The Erotic Dialogical: Harry Hay in the Light of Martin Buber

at CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Avenue
New York, NY
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Part of the CLAGS Conference, Radically Gay: The Life & Visionary Legacy of Harry Hay

Harry Hay insisted that subject-SUBJECT consciousness (as he wrote it) was at the center of the distinctively gay perspective. Drawing on Marxist theory and other sources, Hay believed this non-objectifying, non-hierarchical relationship between gay male subjects was at once uniquely gay and essential for the creation of a new society. This paper reads Hay in light of other, non-queer-identified scholars who posited similar modalities of human relationship, in particular 20th century dialogical philosophers Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, and Emmanuel Levinas. These thinkers, too, argued that the encounter with the Other, precisely in its irreducible subjectivity, is generative of human ethics and a secularized version of Divine revelation. Of course, the difference was eros: these thinkers did not gender the I-You encounter, and did not have a rich application of it to erotic and sexual expression. After noting these points of commonality and difference, this presentation will argue that, on the one hand, Hay’s inclusion of (and perhaps focus on) eroticism enriches our readings of dialogical philosophy, on the other hand, the non-essentialist and non-gendered dialogical philosophers might provide a productive way to recover Hay in light of queer theory and pan-gendered approaches to queer space and queer community.