working Titel: "Sex. Between Danger, Performance and Ecstasy. Ethnographic perspectives on current discourses on sexuality."
This Phd project aims at analysing the current discourses on sexuality in present-day European Society as well as at ethnographically describing how different actors (e.g. persons of different age groups, experts like therapists and sexual educators) deal with these discourses. The basic assumption is that within the field of sexuality there are three dominant discourses that can be subsumed under the headings of danger, performance/achievement and ecstasy.
Following the example of Michel Foucault, who had already foreseen a "society of dangers" in the early 1980s, the dissertation project explores the questions of where discourses on sexuality are currently heading and whether sexuality has become or is becoming the "omnipresent ghost" he described (Foucault 1979/2003, 954-970). What meanings are attached to the negotiation of sexuality as a constant danger and (how) is this discourse also present between people, in relationships? The discourse about sexual performance can be seen in close connection with self-optimization, subjectification and health. One's own sexuality becomes an area of the "entrepreneurial self" (Bröckling), which has to be optimized by learning various techniques and practices and therefore also serves the preservation of physical and mental health. The discourse on sexual ecstasy is assumed to be connected to the performance-discourse. Ecstasy is negotiated as the ultimate goal of the sexual experience, which is only considered to be 'successful' when it leads to a virtually out-of-body experience and most intimate connection with the other person (or with the self).
The complexity of the topic is to be met through a multi-sited ethnography and discourse analysis. The research project is intended to make a contribution at the intersection of discourse analysis and governmentality research, which will also bring the topic of sex and the category of sexuality as a research desideratum more into the focus of our discipline.
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Katharina Eisch-Angus