A number of histories of circumcision have recently been written and in them the case of A. E. Housman, along with a number of others, has acquired a certain prominence. This article reconsiders the existing evidence regarding Housman's circumcision and the various interpretations of it in the secondary literature before going on to examine a number of overlooked sources. While this writing around Housman's circumcision is not without positive results, it will be suggested via a consideration of Jacques Derrida's testimony regarding his own circumcision that the historian of sexuality needs also to contend with an inherent negativity and loss. The testimony provided by a recently uncovered poem on circumcision will prompt the suggestion that we should be wary of overemphasizing the individual example. In conclusion, the article argues that the problematic of Housman's particular case has pertinence because in regard to individual experience we can only ever write around the history of circumcision.
On Tormey, Krastev and Rosanvallon
This paper examines claims made about political representation in recent work on global protest, focusing on two very different authors. Tormey champions the anti-representative claims of various radical movements while Krastev assumes the stance of those political insiders who deplore the failure of protesters to work within established representative institutions. Both turn to examples which seem to best support their positions. Tormey to anarchist inspired movements in Spain and Mexico, his argument being that political representation has been succeed by what he variously calls ‘immediate representation’ and ‘resonance’. Krastev's focus is Russia, Thailand and Bulgaria. His argument is that protest in these countries can be seen are ‘a collective act of exit’ by middle classes that no longer seek political representation. Using the theorisation of political representation in Rosanvallon's Counter Democracy, I suggest that the global waves of protest of recent years are nothing inherently novel but can be seen as part of the elaborate and complex process of representation that is argued to have always existed beyond and outside of official elected legislative bodies. In conclusion, I suggest that Macron's turn to citizen's assemblies can be seen as informed by just such an understanding of political representation.