Peter Banki, Ph.D is founder and director of the Festival of Death and Dying and of the School of Really Good Sex. Peter is also member of the Philosophy Research Initiative at the University of Western Sydney, where he has also lectured and tutored in the School of Humanities and Languages.

He holds a Ph.D from New York University (September, 2009). His book The Forgiveness To Come:  the Holocaust and the Hyper-Ethical came out recently with Fordham University Press. His research interests include the intersections between philosophy and sexuality, and the politics of reconciliation and forgiveness in relation to cultural trauma. 

Published Writings 

Manuscripts

1.) Banki, P. 2017. The Forgiveness To Come: The Holocaust and the Hyper-Ethical New York: Fordham University Press (“Just Ideas”), 2017.

Scholarly book chapters

2.) Banki, P. 2017. ‘The Self-Othering of Philosophy and Literature in Early German Romanticism’ in Die Welt auf Deutsch: Fremdenbilder und Selbstentwürfe in der deutschsprachigen Literatur und Kultur edited by Franz-Josef Deiters, Alison Lewis, Yixu Lü, Peter Morgan.

3.) Banki, P. 2016. ‘Pornosophy: Jean-Luc Nancy and the Pornographic Image’ in Nancy and Visual Culture edited by Adrienne Janus and Carrie Giunta, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 109-129.

4.) Banki, P. 2015. „Vergebt mir diese meine Tugend“ in Simon Wiesenthal Die Sonnenblume: Uber die Moglichkeiten und Grenzen von Vergebung. Erzählung und Antworten. Edited by Nicola Jungsberger. Europa Verlag Berlin, 162-168.

5.) Banki, P. 2012. ‘The Survival of the Question: Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower’ in Terror and the Root of Poetics. Edited by Jeffrey Robert Champlin. New York: Atropos Press, 110-138.

6.) Banki, P. 2008. ‘La discrétion—la réserve—est le lieu de la littérature’ in Levinas, Blanchot: penser la différence E. Hoppenot et A. Milon (eds.) (Presses Universitaires de Paris 10, co-édition avec les Editions de l’Unesco), 311-318.

Refereed journal articles

7.) Banki, P. 2014. ‘Humour as the Inverted Sublime: Jean Paul’s Laughter within Limitations’ Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy, No. 21, 58-68.

8.) Banki, P. & Antalffy, N. 2014. ‘Re-reading Sexuality as a Life Practice: A Conversation between Peter Banki and Nikó Antalffy’ Writing from Below, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1-34.

9.) Banki, P. 2011. ‘Seeking Forgiveness (Jacques Derrida)’ Culture Theory and Critique vol. 52, issue 2-3, 285-302.

10.) Banki, P. 2009. ‘Tournant de souffle, larmes’ Revue Lignes No. 22: Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, (Paris, Centre National du Livre), 164-166.

11.) Banki, P. 2001. ‘To Translate Blanchot?’ Oxford Literary Review, volume 22, number 1 ‘Disastrous Blanchot’ 2001, 178-184.

12.) Banki, P. 1998. ‘Political Identification and the Differand’ Law Text Culture (in memoriam of Jean-Francois Lyotard) Vol. 4(2), 263-288.

Interviews and Online Material

13.) ‘Are any of us truly comfortable with sex?’, The Guardian (Australia Edition), published 7 March, 2016.

14.) ‘The Trouble with Sex’, ABC Radio National interview on ‘The Philosopher’s Zone’ with Anne Dufourmantelle and Romana Byrne. See also online article accompanying interview ‘Sex and Philosophy: Uneasy Bedfellows’, published April 24, 2014.

15.) ‘A Modesty Haunted by the Devil: Lunch with Jacques Derrida’ Revolver Magazine, published September 1999.

Creative Sexuality, BDSM

Cultural Trauma (2007)

In what ways are our erotic and SM fantasies related to the trauma of the Second World War, and in particular, of the holocaust?

In this ambitious workshop, we will attempt in the most careful and sensitive way to provide a place for the exploration of this difficult question. We will do so firstly by offering a chance for the open exchange of experiences and thoughts, and then by means of physical improvisation, with the use of one of Felix Ruckert’s scores. Finally, we will approach the question of SM play, whose script consciously or unconsciously is taken from the horror of the holocaust and/or the Second World War.

Essential to the concept of this workshop is that it will take place two times, once in German, and once in English. It will be in German, because the German language is a privileged witness to this history; and in English, because – partly as a consequence of this history – English has become the world’s international language: the language of the “winners”.

„Ich will das unbedingt machen, aber ich habe auch grosse Angst davor. Was will ich erreichen? Ich möchte das bewusst machen. Es wäre schon ein Erfolg überhaupt darüber sprechen zu können. Ich habe das Gefühl dieses Thema bleibt unterm Teppich. Ich will die Konfrontation, fühle mich aber auch schuldig dafür.“ P. Banki

“I absolutely want to do it, but I am frightened. What do I want to achieve? I’d like people to be more aware of it. Just to talk about it would already be a success. I feel this topic is swept under the carpet. I want to confront people, but at the same time I feel guilty about it.” P.Banki

Read reports here on this workshop

Plush Animal Fetish (2008)

Many people give up their plush animals well before they go into puberty. However, there are also quite a few who never give them up, and courageously carry them into adulthood. For me, they are not toys, but living creatures, with unique personalities, likes and dislikes, and even sexualities. Beyond giving emotional comfort and reassurance, they create magical worlds of intimacy that it is possible to share with others.

This workshop is a unique opportunity to “out” yourself as a plush animal lover, or otherwise open yourself to an experience that is warm, funny and intimate, and which is for some more confronting than the most bizarre SM practices. I will talk about the role they play in my life, and in my relationships with others. Then they will introduce themselves. Circumstances permitting, we will let them take over, and lead us.

They are very anxious to meet new play partners. Choose your favorite one, or bring along all of them!

See also the Hungry Beast report on Plush Porn on ABC 1 television (2011).

The Queer Week-End (2008)

What exactly is queerness? Would you call yourself queer? Have you discovered yourself as queer – as more queer than anything else?

For me, queerness is a kind of creativity, a way of being inventive. It is to play with codes and genres, to mix them together, to make them say or become something else. To be queer is ultimately to play on a different basis, according to different rules. It is to invent new games, or to find new ways to play old games, with a different meaning and/or intention.

Queer is not identical with homosexuality, for it is possible to be queer and heterosexual, and also I believe, homosexual without being queer. The term comes from quer meaning across, at a right angle, diagonal, out of alignment. It might refer to something “not quite right”, to a person with a mild insanity, or who exhibits socially inappropriate behavior, sexual and creative deviance, untraditional gender behavior and the opposition to border regimes. In the end, queerness is not just about gender and sexuality, but a state of mind, an attitude. It is playfulness that resists border regimes and strictly assigned labels. It is a way of being vulnerable, but at the same time being strong. Confusion, unpredictability, disruption, fluidity, uncertainty, craziness, Schlegel’s Atheneum Fragment 116: romantic poetry.

In this ambitious proposition, we will cultivate a queer life performance over the time period of a weekend. (Friday to Sunday night). This will not be a workshop, but more like a fluid and temporary work of life-art. There will be no leader as such, but a dreamlike romantic atmosphere, where you will be given the space to risk, to open and investigate that part of yourself that does not fit into any already pre-existing categories. There will be the possibility to take part in installations, “happenings”, as well as cinema and cabaret, as well as to propose your own queer topics.

To Forgive The Unforgivable: A Philosopher Who Wants To Dance (2008)

One of the most profound and intimate experiences is to be wounded and unable to forgive. The inability to forgive may not be something that is simply chosen. Something very powerful continues to say ‘no’, even if one would like to say ‘yes’, to forgive the other, believing that it will make things easier, lighter and better from now on. In certain cases even after one has said ‘yes’ and meant ‘yes’, the ‘no’ insists.

To be refused forgiveness is also profound. Something in the other remains inaccessible, unattainable. And the past that one shares with the other—or with the other in oneself—is unclosed, like an incurable wound.

I have been thinking and reading about these aporias for the last few years, particularly with relation to the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II. However, one can appreciate what I am talking about, without necessarily referring to the legacy of these crimes.

The impossibility to forgive—or to be forgiven—may be an elementary dimension of all our relations with others, and in particular, with the people who are most important to us. It is something that I encounter forcefully in my relationships with those I love the most.

This performance is structured around a notion of listening. There will a desk, a chair and a tape machine. I will respond physically and playfully to my own voice. There will be guest appearances as well as the opportunity to take part.

Can there be a dance of the unforgivable? A dance of forgiveness?

The Poetry of Listening (2010)

One often thinks of listening as a passive, docile activity, one that is secondary to speaking and acting. However, it is possible—even necessary—to reverse this order and affirm that listening comes first, that without listening, there would be no speech. Moreover, it is the quality and energy of listening which creates speech. Poetry in Greek means creation (poesis). The speaker is always indebted to the listener, who he or she most often doesn’t see. The philosopher Martin Heidegger once defined listening as the most elementary gesture of thought.

In this workshop, we will take the path of listening. Listening is not only restricted to the ear, it may include all the senses. What I dream of is a new way of communicating, a new speech, that would come from an experience of absolute vulnerability. But this is possible only by first listening. We will seek out the places where it is painful, impossible and/or maddeningly difficult to listen. For each person, this will be different. My argument is that it is only when one lets oneself be confronted by the limits of one’s capacities that anything creative or new may happen.

Within BDSM culture and elsewhere, great emphasis is often given to the spectacle—to what can be seen. Listening, however, is not always visible. In the first moment one does not know if it has taken place, but only later—perhaps never. Listening thus resists the tendency to identify the event with what seems to be revealed in the here and now. Listening can teach us the virtue of waiting.

Switching (2011)

Many people within the BDSM world believe that you must choose a given role on one side or the other: top or bottom; dominant or submissive. If you don’t, you are considered not to know what you really want. There is, however, another school of thought that argues that one should cultivate the ability to enjoy all sides. From this point of view, growth consists not so much in going ever more deeply into a role that would somehow represent one’s true self, but in one’s openness to all the possibilities one can dream of.

For me, if you are absolutely unwilling or unable to switch, it’s a problem. It means you are overly attached to a particular emotional and/or psychological pattern. If, on the other hand, you are open to switching, you become in the end, arguably, a much better player, because you have the possibility for a more empathic understanding of your partner and a greater understanding of the energetic dynamic as a whole.

This workshop will propose switching scores adopted from dance. They are designed to stimulate your desire to play different roles and to increase your awareness of how roles change from one relationship to another. The scores will also permit you to explore creatively the different physical and spatial ways one can communicate dominance and submission, and how from one moment to another the roles can flip.

The opposition dominance/submission can at the limit be. Perhaps I am submissive, perhaps I am dominant, but perhaps I am neither submissive nor dominant, but something or someone else entirely.

Intellectual Bondage (2011)

In my journeys I have realized that for many people, including myself, what limits us erotically is above all the way we think, and not how good looking or young, sexy or well-dressed we are, which is what the capitalist society mostly tells us.

Most people are very confident that what they think is right, and that their values are right. Eroticism has this incredible power to put all that into question, if only we let it happen.

If bondage with the ropes is a highly visible, transitory and conscious action, what I am calling “intellectual bondage” is most often unconscious. It is not visible in the first instance. And, moreover, it is usually permanent. It manifests itself, for example, in a person’s way of interpreting what happens to them, in their thinking and values, in their ability (or inability) to take risks or to listen. I don’t wish to suggest that intellectual bondage is simply negative. It also enables us. I believe it is impossible to learn without some intellectual bondage.

In this workshop, I wish to emphasize the role of intellectual bondage in our erotic relations. Rather than seeking to be liberated from it, more modestly I just want to ask if it may become more visible. Can we make our intellectual bondage more visible to ourselves and others? And can such an experience give birth to a more profound eroticism?

We will try to avoid too much talking.

The Primal Horde (2011)

Within BDSM culture, it is very hard not to see that the re-appearance of certain archaic patriarchal power structures: the male master with his several female slaves; the submission of the men to one dominant father figure, who has sexual access to most—if not all—the attractive young women. Certainly, there are other directions and tendencies: role reversal, sex/gender confusion and diversity, homosexuality, etc. But one can still ask to what extent the fantasies that sustain these archaic patriarchal structures still speak out, in hidden ways, through these different directions and tendencies. And even if this were not the case, it seems that until now they have not been powerful enough to overcome the patriarchal power structures, or to make them disappear or irrelevant.

In 1913, Sigmund Freud published a work called Totem and Taboo, where he argued that morality, culture and religion have their mythic origin in the killing and devouring of a primal father, who had jealously kept all the females for himself, while driving away the sons as they grew up. The sons united to kill the father. By then devouring him in the totem meal, they repeated the original murder, while at the same time internalizing the father and identifying with him: the role model who they had both envied and feared. The power and durability of this structure is that ambivalence—opposing feelings of love and hate towards the father—lie at its very core.

In this workshop we will take Freud’s myth of the primal horde as way to xplore patriarchal sexual and power relations. Rather than try to overturn them, reject them, or be indifferent to them, as an experiment we will try to give into them as much as possible, to better situate ourselves. It may not be possible simply to escape patriarchal fantasies and structures.

Money: The Last Taboo (2011)

In polite culture, it is often considered to be a taboo to talk about money. However, for many of us money is more intimate than sex.

It might be easier and more socially acceptable to challenge ourselves erotically than it is to question the conditions under which we make our living—or fail to make our living.

If the purpose of xplore is to cultivate expansion beyond traditional relationships, then the question of money must at some point also be raised. What relation does my intimate life have to the material conditions of my existence? Within Western culture, these two domains are often considered to be separate from one another. Can they be brought together? And if so, under what conditions?

In this workshop, I will discuss some of the ethico-political considerations related to the financial aspects of producing the inaugural xplore festival in Sydney, Australia in April this year. I will also propose some exercises adapted from BDSM, whose purpose is to provide a frame to experience unconscious emotions around money, hierarchy and the social/sexual order.

An Afternoon of Queer Heterosexuality (2011)562011_384216368315934_10014194_n

There is a taboo on a woman with a penis, because it does not fit into our oppositional stereotypes, just as a man without a penis—or even a man with a soft penis engaged in sexual activity—can also be threatening and uncomfortable.

But our fantasies are much richer than this. Many men desire to be penetrated by a woman. Many women wish to penetrate men. This workshop will be an opportunity to xplore these fantasies and find out what happens when you get close to fulfilling them. Does the reversal of conventional sexual roles change the power relationships between men and women? What transformations take place (or do not take place) at the level of gender-identification?

In this workshop, we will begin with exercises designed to make the feeling of our own genitals more present and then imagine what it is to move from the experience of having different genitals. On this basis, we will investigate the concept of queer heterosexuality with the help of costumes and strap-ons.

Nothing (2012)

This workshop will return to a research project I began twenty years ago and then abandoned. Nothing much remained: some notes, an email address, journal entries, a few memories. Some embaressment and a great deal of uncertainty.

In this workshop, I will talk a little about what happened and did not happen. I invite you to listen and perhaps to renew this non-research with me. We will, I hope, make space for space and time for time. As Mallarmé writes in Un coup de dès: “Nothing will have taken place except the place.”

Suggested Reading: Stéphane Mallarmé Un coup de dès (A Throw of the Dice)

Being Bad (2012)

“Supreme delight lies in the certainty of doing ‘evil’ – and men and women know from birth that all pleasure lies in evil.” – Charles Baudelaire

Being bad—flirting with evil—belongs to the repertoire of BDSM and, I would argue, sexuality in general. And yet, it is something many are frightened to explore, because understandably there is a fear of evil and being evil.

A lot of the sexiness of BDSM comes from the allure of being bad, of taking the risk of crossing borders of conventional morality and politeness. In this workshop, you’ll have a license to be bad. How bad can you be? How much bad will you allow to be done to you? What finally do you hold to be unacceptable? And why?

Finally, what role does forgiveness play in sexuality and BDSM?

The Bordello (2012)

Who in our society has not sold themselves?

There has always been a stigma around sex work and prostitution. It is considered base and degrading to sell sex for money. And yet it can be argued that prostitution pervades our whole culture.

I personally am not a sex worker, and yet like most people I have occasionally used sex, or the promise of sex, to get something that I have wanted or needed.

In this workshop, we will xplore sex work and prostitution through role-play. We will set up a bordello, where participants can chose to be either clients or prostitutes. The bordello will have a madam. Clients will use monopoly money.

Besides being an opportunity for some hot and sexy play, this workshop seeks to give people an experience on which to reflect on our fantasies and presuppositions about sex work and prostitution, and to appreciate the complexities in terms of gender differences, class, the exchange economy and empowerment.

Leading a Double Life and Exploring Integration (2013)

Because of the stigmatization in our culture of many sexual, and in particular BDSM practices, many people feel compelled to create a second identity, a different name or persona, behind which they can hide or compartmentalize this aspect of their lives. While for familial or professional reasons this solution may seem to be an absolute necessity, it can also lead to painful compromises and inevitable deceptions. It is inevitably also a form of capitulation, which leaves society’s stigmatization of certain practices uncontested.

In this workshop, we will explore possibilities of integration of the different aspects of our lives: sexual, professional, familial. We will also look at the advantages and the costs of so doing. There will be no requirement to share private information. We will not propose solutions, but the space to think together about a very difficult question.

Really Bad Sex: Introduction to Sex Philosophy (2015)

What happens when things don’t work? When they break down? How do you deal with rejection? Abandonment? Humiliation? Mourning and loss? How do you cope with having deeply hurt someone?

Rarely acknowledged on the surface, these questions in truth are inseparable from those of really good sex. They are like its underside or shadow. There is no really good sex without the possibility of bad sex, and for this reason it is necessary in a certain way to explore it.

In this workshop, we’ll give ourselves the license to explore ‘really bad sex’, whatever that might mean for you: mindless, selfish, unconscious, reckless, dangerous, traumatic, timid, fake, aggressive, abusive, weak, unhappy, mechanical, ‘dysfunctional’, boring, ‘inauthentic’. We will open this up this un-knowing space to see what insights and experiences we may find there.

When it comes to sex, bad is not the simple opposite of good. Under the title ‘really good sex’, there is the risk of reproducing dogmatic thinking, i.e., of presenting only what one considers good sex to be, and then denigrating and excluding whatever one considers to be bad. Very often our culture presents things to us simply in terms of good or bad, positive or negative, but sex can be both and neither.

Being the Beast (2016)

We all have a beast within ourselves, somewhere hidden in our unconscious or imagination. This workshop will help you to find it. We want to create the conditions for the beast to come out. Maybe it wont come. But we will implore it to come.

The beast is not exactly the equivalent of the animal; it is a kind of human animal, a monstrosity who sometimes speaks, and who is figured in various ways in mythology and fables. Sometimes the beast is just another name for sexual desire and sexual freedom. But as such, the beast is an altered state and an altered space.

This workshop will explore a deeper and more hidden aspect of sexual experience, one that is bothextremely physical and linked to the imagination. It will be a step into the unknown.

Why is sexual desire figured as a beast?

Erotic Persona and Fantasy Role Play (2017)

Each of us has an inner erotic world, sometimes more real and more potent than any other.

In this four hour workshop, you will bring this inner erotic poetic world to life with others. Acting techniques based on imagination, suggestions and hypnosis will help you to free your erotic voice and access the imaginary body.

The workshop will develop and explore your erotic personae, who you can then call upon and share in work and play.

Bring a costume or two!

Courses 

The Later Derrida

This course will provide an introduction to the so-called later period of Derrida’s thought, i.e., from 1990’s to 2004. As many commentators have noted, this ‘later’ period corresponds to a growing interest in texts and concepts that have an undeniably political character. And yet at the same time literature and the practices of reading and translation also remain central concerns. Indeed such concerns are often inseparable from the development of the more explicitly philosophical, ethical and political aspects of Derrida’s thought.

During the course, we will navigate some of the signature concepts of the later period, such as the democracy to come, messianicity without messiah, the im-possible, justice as undeconstructible, hostipitality, testimony, auto-immunity, forgiveness and so on. We will also give consideration to some of his engagements with key interlocutors such as Marx, Levinas, Blanchot and Heidegger. In addition, attention will be given to his interventions and research on the teaching of philosophy.

Finally, we will also look at the resistances to Derrida’s thought and some of the controversies to which it has given rise, both from within philosophy and beyond it. How to read such resistances? Are they a measure of the very force and inventiveness of his work? Or are they symptoms of its limitations, its difficulties or danger? To what extent do such resistances put into question what we think we already know and understand about him?

Modern Philosophical Perspectives on Death

With good reason death has been considered to be one philosophy’s most important and enduring questions. What is the meaning or meaninglessness of existence in relation to mortality and death? Can one learn to die? How are philosophical approaches in this regard different from religious ones? What is the role of faith in relation to death? What role do others play? Is death an 'experience' that takes place simply at the end of existence? Or is it rather something that traverses life and is an integral part of it, pre-determining our relations with others and communication? What is death’s relationship to love? And to what extent is death knowable?

Course Outline

The intensification of life in the proximity of death, death as not the simple opposite of life. George Bataille’s “The Practice of Joy before Death” and Michel de Certeau “The Unnamable” in The Practice of Everyday Life.

The priority of the death of the other and the philosophical significance of mourning and loss. Death in the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, the concepts of mourning and the death drive in psychoanalysis (Sigmund Freud, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok).

Inheritance, legacy and responsibility. Søren Kierkegaard’s analysis of the sacrifice of Abraham in Fear and Trembling.

Sovereignty and the questions of murder, suicide and the death penalty. (Readings from Maurice Blanchot, Derrida and Hegel, who interprets philosophy as the sustained practice of suicide).

The question of to what extent death may be considered to be solitary and, as Heidegger puts it “in each case mine”. “Being towards death” in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and anticipatory mourning as elementary condition of the relation to self in Jacques Derrida.

Death in its relation to love, art and eroticism. Jean Genet’s Atelier of Alberto Giacometti, Marguerite Duras’ The Malady of Death; George Bataille’s theory of eroticism.

Sex and Philosophy

Sex has never constituted one of the great philosophical questions or themes. And yet, it is undoubtedly one of the strongest forces in many of our lives. In this course, we will look at what some of the great philosophers have said about sexuality and love and how they have sought to distinguish the two. We will also consider why sex has so often been linked to animality, immorality and evil and whether these evaluations are justified. As practices that affirm the right to question social norms and the apparent givens of experience, philosophy and sex may have more in common than one might think.

Course Outline

Classical philosophical approaches that may be termed “sex negative” (Plato, Augustine, Kant): Such approaches argue that sex should be restricted to procreation and not pursued for its own sake or for that of pleasure. Through these approaches, we will consider the relation of sexuality to questions of self-mastery, moderation, freedom and happiness. How do these classical approaches inform thinking about the human in its relation to animality, as well as contemporary debates about prostitution and pornography.

Philosophical approaches that are not “sex negative” (Nietzsche, Freud, Bataille, Schlegel, de Sade): Beginning with Nietzsche’s transvaluation of values, we will look at the work of modern philosophers, including Freud, who have given more space to sexuality in their thought and what the consequences of this are both for their philosophical practice and their understanding of ethics. We will also evaluate some negative responses on the part of the tradition to these different approaches.

Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Part 1: This is a landmark work, which denounces the so-called “repressive hypothesis”: the idea that western society suppressed sexuality from the 17th to the mid-20th century. During this period, Foucault argues, discourse on sexuality proliferated enormously and people's identities became increasingly tied to their sexuality. In this session, we will read and evaluate the central theses of Foucault’s text.

Debates about Sexuality and Gender in Feminist Theory: Since the 70’s feminist scholars have debated (sometimes acrimoniously) issues related to sexuality, gender, pornography, erotic representation, prostitution, sadomasochism, trans-women, and so on. In this session, we will explore these debates and how they relate to the history of philosophical responses to sexuality.

Philosophy’s (non-)sexual rapports: In this session we will read Lacan’s famous statement “Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel”. Lacan explicitly plays on the double meaning in French of the word rapport, so the sentence can and in fact must translated as both “there is no sexual relation” and “there is no sexual rapport.” Lacan does not wish to suggest that sex does not happen, but that it does not happen in the way that we normally think. By referring to the interpretations of Jean-Luc Nancy and Avital Ronell, the session will attempt to show how a careful reading of Lacan’s thesis can be used to critique much of the literature in the growing fields of adult sex education and porn studies. The paper will also examine the consequences of Lacan’s thesis for any inquiry into the “relation” between philosophy and sex.