2.12 Questioning Power Hierarchies
Michael Davidson and Literary Pederasty in Italy
Sergio Rigoletto, PhD, 17 June 2005,
This paper offers an overview of the complex power dynamics at play in homo-erotic desire and encounter within a long tradition of literary pederasty in the Mediterranean.
Through an analysis of Michael Davidson's memoirs, The World, the Flesh and Myself (1962) and Some Boys (1970), this paper examines Davidson's relationship with some Italian adolescents during his long stay in Southern Italy and the inevitable resulting power hierarchies binding a wealthy middle-aged writer and a number of underprivileged Italian boys.
Contemporary discourses of power difference, gender and sexuality are particularly problematic when dealing with age difference and masculinity. Culturally dominant interpretations of gender relationships between an older and a younger subject generally seem to work through binaries: the former is seen as the dominant and the seducer, while the latter as the subordinate, desired object.
By making use of the recent critical contributions focusing on power, gender and age difference by Sedgwick, Dollimore and Segal, my aim is to see whether positions of dominance within hierarchies may be contested and re-interpreted.
I will explore gender spaces in which power does not necessarily correspond to abuse and see how conditions of subordination and authority may lose their essential static opposition along a heterogeneous spectrum of male performances.
My main purpose is not to undo the relations of power, control and dominance, but to reshape unilateral ways of perceiving power hierarchies in gender relations. Ultimately, I want to show that even the most unbalanced structures of power can reveal significant contradictions and counter-movements.