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Open places hidden rooms : civiltá, performativity and resistance among gay men in contemporary Rome

University Of Oslo
Publication Date
  • Vdp:250
  • Linguistics
  • Political Science


This thesis is based on my fieldwork among gay men in Rome. I have chosen to focus on their identity work both at a group level, and at an individual level. Starting from the assumption that power is productive, as well as oppressive, it is asked how one can understand resistance. Power is coded in terms of morality, which can be understood as a ‘natural’ knowledge on the world which, it will be demonstrated, they have only partially penetrated. Although most gay men in Rome seem to prefer the benefit the big city gives for moving between spheres, living segregate lives which respect the Catholic public moral, I have chosen to focus on those who challenge the border between the ‘us’ of ‘hegemonic masculinity’, and the ‘other’ of gay subculture. The gay organization Il Circolo, having developed as an independant social movement through the eighties, explains their struggle as a struggle for equal right based on diversity. This is their version of civiltà. To achieve these goals, they have two different strategies: public demonstrations, and the gay public, an arena which defines their own version of how the world should be, favoring marginality and diversity. The tool working to their advantage is ‘trendyness’, and they also draw on global discourses on gayness, on Human Rights, and ‘democracy’ in their political discourses. Struggling over representations, partly embracing cultural stereotypes, do they also reproduce the social system which opresses them in the moment of their embracement of a gay identity? The concept of Gay Pride can, at different levels, be understood a a way to break with the moral imperative of not going public as gay. Through the concept of performativity, it is scrutinized how they not only struggle over representations, but how, in terms of embodiment, they can be understood to constitute subjectivities which defies a hegemonic norm for masculinity. By signifying ‘gayness’ in public, they challenge the limits of decency, and thereby expose how power works.

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