May 10, 2006

The Path Towards the Other – Luce Irigaray

Luce Irogaray

Date: Tuesday 9 May 2006
Time: 18:00–19:30
Venue: Warwick Arts Centre Conference Room
Speaker: Luce Irigaray, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris

Irigaray's talk last night was characteristic of her later writings about the other and sexual difference e.g. The Way of Love . In the talk she described a need for a number of things:

  • 'a space of waiting for things or people';
  • 'a need for survival';
  • and 'a meeting with the infinite'.

At the heart of her theorising is the idea of the threshold: 'A threshold is lacking which marks the world of each one'. She continues: 'The threshold must exist for each one but also between the one and the other'. Only then can it 'constitute a proper world'.

It is important to open oneself to the other. If one only looks for the same, 'I only meet myself'. One and an other become 'the two polarities of the same unity'. When this occurs, 'he or she has become myself or a part of my environment'. The other 'becomes invisible' and it seems as if two have 'a single body, a single soul' yet the two are 'bored, a little sleepy and quiet with each other'. The two become 'neutral or indifferent'. This kind of welcome 'does not really let them be free'. The question is how to respond to the call of the other.

The answer may lie in 'the permanence of duality'. There must be an opening to the other 'in one's own country, in one's own city or home'. Irigaray names this as 'not only an individual becoming [...] rather a human becoming'. The other could be 'a companion, a child, a friend, a foreigner'.

Most important is allowing space for the other: ' a space apparently open in a closed world'. Yet this space is 'partly closed and partly cluttered with the emptiness of self'. This allows ' a possibility of dwelling'. To explain the space Irigaray talks of the bridging in Waiting for Godot and Waiting for the Barbarians .

We must 'open our ears to other meanings' to find the other. We must use 'other gestures, behaviours'. In ' a place that is completely foreign and strange', we must create 'a model of welcoming'. Yet first we must 'leave our home, our culture, our home'. We 'also have to remain here ourselves'.

To find the other, it is 'necessary to wonder about oneself and how one dwells'. Proximity to the other is only reached 'when engendering a common world together'. We need a 'no man's land'. Consequently, 'difference is a way of overcoming nihilism in a positive manner'. Space 'allows us to go out of our own borders', yet one must first 'let this nothing which separates us be'.

Language is important: 'It is no longer a matter of discussing with the other, no longer to simply show things to each other'. Rather there is an ' acceptance of being silence'. A silence that is 'not strictly a display'. [Did she say something here about the colours white and black?] Ultimately, we must 'save space and time in order to allow who or what is coming to arrive'.

The relation to the other is an ' opening to an unknown [...] and in a way we always remain unfamiliar'. Silence is ' the word of the threshold, of the world'. It is 'welcoming' and not just 'transmitting information'. It is 'the sign for nothing which ought to separate us'. It means being 'able to open a threshold on the borders of ourselves'. It is both 'an active undertaking and a passive letting be'.

The one and the other could be:

  • man –woman
  • parent–children
  • teacher–student
  • rich–poor
  • ourself–stranger
  • same–other

It means to 'welcome in oneself what might happen in the meeting'. To do so, 'taking shelter is essential' so that one can communicate with 'the other, the foreigner, the stranger'. We must 'listen to the attraction that has encouraged us to go out of our home'. However 'the path to the other is not clear'. We can 'misinterpret the call'. We need 'double–listening' which hears 'speech that the other addresses to us'. So 'the speech must reach for each one'.

This intimacy is 'neither to be seen nor to be seized'. Touching is 'an initimacy that cannot be approached by the hand. This is not just a meeting with another body.

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