Michel Foucault and Queer Ascesis: Toward a Pedagogy and Politics of Subversive Friendships

  • Nelson M. RodriguezEmail author
Part of the Queer Studies and Education book series (QSTED)


Stemming from a pedagogical interest in exploring ways of theoretically framing in classroom discussions the topic of gay-for-pay, this chapter is organized into two sections. In the first section, I engage with a close reading of Foucault’s (Michel Foucault: Ethics, subjectivity, and truth. The Free Press, New York, pp. 135–140, 1997a) interview “Friendship as a Way of Life,” considering passages that might be useful in helping to explicate and reflect on the concepts of ascesis and friendship, as well as other related ideas in the interview. In this first section, I especially explore the queer dimensions of Foucault’s ideas regarding homosexual ascesis and their entanglement with his reflections on gay politics. Drawing from the analyses and insights gleaned from this first section, and as a way to provide a contemporary example of what Foucault might have had in mind by “friendship as a way of life,” in the second section I examine an episode from a talk show that takes up the topic of gay-for-pay. By way of my analysis of this episode, I explore gay-for-pay as a strategy/technology of self-transformation, a queer ascesis (Halperin in Saint Foucault: Towards a gay hagiography. Oxford University Press, New York, 1995) that can be read as contributing to the cultivation of a “homosexual mode of life” (Foucault 1997a, p. 136), an art of living “at becoming homosexuals” that is eminently “desirable.” As a queer ascesis, gay-for-pay is necessarily relational—i.e., an ongoing ethical and transformative relation to oneself in relation to others that can engender new and creative and experimental forms of relationships and modes of being that are not beholden to the codes of institutionalized norms governing any number of relationships, including those between men (Kingston in Foucault Studies 7:7–17, 2009). In this way, given their potential to rupture “the normalisation of relationships” (Kingston 2009), these non-institutionalized relations based on a queer ascesis can be understood as “subversive friendships” (Kingston 2009).


Gay-for-pay Queer ascesis Relationality Subversive friendships Pedagogy 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The College of New JerseyEwingUSA

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