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Perversion and Its Discontents

Basic information

May 30, 2023 at 10:00 to May 30, 2023 at 18:00
Atrij ZRC, Novi trg 2, pritličje

The Institute of Philosophy,

Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts,

invites you to the International Conference


Perversion and Its Discontents


was held at the Atrium of the Research Centre (Novi trg 2, Ljubljana), 30 May 2023.



Perversion is most commonly associated in the vernacular with explicitly subjective, personal modes of enjoyment. Lacan’s psychoanalysis, however, has taught us that perversion is a much more ambiguous phenomenon and that it is based on a structural “non-personal” enjoyment. Typically, a pervert assumes the role of an “executioner”, a “professional” who carefully and meticulously carries out his or her task and mission. In this sense, the figure of perversion can be an exciting and productive starting point for questioning how power and social bonds function today.

In doing so, we can see how a critique of power that points primarily to its subjective “abuses” falls short and fails to address the systemic violence that accompanies the normal and professional functioning of power, as well as the systemic enjoyment generated by its inherent contradictions. In this way, an ideology emerges according to which power is good only as long as no one enjoys it. Such a critique of power on the basis of its subjective abuse, however, paves the way for populism. Populism cannot be reduced to the personal style and shameless enjoyment of populist leaders, for it feeds on an entirely different source of traumatic enjoyment. The latter is “systemic” at its core, not personal, and is bound by populism through its various imaginary and symbolic figures. It is bound by it, but not dissolved by it, because populism participates in the contradictions that produce it.

In contrast to such a popular image of perversion, which sees perversion itself as a reaction to the structural contradictions of enjoyment, this conference will once again attempt to reverse the perspective and discuss what might be considered the discontent (the Freudian Unbehagen) of perversion itself. No matter how successfully perverts seem to avoid or disavow castration or social antagonisms at the political level and the associated trauma of enjoyment, they cannot altogether dismiss the discontent characteristic of civilisation as such.


Speakers: Arthur Bradley (Lancaster University), Aleš Bunta (ZRC SAZU), Adrian Johnston (University of New Mexico), Peter Klepec (ZRC SAZU), Boštjan Nedoh (ZRC SAZU, Tadej Troha (ZRC SAZU), and Alenka Zupančič (ZRC SAZU).


The conference is sponsored by the Slovenian Research Agency under the project J6-2589 “Structure and Genealogy of Perversion in Contemporary Philosophy, Politics, and Art”.


A recording of the conference is available on the ZRC SAZU YouTube website.




10.00-10.30: Boštjan Nedoh (ZRC SAZU): Introductory Remarks


Session 1 (chair: Boštjan Nedoh, ZRC SAZU)

10.30-11.15 Arthur Bradley (Lancaster University): Unspeakable: Perversion, Psychoanalysis, Prosopopeia

11.15-12.00 Tadej Troha (ZRC SAZU): Rat Man and the Chamber Pot


12.00-12.15: Coffee break


Session 2 (chair: Tadej Troha, ZRC SAZU)

12.15-13.00 Peter Klepec (ZRC SAZU): About the Obscene and Cruel Master

13.00-13.45 Aleš Bunta (ZRC SAZU): The Internalisation of Cruelty: Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and Contemporary Hetaeras


13.45-15.00: Lunch break


Session 3 (chair: Peter Klepec, ZRC SAZU)

15.00-15.45 Boštjan Nedoh (ZRC SAZU): Paradigms of the Superego and the Jouissance of Transgression

15.45-16.30 Adrian Johnston (University of New Mexico): The Mother of Every Insane Form: Fetishistic Interest and Capitalistic Perversion


16.30-17.00: Coffee break


Session 4 (chair: Boštjan Nedoh, ZRC SAZU)

17.00-17.45 Alenka Zupančič (ZRC SAZU): Desire vs. Perverse Moralism